Courses Students

Student Spotlight: Piper Thomas & TXTDS Minor Capstone

This guest post is written by Linguistics, French, and TXTDS student Piper Thomas, who recently completed the Textual Studies and Digital Humanities (TXTDS) minor Capstone project. This story has also been posted to the French & Italian Studies website. Photos by Assistant Book Arts Librarian Kat Lewis.

About Me

I am majoring in Linguistics, and minoring in French Language, Literature, and Culture as well as Textual Studies and Digital Humanities. I have always been interested in how people choose to present and preserve information, and seeing evidence of people in the past simply being people never fails to make me smile. When presented with the opportunity to explore the vast collection of handmade records of individual experiences housed in the Special Collections, I knew I had to take it. I adore seeing how the technology of writing has developed throughout human history, and how people during every era used the existing technology in creative ways.

Piper Thomas working at computer in Special Collections

Capstone Project

For my capstone project in Textual Studies, I began with an annotated bibliography. It served to give me some background for who William Morris was and what he did – since that was to be the focus of my project. In addition, it was very helpful to me as an undergraduate student, because it was a chance to learn how to do research. It was very nice to go through the process of research while having a guiding hand there to provide feedback, and without the pressure of having to get it right on the first try.

After doing the annotated bibliography, we decided that it would be good for me to create an online exhibit about some of the things I had noticed. Unlike the annotated bibliography, the subject of the exhibit was largely left to my discretion so long as it was at least somewhat related to William Morris. I felt that it would be cool to compare some Morris books to books by modern book artists. After doing some further exploration, I decided to compare the usage of white space in three different books, one of which was by Morris.

It was honestly a wonderful experience. I was given freedom to follow whatever route piqued my interest, with a huge amount of resources available to me, and great support available when I ran into hurdles. I learned a lot about how to navigate the library and interact with delicate books, how to find resources for research, and how to create an online paper.

Online Exhibit: Whitespace in Illustrations and Book Arts

Piper Thomas working at computer in Special Collections

Are you a Textual Studies student and have a project you’d like to share? We would love to highlight your work! Email us at

Interested in the minor? See our page for more information.


Guest Lecture by Dr. Natale Vacalebre: Books as Bridges of Peace: Aldus Manutius and Pedagogical Humanism

On Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 3 p.m. on Zoom, French & Italian Studies will host Dr. Natale Vacalebre, speaking on publisher Aldus Manutius. This talk will be of interest to all in the Humanities, and especially to Italian Studies and Textual Studies faculty and students.

The human and intellectual journey of Aldus Manutius (1455-1515) was unique in many ways. Aldus was not only the humanist-publisher who revolutionized the way printed books were produced and disseminated; he was also the first publisher to consider books as bridges of peace at a time when bloody wars were tearing apart the entire Italian peninsula. This talk will illustrate Aldus’ thoughts on the usefulness of written culture and, in particular, of books as vehicles of brotherhood and pacifism. At the same time, it will analyze the intellectual relationships Aldus developed with European princes through the dedicatory epistles he wrote and included in his editions.

Natale Vacalebre is Benjamin Franklin Fellow in Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he is currently completing a research project on the Renaissance readers of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He is also Managing Editor of the UPenn academic journal Bibliotheca Dantesca: Journal of Dante Studies, which he founded in 2018. A scholar of the circulation of written culture and the history of libraries in the early modern age, Vacalebre is the author of numerous articles published in international academic journals, as well as of the monograph Come le armadure e l’armi. Per una storia delle antiche biblioteche della Compagnia di Gesù (Florence: Olschki, 2016). In 2020 he was awarded the Charles Hall Grandgent Award by the Dante Society of America for his paper on the recent discovery of Guglielmo Maramauro’s commentary on the Commedia, of which he is preparing a critical edition with an English translation.

For more information, see French & Italian Studies’ Events page.