Dr Matthew Yeo on ‘Power, Print and Politics’

Dr Matthew Yeo addressed The Green Ribbon Club (sixth form history society) last week on the subject of ‘Power, Print and Politics’. This was a tailored version of his doctorate on The History of The Book. It was stimulating, controversial and fascinating talk which challenged all those present and led to lively questions and debate afterwards. Matthew contended that the appearance, the weight, the smell, the size (the Polyglot Bible over a metre high) and the way a book was read or received was as important as the text. The printed text, he claimed, was only a tiny part of the overall story. Books are a commodity. A book is affected by so many factors: gender (boys read less), price, censorship, and from whom or where we get it. Of equal importance to the printed text are the marginal additions (he showed us books where more was written in the margin than the text). He explored what a book does: it could be an engine of radical thought (Prynne’s pamphlets) or a source of authority (King James Bible). I t could give rise to regicide or further mass political power. This was a subject of endless fascination. His own book, The Acquisition of Books by Chethams Library, 1655 – 1700 (Library of the Written Word) may be priced beyond most pockets at £85 but the review on Amazon suggests it is rather special (“forget everything you thought you knew about History books. This has it all – romance, action, espionage and insightful analysis of the book trade. At one point I couldn’t contain my excitement and just started screaming incoherently. The other passengers on the train were not impressed!”). We are very much hoping that Matthew will return soon.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

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