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Kathryn M. Rudy (University of St Andrews)

Kathryn Rudy

Kathryn Rudy
Image Credit: University of St Andrews

Temporal Communities Distinguished Fellow of Global Literary Studies

Research Area 2: "Travelling Matters"

July – December 2022

How Medieval Readers and Viewers Touched their Manuscripts

Kathryn Rudy’s project, How Medieval Readers and Viewers Touched their Manuscripts, considers the manuscript first as a material object and second as a carrier of words and images. Her interest telescopes from the image to the page, to the book, its community of users, and the constellation of objects with which it was used. This approach implies that meaning-making takes place as much in the reception as in the production, and that the user or users could co-produce the image. Moreover, the image was not stable, but subject to loss, abrasion, and even repainting. She exploits unusual photographic methods, including RTI and backlighting, to reveal and record some of the signs of wear in medieval books.

Kathryn Rudy (Kate) earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Art History, and also holds a Licentiate in Mediaeval Studies from the University of Toronto. Before coming to St Andrews, she held research, teaching, and curatorial positions in the US, the UK, Canada, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Her research concentrates on the reception and original function of manuscripts, especially those manufactured in the Low Countries, and she has pioneered the use of the densitometer to measure the grime that original readers deposited in their books. She is currently developing ways to track and measure user response of late medieval manuscripts.

Professor Rudy is the author of six books, including Image, Knife, and Gluepot: Early Assemblage in Manuscript and Print (Open Book Publishers, 2019); Rubrics, Images and Indulgences in Late Medieval Netherlandish Manuscripts (Leiden: Brill, 2017); Piety in Pieces: How medieval readers customized their manuscripts (Open Book Publishers, 2016); and Postcards on Parchment: The Social Lives of Medieval Books (Yale University Press, 2015). In 2017-18 she held a Paul Mellon Senior Fellowship to write a book about physical interactions with the manuscript in late Medieval England. In 2018-19 she was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Amsterdam to complete a book about manuscript production in Delft. From 2019-22 she has held a Leverhulme Major Research Grant for a study titled ‘Measuring medieval users’ responses to manuscripts: New technological approaches’. She has also been awarded grants from, among others, the British Academy, the Bodleian Library, Oxford; the Getty Research Institute, and the Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie (IKKM) at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.

She was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy, in 2019. That year she also won the Sir Walter Scott Prize for humanities and social sciences in Scotland.