Michael F. Suarez, S.J.

H-90: Teaching the History of the Book

2–6 July 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: The readings were very helpful preparation for the course in providing different interpretative frameworks for approaching bibliography and book history. Although some are better studies than others, the balance between historical, literary, and bibliographical approaches was welcome. 2: They definitely were useful—and I will consult many of them again—though we didn't discuss them explicitly that often during the course. It might have been interesting to devote part of one class period to discussing them—especially where we may disagree with them or where they disagree with one another. 3: I thought they were very useful to me in the long run. Not so much as preparation for the specific course. 4: The readings were very useful to make me start thinking about various issues. There could have been some annotation to ensure that they are read critically. 5: I'm a novice and did not have the knowledge that would have helped me assess accuracy so I would very much have appreciated more information—for one, The Book: The Life Story of Technology, is full of inaccuracies. I otherwise found the readings useful. 6: Very, in terms of insight into what the conversations were likely to touch on. Would be helpful to have list divided by sub-headings to indicate the area/ideas/material for which this reading was particularly useful. 7: Very useful for getting one to think about course topics and start considering whether or not I'd use these with students. But I wish we had explored them more together as a group. We barely discussed them in class. 8: I found the readings very useful but since I was very busy before coming over I couldn't find the time to read them. 9: Pre-course readings were very helpful. 10: Three quarters were quite useful; one quarter was "iffy" at times, until MFS explained his intent in selection. Then, 100% useful. 11: They were useful and appropriately brief. I did not do additional reading. 12: Quite good. 13: Useful for getting into the right frame of mind for the class. 14: This will of course differ for different people; I found about half the "required" readings useful (and perhaps a higher portion of the "recommended" readings). 15: The Howard book was embarrassing. Tanselle and Mackenzie were very good. The MLA handbook was useful. Howsam not so much. Shillingsburg has its problems, but also two to three fine essays. 16: Useful as a starting point, also did some of the suggested reading which I found helpful. 17: The pre-course reading were extremely useful to me, particularly in familiarizing the terms we would be using in our class discussions. 18: The pre-course readings gave me a different impression of class expectations and I was relieved to find that the class structure actually met my pre-conceived idea of what I thought it would be. The readings were more bibliographically oriented, and while an important aspect to the class, the book history aspect was equally prominent.

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: The workbook of materials is an amazing resource, and reflects the incredible intellectual and professional generosity of MFS. The readings, syllabi, and exercises provided offer a wonderful array of exemplars from which we can draw while creating our own courses in the future. 2: Yes—I look forward to reading through the workbook resources in even greater detail as I develop exercises/assignments/syllabi! 3: I think the workbook will be of enormous help. I can't wait to begin using it. 4: The online resources were, and will be, very useful. Lots of stuff to help me in planning my teaching. Thanks to MFS and other RBS faculty for being so generous. 5: Absolutely useful in class—from Harlequin through Principles of Bibliography to the c17 book we worked with. I'd have liked the course resources and materials earlier; I got notice of them two days before leaving home and haven't had opportunity to explore them yet. 6: Will be more useful after, but was good to have opportunity to "browse" ahead of time. 7: Workbook will be very useful. I plan to save all content locally. Also, I gathered a long list of suggested reading that will be invaluable. I also really hope our class can stay in touch as a group to share syllabi, assignments, suggestions, websites, &c. 8: Very much so, I intend to study all the materials and make ways to use them for my own classes so that I do not forget. 9: The workbook is an unbelievably useful take-away that will be of help for years to come in teaching courses, making public presentations and writing grant proposals. 10: They. Are. Supreme! 11: N/A. 12: Top notch. Literally the most useful workbook I've ever seen. 13: They will be very useful for teaching afterwards. Their breadth and terms of use are very generous and fair. 14: The workbook is great: full of sample exercises I'll either simply steal for class use, or that suggest classroom exercises I'd not considered and can adapt or build on. 15: Very. 16: Yes, there is so much to absorb in class that the workbook will be very valuable reference tool to match in my notes and use to develop future courses. 17: The workbook will be extremely useful for me in the upcoming weeks. 18: The workbook will be most useful after returning home.

