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The A.S.W. Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliography

Printing Abolition

How the Fight to Ban the British Slave Trade Was Won, 1783–1807
Michael F. Suarez, S.J., Director, Rare Book School and University Professor, University of Virginia

October 25, 26, and 28, 2021: 5:30pm

This event has past. The lectures are available for viewing (via youtube).

Note: Lectures will be held in person. They will also be livestreamed via Zoom webinar (advance registration required to receive Zoom link).

In this series of highly illustrated lectures, Michael Suarez offers a fresh perspective on British abolition, richly informed by political prints and personal correspondence, newspapers and pamphlets, account books and committee minutes, parliamentary reports and private diaries. [Note: these lectures were originally scheduled for March, 2020 but were postponed due to COVID-19.]

All lectures begin at 5:30pm. Physical location: The Class of 78 Pavilion, Kislak Center

Monday, October 25, 2021: Feeding the Machine: A Triple System of Networks

View lecture on youtube.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021: Commodity Culture and the Political Economies of Print

View lecture on youtube.

Thursday, October 28, 2021: The Weight of the Chain: The West Indies Planters and Merchants Committee

View lecture on youtube.

Suarez’s revisionist history not only traces the production and distribution of abolitionist print, but also reveals the hidden networks that variously sustained the first humanitarian mass media campaign.  Abolition forces brilliantly exploited the power of print to contend with the complex legacies of the American and French Revolutions, the slave revolt in present-day Haiti, and the Napoleonic Wars.  Seeking to understand how both abolitionists and their foes exploited systems of influence through printed words and images in many forms, Suarez delineates the strategies that abolitionists devised to overcome accusations of religious fanaticism, economic malfeasance, and political sedition. Exploring the first author’s book tour in the UK, a consumer boycott fostered by the radical press, and the fashionable publisher who clandestinely worked as press agent for the pro-slavery interest, these lectures will demonstrate the power of bibliography and book history to rewrite established narratives and to recover lives and labors typically left out of conventional accounts.


Information for non-Penn affiliated in-person visitors: To enter the library, you must show a green pass from the PennOpen Campus system. Here are instructions for using the system:

  • Before arriving on campus, complete your vaccination, symptom, and exposure check at
  • You will receive a green pass when you report your fully vaccinated status, no symptoms, no recent contact with someone who may have COVID-19, and no recent positive test.
  • Show your green pass at the entrance to the library.

Masks must be worn at all times.

For more information:

[Top image: fold-out engraving in Charles Crawford, Observations on Negro-Slavery (Philadelphia: Eleazer Oswald, 1790), Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts]

About the Rosenbach Lectures

Michael F. Suarez, S.J. has served as Director of Rare Book School, Professor of English, University Professor, and Honorary Curator of Special Collections at the University of Virginia since 2009.

Professor Suarez serves as Editor-in-Chief of Oxford Scholarly Editions Online. His recent books include The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume V, 1695–1830 (Cambridge University Press, 2009), co-edited with Michael Turner, and The Oxford Companion to the Book (Oxford University Press, 2010), a million-word reference work co-edited with H. R. Woudhuysen. The Book: A Global History, also co-edited with H. R. Woudhuysen, first appeared in 2013. In 2014, Oxford University Press published his edition of The Dublin Notebook, co-edited with Lesley Higgins, in the Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He delivered the 2015 Lyell Lectures in Bibliography at the University of Oxford.