James N. Green

H-70: The History of the Book in America, c.1700–1830

4–8 June 2012

1)    How useful were the pre–course readings? (Leave blank if you applied and were accepted late for the course, and thus did not get the list in time.)

1: Extremely useful. I read the required and had time to dip into the suggested readings. I look forward to reading/re-reading the further readings bibliography JG gave us this week. 2: Pre-course readings were a good entryway into the topics of the class. 3: They were extremely useful. 4: They were very helpful in contextualizing the information. I honestly wish that more had been required, especially Isaiah Thomas' History of Printing. 5: Very useful—wish we had discussed them a little more in class (i.e., the life of a printer, newspapers, demand in the community for information). 6: The pre-course readings were good for background, and they will definitely be useful for future work. JG didn't rely on them too heavily so it would be possible to understand the course without an in-depth reading of them. I did not do any additional preparation. 7: Useful. I think requiring a more recent overview of early American book history than Wroth's Colonial Printer might have been useful. 8: Read all required and half of the recommended readings. All good and very relevant. 9: Excellent. The History of the Book readings should be required as Lehmann-Haupt is not a great book but is a useful/functional survey. 10: Did not have time to do much of the suggested readings but the required readings were very helpful and I look forward to reading the suggested ones in the future. 11: Fine. 12: A bit hard-going, but they did succeed in laying at least a rudimentary foundation. I did only the required minimum, based on which I was a bit apprehensive about what lay ahead. 13: Very useful. 14: Very useful. I did all the readings (except for one that will arrive after I return home, and I plan to read it as well).

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

1: Yes, very useful. We often referred to these materials to illustrate lecture points. 2: They were very well tailored to the content of the course. 3: Both appropriate and useful. Each day's summary could be a little more detailed. 4: Yes. 5: Good for in class; not sure I will use them after class, although I will use the required and recommended readings. 6: JG pulled together a lot of fascinating primary sources from his original work. They made the class much more interesting. 7: Yes. 8: Yes, workbook appropriate and useful. 9: Yes. Re-do them as the workbook is third-generation. 10: Yes, I hope to be able to study the workbook more closely after I get home. 11: Yes. Some very valuable materials, which I expect to consult again. More specific bibliographical information on some of the photocopies would have been helpful. 12: Superb, and engaging. I can't wait to start reading more of the books and articles suggested or handled during the class. 13: Yes, I expect them to be very useful in the future. Also, JG did a great job of explaining the materials as we went along so that we knew what the materials were for future reference. 14: Yes. However, work on the page numbers in the workbook.

3) Have you taken one or more RBS courses before? If so, how did this course compare with your previous coursework?

1: This course is on par with the highest level RBS classes I've taken in the past. JG has an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. 2: This is the first. 3: I have taken two. I thought this was more useful to me than "The Book in the West to 1800" and on par with Sue Allen's course. 4: Yes. The other class I took was DesBib, so this was much more relaxed and enjoyable. We didn't try to cram in too much. 5: No. 6: This is my first RBS course. 7: Yes—this course was less demanding than DesBib (of course), and had more of a lecture feel. 8: Have taken two previous classes. This course was consistent with both of them. 9: Yes. Equally good. 10: Yes, this is my fourth. I've enjoyed and learned a lot from all classes I've taken but JG is an exceptional instructor. 11: Yes. DesBib remains my favorite as it the first I took and a real eye-opener—it changed my approach to both my teaching and my scholarship. This course reminded me of the others I've taken in that the group experience was a highlight (DesBib more solitary slogging). 12: N/A. This was my first. 13: No. 14: Yes. The previous teacher was much more organized, and I value this. However, JG is open to questions at all stages.

4)    What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes?

