Inscription: a new journal for the study of material texts

Inscription journal cover

Working with colleagues Dr. Gill Partington (Exeter University) and Professor Simon Morris (Leeds Beckett University), Professor Adam Smyth (Balliol College) has launched a new hard-copy journal for the study of material texts.

Issue one of Inscription: the Journal of Material Text – Theory, Practice, History is published in autumn 2020. The journal combines work by practitioners – book artists, printmakers, poets, and artists – with academic discussion, to take the study of material texts in new directions. Inscription’s focus is not just on the meanings and uses of the codex book, but also the nature of writing surfaces (papery or otherwise), and the processes of mark-marking in the widest possible sense: from hand-press printing to vapour trails in the sky; from engraved stones to digital text; and from the ancient past, to today. Issue one contains articles about 18th century engraved epitaphs; Kafka’s notebooks and writing process; missing pages in 16th century Bibles; parchment making; hand-press printing; lithography; libraries and provenance; transcriptions of bird song; and more.

Inscription is also an experiment in format, design, and typography. Issue one comes with a vinyl LP, and a specially commissioned print; the journal is printed from both ends with pages that seem to spiral; and it has a hole drilled through the middle.

Professor Johanna Drucker, Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies and Distinguished Professor, Information Studies, UCLA, writes: ‘Inscription and notation — making marks, lines, notes, images — are the foundation of human communication. This is the first journal to make these forms and processes its main area of inquiry. With an internationally distinguished Advisory Board and a diverse community of participating scholars and practitioners, Inscription is poised to create a vital niche within current discussions around media and information.’

For more details of the journal, you can contact Adam ( or email