Michael Winship

H-15: The History of the Book in America

27-31 July 2009




1) How useful were the pre-course readings?


1: The readings were useful for a background, especially to be able to put events in context as we discussed them. 2: The readings were essential to getting the most from the class. The scope of MW's course was too broad to be covered during class time. The readings supplemented class discussion and I would not have understood or appreciated a great deal without them. 3: The recommended readings were useful and I think a necessary preparation for the course. 4: Useful background. We did not cover the readings exhaustively, which was a good thing, so they were valuable touchstones for discussion. 5: The advance readings were very helpful. The Lehmann-Haupt text was dense, but interesting. The anthology was useful as an aid to understanding Lehmann-Haupt and I read them together, by period. 6: Very useful beforehand and I am sure they will be in the future as well. 7: Very useful. Great surveys of the history of the book in America, giving helpful grounding in the field. The Franklin autobiography is a delight. 8: The pre-course readings were useful in preparing for the lectures. I was glad to have read them and felt they helped to contextualize the information MW gave in the lectures, without being redundant. 9: The pre-course readings offered a nice sense of what to expect, however since the course content itself explored all of these in excellent detail, the outline provided by pre-course readings wasn't necessary—I think the choices could have been more wisely made to introduce concepts of book history that were introduced during the first day's lecture ("what is a book") in order to create a more even intellectual footing and move into the fun, nitty-gritty materiality more quickly. 10: Very helpful—provide a strong contextual framework. 11: The pre-course readings were very useful, especially the CD from Perspectives on American Book History.


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


1: The materials distributed were appropriate and useful; also useful will be the many citations to items that were mentioned as further study in a particular direction or topic. I will be using my notes often at home. 2: Yes! It is very helpful to have a list of the books we saw at the two Special Collections classes. I will try to get a list of the resources that we viewed during class time. 3: Yes. 4: Reading list will be valuable after I return home. 5: The material was useful, particularly the lists of primary and secondary sources. Additionally, I compiled a list of 50+ additional sources that were mentioned during the course. 6: Yes. I like having the lists of books we viewed in Special Collections and the bibliography. 7: Yes—helpful bibliography of recent work in the field. 8: Yes. The syllabus includes a bibliography of relevant readings, as well as lists of the books we were shown in the Special Collections library. Both will be quite useful to me. 9-10: Yes. 11: Yes, the course outline organized the class very well.


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: I needed a general overview, and that is exactly what I got. Although there may be a topic or two that was slightly more relevant to the collection I curate, it was all of interest and good for me to know. The intellectual level was entirely appropriate. 2: I came to RBS hoping to learn about books in the colonial period—and I did. I especially appreciated learning more about the British book trade at the time. I was pleased to find that I became curious about c19 American book publishing, though, due to this class and will want to continue this study on my own. 3: I was most interested in changes in technology but also found the trade and economic aspects relevant. I think the intellectual level was perfect and MW was sensitive to differences in students' backgrounds. 4: I found the portion of the course that covered mid-c19 on most interesting and useful for my needs. I was pleasantly surprised by the technical information about printing and papermaking and was particularly fascinated by the portions of the course devoted to both design and publishers' records. 5: MW's systematic approach to book history in America helped me to better understand the complexity of and the relationship between book production and distribution. The course was information intensive and MW really cared about what we wanted and needed to know. 6: I am more interested in the earlier history but found the discussion of current trends/attitudes good too. Intellectual level appropriate. 7: The whole class was useful, although I'm most interested in colonial period and c19—there was plenty of coverage of these. The level was appropriate for relative beginners in the history of the book. 8: The overall arrangement of the lectures (chronological but divided into areas of interest such as printing/distribution/readership, etc.) makes it difficult to pick out one part that was of greater interest than another. It all fit together quite well. 9: MW is extra sharp when it comes to the c19 so his lecturing on industrialization was brilliant and exciting. 10: How publications come about—we learned a lot of details I had never thought about. Yes. 11: I was particularly interested in the book in c19 America. The intellectual level was stimulating.


4) If your course left its classroom to visit Special Collections (SC) or to make other field trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?


1: The visits to SC were well planned to show a variety of publications; there is never enough time to look at these treasures at the length they deserve. However, the amount of time was appropriate for an overview of the period, and the texts selected were very good representatives. 2: The opportunities at SC were wonderful! They underscored the class lecture material, supplemented the same and provided visual understanding. I wish we had been there daily. The tour of SC during the week was fantastic but more time was required to see it all. 3: Yes, I greatly enjoyed the visits to SC, particularly the second visit. 4: Absolutely loved our visits to SC and all the other opportunities for hands-on/eyes-on experiences. 5: I very much appreciated the visits to SC, as these allowed us to see examples of the texts and materials discussed in the classroom. I particularly was glad to see and use the press. 6: Yes, without question. 7: Wonderful—MW pulled great books. It was a nice change of pace from classroom time. 8: Yes. We made two wonderful trips to the SC library. The sessions there were very well prepared—great selections, in chronological order, facilitated by the presence of an RBS staffer. 9: Yes, we visited SC on two occasions and that was ideal, as was the press demo. 10: Very much so. 11: The time viewing SC books in the Small Library was well worth it.


5) What did you like best about the course?


