Martin Antonetti

H-30: The Printed Book in the West to 1800

6-10 March 2006


1)   How useful were the pre-course readings?

1: Excellent. Carter’s ABC was crucial for a basic orientation to the technology of books, so we could concentrate more on ideas than vocabulary. Chappell [A Short History of the Printed Word] is rather cranky about everything post-Renaissance, but I prefer an attitude to the blandness of most survey books. A bit more font-centered than I would have liked -- would have liked more on book structure. 2: I felt the readings were all useful and relevant to the context of the course. They provided a good foundation to the topics discussed in class. 3: They were useful, though I think they could have been pitched at a higher level. The Chappell book provides a nice first pass over the material, but a more truly historical treatment would have been welcome, too. 4: The readings were quite germane to what we learned in class, and provided me with a good basis before coming to RBS. 5: Excellent -- and necessary! It’d be hard to enjoy the course without at least a common vocabulary, and these books give you that. 6: Good but not crucial. Mostly helpful as a way to get familiarized with vocabulary. 7: Very useful and necessary preparation for the class. 8: Very useful. The Chappell was a straight-forward, easy (and quick) read. 9: Very. I was happy to have had a short required list with a few more recommended titles.


2)   Were the course syllabus and other materials distributed in class useful (or will they be so in the future, after you return home)?

1: Yes. Thanks, MA, for your care in giving us complete lists of slides and key names -- again, allowing us to focus on ideas rather than puzzling out names and dates. Reference to the appendix materials might have been helpful. 2: Yes, the exit reading list and handouts I plan to share with my colleagues and staff. 3: Yes, they were useful. The list of slides was particularly helpful in following along with the lectures. The reading list will come in handy later on, I’m sure. 4: Yes, and I believe I will consult the list of “further readings.” 5: Yes. I will definitely use my class notes in the future. (The Museum Night handouts are stellar.) We talked about a CD of images to take home -- I highly recommend this. 6: VERY. 7: Yes. 8: Yes. 9: Yes. The syllabus and notes for each lecture were particularly helpful.


3)   What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?

1: Really, everything was interesting and relevant, since I was looking for a broad overview. Since I’m a literary scholar, the lecture on textual variants in Shakespeare was quite familiar ground, but the primary audience was librarians. I’m least likely to use the information on binding, I suppose. Yes, the intellectual level seemed appropriate. 2: Yes, the intellectual level of the course was appropriate. I was interested in filling in the gaps I had in understanding the development and history of typography -- this and more were realized! 3: The aspects that focused on the social history of the book were most relevant, given that I wanted to supplement my background in analytical bibliography. The intellectual level of the course was fine. 4: The intellectual level was perfect for me as someone with little formal education in the history of rare books. I found the descriptions of the actual mechanics of printing, papermaking, &c. to be the most fascinating. 5: Liked the final lecture on MA’s Arrighi research -- substantive and entertaining, somewhat like enjoying a mystery or a puzzle. Also enjoyed seeing the [wooden common] press in action. 6: The lectures on different aspects of book production and book trade were especially valuable. Yes -- the class was intellectually stimulating. It also seemed well suited to people with more background in the subject that I have. 7: The role and responsibilities of printers was of particular interest to me. The level was just fine for an introductory course such as this. 8: We spent some very interesting time on typefaces. The intellectual level was appropriate. 9: Appropriate intellectual level. Material just as promised -- for beginners. I enjoyed seeing a lot of Italian early printing since that’s not usually what I see at my institution.


4)   If your course had field trips, were they effective?

1: Yes, though the field trip consisted of walking across the room in the case of Special Collections. Good to have the opportunity to try out our shaky legs, looking at the real thing. Also important for maintaining attention during long days. Press demonstration both great fun and absolutely essential to understanding what it really meant to print. 2: Yes, we did get the opportunity to actually use a printing press. Great hands-on experience and discussion of the press itself. 3: N/A. 4: We stuck to our classroom, but we did get to see a large number of special collections materials, all of which were immensely helpful in illustrating what the lectures taught. 5: Yes: press in action was an invaluable addition to the course. (Although I felt so awkward using the press!) 6: Special Collections came to us. The Special Collections sessions were a great way to test out what we learned in the lectures. They were very well coordinated with the lectures. 7: Yes. The afternoon spent using the hand-press in Alderman was especially enjoyable and informative. 8: Very well spent. 9: N/A.


