Mary Wellesley’s first book, Hidden Hands: the Lives of Manuscripts and Their Makers was published by Quercus in the UK in October 2021, and by Basic Books in the US as The Gilded Page: The Secret Lives of Manuscripts at the same time. It was reviewed in the New Yorker, the Times, the Telegraph, the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and the Spectator, amongst others, and chosen as one of the history books of the year by the Sunday Times and BBC History Magazine.
She is currently working on a new book about women burnt at the stake between the 15th and 18th centuries.
Mary studied English Language and Literature at Lincoln College, Oxford, before gaining a PhD from University College, London in 2017. From 2016 to 2018 she worked in the department of Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts at the British Library and was appointed a British Library Research Affiliate, 2019–20. She continues to teach courses on medieval language and literature as part of the library’s Adult Learning programme.
She has published book chapters and academic articles on Middle English literature and codicology and co-edited Stasis in the Medieval West: Questioning Continuity and Change for Palgrave. Alongside her academic publications she writes widely for a general audience, most recently writing an afterword to Eliot Weinberger’s Angels and Saints (New York: New Directions, 2019) and an essay for Archipelago: A Reader, edited by Nicholas Allen and Fiona Stafford (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2021). Her work appears frequently in The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement, as well as a number of newspapers including the Sunday Times, Guardian and Telegraph.
She is the co-host of a hit podcast series for the London Review of Books called ‘Encounters with Medieval Women’, which was rebroadcast twice on the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s ‘Ideas’ programme. Its opening episode had 30,000 downloads within two months of broadcast. In 2022 she began recording a further 12-part podcast series on medieval texts for the London Review of Books, for broadcast in 2023. She has also contributed to programmes on BBC Radio 4 and a large number of podcasts, including BBC History Today and History Hit’s ‘Gone Medieval’.
Author photo © Francesca McCafferty