HIST 1318: History of the Book and of Reading

HIST 1318: History of the Book and of Reading

Course meets MW(F)10-11 in Sever 202 including Fri Sept 1!

Section Location: Emerson 318

Course policies


Course assignments

Course Requirements

-participation (15%)

-early midterm (Sept 20) (20%)

- “adopt-a-book”: short assignments leading up to the final paper (20%)

- final paper (10pp) due Tues Dec 5 (20%)

-final exam on Dec 13 (25%)

Ann Blair's Office hours:

Mon 2-4pm in CGIS S437, 1730 Cambridge St


and by appointment: amblair@fas


Alicia DeMaio's Office hours

Wed 2-4pm, Robinson L-05


and by appointment: demaio@g.harvard.edu



Syllabus (also here in pdf)1318_2017 syllabus.pdf

Unit 1 : a short history of technology


Week I (Aug 30): why study the history of books?

            W: lecture A: introduction—technologies (language, writing, printing, digital) and themes (publication, distribution and regulations, authorship, reading, survival)

            F: lecture B: book culture in antiquity

Reading: Intro to Book History, introduction (pp. 1-6) and ch. 2 down to “Technological shifts” (pp. 29-35). Short excerpt from Plato, Phaedrus, 274-end [this is a section number standard in all editions of Plato] also available here: http://oldsite.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/unlocked/plato/plato-myth-of-theuth.pdf


Week II (Sept 4): books before printing

            M: Labor Day--no class

            W: lecture C: book culture in medieval Europe

            F: HOUGHTON SESSION--meet at Houghton Library at 10am; please try to stay until 11:30am.

Reading: Intro to Book History, finish ch. 2 (pp. 35-44).

            Michael Johnston and Michael Van Dussen, “Introduction: Manuscripts and Cultural History,” in The Medieval Manuscript Book: Cultural Approaches (2015), pp. 1-15

            Eugene Rice and Anthony Grafton, The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, pp. 1-10 ("the invention of printing") both readings here


Week III (Sept 11): printing

            M: lecture D: book culture in China and the Islamic world

            W: lecture E: the origins of printing in Europe

            Th: see your instructor in designated office hours to choose the book you’ll “adopt” for the upcoming exercises and final paper [some Hollis demo in the process]

            F 10am: first section --discuss Eisenstein and critiques

Reading to be discussed in section:

            Intro to Book History, ch. 3 entire (includes 19th ct) (pp. 45-66). + pp. 18-9 on Eisenstein

            Anthony Grafton, "The Importance of Being Printed" (Review of Eisenstein's 1980 The Printing Press as an Agent of Change) in Journal of Interdisciplinary History 11 (1980): 265-286 (on HOLLIS)  readings here

            Adrian Johns, “How to Acknowledge a Revolution,” American Historical Review 107:1 (Feb. 2002): 106-125 plus "Reply" by Elizabeth Eisenstein, pp. 126-28.


Week IV (Sept 18): the modern period

            M: lecture G (deliberately out of alphabetical order): mechanization of printing

            W: early MIDTERM in class

Assignment for Friday: take the Hollis self-test on your own

            F 10am: section Omeka training session with reference to Hollis and e-resources

Unit 2: themes

Week V (Sept 25): publication       

            M: lecture H: the cycles of the book; what is publication?

            W: lecture F: impacts of print publication

            F 10am: Houghton session [student selections]


            Intro to Book History, ch. 5 entire (pp. 86-100)

            Johan Gerritsen, “Printing at Froben’s: an Eye Witness Account,” Studies in Bibliography (Virginia) 44 (1991): 144-63 (on HOLLIS) reading here


Week VI (Oct 2): book trade and authorship

            M: lecture I: genres and the book trade

DUE MONDAY 5PM: EXERCISE 1--material bibliography (2-4 photos of your book + your captions—ca 250 words) to post on omeka

            W: lecture J: social and economic status of the author, part I [Montaigne]

            F: section

Reading to be discussed in section:

            Montaigne, Essays I, 25 (of pedantry); II, 10 (of books); II, 33 (story of Spurina); III, 3 (three kinds of association); III, 13 (only until mention of China, 4-5 pp into the essay)

            George Hoffmann, "The Montaigne Monopoly: Revising the Essais under the French privilege System," Proceedings of the Modern Language Association (1993): 308-19 (on HOLLIS) reading here

            Intro to Book History, ch. 4, down to “authors, copyright and payment” (pp. 67-75).


