Dr Naomi Billingsley


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My research focuses on intersections of visual and literary cultures in Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; to date, my research has included Christianity as a third corner in these relationships. I am also interested in Christianity and art more broadly, and have worked and published on topics including biblical themes in art, and twentieth century ecclesiastical art.

My current project, funded by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, focuses on the Macklin Bible – an exhibition and publication project that resulted in an ambitious illustrated Bible, issued between 1791 and 1800. My research investigates the formation and reception of the Bible in the context of religious visual culture in the Romantic period. This research makes use of the Bible collection at the John Rylands Library, which includes three first editions of the Macklin Bible, a copy of the reissue of 1824, and numerous eighteenth-century illustrated Bibles to contextualise the Macklin. The research also draws on other collections at the John Rylands Library, including the papers of William Artaud (one of the contributing artists), as well as other collections in Greater Manchester, including the Whitworth, and Bolton Library and Museums.

I am also a co-investigator on a new project "Most Sacred Things: the Correspondence of William Hayley (1745-1820)" at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. A pilot project, funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant, and the University of Cambridge, began in May 2019. Larger funding bids are planned to create a complete corpus of Hayley's correspondence.

I enjoy working collaboratively with other researchers, and developing projects that bring researchers together productively. For example, alongside colleagues from the JRRI, I established the Lives and Afterlives of Letters Network, which became the Manchester Centre for Correspondence Studies in 2019. Further details of my collaborations and projects can be found in the Activities tab.

My monograph The Visionary Art of William Blake: Christianity, Romanticism and the Pictorial Imagination was published in spring 2018 by I.B. Tauris; it was supported by an award from the Marc Fitch Fund for illustration costs. Two related essays were published in early 2018, and another is forthcoming. Another recent article examines figurings of William Blake’s religious ideas by early twentieth century critics. Also forthcoming is an article on the Bowyer Bible - the extra-illustrated Macklin Bible now in the collection of Bolton Libraries and Museums.


I joined the John Rylands Research Institute as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in January 2017. I am also affiliated with Art History at Manchester, where I teach on the undergraduate programme.

Before my current post, I worked in a research role for the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with the Centre for Arts and the Sacred at King's College London. I have also lectured in Art History for Birkbeck, University of London, and worked as a picture researcher for King's College London's Visual Commentary on Scripture project.

I have held visiting fellowships at the Yale Center for British Art (2014), the Harry Ransom Center (2018), and the Library Company of Philadelphia and Historical Society of Pennsylvania (2018).

My PhD (University of Manchester) was entitled ‘The Visual Christology of William Blake.’ It was funded by the AHRC and a UoM Presidential Doctoral Scholar's Award.

I previously studied Theology and Religious Studies (BA) at the University of Cambridge, and Christianity and the Arts (MA) at King’s College London.

I enjoy sharing my research with a variety of audiences, and have worked on research-led widening participation and public engagement initiatives with the Big Blake Project, the Brilliant Club, the Diocese of Chichester, the John Rylands Library, West Sussex Record Office and the Whitworth.

External positions

Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Arts and the Sacred, King's College London (University of London)

Oct 2015Jun 2018


  • British Art, William Blake, Romanticism, History of Christianity, Reception of the Bible, Book History, Painting, Print Culture, History of Art

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