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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

H-15. The History of the Book in America

Michael Winship

A survey of the role of the book in American society and culture from colonial times to the second half of the c20. 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, c20 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 Resources

Course History


Michael Winship teaches this course for the first time.