Posted by Kate Ozment
It’s been a whole year at Sammelband, and we are celebrating with our favorite kind of bibliography: enumerative! (If there is a nerd table at SHARP, we’ll show ourselves there). I solicited the Twitterverse and SHARP-L for suggestions for favorite teaching book history materials, which I’ve summarized here alongside my own stable of recommendations. This list is designed to provide suggestions to that ubiquitous question, what book do I assign?
I am going to use a few emphases with how to approach this list, since teaching the history of the book has become a booming industry all its own, a problem I am happy to have. However, it is more difficult to do so while keeping the cost of books low and without extensive access to archives. Since both of these factors characterize the situation I am personally in, this is a challenge I face as I develop the critical making courses I am currently working on (stay tuned for so many pictures of our Cal Poly Pomona Makerspace!). It is also difficult to teach the history of the book without teaching American or British literature, partially a result of us only collecting sources in English and partially because of the field’s focus on these geographic spaces.
This list is designed to provide suggestions to that ubiquitous question—what book do I assign?
With all of those factors in mind, what follows is a curated list of sources. I have occasionally used the designation Editor’s Choice to indicate when the Sammelband co-editors believe a book is particularly excellent in its category. This is not to disparage any of the other options, but to offer some advice from what we have personally experienced. We hope this conversation and other feedback will continue through our social media or listservs so readers can get more perspectives.
As with any list of enumerative bibliography, this post represents a moment in time that will be outdated almost as soon as it is created. We might look into publishing annual lists if there is interest, but if you have additional sources you would like to add here, I encourage you to do so in the comments as I do not intend to continually update this. With that …
John Barnard, D. F. McKenzie, David McKitterick, and I. R. Willison, editors. The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. 7 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Eliot, Simon, and Jonathan Rose, eds. A Companion to the History of the Book. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
Hall, David D., ed. A History of the Book in America. 5 vols. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
Howsam, Leslie, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Suarez, Michael F., and H.R. Woudhuysen, eds. The Oxford Companion to the Book. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Editor’s Choice: Each book is too different to compare, as they are all geographically located. The Oxford edition does cover more of the globe, but is still largely located in the Anglo-American world. For definition of terms, the large Oxford edition is the most useful but the most expensive per volume. The Hall series has the highest density of articles on women and non-white subjects.
Abbott, Craig S., and William Proctor Williams, eds. An Introduction to Bibliographical and Textual Studies. 4th ed. New York: Modern Language Association, 2009.
Finkelstein, David, and Alistair McCleery. Introduction to Book History. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2012.
**Howsam, Leslie. Old Books and New Histories: An Orientation to Studies in Book and Print Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.
Levy, Michelle, and Tom Mole, eds. The Broadview Introduction to Book History. Broadview, 2017.
Raven, James. What Is the History of the Book? Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018.
**Editor’s Choice: For a brief but thorough and low-cost introduction to the field, Howsam’s book remains the ideal choice. The other introductions also have their strengths; in particular the Broadview introduction is the only book to explicitly engage issues of gender, of great interest for this platform. Raven’s and Howsam’s are less expensive than the longer introductions.
Finkelstein, David, and Alistair McCleery, eds. The Book History Reader. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2006.
**Levy, Michelle, and Tom Mole, eds. The Broadview Reader in Book History. New York: Broadview, 2014.
**Editor’s Choice: The Broadview reader covers a wider range of how book history is practiced now in the field while still engaging with the field’s origins. Both readers pair well with their counterpart introductions, but they exist well on their own. Each is currently listed at the same price.
More Specialized Items
These includes books and journals that the community has identified as useful for pedagogy but are not specifically designed for that case or the novice reader, as the introductions and readers tend to be. As several people have pointed out, if one is looking for a reading list, there are fewer good places to start than the reading list for courses at CalRBS, RBS at UVA, and London RBS.
Book History journal frequently runs “State of the Field” articles that are highly useful at the graduate level and for advanced undergraduates. This journal also has a solid track record of covering global sources.
Cowley, Des, and Clare Williamson. The World of the Book. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing, 2010.
**Hawkins, Ann R., ed. Teaching Bibliography, Textual Criticism and Book History. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2006.
Shillingsburg, Peter. From Gutenberg to Google. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
St. Clare, William. “The Political Economy of Reading” abridged edition from 2012.
Suarez, Michael F., and H.R. Woudhuysen, eds. The Book: A Global History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
**Editor’s Choice: There are few explicitly pedagogical book history books on the market, and this includes several excellent chapters. A few more pedagogy books seem to be on the horizon, which is a good sign as this edition seems to be out of print. Digital copies are available.
This category is particularly vast, because we could link to every digital repository of books or images since these let us teach books through graphic design and materiality. Because of that, I’m going to limit this to tools that go beyond repositories and bibliographies.
3D Hotbed is a group that uses 3D printing to create teaching replicas of printing tools like a hand mould. The designs are all free on the site.
**Alpert-Abrams, Hannah. “Diversify Your Book History Syllabus” reading list includes sources written by scholars of color and/or that center non-Anglo histories of the book. This is a highly useful, continually evolving resource.
Chen, Amy Hildreth, designer. Codex Conquest lets students learn about their history through collections at the library. These are easily adaptable for different classes and open access.
Chen, Amy Hildreth, designer. Mark is a deck of cards made of Early Modern printers’ ornaments that facilitate familiarity with the visual culture of the period.
Felsenstein, Frank and James J. Connoly, editors. What Middleton Read is an open-access resource that lists what the citizens of Muncie, Indiana public library read in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Folger Shakespeare Library’s DIY First Folio and DIY First Quarto sites allows users to build a virtual first folio. The folio site was created by Kathleen Lynch, Kyle Vitale, Rebecca Niles, Meaghan Brown, and Stacey Redick. The quarto site was created by Kathleen Lynch, Justine DeCamillis, Rebecca Niles, and Esther French.
Harris, Neil. Paper and Watermarks as Bibliographical Evidence introduces these two important concepts through an open portal with chapters. Part of the Institut d’Histoire du Livre.
Institut d’Histoire du Livre has French and English resources for teachers and practitioners. Here are online sources.
Werner, Sarah. Early Printed Books is an open-access source that goes beyond the Anglo-American world. The site is in beta as of this publication.
Zurcher, Andrew. English Handwriting 1500-1700 allows users to practice transcribing Early Modern handwriting with high-quality images and useful text boxes. There are about 30 lessons.
**Editor’s Choice: Alpert-Abrams’ initiative represents one of the best ways that book historians and digital humanists are coming together to broaden how the field is taught and practiced. We can only hope the seeds of a new reader are found in projects like this.
There are so many wonderful options in this category, especially as you begin to search for specific skills in bookmaking, book arts, or calligraphy. Here are a few examples.
British Library hosts a wonderful video on William Blake’s printing process.
OutofSortsFilm has hosted a series of videos from Stan Nelson on typecasting. The video series begins here with punchcutting.
University of Iowa Special Collections has put together the series If Books Could Talk featuring Colleen Theisen. Each video has more useful links about the objects and methods.
Editor’s Choice: I unabashedly love all of these. Since I can’t always bring books into the classroom, videos are an engaging way to get students introduced to basic concepts in book history. They pair very well with critical making projects.
About the Author
Kate Ozment is assistant professor of English at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Currently, she is working on a book project titled Women and the Book that theorizes feminist bibliography with her WBHB co-editor, Cait Coker. Contact her at: keozment (at) cpp (dot) edu.