5)   What did you like best about the course?

1: MA’s extraordinary commitment to excellent teaching, which was apparent in all aspects of the course: that his lectures were written out, and often elegantly so, shows great respect for our time; that he delivers rather than reads them, shows his concern for engaging our interest; that he invites and receives with great interest and seriousness our questions and comments; his commitment to our understanding. He serves as an excellent model for our practices of reading and learning. 2: MA -- he was an engaging, informative and delightful speaker and presenter. The use of Special Collections in class added to the day’s lecture and fostered thought-provoking questions and discussions. 3: I enjoyed looking at books with MA and the other students. This was by far the strongest aspect of the course, and I learned much about how to approach books as artifacts. 4: The time spent looking at actual books, both from Special Collections and the RBS collections. 5: The small size -- we only had nine people. Having Special Collections books in the room was great. MA’s enthusiasm & expertise & humor & professionalism. Special Collections staff/volunteers were very friendly. Content was good -- broken into nice chunks of info. 6: Besides MA’s thoroughness, I really appreciated his attitude toward book history. He doesn’t teach it as the history of precious objects, but as a history that can tell us something meaningful about the world we live in. 7: Everything, but especially the class discussions. 8: Having MA show the books from Special Collections. He’s very knowledgeable. 9: Its coverage of so many parts of printing history: fonts, bindings, &c. and the connections drawn between each craft.


6)   How could the course have been improved?

1: Hm. In the context of a stellar class, seems MA got part way through an argument about the Reformation and scientific revolution that didn’t get completed (using Special Collections). I’m a sucker for narrative, so would have liked that rounded out. On the other hand, I appreciate his flexibility in just going with what the books suggested to us or him at the moment. 2: I thought this was an outstanding course, and more time each day would be the only improvement. 3: The weakest aspect of the course was its overlap with Descriptive Bibliography. I would have liked more histoire du livre, given that DesBib covers analytical bibliography in great detail. 4: I found some of the lectures a bit stiff, at least when the instructor was reading directly from a prepared sheet. I also wish that MA would not single people out when asking if what he was explaining was clear, as this makes the person in the spotlight much less likely to draw attention to themselves by asking questions. 5: Start at nine! Yikes, 8:30 was early. (Admittedly, a frivolous request.) More self-exploration of Special Collections books, if possible. Time to visit Special Collections and page something of interest. Shorter, more frequent show/tells. Better A/V; our movies often didn’t work well...(although UVa does have excellent A/V technology -- the DVDs just seemed BAD. 6: It was very satisfying just the way it was. 7: More time with books, although this would necessitate lengthening the course time, as it would detract from time spent on lectures and discussion. 8: At times I felt the lecturer moved too slowly and cut into the Special Collections time. Perhaps staying a bit more on schedule would help. 9: Take it out of the non-functional classroom at the Small Library. Perhaps more handling of RBS material instead of looking at slides of items.


7)   We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching collections and of materials owned by UVa’s Special Collections. If relevant, what suggestions do you have for the improved classroom handling of such materials used in your course this week?

1: Seemed fine to me. Great to have the RBS materials so we could squint up close with the loupe, feel the paper, sniff the leather, since the Special Collections materials are “no touch.” 4: Less casual page-flipping. 5: It would be nice to pass selected Special Collections materials around, so we can all see the item up close. Occasionally hard to see materials around small table. 6: Seemed very well done. 7: No food or drink allowed in the same room as material.


8)   If you attended the Sunday and/or Monday night lectures, were they worth attending?

