H-15. The History of the Book in America: A Survey from Colonial to Modern

Scott E. Casper Jeffrey D. Groves

N.B. Updates to this course description for the 2017 iteration of the course will be posted soon.

A survey of the role of the book in American society and culture from colonial times to the second half of the twentieth century. The course will first examine the early trans-Atlantic trade in books, the beginning and early years of local American book production, and the place of books in colonial American life. The focus will then shift to the establishment of a national book trade in an expanding United States during the industrial era. Topics to be investigated include the industrialization and mechanization of book production, methods of bookselling and distribution, and the rise of authorship in the United States. Finally, twentieth-century developments will be discussed, including the introduction of book clubs as well as mass and trade paperbacks, the role of literary agents, the rise of the best seller, and the purchase of trade publishing houses by multi-national conglomerates.

This course is intended for students broadly interested in the history of the book in America, but who have little formal training or exposure to the subject. In their personal statement, applicants are encouraged to describe the nature of their developing interest in the history of the book and (if relevant) explain briefly the causes of this interest and the purposes to which they propose to put the knowledge gained from the course.

Course History

2017
Scott E. Casper and Jeffrey D. Groves co-teach this course.
2003–2012
Michael Winship teaches this course.
1987–1988
Michael Winship and Edwin Wolf 2d. co-teach a precursor course, "History of the American Book."

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

Related Courses

Faculty

  • Scott E. Casper
  • Jeffrey D. Groves

Scott E. Casper

Scott Casper is Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). He is the author of Constructing American Lives: Biography and Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (1999) and Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon: The Forgotten History of an American Shrine (2008); and the co-editor of Perspectives on American Book History: Artifacts and Commentary (2002, with Joanne D. Chaison and Jeffrey D. Groves), A History of the Book in America, Volume III: The Industrial Book, 1840–1880 (2007, with Jeffrey D. Groves, Stephen Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship), and The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History (2013, with Joan Shelley Rubin).

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Jeffrey D. Groves

Jeff Groves is the R. Michael Shanahan Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Literature at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.  He is a contributor to and co-editor of Perspectives on American Book History: Artifacts and Commentary (2002, with Scott E. Casper and Joanne D. Chaison) and A History of the Book in America, Volume III: The Industrial Book, 1840–1880 (2007, with Scott E. Casper, Stephen Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship).

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