David Whitesell

45: G-20, Printed Books to 1800: Description & Analysis

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: Gaskell was an excellent preparation for the material covered in class. Carter's ABC for Book Collectors could perhaps be swapped out for a book on the recommended list: it's very engaging but its focus on the trade rather than bibliography makes it a little less useful. 2: Gaskell is a perfectly appropriate introductory text for this course—the book gives students a base knowledge that allows us to approach the nitty-gritty at a quicker pace. 3: Very useful! I read all the required readings and portions of the suggested. All were excellent. 4: The pre-course readings were very useful. It helped that DW specified subsections to read. 5: Yes, 90%. We covered an immense and complicated topic that was largely unfamiliar to me, so I found the pre-reading very helpful, though DW's lectures were set up so that one wouldn't necessarily have to read ahead. 6: They provided excellent context/prep and were well-chosen. Certainly reasonable to tackle ahead of the course. Did some of the "recommended" reading, as well, which did prove useful, as well. 7: The pre-course readings were very helpful. I feel that I got much more out of the class than I would have if I had not read them. I also feel that the video and associated paper-folding exercises really help me to better understand some of the more complicated pre-course reading topics. 8: I ordered the DVD and paper to preview and fold, plus the books I use every day in my work. I had them already. 9: Readings were appropriate. 10: I have to admit that I didn't do much of the pre-course reading. I think it would have been helpful, but instead I just kept the book on me to refer to it in class. 11: The pre-course readings were extremely useful. Gaskell is dear and his text is the base for what you will learn from DW. The class gains speed by Wednesday and this is where the reading especially helps as a reference point.

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: I have not gone through the workbook very carefully, but am sure it will supplement my class notes very nicely. 2: Certainly helpful, certainly useful. The exit reading handout will be great to have on hand in the months to come and in the digestion of this course's material. There were some sections (e.g., the web screen captures from Worldcat, &c.) that were a bit superfluous. 3: Yes. The workbook is loaded with great readings. The further readings section in the back will take a long time to get through, but I appreciate all this work that has been put into it. 4: Most useful. The workbook seems remarkable: well thought out and full of information and examples which are excellent complements to the readings. I plan to re-read it to reinforce what I learned. 5: Absolutely. I will treasure this workbook. It's a DesBib compendium that I will likely refer to for years to come. It also shows evidence of having been very thoughtfully complied and carefully arranged. 6: Yes. The obvious care and thoughtfulness put into the course materials is much appreciated. I'll certainly be using them in the (near) future. 7: The course workbook has been immensely helpful in speeding up my note-taking process so that I didn't miss anything that was covered in class and the examples included will be great for refreshing my memory after I've been back at work a while. 8: This has been the best workbook yet. Pertains wonderfully to criteria and can use it in future. 9: I will definitely refer to much of the workbooks, as well as after-course reading suggestions. 10: Yes! Yes! Yes! Such a useful workbook in class, and will be so on my return home as well. 11: All materials were useful and relevant. I will keep them all. DW's course book is a good reference tool. He includes a lot of post-course readings which are also nice to hone.

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

1: I have never attended RBS before. 2: Yes, this is my fourth course. It was equally successful in terms of knowledge gained, material access, well-roundedness, and simple enjoyment. 3: No. 4: No. This was a great first time experience. 5: First timer! 6: Yes. Roughly comparable. Given the range of material cover, readings were also broader (appropriately so!). 7: I have not taken any other RBS courses before—but I think this course is a great choice for first timers. 8: Yes, I have taken other courses. All coursework for the classes has been relevant. This one I would say essential to criteria. 9: None. 10: N/A. 11: This is my second RBS course. This class was more hands-on than my previous class (Printed Book in the West to 1800), but the two classes taken one year after another were quite complementary.

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

1: I am very curious about material culture and so the display value of books—ornate bindings, for instance—was very useful to see. 2: I learned most in our discussions on binding history, format, and collational formula. 3: The structure of the class—learning about how paper and books were made, then learning about the method of constructing formulas to understand the specific bibliographic examples. 4: The whole package was of interest and relevance to enhance my understanding of books in the hand-press era. 5: The process of setting type; variance in types, editions, bindings, and the physical construction of books. Print processes generally—the life of the book from paper to binding. 6: It has all the topics I was hoping for: a solid overview of the period/field with enough depth to push me to the next steps. 7: I found everything we covered extremely interesting. For my work the information regarding illustration will be the most immediately useful content that was covered. 8: Examples of inscriptions and casework with books. DW's questions were thought provoking, humorous, and made you work into the subject. 9: Provenance, analysis of pagination, and collation structure. Very much appreciated the printing press and book sewing demonstrations. 10: Relevance—probably description and collation. Interest—type, illustration, printing, binding .... 11: Learning how to describe the physical qualities of books was my greatest interest. DW gave us the information (albeit just a start) on how to look at a book and intelligently say something about it. We also worked on collating, which is not relevant for me, but I am glad to have learned about it.

