Save the date!

Reading visual devices in early books

International conference in Turku, Finland / 15-17 May 2025

Visual or graphic devices, such as images, diagrams, charts and tables, often operate between visual and verbal modes to convey information. In books these devices may be used, for example, to illustrate and expand upon the text, to support or distract from the message conveyed by the text, or to aid in the comprehension of complex concepts which would be difficult to express through words alone. Although graphic devices may also communicate through textual elements, their main communicative tools are structure, symbolism, and cultural imagery.

How are graphic devices used, framed and understood? How were innovations and conventions of data visualization transmitted across texts and languages? How did the diachronic or geographical spread of graphic devices progress in different parts of the world?

The Early Modern Graphic Literacies (EModGraL) project organises an international conference on the study of visual/graphic devices in late medieval and early modern books in May 2025. We invite contributions from book studies, philology and historical linguistics, textual scholarship, literary studies, history of science, art history, and other related fields, including interdisciplinary approaches.

Relevant topics and themes include:

  • Graphic devices (e.g. images, tables, and diagrams) and their design and use (as part of text/supplementing text)
  • Emerging practices and changing conventions: aesthetics, design, technologies
  • Paratext and metatext: linguistic framing and presentation of graphic devices
  • Visualising knowledge and information
  • Different audiences, readers, and literacies: lay/professional, learned/vernacular
  • Use of graphic devices in different domains and genres: instructional and technical writing, literature, scientific writing, popular texts, religion
  • Late medieval and early modern manuscripts and printed books, including various physical formats (also broadsheets, pamphlets, scrolls, letters), also early books from non-European regions and languages
  • Theoretical and methodological approaches to visual devices: opportunities and challenges (including digital humanities approaches)

Early Modern Graphic Literacies (EModGraL) is a four-year research project funded by the Research Council of Finland (2021–25) and based at the Department of English, University of Turku, Finland. The project maps the use of graphic devices in early English printed books (1473–1800) to study the development of vernacular graphic literacies and early strategies of data visualization.

Stay tuned for the Call for Papers, which will be circulated in Spring 2024.

For more information, please email us at