Please note that this syllabus is subject to change. I will announce any changes in class and by email, and will update this page. If you’d like a pdf of the syllabus, you can download one here; it will not, however, be updated as regularly as this page.

Readings marked on the syllabus with a diamond (♦) are the primary readings for that day; other readings listed should be read as your time and interest allows. Links to all the readings on this syllabus may be found here (note: readings are accessible only by current students in the seminar). Each item is followed by a download button that will download that single article.

You will notice that the readings specified on the syllabus below consist nearly entirely of modern books about early modern books and book history. We will be working with early modern books in class and outside of class, and you will be provided with a bibliography of the books we have consulted in class. Students are always welcome to bring into the classroom particular books that they are interested in and would like to discuss; should you wish to bring rare material into the seminar room, you must notify Dr Werner by Monday of that week’s class meeting. Students should also avail themselves of the resources in the Folger, both of our collections of rare materials, but also of our range of experts in the field. The library’s curators and staff will help you find your way through our collection.

January 31: Orientation

February 8: Preface: What is book history?

♦  Robert Darnton, “What is the History of Books?” in The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History (New York & London: Norton, 1990), 107-135. [Originally published in Daedalus 111:3 (1982): 65-83.]

♦  D.F. McKenzie, “The Book as an Expressive Form” in Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999), 9-30. [Originally given as a Panizzi lecture at the British Library in 1985.]

♦  Roger Chartier, “Labourers and Voyagers: From the Text to the Reader,” Diacritics 22:2 (Summer 1992): 49-61.

Eltjo Buringh and Jan Luiten van Zanden, “Charting the ‘Rise of the West’: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries,” The Journal of Economic History 69 (2009): 409-445.

Robert Darnton, “‘What Is the History of Books’ Revisited,” Modern Intellectual History 4.3 (2007): 495-508.

February 14: Volume I: Books as objects Class cancelled for snow

In-class exercise: describing a book

Monday, February 17: reading rooms closed

February 21: Volume I: Books as objects: casting off, format, printing
To make up for last week’s snow day, we’ll start the class with our in-class book descriptions, using this worksheet, and then move on to talking about casting off and format. Depending on how far we get, we’ll adjust next week’s class accordingly.

♦  Sarah Werner’s in-progress Handbook for Studying Early Printed Books Part 1: Overview

♦ Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oak Knoll Press, 1972; 2006 reprint), pp 78-105.

A series of short videos from the Plantin-Moretus Museum showing the printing of a broadside, from setting to printing

animation of a printing press from The Atlas of Early Printing

There are some useful videos illustrating aspects of printing, punchcutting, typecasting, and understanding format; these can be watched at the Folger, but are not required viewing:
—The Making of a Renaissance Book. Dir. Dana Atchely, prod. American Friends of the Plantin-Moretus Museum (Antwerp). 16 mm film, 22 min., 1969. Re-released by Book Arts Press, VHS, 2000.
From Punch to Printing Type: The Art and Craft of Hand Punchcutting and Typecasting, dir. Peter Herdrich, prod. Book Arts Press, 1985. VHS, 45 min.
The Anatomy of a Book, I: Format in the Hand-Press Period, dir. Peter Herdrich, written by Terry Belanger, prod. Viking Productions, distrib. Book Arts Press, 1991. VHS, 30 min.
How to Operate a Book, dir. Peter Herdrich, written by Terry Belanger and Gary Frost, prod. Book Arts Press, 1986. VHS 30 min.

Monday, February 24, 7:00pm: Exercise 1: Catalog wishlist due

February 28: Volume I: Books as objects: format, printing, illustrations
If last week’s readings aren’t fresh in your mind, please review them.

♦ Roger Gaskell, “Printing House and Engraving Shop,” The Book Collector 53 (2004): 213-251.

James A. Knapp, “The Bastard Art: Woodcut Illustration in Sixteenth-Century England” in Printing and Parenting in Early Modern England, ed. Douglas A. Brooks (Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2005), 151-172.

Blair Hedges, “A Method for Dating Early Books and Prints Using Image Analysis,” Proceedings of the Royal Society 462 (2006): 3555-3573.

David Pearson, et al, Preservation Advisory Centre: Bookbindings (London: British Library, 2010).

Mirjam M. Foot, “Bookbinding and the History of Books” in A Potencie of Life, ed. Nicolas Barker (London: British Library, 1993), 113-126.

Sunday, March 2, 7:00 pm: notify me by email of your book selection for your semester’s project

March 7: Volume II: Books and culture: Stationers’ Company
Making a quarto exercise due

♦  Peter W. M. Blayney, excerpt of “The Publication of Playbooks” in A New History of Early English Drama, eds John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (New York: Columbia UP, 1997), 389-415. (n.b., you do not need to read the entire article, only this section)

♦  Zachary Lesser, “Speculation in the book trade” in Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication: Readings in the English Book Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004), 26-51.

♦ Cyndia Susan Clegg, “The Stationers’ Company of London” in The British Literary Book Trade, 1475-1700, eds James K. Bracken and Joel Silver, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 170 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1996), 275-291.