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

1: I have been fortunate to take several excellent RBS courses in the past, and this ranks among the best. It is perhaps the most successful I've taken in contextualizing the study of the book as artifact into the larger picture of the production, reception, and distribution of texts and ideas. 2: This class was less rigidly structured (with less homework) than the last class that I took (Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography) but equally helpful and interesting. I have loved the two RBS courses that I have taken and certainly hope to take more. 3: No. 4: N/A. 5: No; N/A. 6: First time. 7: No. 8: No, this is my first time. 9: No previous courses. 10: No. 11: Yes. I thought the coursework was a similar amount. 12: First time, but I absolutely hope to return. 13: I took Analytical Bibliography last year. This course obviously has a more pedagogical focus. 14: No previous RBS course. 15: Yes—but this was a very different kind of course. MFS is a very fine teacher of course. 16: No. 17: No. 18: This is the fifth course I have taken at RBS. Comparing them is really an apples and oranges scenario. Each is distinctly different, yet each attain a high level of instruction and quality.

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

1: My field of expertise is rather narrow and I've always been intimidated to teach outside that field. MFS presented wonderful ideas and sources for teaching the whole range of book history that plays to individual strengths while offering suggestions for key sources to read up quickly on various topics. 2: It was incredibly helpful when we would discuss how we might develop a particular exercise to draw out and illustrate a particular point about book history/bibliography for our students. MFS's encyclopedic knowledge of criticism and resources for the history of the book was also immensely helpful since he could always point us to a good resource to learn more on a given topic. 3: Ideas about classroom activities and discussions about the relation of bibliography to book history. 4: The examples to use in teaching and combination of particular books with readings to support it. 5: Combination of working with concepts and methods and with material objects; broad coverage access on teaching and practical application. 6: Hands-on, concrete examples both for filling in missing bibliographic knowledge and for what to do with that knowledge in a teaching environment. 7: Exercises and assignments: examples, models. Very practically helpful. Hearing other students' experiences/examples. Secondary source suggestions. Book history content: stories, background information examples, basic bibliography. Perhaps most important: MFS provided us with language, formulas, lenses for approaching these topics. The "so what?" The quips about book history and bibliography. 8: MFS time and again inserted/stressed the importance of the "why," "so what" of the course, to make us understand the relevance and importance of connecting bibliography, book history and teaching book history. 9: The theoretical underpinnings of the discipline of the history of the book. Also the whole approach of deep descriptive bibliography. 10: Suggested readings for students to correspond with a class idea—to prepare our students to engage. 11: Discussions of what worked in class. 12: 100% of all of it. 13: In the short-term, learning about syllabi and preparing for SC visits. More generally, all topics were excellent food for thought. 14: Two points here: 1) Specific case studies in book history that MFS spoke about: even if one doesn't adopt/choose to teach these cases, they suggest lots of other possibilities; 2) Very useful in providing narrowly targeted suggestions for future reading. 15: The trips to Special Collections/demonstrations. 16: The many teaching exercises modeled by MFS, the teaching ideas contributed via discussion by other class members and witnessing the difference it makes when an instructor is passionate and knowledgeable. 17: MFS offered many examples (as well as demonstrated!) of great teaching moments with students. 18: The exercises that were activity-based bringing a hands-on component to instruction will be very useful. Also, stressing the importance of a behind-the-scenes approach to the book with a compelling story was very useful.