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 on both counts. 2: It is astonishing to step back and see how much material we covered this week. The course could not exist without the guidance of such a well-versed, broadly knowledgeable instructor. 3: Yes, DW was outstanding. He was very prepared and helped us navigate through all this bibliographic business. I do think we had good discussions of material. 4: Yes. 5: Yes; I feel well introduced to DesBib and to collational formulae. I also feel confident in identifying format, paper, binding, and illustration styles. I could pretty easily distinguish between reissues and editions. 6: Yes! Yes! 7: Yes! Yes!! Yes!!! DW's knowledge and teaching skills are amazing. I feel the intellectual level was appropriate. 8: This was only the tip of the iceberg, but I feel I have the knowledge necessary to improve. 9: Yes. Some review for me, but all in all it was a great survey. 10: Yes! DW was great at making the information understandable without "dumbing it down." 11: Yes, and yes. DW gave us many opportunities to test our knowledge as a way of learning more. We did a ton of exercises and were able to then ask questions as needed.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: I really liked the format: first discussing the practices involved in making the book, and then discussing how we might recognize them in the final product. Seeing physical examples of all these products, especially in the case of intaglio, made them really come to life. 2: Though certainly not the most enjoyable part, I thought the "homework" sessions were the most helpful points of the course in that we got to directly apply our newly gained knowledge. 3: The structure—learn about how paper was made, try setting type, have a go with printing, practicing formulas, DW having workshop hours on Wednesday and Thursday. Also, holding the copies of books and that there are multiple copies for us to use. 4: It is hard to say: I really enjoyed the demonstrations when AN demonstrated the hand press and binding, probably most wonderful was DW's ninety minute overview of the entire handpress period using spectacular examples in the UVA SC. 5: The books! There's nothing like seeing texts close up, with DW's explanations. More specifically, I also appreciated the logic behind the order in which we viewed the books. It was an elegant, streamlined process that obviously took a lot of care and effort to set up and put away for next time. 6: As this is really a foundational course to many other bibliographical subjects, I'm glad to say I feel I've established some very sound footing for my work with materials from the period. 7: I liked that DW had so many wonderful teaching examples and personal anecdotes about each thing discussed, it really brought the concepts alive and helped me to better understand. 8: Inscription puzzles. I got a few correct. 9: I loved the examples, trying my hand at collations and signings, &c., and side-by-side comparisons of books of the early hand-press period. 10: Good instructor, good classmates, lively conversation, the class coming together to work on a special project for DW. 11: I like the structure (starting with paper and ending with bibliographical descriptions but learning about everything from bookbinding to provenance). DW is hyper organized and I really appreciated that. He had just the right amount of material for the course.

7) How could the course have been improved?

1: It might have been nice to have a session about printers' practices in the period and how they changed, perhaps on the last day. 2: Perhaps with more descriptive "homework," I would have liked to apply our other topics in these sessions, such as identifying binding styles and materials, illustration processes, &c. much like the description sessions in Printed Books Since 1800: Description & Analysis. 3: DW does an outstanding job with the course as is. Keep up the great work. 4: Three more weeks?! 5: Turn down the heat in Charlottesville? Perhaps some more structured interest-group lunch meetings? Similar to conferences, where c18 or c19 people meet up for informal socializing. 7: Another week! (Just kidding.) 8: Be longer! Ha. Wouldn't know how to improve it. DW did a fantastic job! 9: Even more on technical aspects/history of bindings. 10: I would somehow like to continue the description workshop with the homework section. 11: Not sure how, except just more days!

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

1-11: Yes.

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

1-2: Yes. 3: Yes, and I learned more than I could have imagined (this is a good thing). 4: Yes. 5: Yes, More emphasis on collation formula and signature statements than I expected, but I think it will all be useful. 7: Yes. 8: Yes, and more. 9-11: Yes.

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

1: I hope to incorporate this knowledge into my studies of material culture. Additionally, it has heightened my respect for the workmanship involved in good books. 2: In my cataloging at both RBS and auction descriptions, and in my future education in books, wherever that may be! 3: Go back to my institution and look at our special collections in another, more nuanced way. The course has challenged me to devote more energy to materials that have been underappreciated. 4: To be a better rare book librarian. I hope to carry out duties related to rare books, acquisition, exhibition, and instruction with better competence. 5: Perfect grounding for extensive research into c18 printing practices—the start of my dissertation. 6: In my work as a librarian managing and curating early printed books. 7: In furthering my study of bibliography and cataloging digital materials. 8: Absolutely, in work. 9: Examination and description of rare books in the research library where I work. 10: I will hopefully be able to help with our special collection backlog for cataloging at my institution, and hopefully be more informed for when I begin getting involved in special collections acquisitions. 11: I intend to continue to work on my bibliographical and book history education, and will review Gaskell soon as a way to remember all that I learned.

