a drawing of styluses, scrolls and wax tablets

Experimental Book Formats Before the Printing Press

Eligibility: UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/International (including EU at international rates from Sept 21)

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 27 May 2023

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2023

To find out more about the project, please contact Dr Daniel Anderson.


Coventry University (CU) is pleased to announce a fully-funded PhD studentship.

Project details

We invite doctoral proposals investigating poetic and artistic uses of book formats, including but not limited to the papyrus roll, tablet, and codex, and their modes of dissemination, down to the introduction of mass printing.

In a world before mass printing, every book is a manuscript. New copies are hand-written and manually checked (or ‘collated’) against best available copies. Because of the precarious nature of this process and the errors it tends to introduce, scholarship has traditionally conceived of transmission in the premodern world in terms of textual corruption and preservation. Yet some pre-modern authors were aware of the dynamics of manuscript transmission and they sometimes made creative and artistic use of the book format and its modes of dissemination. For example, the Hellenistic philosopher Timon of Phlius is said to have written poems on individual sheets of papyrus and read them out to audiences in random order (D.L. 9.113–14), a process reminiscent of more recent book-in-a-box ‘ergodic’ literature such as Saporta’s Composition No. 1, Roman (1962).

Region and period of focus are open. The supervisory team has expertise in the Ancient Mediterranean, early modern Europe, and contemporary experimental publishing. 

Proposed supervisory team:


Tuition fees, bursary and additional allowances.


The successful candidate will become a member of the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities (CAMC), and will be encouraged to access professional training through CAMC’s monthly Greek reading group, Premoderns network, and Work-in-Progress seminars. They will take part in relevant events at the Centre for Post-Digital Cultures, including the CPC annual conference and activities relating to CPC’s Post-Publishing strand.

The successful candidate will be encouraged to join relevant professional societies and take part in relevant events, including academic conferences. To augment existing skills, they will undertake language learning in ancient and/or modern languages relating to the case studies identified.

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills. All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

Candidate Specifcation 

  • A bachelor’s (honours) degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum classification of 2:1 and a minimum mark of 60% in the project element (or equivalent), or an equivalent award from an overseas institution.
  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years
  • An adequate proficiency in English must be demonstrated by applicants whose first language is not English. The general requirement is a minimum overall IELTS Academic score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the four sections, or the TOEFL iBT test with a minimum overall score of 95 with a minimum of 21 in each of the four sections.
Additional requirements

Demonstrable ability in one or more ancient and/or modern languages relevant to the project proposal is highly desirable.

How to apply

All applications require full supporting documentation, a CV, and a research proposal (up to 3000 words) based within the selected theme/area.

To find out more about the project or have an information discussion about making an application, please contact Daniel Anderson.

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