The Book and the Silk Roads (2019–2021) is a large-scale collaborative project that aims to tell the story of the book in a new way. Global book history is often represented as a narrative of technological and societal progress — from the tablet and scroll to the biblical codex of late antiquity, to the early modern printing press of the Gutenberg Bible, to today’s “Digital Age.” By contrast, our team works with a diverse and wide-ranging network of collaborators to tell many stories of books, from multiple regions and periods, within a more capacious and less teleological account of the past.
Working across boundaries of geography, institution, and discipline, the distinctive methodology of The Book and the Silk Roads brings together humanities researchers, digital librarians, scientists, conservators, rare book librarians and curators, as well as local and diasporic community members for whom these books represent a precious part of their cultural heritage. By combining our different forms of expertise, we will develop a rich and global history of the book, aiming for interdisciplinary and collaborative breakthroughs in the areas of codicology, conservation and heritage science, and the protection and study of vulnerable and little-understood materials.
The Book and the Silk Roads is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with a team directed by co-Principal Investigators Alexandra Gillespie of the University of Toronto Mississauga, Sian Meikle of the University of Toronto Libraries, and Suzanne Akbari, of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.