Rare Book School

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

Martin Antonetti

This course will cover the development of the Western printed book in the hand-press period, that is from the middle of the c15 to the beginning of the c19, in chronological and thematic sessions which are a combination of lectures, workshops, slides, videotapes, and films. The topics covered include the invention and spread of printing in Europe; the development of typographic book design and illustration; the rise of the publishing industry; freedom and the regulation of the press; the increase in literacy and its social consequences; the traffic in printed matter and the growth of personal and institutional collections; and the impact of the Industrial Revolution. Intended for those who have a limited background but a considerable interest in the history of the book, and who expect, sooner or later, to take the other two courses in this sequence, The Book in the Manuscript Era (H-20) and The Printed Book in the West since 1800 (H-40).

The course is intended for those who seek a general overview of the technical and cultural aspects of the history of books, printing, and the allied arts and who would like formal classroom exposure to the subject in a well-equipped environment. The instructor emphasizes that this course is aimed at beginners.

In their personal statement, applicants should 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


Martin Antonetti has taught this course many times since 1999.