1: I liked the way that discussion could follow a particular interest of me or the participants, without carrying along the general overview that the group needed. It was a delicate balance, but very nicely done. 2: It was a great privilege to have protected time to talk, listen and think about book history. MW was knowledgeable and insightful. 3: The general class time, particularly the second half of the week. The lectures were very interesting and engaging, and I appreciated the examples and books we looked at in class. 4: Learning about "detective" work digging into publishers' records and other archival records. Much to my surprise I also enjoyed all the information about print techniques. Not surprisingly, I enjoyed our visits to SC. 5: Aside from the huge amount of information—I filled an entire notebook—I really appreciated the manner in which MW introduced us to American book history as a discipline rather than merely a collection of facts in chronological order. He asked questions, answered questions, and showed us how to ask and answer our own. 6: MW, his style of teaching and clear expertise. Also, the other students; a good, diverse and interesting group. 7: MW's great knowledge. I feel I got a great grounding in the subject. The hands-on demonstration of printing and seeing the rare books in SC was also great. 8: I loved the trips to SC (see above) and was delighted with the breadth of the instructor's knowledge of the subject matter. He gave an occasional anecdote (carefully selected) but stayed on course for the most part. 9: MW has a wonderful way of alternating historical commentary with personal anecdote, so amusement and learning are never mutually exclusive. 10: The trips to SC and other visuals shown in class. He was also very willing to answer questions. 11: I liked the information about c19 books, the professor MW, and the visits to Special Collections.


6) How could the course have been improved?


1: I thought the interweaving of individual interests and the overview was a perfect approach. I cannot think of further improvements. 2: I wish we had had a 'field trip' every day to SC. More discussion between class members would have been good; there were many knowledgeable people attending. 3: While the lectures were one of my favorite parts of the course, I think they could benefit by being more structured. 4: Looking back I learned a lot over the week. Sometimes I did find the instructor's anecdotal approach a little frustrating, so I perhaps would have done better with some mix of more structured plus anecdotal approach. Nonetheless, I did learn a lot, and there are few instructors who have anecdotes that are so wide ranging and ultimately teach you so much. 5: Longer? 7: There could have been more time devoted to discussion, but the lecture style suits how much info MW has to convey. The hands-on demonstration of printing was wonderful—but it would have been nice to know ahead of time that we would be doing this so we could wear old clothes. 9: The lecture concerning colonial books and printing paled a bit in comparison to MW's industrial expertise, so could be strengthened? 10: I would have been interested to learn more about the cultural history of the book. 11: The course was well designed as it was.


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: All of the materials of the RBS collections were handled carefully by the students and the instructor. The instructor was very careful with the Special Collections materials as well. 2: The RBS staff were elegant in their handling of materials in Special Collections and acted as models of good stewards. The same presence would be useful during class time to be sure materials are always carefully used. 3: None, everyone was very respectful of the materials. 5: All collections material was presented and handled carefully. 6: The materials were treated with care, no suggestions. 7: This seemed fine. 8: No suggestions. I was pleased to be able to handle items in the teaching collections and consider that to be a privilege. The Allen baskets are a good idea. 9: None. 11: The handling of materials was done carefully.


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


1: The lectures and films very interesting and informative. 2: I was too tired to attend the Monday night lecture although I intended to. It is difficult to make the first day a long one. Perhaps this lecture could be offered later in the week. 5: I attended the Sunday lecture, which was enjoyable, and the film screening, which answered some questions that I had about printing. 6: Yes. 7: The Sunday lecture wasn't particularly germane to my interests. 8: I attended the lecture and was engaged by it, although I felt the subject matter did not quite match up with the title of the lecture. The length was good and the visual components were of interest. 9: Yep. 10: Everything I attended was worth it. 11: N/A.


9) Did you get your money's worth? Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year?


1: I feel I got a great bargain with this course. I will recommend it to any colleague with an interest in the subject. 2: I certainly learned a great deal from class, from my colleagues and from the entire RBS experience. This is a good course for an introduction to book history that will prepare an attender for further study. 3: Yes, absolutely. I highly enjoyed the class and I feel like I've been given a lot of information I will find useful in the future. It is a lot to take in so future students should be prepared to take plenty of notes! 4: I definitely got my money's worth. The class size was perfect, our group was congenial, and we were lucky to have MW as our instructor. 5: Money well spent. Take this course! 6: Stay on the lawn and enjoy sitting out with your classmates and instructor in the evenings. 7: Yes, I got my money's worth. This course is a great basic—but still very thorough—introduction to the history of the book in America. 8: Yes. RBS was well worth the money. I would love to come back and will recommend the experience to my colleagues. 9: Absolutely. MW is as smart as he is approachable, willing to answer all questions and open to discussion of all subjects. 10: Yes. 11: I certainly got my money's worth. MW is an outstanding teacher. He encouraged questions and gave expert analysis.


Number of respondents: 11





Institution gave me leave: 54%

I took vacation time: 18%

N/A: self-employed, retired, or had summers off: 27%



Institution paid tuition: 72%

I paid tuition myself: 0%

N/A: self-employed, retired, or scholarship: 27%



Instution paid housing: 63%

I paid for my own housing: 27%

N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home: 9%



Institution paid travel: 54%

I paid my own travel: 45%

N/A: lived nearby: 0%


There were 2 rare book librarians (18%), 1 archivist/manuscript librarian (9%), 2 general librarians with some rare book duties (18%), 1 archivist/manuscript librarian (9%), 2 teachers/professors (18%), 1 full-time student (9%), 1 subject librarian with some rare book duties (9%), and one historian (9%).