The Materiality of Writing. Books in Religious Traditions

Since its invention, writing is a prominent technique that has shaped religious traditions profoundly. Books are precious repositories, they preserve religious messages and enable their transmission through time and space. Written texts are at the core of religious world views, orientations, practices and rituals. Their letters keep revelations alive and materialise transcendent messages. Books have been cultivated, illuminated, printed, bound, restored, reproduced, stored, filed, transformed, and nowadays digitised. They have been read, sung, played, danced, represented, and sometimes eaten, sometimes burned, banned and destroyed.

As material and visual objects, books perform an active role in communities and for individuals in academic studies, liturgies, private spaces, or therapies. Religious books are autonomous agents in religious transmission processes that challenge and are challenged by society. While, on the one hand, they can inspire innovations and creative processes, on the other hand, they can hamper progress. Adapting to new technologies, books experience profound transformation, and, respectively, transform their recipients. 

In this issue of JRFM, the religious role and significance of writing, books and scripture are discussed by focusing on their materiality and visuality. We welcome contributions dealing with writing as a material activity and books as objects. The articles published in this issue will contribute to the reflection on questions like:

  • How can the materiality of religious books be interpreted?
  • How does the materiality of writing and books shape religious traditions and practices, communities and individuals?
  • How does the materiality of books and scriptures affect the act of writing?
  • What practices are linked to the production, transmission and preservation of books?
  • How does the materiality of scripture influence reception and conservation processes?
  • What is the symbolic significance of books as material things?
  • How does the invention of new technologies transform the materiality of the books? How do they transform the passage of messages from the materiality of letters into the performance of speech?
  • The symbolism of the destruction of books: How and in what circumstances have they been destroyed, and to what end?

The issue also has an open section for articles on other topics linked to the profile of JRFM. The deadline for submissions is 31 August 2020. Contributions of 25,000-30,000 characters (including spaces) should be submitted online for peer review through the journal homepage We kindly ask authors to register and consider the instructions for posting contributions. Publication is scheduled for May 2021. For questions regarding this call for papers or the submission and publication process, please contact the editors of the issue, Christian Wessely ( and Daria Pezzoli-Olgiati (