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: Yes. There was a good mix of actual examination of artifacts and discussion of bibliography, textual scholarship, and the book trade, while blending this with a larger discussion of how to teach this stuff. The students in this class had mixed skills and backgrounds, and MFS was successful in finding common ground. 2: Yes—I thought there was a good balance between information and practice/pedagogy. 3: Yes to both. 5: Absolutely on the first; I am in a position now to review and expand, both. The second varied. Sometimes superb, sometimes dwelling too long on fairly obvious points or on anecdotes. 6: Yes. Yes. 7: Absolutely. It was both fun and stimulating. 8: Yes, I think it was but I personally have very bibliographical work and still have to work. 9: Yes, the instructor was successful. The intellectual level was at the very highest level. 10: Yes. Yes—very. 11: I thought the material was excellent and very useful. 12: MFS balanced content with concepts, as well as the practical and the theoretical. 13: Yes, on both counts. 14: Yes. 15: This was skillfully handled—a layman like myself could always follow along, and yet there would always be something to appeal to more experienced hands. 16: Yes, although I feel like it's really just the tip of the iceberg, the rest is up to me to follow up on the readings, internalize what we've covered, and teach accordingly. 17: Yes, and yes. I am happily overwhelmed by the great amount of information shared and inspired to further my own research. 18: Yes. The information level and skills acquired will suit my needs. The intellectual level was very appropriate.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: MFS's amazing depth of knowledge and generosity of spirit. He also managed, despite his atypical qualifications, to communicate how to teach effectively even without the resources of UVA or RBS. 2: I loved the dynamic of our group and how MFS facilitated our learning from one another as well as from him. Hearing the instructor's ideas as well as those of my classmates helped me to see new approaches to teaching perennial subjects. 3: It was valuable to me to be exposed to relevant and intellectual discussions that avoided jargon and pedantry. 4: The interaction amongst the group and with MFS led us in lots of different, and useful, directions. 5: MFS, as extraordinarily generous with extraordinary knowledge and passion; the participants, with their diverse backgrounds and expertise; working with material objects; and the SC visits. 6: The encounters with such a varied range of "live" examples with instructor and classmates in and out of class. 7: It was a real treat to get to listen to MFS but also other RBS/UVA staff and other students. There is a vast and deep knowledge in this room and I have soaked up so much. I really enjoyed practical pedagogical models/samples: exercises, assignments, &c. 8: The course material delivered by such a great teacher in a most engaging way, provoking us to think and rethink. 9: The discursive nature of the presentations and MFS's brilliant mind and open heart. 10: Hands-on training, practical lectures, SC visits. 11: The engagement of all the students. 12: I came away with a renewed sense of purpose. What we do and how we do it is significant. It matters. 13: The confidence it gave me in how to approach teaching aspects of book history that fall outside of my disciplinary period and immediate interests. 14: The instructor, Father MFS: he seems never to grow tired, and is incapable of being dull. Exposure to his intelligence and enthusiasm is a special pleasure. 15: The instructor's "teaching by example." 16: MFS's incredible knowledge of the field, near photographic recall of ti/au we should investigate, appropriate quotes, his inexhaustible store of anecdotes about publishers, booksellers, economic and social conditions, and his unflagging energy. 18: The engaging teaching approach of the instructor and the other students in the class. Working with the physical objects themselves, including visits to SC, were also valuable.

7) How could the course have been improved?

1: I enjoyed the flexibility of the course, and the ability to adapt according to student questions and interests. Perhaps more sessions could start with a road map to that day's agenda or trajectory to help guide students through the day. 2: A little more signposting (rough list of topics to be covered in each period) so we know what is coming up. 3: Maybe by relating the required reading to actual classroom activities and discussions. 4: This might be difficult, but perhaps a slightly smaller number of people. 5: 1) Eighteen really is too many for the seminar. 2) If not a provisional syllabus, at least more advance indication of course's shape and each day's objectives and probable work. 7: I liked that over the week, the agenda was made more transparent, helped us stay organized. During first two days there was a bit too much of going off on tangents with professor only talking. But this was improved within the week. Next time, maybe have a little more structure. 8: Sometimes, MFS spent too much time on digressions—which though important and interesting—may not always be that relevant to the course. 9: A clearer syllabus with specific topics to be covered each session. 10: A bit more on what's to come—this improved as the week progressed. 11: Last session always dragged. We could have used more variation on a longer break. 13: I thought it was excellent—nothing comes to mind right now. 14: Alas, I can't see how this could be done without making the courses longer (or meeting for a period in the evening, which would be cruel and unusual punishment for a teacher who's already been in class six hours that day). 15: There were times when eighteen students proved to be just too many—looking at the backs of heads during demonstrations, giving "one minute" reports, &c. 16: Pretty heavy in literature—maybe discuss books from other disciplines? Science? 18: I would have preferred to have the workbook available much earlier than the Thursday before class begins.

