Natalia Fantetti

Ethel Lillian Voynich (née Boole)
Ethel Lillian Voynich (1864-1960), partner of antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich. Public Domain.

Natalia’s PhD project explores the variety of roles played by women within the manuscript trade, such as collectors, scholars, dealers, librarians and secretaries, mapping this onto the broader landscape of women at work between 1900-1945. The project also compares the activities of these women in wartime and peacetime periods, as well as looking at how networks of women were formed within the manuscript trade.

Bella Da Costa Greene
Belle da Costa Greene (1883-1950), librarian to J. P. Morgan. Public Domain.

The project takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on published and unpublished archival material as well as combining sources and methodologies from the fields of book history, social history and biography. Threaded throughout is an inquiry into the potentially problematic or awkward terms often used when analysing the issues at hand, such as ‘value’ and ‘women’s work’.

The project’s overarching hypothesis is that women’s roles in the medieval manuscript trade have been undervalued; this is assessed in both the period itself and in the intervening years up to the present day. In doing so, Natalia explores the impact that curators, academics and biographers have had in choosing which stories to tell and which to leave untold.