LIBR 548F (3) History of the Book


MLIS and Dual MAS/MLIS: Completion of MLIS Core or permission of iSchool Graduate Advisor

MAS: completion of MAS core and permission of the iSchool Graduate Advisor

GOAL: The course will offer an overview of the history of the book as a material object and as an agent of intellectual and social development, with particular emphasis on Europe, Britain, and North America


Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • To understand the development of the book as a material object
  • To gain a basic knowledge of the technologies by which books have been produced over time
  • To consider how the development of printing as an organized trade affected the dissemination of information and
  • To consider the significance of printing as an agent of social change
  • To understand how book technologies and book trade practices affect scholarly editing
  • To consider the current and future implications of electronic and web publication


  • The book as a material object – tablets, scrolls, manuscript books, incunabula, printed books, pamphlets, broadsides, binding, decoration; electronic books
  • Technological developments in the production of books – clay, papyrus, vellum, paper; stylus, ink, pen, brush; ideograms, alphabets; block printing, movable type, development of typefaces; hand printing, steam printing, offset printing, computer typesetting
  • Scriptoria and printing houses in their changing social, intellectual, political, and economic contexts; copyright; the author; the editor
  • Printing and social change – manuscript and print cultures; the politics of printing the Bible, political texts, scientific knowledge, literature, music, engraving; literacy, reading practices, class and gender; censorship, underground printing, samizdat
  • Principles of scholarly editing of early texts – the idea of copy-text, collation, emendation, annotation, modernization; post-modern editorial theory
  • The transfer of print information to commercial and non-commercial databases and e-books; developments in copyright law
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