Professor Clare Lees, Institute of English Studies director, and Dr Andrew Nash, director of the London Rare Books School, introduce this special issue of Talking Humanities, which describes the institute’s summer schools and short courses. These activities provide world renowned experts from academia and the public sector with opportunities to share their knowledge and experience with learners from across the globe.

Students from more than 40 countries have attended intensive courses on the London Rare Books School (LRBS), the London International Palaeography Summer School (LIPSS), the T. S. Eliot International Summer School, and the Nineteenth-Century Studies Summer School at the Institute of English Studies (IES).

Undergraduates and postgraduates join academics, poets, librarians, archivists, curators, book dealers, book collectors, local historians, genealogists, and interested members of the public in their fascination for books, manuscripts and literature.

Professor Isobel Armstrong, director of the Nineteenth-Century Summer School, stresses the ‘depth and intensity’ and shared learning that is at the heart of IES summer schools and short courses. A similar point is made by Cécile Varry, University of Paris, in her review of the 2019 T. S. Eliot International Summer School.  And this special issue of Talking Humanities also demonstrates just how wide, various and exciting seasonal schools can be with contributions from the UK, Canada, Singapore and Amsterdam.

In our long read, ‘The educational and career opportunities provided by the London Rare Books School’, Amy Kaufman, head law librarian at William R. Lederman Law Library at Ontario’s Queen’s University, remembers her first rare books school, while Laurence Worms, owner of Ash Rare Books and past president of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, uses his article to look back on a partnership that spans some 12 years.

Dr David Pearson, creator of the electronic database Book Owners Online, discusses the rewards of teaching and how his summer school students helped to hone his thinking and knowledge in ‘Teaching on the London Rare Books School’; Katherine Hindley, assistant professor of medieval literature at Singapore’s Nanyany Technological University, writes about the advantages of studying palaeography as a cross-institutional community in ‘Internationalising the study of manuscripts’; and in ‘Developing a digital “tool-kit” for book history at the London Rare Books School’, Dr Ellie Bleeker, a researcher at Huygens Institute in Amsterdam, Dr Anne McLaughlin, senior research fellow at the National Gallery’s TANC-IIIF project, and Dr Christopher Ohge, IES and Digital Humanities Research Hub lecturer, explores a hybrid teaching model that gave students a view of the digital research in book history landscape.

With thanks to Dr Laura Cleaver, Dr Cynthia Johnston, and Dr Elizabeth Savage for their help in putting these blogs together.