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

1: N/A. 2: The SC session was like a trip to the candy shop. Thanks, SC folks! 3: Yes, of course. Having an opportunity to set type, print a sheet on the press, and view UVA SC was something great. 4: Yes. 5: Very much so. The demonstrations of typesetting, printing, on the common press, and touring some highlights of Special Collections were all refreshing and informative breaks from class time. 7: Yes! I would especially like to note how great it was to have AN share her great skill and knowledge with us too! 8: We were shown amazing special collections. 9: Yes! Loved the display and descriptions on our visit to special collections. Loved the time allowed to use the press and set type in composing stick. 10: Yes. 11: We made one trip to the UVA SC and it was perfectly timed (on a Thursday) so that we could use all the information we had learned to look at about a dozen books. DW also split the class into two groups, so only six people were in SC at a time, which was nice.

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

1: The lecture was ok, though I knew as little on the topic going out as I knew going in. The Video Night was a fun evening. The Forum was pretty good. 2: The lectures were spectacular this week, and a good break from the norm. 3: Sure. The video Bibliomania was a poorly-made film, but it was fun to be with others. I didn't have the money for Booksellers' Night. 5: Monday night lecture was terrific. Wednesday was less compelling but also good. Booksellers' Night was fun. 6: It's a full week. The events I have attended have been well worth it. 7: Yes, they were fun and informative—and they provided a great format for discussion and bonding with fellow students. 8: Yes. 9: Enjoyed the Monday lecture the most, followed by Booksellers' Night. Did not attend Video Night—not of interest and very familiar with one of the topics. 10: Yes, especially Johan Kugelberg's lecture. Fascinating! 11: Yes, the lectures are added value and an important part of the week.

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?

2: N/A. 3: Let students keep on handling materials! This is so unique and special! 4: I thought the flyer and verbal instructions were well done. We all used supports and washed hands. I can't think how it could be improved. 5: Show everyone how to handle a book properly. We have the sheets, but perhaps a flight attendant-style acting out would also help. 7: None. 8: N/A—great. 9: Everything looked fine to me. You may want to get cloth covers for the polyurethane foam wedges which seem to be degrading—or make pillows. 10: So far, so good. Maybe wear gloves? 11: Allen baskets worked really well in our class!

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

1: Yes, and enthusiastically yes. 2: I sure did. 3: Yes, and yes! 4: Yes! 5: Yes, yes, yes. An intense week that will hopefully change my approach to what I do and how I view my period (c18). 6: Yes. Yes. 7: Yes, and then some! Most definitely. 8: Yes—I do recommend this course constantly to my customers. 9: Yes! And definitely! 10: Yes! 11: Yes, and 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].)

1: It was an intense, highly satisfying week. Within a day, I was already planning to come again, if possible. To students: this is not a history course so much as an opportunity to study historical practices and the artifacts they produced. 2: Direct quote from my classmate: "DW is my new favorite person." 3: Do your readings, prepare for class, ask questions, and drink lots of water!  4: Thank you again for a great program! 5: Get lots of sleep, take good notes, meet as many people as you can, risk asking questions. 6: A fantastic course. Highest possible recommendation for course and instructor. Amazingly effective use of RBS collections to demonstrate topics (a main reason we come to RBS). A course planned, prepared, and executed with great care, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm. Thanks! 7: Take this course! It is a great introduction to bibliography and DW is a wonderful teacher. 8: If you are a lover of books, in any capacity, and want to make sure they are preserved for the future, these courses are a must. Its like a kid in a candy store, you can't get enough of books. 9: I am primarily a book conservator so the course was a great help to me, but much content about papermaking and a few other points may be too basic for those already in library conservation. 10: This is a great introduction to RBS. Take this class! 11: This is a wonderful class. If you want a broad but intensive course on the introduction to bibliography, then take this course. Anyone who is interested in books will enjoy it and take away many, many new pieces of information.

Number of respondents: 11





Institution gave me leave


7 (64%)


I took vacation time


1 (9%)


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


2 (18%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course


1 (9%)




Institution paid tuition


5 (46%)


Institution paid tuition ___%




I paid tuition myself


4 (36%)


Exchange or barter


1 (9%)


N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

1 (9%)




Institution paid housing


3 (28%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing




I paid for my own housing


4 (36%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


4 (36%)





Institution paid travel


3 (28%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel




I paid my own travel


4 (36%)


N/A: lived nearby


4 (36%)




There were two PhD students in the humanities (19%), one collections assistant (9%), one archivist with some rare book duties (9%), one director of special collections (9%), one librarian with some rare book duties (9%), one cataloger of digital materials (9%), one antiquarian bookseller and collector (9%), one conservation librarian (9%), one librarian with no rare book duties (9%), one development director of a non-profit (9%)


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

2 (18%)

RBS Printed Schedule



1 (9%)

Work Colleague

3 (27%)

Other :

(ad seen was the ABAA pamphlet add at the Strand in Manhattan)


RBS faculty or staff recommendation

5 (45%)





Where did you stay?

Brown College: 4 (35%)

Hampton Inn & Suites: 1 (9%)

Other: 6 (56%)