Books & the Human: AHRC 10th Anniversary Debate

Watch the live stream from Wednesday 16 December 2015

The book in all its forms connects us to the past, captures the present and looks to the future. The intimate relationship between books and knowledge and between books and human beings is fundamental and crosses times and cultures.

The debate took place on Wednesday 16 December 2015 at Central Saint Martins.

University of the Arts London was delighted to host this high profile debate which will took place at its Central Saint Martins campus. The Books and the Human debate was part of the AHRC 10th anniversary celebration series.

A panel of distinguished speakers approached the topic ‘the book’ through the various lenses of philosophy, history, politics, literature and creative practice (the making of books). The debate panel was comprised of:

  • Stuart Kelly (Chair) Writer, Critic and Books Editor of Scotland on Sunday
  • Professor Johanna Drucker Professor of Bibliographical Studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA
  • Tom Uglow Creative Director, Google Creative Lab
  • Dr Catherine Eagleton Head of Asia and Africa Collections, British Library
  • Tom McCarthy novelist

Introduced by Nigel Carrington, Vice-Chancellor, University of the Arts London.

The debate discussed the following questions:

  • In an age when digital technologies and e‐books in particular are challenging the traditional forms of the book, how do these changes impact on our relationship with it?
  • What does the book as an idea, as a repository of information and as a physical object mean to us any longer?
  • What does our changing relationship with the book say about ‘The Way We Live Now’?

Other events

Alongside the debate, additional events explored how books are conceived, crafted, experienced and shared.

Together these events questioned the intellectual, experiential, practical and public aspects of books and how they shape who we are, offering us an opportunity to reassess what the book means to us, as well as to explore its future as an ongoing part of human culture and life.

The debate, together with these events, questioned the intellectual, experiential, practical and public aspects of books and how they shape who we are, offering us an opportunity to reassess what the book means to us, as well as to explore its future as an ongoing part of human culture and life.

Free bespoke tours of the manuscripts and early printed books treasures collection, British Library

50 minute tours of the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery at the British Library

Aviva Dautch and Julian Walker led 50 minute tours of the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery at the British Library, specifically looking at the history of the book. The tours included some of the earliest items in the collection, three-thousand year-old Chinese oracle bones, and the Lindisfarne Gospels, illuminated manuscripts, the Gutenberg Bible, the printing of Shakespeare, printing technology, William Morris, copyright, and the fluidity of the printed text.

This will reveal more about: Free bespoke tours of the manuscripts and early printed books treasures collection, British Library Show less

This will show less about: Free bespoke tours of the manuscripts and early printed books treasures collection, British Library Show more

Penguin Roundtable

A roundtable discussion on the significance, history and future of Penguin.

A roundtable discussion on the significance, history and future of Penguin. Our distinguished panel discussed the power and continued significance of publishing and the role design plays in its history and future.

Panel members included:

This will reveal more about: Penguin Roundtable Show less

This will show less about: Penguin Roundtable Show more

Object Handling Sessions

A discussion of archive items.

Renowned designer and typographer, Professor Phil Baines displayed and discussed specially selected items from the college’s Central Lettering Record, a teaching collection of lettering-related photographs and artefacts built up since the 1960s.

This event took place on the second day of events alongside the Penguin Roundtable discussion and Bookbinding session.

This will reveal more about: Object Handling Sessions Show less

This will show less about: Object Handling Sessions Show more

Bookbinding Workshops

Hands-on experience of how books are made

Workshops led by two highly skilled and experienced bookbinders and hosted by the Graphics Communication and Design Programme. 

The bookbinding sessions explored the materiality of the book through the making process with experts Douglas Bevans and Simon Goode of www.londonbookarts.org

This will reveal more about: Bookbinding Workshops Show less

This will show less about: Bookbinding Workshops Show more

'Bookness: 14 Observations' exhibition and free tour by Julian Walker, British Library

If ‘the book’ is undergoing significant transformations due to both developments in technology, but also as a result of broad cultural and intellectual shifts, then what defines ‘bookness’ in the past/present/future?

Through 14 objects and texts (providing provocations), this exhibition considers ‘bookness’, as a quality adhering both to the physical, but also to the immaterial attributes of what we call ‘the book’.

Exhibits are posed in order to promote dialogue around the complex relationship we have with books.

We would like to thank Books from the Future for their contribution of ‘The multiple lives of a blank book’ as one of the pieces for this exhibition. 

This will reveal more about: 'Bookness: 14 Observations' exhibition and free tour by Julian Walker, British Library Show less

This will show less about: 'Bookness: 14 Observations' exhibition and free tour by Julian Walker, British Library Show more

Delegates and speakers also joined in with the Debate and events online. Look back at the event with @ResearchUAL's Storify.