The Printed Image 1750-1850: towards a Digital History of Printed Book Illustration

Applications are invited for a Collaborative PhD Studentship on the topic of ‘The Printed Image 1750-1850: towards a Digital History of Printed Book Illustration’.

Project Description

Visual culture was transformed by changes in printing technology in the 100 years after 1750. This project rethinks why, how, and in what ways technology shaped the nature and meaning of book illustration between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth century. Between 1750 and 1850 changes in printing technology enabled several kinds of image to proliferate and for image and text to be brought together in novel and unexpected ways. Existing printing technologies – such as woodcuts – continued alongside new printing technologies, shaping the dissemination, reuse, and meaning of the designs they conveyed. To understand these changes, scholars have so far sampled small, hand-crafted collections of images, an approach repeated in the fields of art and cultural history, where research on printed images is further limited by its concentration on the satirical or humorous. Yet digital sources allow us to study these changes with a much larger sample, to use visual content as well as metadata (such as author, date and place of publication) to grapple with past phenomena at scale.

This innovative project seeks a candidate who will complement art and cultural history approaches with experimentations in digital humanities approaches to printed images, and who will evaluate the utility of these methods of enquiry side-by-side. The research will focus on the circa one million digitised images held in the British Library Microsoft Books collection (containing circa 65,000 volumes) which offers unrivalled opportunities to explore the use and re-use of very large numbers of images. The project addresses questions such as: how did changes in image techniques and the size of images map onto the different genres over time? How were images re-used and re-designed? What do these quantitative findings reveal about the changing meanings of images from one genre to the next? How do the findings made possible using digital humanities techniques and digital sources compare to those using traditional methods and small, hand-crafted collections?

The project is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and The British Library. The student will have access to the British Library Digital Scholarship Training Programme. Targeted skills development in digital research and computational analysis will be, as necessary and as appropriate, recommended or provided by Dr James Baker and colleagues in the Digital Research Team. The student will also access the usual training offered to History research students at the University of Sheffield. Though initiated by the supervisors, the project will be directed to a considerable extent by expertise, interests and findings of the student.

Award Details

The scholarship will cover the UK/EU tuition fees, an annual, tax-free maintenance stipend at the standard Research Council rate, and a Research Training Support Grant of £500 per year. International applicants will need to pay the difference between the UK/EU and Overseas tuition fees.


Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree or equivalent qualification in an appropriate area of study. Awards are open to UK, EU and international applicants.

How to apply

• Complete an application for admission as a postgraduate student -
• Applications should include a CV including academic record (max. 3 pages); supporting statement (max. 3 pages); academic transcripts and two references.
• In your supporting statement please state why you are applying for this project.

The closing date for applications is Friday 11th July 2014 at 5pm. Candidates may be required to attend an interview (to be held the week commencing 4th August 2014).

Any academic enquiries should be directed to Dr Karen Harvey or Dr James Baker