Peter Stallybrass, “‘Little Jobs’: Broadsides and the Printing Revolution” in Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, eds Sabrina Alcorn Baron, Eric N. Lindquist, and Eleanor F. Shevlin (Amherst: U Massachusetts P, 2007), 315-341.

Helen Smith, “‘A free Stationers wife of this companye’: Women and the Stationers” in ‘Grossly Material Things’: Women and Book Production in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012), 87-134.

March 14: Volume II: Books and early modern culture: stationers and authors

♦  Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?” in Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism, ed. Josué V. Harari (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1979), 141-160.

♦  Marcy L. North, “Ignoto and the Book Industry” in The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England (Chicago and London: U Chicago P, 2003), 56-88.

♦ David Scott Kastan, “Humphrey Moseley and the Invention of English Literature” in Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, eds Sabrina Alcorn Baron, Eric N. Lindquist, and Eleanor F. Shevlin (Amherst: U Massachusetts P, 2007), 56-88.

Adrian Johns, “The Invention of Piracy” in Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (Chicago: U Chicago P, 2010), 17-40.

Sunday, March 16, 7:00 pm: Assignment due: Your book’s stationers

{March 21: NO CLASS: Spring break}

Tuesday, March 25, 7:00 pm: Assignment due: Your book’s authors

March 28: Volume II: Books and early modern culture: early readers and users

♦  John Jowett, “For Many of Your Companies: Middleton’s Early Readers” in Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to The Collected Works, eds Gary Taylor and John Lavagino (Oxford: Clarendon P, 2007), 286-327. main text and appendices

♦  William H. Sherman, “Toward a History of the Manicule” in Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P, 2008), 25-52.

Franklin B. Williams, Jr. “Commendatory Verses: The Rise of the Art of Puffing,” Studies in Bibliography 19 (1966): 1-14.

Ann Blair, “Reading Strategies for Coping with Information Overload ca. 1550-1700,” Journal of the History of Ideas 64 (2003): 11-28.

Keith Thomas, “The Meaning of Literacy in Early Modern England” in The Written Word: Literacy in Transition, ed. Gerd Baumann (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1986), 98-131.

April 4: Volume II: Books and culture: modern readers and users

♦ Jeffrey Todd Knight, “Fast Bind, Fast Find: The History of the Book and the Modern Collection,” Criticism 51 (2009): 79-104.

♦ William H. Sherman, “Dirty Books? Attitudes Toward Readers’ Marks” in Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P, 2008), 151-178.

Louis B. Wright, “The Harmsworth Collection and the Folger Library,” The Book Collector (1957): 123-128. [primarily useful for those of you working with books that were once owned by Harmsworth]

Stephen H. Grant, “A Most Interesting and Attractive Problem: Creating Washington’s Folger Shakespeare Library,” Washington History 24: 1 (January 1, 2012): 2-21.

Sunday, April 6, 7:00 pm: Assignment due: Your book’s early users

April 11: Case Study: [to be announced]

Sunday, April 13, 7:00 pm: Assignment due: Your book’s provenance OR Your book’s afterlife

April 18: Case Study: Bibles

♦  Paul Saenger, “The Impact of the Early Printed Page on the Reading of the Bible” in The Bible as Book: The First Printed Editions, eds Kimberly Van Kampen and Paul Saenger (New Castle, DE and London: Oak Knoll P and British Library, 1999), 31-45.

♦  Evelyn B. Tribble, “Authority, Control, Community: The English Printed Bible Page from Tyndale to the Authorized Version” in Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1993), 11-56.

Peter Stallybrass, “Books and Scrolls: Navigating the Bible” in Books and Readers in Early Modern England: Material Studies, eds Jennifer Andersen and Elizabeth Sauer (Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P, 2002), 42-79.

Wednesday April 23, noon–Thursday,April 24, noon: Reading Rooms closed

April 25: Volume III: Books as vehicles for texts: editing a text

♦  Erick Keleman, “Textual Criticism and Kinds of Editions” in Textual Editing and Criticism: An Introduction (New York: Norton, 2009), 73-120.

May 2: Volume III: Books as vehicles for texts: annotating a text
Exercise due in class: Editing your text

♦  Robert D. Hume, “The Aims and Uses of ‘Textual Studies’” PBSA 99:2 (2005): 197-230.

♦  Gerard Genette, “Introduction” in Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997), 1-15. [Originally published as Seuils (Paris, 1987).]

May 9: Volume III: Books as vehicles for texts: digital texts and tools
Sarah Werner, “where material book culture meets digital humanities,” Journal of Digital Humanities 1:3 (Summer 2012).

Alan Galey, “The Enkindling Reciter: E-Books in the Bibliographical Imagination,” Book History 15 (2012): 210-247.

Matthew Kirschenbaum, “‘Every Contact Leaves a Trace’: Storage, Encryption, and Computer Forensics” in Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination (MIT Press, 2008), 25-72.

Friday, May 16, 7:00 pm: Assignment due: Your book’s biography


an undergrad book history seminar