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

116: Yes. 17: Yes, but I think I should have probably taken "The History of the Book 200–2000" instead. 18: Yes.

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

1: Yes. 2: Yes, though I would have loved even more on how to develop cumulative lessons for semester-long courses and syllabus design. 311: Yes. 12: Yes, and no. I say no only because I learned more than I could have known I wanted to learn. 1318: Yes.

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

1: I hope to harness the myriad ideas floating around my head to design more engaging syllabi or one-off lesson plans. I can see many, many ways in which to improve my instruction in compelling ways. 2: I will apply what we learned in both my one-off teaching and in developing a semester-long course. 3: In teaching courses on the history of the book next year. 4: Integration into course sessions in SC—better forward planning especially. Putting together two-hour history of the book session for February. 5: 1) Integrate new questions and materials into all my courses. 2) Fully redesign my book history course. 3) Be far more attentive to bibliographic work, in my own scholarship and others'. 6: In building a more robust extracurricular history of the book program for my library/university. 7: I will use in the short term with the classes I help facilitate in my library. More long term, I hope to use for adult education/public programming, courses of my own, and even research of my own. 8: To rethink how to conduct my own research and secondly to find ways to incorporate it in my course. 9: I will use the perspectives, skills, bibliography, and other materials as I write the guide to our special collections at Pequot Library, as I develop programs at the CT Council for the Humanities, and as I teach courses at Fairfield University. 10: To use during one-off instruction at my local institution. 11: I will be constructing teaching sessions in my library with the university faculty this semester. 12: In my teaching, scholarly writing, and digital humanities work. 13: I will be teaching book history and textual studies in the coming academic year. 14: An immense amount from this week will find immediate application in my teaching, starting this fall. 15: By teaching the history of the book, no? 16: Start a cohort of other RBS attendees from my library to think about how best to teach the history of the book in one-offs, as a possible seminar. Try to get a session in the research process class in my department, improve my own sessions. 17: Building presentations which will consider book history in a more rigorous manner. Working with our volunteers to engage with our museum visitors in discussions about book history and bibliography. 18: I plan to use the skills and information I learned in the course to develop individual classes, seminars, and hopefully a semester course.

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

1: Yes—wonderful trips to SC that not only allowed us to see fabulous collections, but also were wonderfully informative in how to plan such visits in a way that fully integrates them into an intellectually rigorous course. 2: Yes—though sometimes it was hard for us all to see when we have gathered around the SC table. 3–4: Yes. 5: In general, yes, but the class was too large for our sessions in SC; not enough access to/time with the books. 6: Yes. SC visits great! 7: Yes—SC and Lower Tibet. It was integral to our experience. 8: N/A. 9: No. 10: Yes, very. 11: N/A. 12: Yes. 13: Yes, very much so. 14: Travel into SC is of course only as valuable as the guides you travel with; Father MFS and the SC staff are excellent guides. 15: Yes. 16: Trips to Small SC well spent—even the unintended examples of how to handle rare books. 17: The final SC visit was the most useful to me in that the lesson and take-away was very clear. Some of the other SC visits were less clear as to the goal and frustrating because it was hard to see the books with so many students. 18: Yes.

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

1: Yes. Great lectures and a lovely Fourth of July reception. Loved the sparklers. 2: Yes. 3: Yes. 5: The Archimedes film—bravo. The one on the antiquarian book fair—didn't learn much. "Bell's Liberty" was very disappointing, too often inaudible and much too thin and narrow. 6: Yes, especially for building relationships with classmates. 7: All of them—though it was often hard to stay awake in dark/hot spaces after a long day, it added to my experience. The two films were somewhat weak (NOVA—cheesy; San Francisco Book Fair—annoying camera work and no narrative arc). 8: Definitely. They added variety and demonstrated other interesting aspects of the course. 9: Yes, although I found the two evening lectures to be surprisingly disappointing. 10: Lectures—very nice. 11: No. The speakers were very weak. Even though the first was interesting he did not teach me anything. The second was useless. Booksellers' Night was a waste of the evening. 13: I attended the lecture and forum: they were quite interesting. 14: So-so. 15: OK. 16: Lectures, yes. Others, personal preference. 17: The optional evening events were terrific but it was helpful for me to go home and review my notes and digest the day's lessons. 18: Both RBS lectures were enjoyable as was Booksellers' Night. Because the films were shown in reverse order than the order listed, I missed the one I wanted to see.

