Rare Book School

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H-50. The American Book in the Industrial Era, 1820-1940

Michael Winship

This course will focus on the manufacturing methods, publishing practices, distribution networks, and reception and use of books, periodicals, and other printed materials in the United States during the industrial era, roughly from the 1820s to the 1940s.  Among the topics to be considered are: the introduction and impact of new industrial production technologies; the rise of trade publishing and other publishing systems; methods of book distribution as the book market expanded across the continent, especially the role of bookstores; reading, readership, and the ways in which readers acquired and used books; and the importance of the international trade in American and British books and texts both before and after the 1891 international copyright law. 

The Rare Book School teaching collection is especially rich in printed materials from this period, and students will have ample opportunity to study and handle multiple examples that illustrate important features of the history of the American industrial book; copies of manuscript material will be used to study the business practices of book manufacturers and publishers.  Students will also be introduced to important reference works and other resources for the study of American book history, and have the opportunity to discuss their own research projects with the instructor and class members.

The course is aimed at scholars, librarians, collectors, and others whose work or research requires particular knowledge of the American industrial book and, thus, it is intended for those who already have some familiarity with book production methods and American book history.  It serves as a chronological sequel to James N. Green’s History of the Book in America, c. 1700-1830 (H-70) and supplements at a more advanced level the broad overview offered in my introductory History of the Book in America (H-15).  In their personal statement, applicants are requested to summarize briefly their background in the field, current research projects, and topics or issues that they would particularly like the course to address.

Course Resources

Course History


Michael Winship has taught this course many times since 1995.