1: The Monday lecture was not, alas, very interesting. More a list than an argument, and rather declamatory given the small audience. There’s a hell of a lot of knowledge/talent among the participants -- maybe this is an opportunity to showcase that. 2: I attended the Sunday night lecture and I did find it worthwhile. Terry Belanger gave an informative overview of RBS, but also discussed future trends in rare book librarianship. 3: Yes, particularly Monday night’s lecture, which was surprisingly interesting. I never knew such varied and unusual materials existed for the study of Jane Eyre. 4: Yes. 6: No -- but perhaps another speaker would have been more engaging. 7: N/A. 9: Yes it was.

9) If you attended a Museum Night, was the time profitably spent?

1: Museum nights were just grand, and what a treat. Thank you for the careful preparation. Although I know they weren’t tailored for our class, they were immensely helpful in understanding in an immediate and tactile way the things we’d learned. 2: I thought the Museum Nights added to the whole experience and [were] relevant to the course. 3D Carter was excellent, and I would like to replicate [it] at my host institution. 3: Yes, the Museums are one of the most enlightening parts of RBS. There seemed to be some technical difficulties with the use of video materials this week. 4: I attended three Museums, and each one was immeasurably helpful in illustrating concepts that would have been fuzzy otherwise. 5: Definitely. I sincerely appreciated the chance to explore the RBS collections on my own time and at my own pace. Excellent content and presentation and notes. Plus, the staff at Museum Night had lots of good information to offer. 6: The Museum Nights were very valuable. A great chance to have hands-on experience with a wide variety of materials. 7: Yes. Very informative. 8: The Museum Nights were amazing. It’s so useful to look at/handle the physical objects. 9: Yes! As always!


10) Did you get your money’s worth? Any final thoughts?

1: Well, yes, given that tuition was free. But even had it not been. Doing the reading in advance was immensely helpful, so don’t shirk... 2: I got more than my money’s worth. I did not receive this level of instruction in library school, and I recommend anyone in rare books or Special Collections should absolutely attend. I will definitely plan to come back and take another course. 3: Yes, it’s a great course. MA serves as a wonderful guide in learning how to look at books. Perhaps those who have already taken DesBib could opt for a more advanced course, [illegible] time wouldn’t have been wasted in taking this one. 4: MA made a point of saying that he would try to avoid using subjective language, a goal in which he did not succeed. Although I think it’s perfectly fine to describe one of your preferred type fonts or woodcuts as beautiful, it is unfair to apply words such as “heavy” or “unartistic” to others which require similar amounts of skill but may not have been made in your country of ancestry. That said, I learned a great deal in this course and I do not fault MA his pride in Italian artistry. 5: Yes. Thank you for the scholarship! Advice: Dress casually. Spend some time enjoying the grounds. Don’t worry, access to email is very easy. Take time to mingle and meet new people. Plan to explore Cville on one of the weekends. Bring the readings (required ahead of time) with you -- you may need to refer to them. Overall, RBS is extremely well-run and highly organized. I commend all of you at RBS for your hard work and vision. I had a great week and I am sorry it’s over! My greatest thanks for a valuable and enjoyable week. Best regards! 6: Absolutely! Don’t expect to have time for anything else but class. The class days are long and full, and you’ll be tired (but happy) at the end of each day. 7: More than my money’s worth, as always. I am always sad to leave at the end of the week, as I thoroughly enjoy spending time with like-minded and committed colleagues in the rare book profession. 8: This was a great class. The quality of instruction was very high.

Number of respondents: 9



Leave                       Tuition                    Housing                   Travel

Institution                 Institution                 Institution                 Institution

gave me leave            paid tuition               paid housing              paid travel

67%                            22%                            56%                            39%

I took vaca-                I paid tui-                  I paid for my              I paid my own

tion time                    tion myself                 own housing              travel

11%                            0%                              22%                            50%

N/A: self-                   N/A: Self-                   N/A: stayed                N/A: lived

employed, re-             employed,                  with friends               nearby

tired, or had              retired, or                  or lived at

summers off              scholarship                home

22%                            78%                            22%                            11%

There were three rare book librarians (33%); two general librarians with some rare book duties (22%); two full-time students (22%); and two students with “other” occupations (22%): “run exhibition program in a rare book library”, and “run public and scholarly programs at a rare book library.”