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 Colelctions. If relevant, what suggestions do you have for the improved classroom handling of such materials used in your course this week?

1: Perhaps keep fewer items on the table at a time. 2: Handling was addressed well. 3: I thought they were handled well. 7: I would actually suggest a bit more handling. Other than in Lower Tibet, we never touched a thing. Many of us will use collections that can be handled, so that wasn't modeled very well for us. 8: I think everything was done well. 9: None. Good job done throughout. 10: N/A. 11: None. 12: N/A. 13: None; all due care was exercised. 14: None. 18: No.

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

1: Yes. Absolutely. 2: Yes, and yes! 3: Absolutely! 4: Yes. 5: Yes, and yes—without question. I want to return. 6: Yes. Yes. 7: I got a tuition scholarship, but even so, lodging and travel were quite expensive for me and yes, it was worth it. I hope to be able to return, but cost is a significant barrier. I will try to save up! 8: Very much so and thinking already who to send to this course. I hope to come back myself. 9: Yes—absolutely got my money's worth. The workbook alone was worth the price. Yes, I would absolutely recommend this course. 10: Yes. Yes. 11: I would recommend this class for people who are really in a position to use the material. 12: Yes, and yes. 13: Yes—RBS is expensive, but well worth it. I would recommend the course to anybody intending to teach book history. 14: Yes, without question. 15: Yes. 16: More than my money's worth! Yes! 17: Yes. 18: Absolutely.

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].)

1: If you do any teaching with SC or books as objects, I highly suggest that you take this course. 2: This is a fantastic class and it would be helpful for anyone who teaches with SC resources. 3: I would encourage anyone interested in the life of the mind to attend. 5: It'll be critical for us all to continue to share materials and to keep in touch. Any way RBS could set up a wiki for each class? 6: Put this evaluation online as a Google document or SurveyMonkey survey—easier to fill in and will save time at other end as well. 7: Thank you! 8: Thank you. 11: The course is really set up to reward what you put into it. If you wanted, you could study for months with the articles he suggested. 12: Take this class! You will be glad you did. 13: Many thanks to y'all for a thoroughly enjoyable week! 14: One more remarkable benefit from this course: how much I've learnt from other participants, many of whom I look forward to staying in contact with. 15: Outstanding—it felt a privilege to attend this course—much was learned! 18: I would highly recommend the course.

Number of respondents: 18





Institution gave me leave


15 (83%)


I took vacation time




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


3 (17%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course






Institution paid tuition


13 (72%)


Institution paid tuition ___%


1 (6%)


I paid tuition myself


1 (6%)


Exchange or barter




N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

3 (16%)




Institution paid housing


10 (56%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing


1 (6%)


I paid for my own housing


5 (27%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


2 (11%)





Institution paid travel


8 (44%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel


1 (6%)


I paid my own travel


6 (33%)


N/A: lived nearby


3 (17%)





There were two museum employees (11%), seven rare book librarians (38%), one librarian with some rare book duties (6%), one archivist with some rare book duties (6%), one university assistant professor (6%), one full or associate university professor (6%), two full or associate professors at a college (11%), one library/university administrator (6%), two post-doctoral students (11%)


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

6 (33%)

RBS Printed Schedule




Work Colleague

4 (22%)


1 (6%)



News or web article


Word of mouth

3 (17%)

RBS faculty or staff recommendation

4 (22%)

Social media




Where did you stay?

Brown College: 10 (55%)

Courtyard Marriott: 1 (6%)

Hampton Inn & Suites: 1 (6%)

Red Roof Inn: 2 (11%)

Other: 4 (22%)