My public profile

Dr. Neil Harris
Professor of Bibliology and Library Studies
Università degli Studi di Udine

Neil Harris est professeur de bibliologie et de bibliothéconomie à l’université d’Udine en Italie. Après un master de littérature et langue anglaise à l’université d’Oxford (1980), il obtient un doctorat de littérature comparée à Leicester (1986). Un penchant pour la bibliographie, qui s’est développé pendant son étude des auteurs italiens de la Renaissance, aboutit à un Perfezionamento (deuxième doctorat) à la Scuola normale superiore de Pise (1990). Il a ensuite mené des recherches approfondies sur l’histoire de l’édition des romans de chevalerie italiens, en particulier sur le Roland amoureux de Boiardo et plus récemment sur l’édition aldine de l'Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Actuellement, il travaille avec Cristina Dondi de l’université d’Oxford, sur la préparation d’une édition scientifique du Zornale, registre du libraire vénitien Francesco de Madiis, qui inventorie la vente de 25 000 livres entre 1484 et 1488.

Ses recherches sur le papier ont démarré sous des auspices bibliographiques, lorsque l’analyse du papier lui avait permis de résoudre plusieurs énigmes éditoriales. Cet intérêt s’est rapidement transformé en passion lorsqu’il a découvert par hasard qu’en août 1898 Briquet était passé par Udine où il avait calqué plus de 300 filigranes, relevés dans les archives médiévales de la ville. 131 de ces calques figurent dans Les filigranes (1907). Briquet est aussi le personnage central d’un guide bibliographique compréhensif intitulé Paper and Watermarks as Bibliographical Evidence dont la seconde édition révisée a été publiée sur le site de l’IHL en 2017.


Neil Harris is Professor of Bibliography and Library Studies at the University of Udine in Italy. He was born in Uganda, at the time a British Protectorate, in 1957, and went to school in England. After a first degree in English Language and Literature at Balliol College, Oxford (1980), he migrated to Italy for a while, before returning to academia in order to do a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Leicester, where he wrote a thesis on the classical and and Renaissance epic paradigms in Milton’s Paradise Lost, completed in 1986. A penchant for bibliography, discovered while trying to understand how Milton read and understood Renaissance Italian authors, led to a second doctorate, this time at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, duly completed in 1990. What therefore had its beginnings in a lengthy, learned footnote became an abiding passion and the consequence of this industry was the two-volume, six-hundred page Bibliografia dell’Orlando Innamorato (1988-91), which explored at length the publishing history and the protean manifestations of Boiardo’s extraordinary poem. In 1992 he was appointed Associate Professor at the University of Udine, and was promoted to a full chair in 2002; from 2008 to 2015 he also served as head of Department. He has continued to work extensively on the publishing history of the Italian chivalric poem, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Conor Fahy, with research on the Morgante and the Orlando Furioso, while more recent research includes studies of the printing of the Aldine Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. He has also followed numerous cataloguing projects of early printed material in Italian libraries and contributed introductions and critical essays to the published versions, in particular that of San Gimignano (2007). At present, together with Cristina Dondi of the University of Oxford, he is engaged in publishing an edition of the Zornale of the Venetian bookseller, Francesco de Madiis.

His interest in paper began under bibliographical auspices, when watermarks proved key in identifying the original date of the printing of Francesco Berni's rifacimento of the Orlando Innamorato as c. 1539, rather than the 1541 and 1542 found on the first edition, issued both in Venice and in Milan. After this promising start, he looked out for discussions of paper and bibliographical method, and dutifully read the articles of Allan Stevenson. Where possible, he also purchased examples of handmade paper, and began to construct a watermark archive for teaching and demonstration purposes. What seriously stirred him to passion was the chance discovery that in August 1898 no less a person than Briquet had passed through Udine and traced over three hundred watermarks in the city's Medieval archive. In this total 131 were primary references and so were easily identifiable. So he started following in Briquet's footsteps, both in Udine and in the archives at Lyon, in a project informally baptised “Briquet Reloaded”. The objective is to return to Briquet's sources, discover the source of his original tracing, and reproduce it with modern technologies; inevitably, however, in each and every case the project involves identifying the twin watermark, and associating it with the other. The next challenge is to make this research available in an electronic medium. Briquet is also the central figure of an extended bibliographical guide Paper and Watermarks as Bibliographical Evidence, which in 2017 was published in its second edition on the site of the Institut d'Histoire du Livre.

Address: Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici e del Patrimonio Culturale, Università degli Studi di Udine, Palazzo Caiselli, Vicolo Florio 2, 33100 Udine. Tel. ++39 0432 556615.

Email: neil.harris[at]uniud[dot]it

Personal page:, with a full CV, list of publications, and downloadable texts of some of his articles.