Professor Bill Sherman

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Professor Bill Sherman
Director, Warburg Institute
Warburg Institute
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Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Classics, Cultural memory, Culture, Digitisation, Early Modern, English Literature, History, History of art, History of the book, Library, Manuscript studies, Palaeography
Asia, England, Europe, North America, United Kingdom
Summary of research interests and expertise:

Bill Sherman's research has been driven by a love of archives and other collections, and by an interest in how objects from the past come down to us and speak across time and space. Trained in literary criticism, textual studies and the theory and practice of editing, and drawn from his undergraduate years to textual representations of travel and magic, he has edited several major plays from the Renaissance period, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Jonson’s The Alchemist and Marlowe's The Jew of Malta. He is best known for his work on the history of books and readers, particularly his pioneering work on marginalia and the history of libraries. That work began with his PhD dissertation on John Dee’s reading practices and culminated in a popular overview of the field called Used Books (2008), which recovered a culture in which writing in books was not only tolerated but taught, and in which annotations and other readerly interventions were tools for making books memorable, beautiful and/or useful. It also pointed the way to his current book project on The Reader's Eye, which explores the relationship between annotation and illustration. Much of Bill's current research explores the interface between word and image, the relationship between knowledge and power and the surprising connections between the modern and the early modern. He has recently published a collaborative reconstruction of the art- and book-collections of Walter and Louise Arensberg who, in the first half of the 20th Century, assembled one of the most important private collections of art in the United States (including most of the surviving work by Marcel Duchamp), as well as the world’s largest private library of works by and about Sir Francis Bacon. His long-term scholarly work focuses on the history of cryptography, connecting the Renaissance science of ciphers with its modern legacies in everything from textual bibliography to the advent of digital computers: this was the subject of his 2021 Wells Lectures at Oxford and they will be published next year by OUP.

Spoken Written
Italian Intermediate -
Latin Intermediate -
Other Intermediate -
Other: Hebrew, Greek
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