Sir William Stirling Maxwell’s (1818 – 1878) extensive Oriental, European, and British art and book collection, and interest in visual cultures underpins what we do. A bequest of a large part of the collection to the University of Glasgow provided a unique corpus of material, which was instrumental in establishing early study groups in Glasgow and beyond to explore its richness and materials, such as emblem books. Formerly known as the Centre for Emblem Studies, the Stirling Maxwell Centre was a pioneer in the promotion of the genre of ‘Emblem Studies’ from a peripheral interest to a major field of study.   

As we evolve, our research increasingly includes the strong presence of broader aspects of visual culture, including film studies, art criticism, dada and surrealism, and interaction with the performing arts.

About us


Sir William Stirling Maxwell (1818-1878), whose passions included Spanish painting and early photography, and upon whose land the Burrell Collection now stands, amassed the world’s most complete gathering of emblem books. Starting with Andrea Alciato’s Emblematum liber of 1531, these works interact text and image so as to make a point or tell a story. Sir William’s collection was bequeathed to the University of Glasgow in 1956.

Following on from the Centre for Emblem Studies, founded some fifteen years ago, the Stirling Maxwell Centre fosters an unrivalled tradition of scholarship in the field of text/image interaction, building primarily, but not uniquely, on the Stirling Maxwell Collection, which with additions now numbers over 2000 volumes, by far the world’s largest (the second being Princeton with c. 700 volumes).

But we do not just do dusty picture books. The Centre’s work draws also upon the University’s outstanding collection of early photography, the riches of the Hunterian collections, both in the Library and the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, that take us from Dürer to Picasso, and the modern emblem, namely the graphic novel, or French bande dessinée, for which our collection, in association with the Alliance Française, is potentially the strongest in a non-French speaking country.

We offer postgraduate study on all aspects of text/images cultures, with particular emphasis on the graphic novel and its historical antecedents, such as the emblem book. Glasgow University's collections are second to none and there is a lively environment of postgraduate and general scholarly activity, through seminars, publications and conferences.

Our grants

brief selection of some of our grants and awards (for fuller details of previous awards see our Annual Reports). 

What we do

The activities of the Centre include:

  • Digitisation Projects: digitisation projects on the sixteenth-century French emblem, Alciato, and the Italian emblem that make primary resources available to the world-wide scholarly community. These sites have recorded over 7 million hits.
  • Glasgow Emblem Studies: a themed book series distributed by Droz of Geneva, whose first volume appeared in 1996.
  • European Comic Art: published by Berghahn of Oxford, this journal is co-edited from Glasgow, Leicester and Miami OH.
  • Fellowships: since 1987 the Stirling Maxwell Fellowship has enabled visiting scholars from across the globe to visit and research in Glasgow. Typically, we host between 2 and 6 Fellows per year. 
  • Seminar Series: the Stirling Maxwell Centre Seminar Series (formerly Glasgow Emblem Group) hosts a series of seminars—generally six per year—that allows visiting researchers to present their work to us. 
  • Conferences: Glasgow has hosted numerous emblem-related conferences, principally the 1987, 1990 and 2011 Society for Emblem Studies International Conferences. We also hosted the International Graphic Novel and Bande Dessinée Society Joint Conference (2013) and the conference and launch of the Great Britain and Ireland branch of the Society for Emblem Studies (2015), among others.
  • Exhibitions: in partnership with the Hunterian the 2011 exhibition Breaking the Renaissance Code: Emblems and Emblem Books (ranked  by **** the List magazine. Other exhibitions included Scotland and the Birth of Comics(2015), and the hugely successful Comic Invention (2016). 
  • Research and Grant Capture: members of the Centre and its visiting Fellows are actively involved in text/image research projects whose subjects range from Spanish paintings to early photography and French comics. 
  • Internationalization: we have developed strong collaborative links for teaching and research with international partners across the world, supported by ICMErasmus+, and other funding mechanisms. 
  • Teaching: the Centre participates in research-led teaching from Ordinary level upwards, including Honours options, a strand in the the School's MLitt programme and supervision at MPhil and PhD levels. 

The activities of the Stirling Maxwell Centre build upon unique and recognised assets whilst widening our scope so as to underline research in areas of modern visual culture. Our research is multidisciplinary, bringing together Modern Languages and Cultures, History of Art, Medical Humanities, and Information Studies, both with local and international partners.

Our Staff


Laurence Grove (School of Modern Languages & Cultures, French)

Deputy Director:

Luis Gomes (School of Modern Languages & Cultures, Portuguese)


Core Members:

Alison Adams (School of Modern Languages & Cultures, Emeritus Professor, French)

Christopher Vezza (School of Modern Languages & Cultures, French)

Danielle Schwertner (School of Modern Languages & Cultures, Comparative Literature)

Debra Strickland (School of Culture & Creative Arts, History of Art)

Guillem Colom-Montero (School of Modern Languages & Cultures, Hispanic Studies)

Hillary Macartney (School of Culture & Creative Arts, History of Art)

Jordanna Conn (School of Modern Languages & Cultures, Comparative Literature)

Nathanial Gardner (School of Modern Languages & Cultures, Hispanic Studies)

Rachel Douglas (School of Modern Languages and Cultures, French)

Stephen Rawles (School of Humanities, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Information Studies)

Tatiana Heise (School of Modern Languages & Cultures, Portuguese Studies) 

Meriel Dhanowa