1: I found the development of the course around the development of printing and then publishing to be most relevant, especially as a prelude to technological change in the nineteenth century. 2: The emphasis on the transatlantic book trade was of particular interest for me. 3: Discussion of the book trade in the early national period, especially 1800-1830. 4: The culture of the book trade and auctions. It actually fired my interest to start work in 19th-century auction law. 5: Isaiah Thomas, Ben Franklin, Mathew Carey (the big publishers/printers). Also Thomas Paine. 6: For me, hearing about the Atlantic book trade was the most interesting and relevant part, to see how Americans interacted with the intellectual and economic centers of Europe. Also, the bit on colonial newspapers was great. 7: Publishing history; understanding the context of book production and distribution in this period. 8: JG's research and knowledge of the book in the C18 was key for me, hands down. 9: Detailed examples of how the meta changes/forces were reified in the work of individuals like Ben Franklin and the many publishers. 10: Leaning about different printers and publishers, what types of things they printed, all the processes involved in constructing a book. 11: Days 3–5: nuts and bolts of the book trade. I would have liked more focus on the South and on how books got out to further remote/western areas after 1730. I felt the course took some time to snap into focus. 12: How and where the book trade developed, the rudiments of how a book was printed and bound; and, of course, the significance of particular individuals, especially Ben Franklin but also more obscure but important contributors as well. 13: Learning the basics about how books were made and how and print techniques combined in the colonial period. Having an overview of the colonial and early national history will also prove very useful. 14: Change over time in c18-19 printing in America.

5)    Did the instructor(s) successfully help you to acquire the information and skills that the course was intended to convey? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?

1: JG made an effort to populate the class with a mix of student types. This made course/class discussion especially rich, diverse, and interesting. 2: Absolutely. The course was challenging and comprehensive in its study of early American printing. 3: Yes, yes. 4: Yes. It's just such a big time period that it's impossible to discuss everything that all of us want to know about. It's a beginning for me, not the end. 5: Yes. JG is very well-versed in many different areas of this subject. Communicated well and answered questions satisfactorily. 6: Yes, I learned a lot from the course about American print history and bibliography in general. 7: Yes, and yes. 8: The instructor was indeed key to the course's goals and the intellectual level was quite appropriate. 9: Yes, and yes. 10: Yes. 11: Yes, I think so. Some material (especially on physical details) was covered a bit quickly or disjunctively. The lecture on composing was not always clear. 12: He did. JG is a marvelous teacher. He was a pleasure to learn from. 13: Yes—there was so much information in this course! JG did a great job of making sense of that information for us in relation to larger historical events/processes though, and that was very helpful. 14: This is not an introductory course. Instead, it is an opportunity to spend a week with an expert, perhaps the expert, in the field.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: JG and his willingness to explore every question that came up during the week. 2: JG. Truly a pleasure to learn from him. 3: The enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the instructor and ability to see and handle the books. 4: JG. What a walking encyclopedia of the American book. Bravo! 5: Learning the stories about the early printing trade in America. Bookbinding, traveling sales. 6: I liked the actual examples of rare books and how they were integrated into the course. Meeting other people interested in the topic/rare books in general was great, too. 7: Seeing examples of colonial/early national printing and binding; discussing early national publishing and book distribution with someone so expert about it. 8: The instructor made the course for me. 9: See response to question number four. 10: I enjoyed everything about the course but was especially impressed with JG's knowledge about the course topics and so much more. He is easygoing and has a great sense of humor and good conversational style. Also the mix of students in the class and the opportunity to meet a fine group of people. 11: I have always felt that in RBS courses the instructor, the group of students, and the materials contribute equal value. What I like best is the luxury of a concentrated intellectual inquiry with a diverse group of smart and curious people. This time I would make the split 40/40/20, because we need a more efficient way to look at more of the rare/old materials. Gathering 14 people around a table does not work. I felt that this aspect of the class was rather disappointing as there were so many books we had neither time nor, really, physical space to see closely. 12: Getting a basic understanding of how printing developed in America, from the beginning. 13: Hearing so many amazing Ben Franklin stories! It's wonderful to hear the back-stories of many important documents and books and know how understanding the printing context helps us understand those documents better! 14: I had my doubts at first. However, I was won over by JG and his passion for this subject. I would be very happy to work with him again.

7) How could the course have been improved?