Week VII (Oct 9): economics and intellectual property

            M: Columbus Day--no class

DUE MONDAY 5PM: EXERCISE 2—statement of paper topic due --identify primary source, 1-2 themes, 3-4 secondary sources (to submit to discussion board on course website)

            W: lecture K: social and economic status of the author, part II [Samuel Johnson]

            F: section: visit to the Houghton hand press, meet at Lamont Library lobby at 10 AM! (enrolled students only)

Reading to be discussed in section:

Samuel Johnson, Lives of the Poets, vol. 2, pp. 215: Savage

Richard Holmes, introduction from Harper-Perennial edition of Savage (2005) readings here

            Intro to Book History, finish ch. 4 (pp. 75-85).


Week VIII (Oct 16): reading

            M: lecture L: sources for the history of literacy and of reading; practice printing history

DUE MONDAY 5PM: EXERCISE 3—report on the authorship of your source (images of author and/or title page, to post on omeka with captions—ca 250 words

            W: lecture M: learned reading

            F: section

Reading to be discussed in section:

            Keith Thomas, “The meaning of literacy in early modern England,” in The Written Word: Literacy in Transition, ed. Gerd Baumann (1986)

            William Sherman, "What Renaissance readers wrote in their books," in Books and Readers in Early Modern England (2002) both readings here

            Intro to Book History, ch. 6, down to “The rise of the popular” (pp. 101-12).

Week IX (Oct 23): expanding readership; censorship

            M: lecture N: popular reading, cheap print

DUE MONDAY 5PM: EXERCISE 4--close reading of a passage of your choice (to post to discussion board)

            W: lecture O: censorship

            F: section

Reading to be discussed in section:

            look at a chapbook on EEBO or ECCO or Evans [from a list of suggestions]         

            Jonathan Rose, “How Historians Study Reader Response” in Literature in the Marketplace reading here

            Intro to Book History, finish ch. 6 (pp. 112-18).

            The Book: A Global History, ch. 13 (censorship, pp. 169-82) [pdf]


Week X (Oct 30): periodicals and re-authoring

            M: lecture P: newspapers

DUE MONDAY 5PM: EXERCISE 5--report on reception of your source (intended or actual readers—images of annotations, binding, shelfmark...) + printing history (to post on omeka)

            W: lecture Q: reprinting, re-editing

            F 10am: section

Reading to be discussed in section:

            Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, pp. 26-46. both readings here

            Benjamin Franklin, excerpts from Poor Richard and other writings

Jim Green and Peter Stallybrass, Benjamin Franklin, Writer and Printer (2006), ch. 6 ("Inventing Poor Richard") (pp. 101-15)

Week XI (Nov 6): libraries and their role in the Victorian novel

            M: lecture R: brief history of libraries

DUE MONDAY 5PM: EXERCISE 6—provide images of 3-5 comparands for your selected source with brief descriptions and explanations of why you selected them (to post on omeka)

            W: lecture S: the system of the Victorian novel

            F: section

Reading to be discussed in section:

            George Gissing, New Grub Street (first ed of 1891 available on google books), Ch. 1-7.gissing New_Grub_Street google books.pdf

            Simon Eliot, "Circulating Libraries in the Victorian Age and After." In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, edited by Peter Hoare, E. S. Leedham-Green, Teresa Webber and Giles Mandelbrote. 125-46. reading here                  

Week XII (Nov 13): alternatives to supersession

            M: Lecture T: Guest lecture by Alicia DeMaio: American book culture in the 19th century

DUE MONDAY 5PM: EXERCISE 7: 2-page reflection on how your source has survived so far and on the challenges facing its further survival (to post on discussion board)

            W: lecture U: impacts of digital developments I (production and authoring)

            F 10am: section

Reading to be discussed in section:

            Paul Duguid, "Material Matters: Aspects of the Past and Futurology of the Book" (1996)


            Geoffrey Nunberg "Farewell to the Information age" available on-line: http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~nunberg/farewell.pdf

            Intro to Book History, ch. 7 (pp. 119-35).

Week XIII (Nov 20): poster session

            M: conversations on final papers [Robinson Hall basement seminar room] 

            W: Thanksgiving travel --no class

            no section this week

Week XIV (Nov 27): ending

            M: lecture V: impacts of digital developments II (reading and consuming)

            W: last lecture

            F 10am: last section

FINAL PAPERS DUE Wednesday Dec 6, noon

 Review session Wednesday Dec 6, 5-6pm [please note new time as of 11-28], Sever 202

 FINAL EXAM Dec 13, 2-5pm


Course Summary:

Date Details Due