Anthony Grafton studies the history of scholarship and science in pre-modern Europe. His special interest lies in the history of knowledge-making: the ways in which people draw information from reading texts and examining objects, and then organize and use it. His two-volume study of the sixteenth-century philologist and chronologer Joseph Scaliger helped to establish the history of scholarship as a field. He has worked extensively on marginalia in manuscripts and printed books, using them as primary sources for the history of reading practices. With Lisa Jardine, he wrote “’Studied for Action’: How Gabriel Harvey Read his Livy,” Past & Present 129 (1990), 30-78, which continues to be a touchstone in the field. As one of the principal investigators for the prize-winning digital project Archaeology of Reading (archaeologyofreading.org). he has helped to apply new methods to the study of learned readers and their marginalia.
With Joanna Weinberg, he has investigated the ways in which Christian scholars learned to read texts by Jews in Hebrew and Aramaic (“I have always loved the holy tongue”: Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship [Cambridge, Mass., 2011]). Another study used documents and printed sources to investigate the work done by correctors in early modern printing houses (The Culture of Correction in Renaissance Europe [London, 2011]). With Glenn Most, he organized a research group at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science in Berlin, which examined textual practices in a wide range of cultures. The results of their work appeared as Canonical Texts and Scholarly Practices: A Global Comparative Approach (Cambridge, 2016).
More recent projects in this area include a collaborative study of the development of reading practices over time in a prominent family in the British Atlantic (Richard Calis et al., “Passing the Book: Cultures of Reading in the Winthrop Family, 1580-1730,” Past &. Present, 241 (2018), 69-141) and a series of connected studies on the practices of the British antiquarian William Lambarde (Frederic Clark et al., “William Lambardes’ Reading, Revision and Reception: the Life Cycle of the Peregrination of Kent,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 81 [2018, published 2019]). Most recently Grafton has published a collection of studies on the practices of early modern historians, paleographers, philologists and forgers, Inky Fingers: The Making of Books in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, Mass., 2020) and a co-edited volume, Ann Blair et al., Information: A Historical Companion [Princeton, 2021). He regularly teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of books and readers.