1: I would move the printing and typesetting demo up to an earlier point in day one, since it did not take a full period. This way, more time could be spent on class content. 2: Small suggestion: consider including short (very short) readings every day (or two) to be discussed in the morning of the next day (so the day begins with a discussion). A ten-page secondary source, or Xeroxes of a primary work, for examples. 3: Add, in the workbook, a list of significant events and their dates of this period on a single. 4: More examples, but that's an easy thing to say. I know RBS works really hard to gather as much as they can. The chairs weren't the best, I must say. 5: More on the effect of the American Revolution and how the press influenced it, especially newspapers. 6: I wish there had been a bit more background/bigger picture summary (but not too much). Maybe more attention could be paid to the timeline/sequence of events? 7: I think having recommended readings (perhaps 10–20 page excerpts or articles) each night that we could discuss briefly the following morning might have been a helpful way of encouraging participation and discussion. 9: Perhaps to begin each substantive lecture-like session with a high-level overview of what will follow, why important, and then to delve into the examples and details. 10: Can't think of anything. 11: See response to question number six. 12: Lasting another week (kidding, but there was so much material in such a short time—but I'm not complaining). 13: Sometimes it was difficult to listen to what JG was saying and look at the books being passed around at the same time. I found myself somewhat caught between those two tasks! Maybe a matter of timing? Both were wonderful, but it was hard to properly focus on each.

8)    Did you learn what the course description/advertisements indicated you would learn?

1–10: Yes. 11: Yes. However, I would have liked more focus on 1790–1830 and less on the earlier period—but that's just me. 12–14: Yes.

9)    Did you learn what you wanted to learn in the course?

1–5: Yes. 6: Yes. 7: Yes. 8: Yes, but like so much at RBS, it has left me to want to know more. 9–13: Yes. 14: Yes. More comparisons/contrasts to Britain.

10)  How do you intend to use or apply the knowledge or skills learned in this course?

1: I can immediately apply what I've learned in upcoming teaching/this academic year. 2: Broadly in my teaching and research, and particularly with respect to several potential projects the course helped jumpstart. 3: Deepen my ability to analyze the physical attributes of books from this time period. 4: It's given me ideas for more than a few research topics and/or collecting areas, and also broadened my knowledge for use in the antiquarian book trade. 5: Bring it back to the institution and continue to conduct more research/reading on early printers and publishers. Share in workshops. 7: The background on early publishing, &c. will be helpful in my research, as well as my collecting and my work as a dealer. 8: In both my curatorial duties and my historical research. 9: Integrating history of the book into my teaching in primary source use and U.S. history. 10: Will be able to look at the books I work with and feel that I know much more about the people and processes involved in their creation—may help me solve some problems. 11: In my own book history class and also for an article I am writing (also perhaps future projects). 12: To educate myself further, and to examine the books in my collection from the period covered in a whole new way. 13: This course gives me a better background for understanding publishing in my own time period—c19 America. I also have a better sense of normal printer jobs and relations in colonial America, which should help me better understand when such relations differ or go awry. 14: I will use the material in both my teaching and my research.

11)  If you made any trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?

1: The Special Collections (SC) sessions were all useful. 2: Yes. 3: To SC; time was well spent. 4: If you mean a trip to SC, then absolutely yes. I could have used much more time with the really rare stuff. 5: Yes—enjoyed the trips to SC and the printing press demonstration. 6: We went to SC and got to use some really fascinating books—like Jefferson's Notes inscribed for Lafayette. 7: Yes—the time in SC was useful. 8: SC visits were worth the time. 9: Two trips to SC. Well spent. 12: Examining books from SC was well worth the time. 13: Yes, but it was a bit difficult for everyone to look at the books in SC at once. Maybe having multiple books set out and then moving from one table to the next would be helpful!

12) If you attended the optional evening events (e.g., RBS Lecture, Video Night, RBS Forum, Booksellers' Night) were they worth attending?

1: The lectures were particularly good this RBS session. 2–3: Yes. 4: They were all wonderful. The lectures were illuminating in areas that I didn't particularly care much about, but made me interested in them nonetheless. An opportunity to go to dinner first may have been nice, though. 5: Yes. 6: I unfortunately did not have a chance to, but I wish I had, since they looked fun. 7: Yes. 8: N/A 9: Yes. Perhaps speakers—who have deep subject knowledge—could be counseled on structure/format of successful lecturing? 10:  Yes. 12: The two lectures were good: the second by Soren Edgren, was really terrific! 13: Yes, although the first lecture was a bit too specific for my taste. I heard the second lecture was more contextual though. And the other events were great. 14: Yes.

13)  We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching  collections and of materials owned by the 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: None. 2: I suppose there could be a short, mandatory 15–20 minute "intro to handling." But really, everyone in the class was extremely careful in their handling. 4: It all seemed perfectly managed to me. 5: N/A. Book rests were used. Books were handled carefully. 6: Everyone seemed to take pretty good care of the books, and JG went over how to hold them, which was good. 7: Yes. 8: N/A. 9: None. 10: Classroom items were handled well. 11: The chairs in our classroom are heavy, difficult to move, and awkward. I have bruises! (Mostly from having to get up frequently to hand materials safely on). We need chairs with wheels and a less bumpy carpet. 12: No suggestions. 13: I thought everyone did a good job handling the materials.

14)  Did you get your (or your institution's) money's worth? Would you recommend this course to others?

1: As always, I got more than my money's worth. 2: Yes. 3: Yes, yes. 4: Yes, and Hell yes. 5: Yes—very intensive five days of study. Very intellectual discussion amongst teacher and peers. Stimulating. 6: Yes, I feel like I did. I would recommend it for anyone with a very strong knowledge of early American history/literature. 7: Yes, and yes. 8: Yes. 9: Yes! Yes! Thank you. 10: Definitely, on both counts. Have already recommended the course to other RBS students. 11: Yes. 12: Yes and definitely yes. 13: Yes—I learned so much! Would definitely recommend JG's course to anyone interested in the colonial and early national period. 14: Yes. Yes.

15)  Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year? (If you have further RBS praise or concerns, or if you have suggestions for a new course, please contact Amanda Nelsen [an2b@virginia.edu] or Michael Suarez [mfs3x@virginia.edu].)

2: Very good course. Highly recommended. 3: This is an excellent course and JG is a great instructor. 4: What you do here at RBS, speaking to the RBS staff and faculty, is a wonderful gift to book history. Thank you so much. I'll be back as often as possible. 7: Take it! JG is great. 9: Time to update the 2010 PDF guide on the website. I suggested changes last year that were ignored. No problem, I know you're busy and forgot what they were except that your gym details are out of date. Ah, one more thing, could the coffee-flavored water in the snack room be replaced with actual coffee? 10: Would like to see a class on ephemera. 13: I had a great time! I think doing the course readings as much as possible before is really helpful, and just get ready for an intense but great week! 14: I hope that RBS will start to offer classes in more areas of the History of the Book, beyond the physical production of the book. RBS serves a vital function, and I am happy to do whatever I can to support it. Thank you.

Number of respondents: 14





Institution gave me leave


5 (36%)


I took vacation time


3 (21%)


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


6 (43%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course


0 (0%)




Institution paid tuition


 7 (50%)


Institution paid tuition ___%


0 (0%)


I paid tuition myself


4 (28%)


Exchange or barter


0 (0%)


N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

3 (22%)




Institution paid housing


7 (50%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing


0 (0%)


I paid for my own housing


4 (28%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


3 (22%)





Institution paid travel


6 (43%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel


0 (0%)


I paid my own travel


5 (36%)


N/A: lived nearby


3 (21%)



There were two rare book librarians (14%), two full time Ph.D. students (15%), one book collector (7%) two antiquarian booksellers (14%), two full or associate university professors (15%), one museum/cultural institution professional (7%), one full time B.A. student (7%), one librarian with some rare book duties (7%), one rare book cataloger (7%), one retired lawyer (7%)


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

8 (58%)

RBS Printed Schedule

1 (7%)

Work Colleague

1 (7%)

Other :

2 (14%) (listservs)


RBS faculty or staff recommendation

2 (14%)





Where did you stay?

Brown College 5 (37%)

Courtyard Marriott 1 (7%)

Hampton Inn & Suites 3 (21%)

Red Roof Inn 1 (7%)

Other 4 (28%)