Eric Holzenberg

H-40: The Printed Book in the West since 1800

23-27 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: I did the pre-course readings and found them very useful. I especially enjoyed Rota's Apart from the Text. 2: Very useful. 3: They were a good and helpful background to what I would be learning about, although I didn't read all three thoroughly. 4: They covered much of the ground that the course treated in more detail—very useful for content, but the selected books were a bit repetitive. 5: Pre-course readings essential. Read many books and online articles from other RBS course lists. 6: Excellent! The readings were very helpful in having a proper background for the class. 7: Extremely useful; good background and depth of material. 8: The pre-course readings were very useful. While I didn't do any additional prep, I came into the course with relevant experience in printmaking/letterpress. I felt the course repeated a lot of the required reading information, especially in the beginning, maybe a little too much. 9: The books were great to begin and lead into the course. I will keep these books in my own reference section of my library. 10: Very useful and appropriate. 11: The readings were very relevant to the material covered in the course. I read them quickly and then absorbed their information more fully through class sessions. 12: They were useful and the pre-readings allowed the course to move quickly through some highly technical subjects.

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, and yes. 2: The workbook was well-organized and laid-out. 3: The workbook is very nicely compiled and a good take-away from the class. 4: Yes. 5: Yes and yes—very useful. 6: Yes. Definitely. The workbook will be a great reference to me in my job. 7: Yes, certainly. Nice format, reminder of materials covered, good form for recording in-session notes. 8: Yes, absolutely. The workbook was a useful visual guide and the PowerPoint will be a useful resource in future. 9: I will keep the workbook and my notes for future reference for both me and my son. 10: Very useful and appropriate. I will use them in the future. 11: I didn't refer to the workbook often but it will be a helpful record to hold onto. Visuals of the many technologies (in slides as well as workbook pages) were essential to gaining an understanding of the history covered. 12: It was useful, but I found it awkward that EH's flow of topic during class didn't even approximate the order of subjects 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: N/A. 2–3: No. 4: No. 5: One taken previously—though the Printed Book in the West since 1800 covers a time with more machinery, I missed the demos that happened in the earlier class. 5: No. 6: Yes. 7: N/A. 8: Never have taken an RBS course before. 9: This is my first one, but certainly not my last! 10: Yes. Much better use of technology. However, a narrower focus (almost exclusively England and the U.S.). 11: No. 12: First course.

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

1: Personally, I found discussion of the printing process itself as well as the discussions of design and private presses of greatest interest. 2: All aspects were relevant since I'm relatively new at my position. 3: I had very rudimentary knowledge of book production and the book trade to begin with, and I think it will help my appreciation of literature. 4: Covering the evolutions of book production and distribution 5: Descriptions and physical examples of the books themselves as objects. Also explanations of bookmaking processes. 6: Very helpful to learn how book technologies developed throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 7: Technology of book production, especially illustration. 8: As an avid reader, I was interested in how reading culture has changed due to changes in the book; as an employee at a publisher, how the industry has shifted, and as a designer, how technology and culture have influenced book design. 9: Everything—really. There was not anything I learned that was not interesting or that I won't use later. 10: Development of technology. 11: The overview of book production technologies and the historical trends in how new technologies were received. 12: I was aware of much of the details of the history of the book since 1800, but this course "filled gaps" and put the changes into context.

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/yes. 2: Yes. Yes. 3: Yes. EH gave a thorough yet reasonable overview of two hundred years of book production that I can now apply on my own time and in my own studies. 4: Yes, and yes. 5: Yes. Yes. 6: Yes, and yes. EH is an excellent instructor and did a great job presenting the material at an appropriate level. 7: Yes. 8: Yes. This was obviously a survey course but there was enough variety, and flexibility built in, that I got a great deal of what I wanted out of it. 9: Yes—the information was very useful and presented at a level that was easily understandable. 10: Absolutely (see response to question number three). 11: Yes. 12: Yes to both.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: Surprisingly, I found myself more interested in some of the mechanical aspects than I thought I would be. Still, seeing and discussing the rare books in Special Collections (SC) was the best aspect. 2: The ability to have a concept or topic explained and then quickly afterward be allowed to examine real examples which illustrated the content. I also appreciated that the instructor allowed for impromptu questions but at the same time kept the class moving. The survey of private presses in the SC room was great. 3: Visual examples and props, learning how printing actually works. 4: Yes, and yes. 5: Seeing "live" many of the books and other objects I had read about. 6: So helpful to understand how changes and developments in book production fit together. The lectures, videos, and exercises really helped the readings we did beforehand come to life. 7: Exposure to and use of material objects, video of processes. Comprehensive knowledge and presentation of instructor. 8: The various perspectives of the other students (librarians, English scholars, collectors, cataloguers), and the hands-on and close-up examinations of materials. 9: Show-and-tell. SC, looking at documents and bindings very closely; inspecting types, fonts, gilt, press bindings, and differences in illustrations. 10: Seeing and handling vintage technology and printed artifacts. 11: Studying examples (of bindings, type, illustrations—as well as devices for making them) from the RBS collection. 12: My "aha" moment was understanding that, while the form and format of the book hasn't changed much over the last 200 years, the technology used has changed revolutionarily because the pre-1800 book was for the wealthy few whereas the modern book is for mass consumption. This is where the drive for production change methods have come from. Also loved the Jane Eyre collection and presentation by Barbara Heritage (BEH).

7) How could the course have been improved?

1: A little more discussion and less lecture, perhaps. Although I think EH tried to get more engagement from the class participants, discussions weren't always as lively as I had hoped. In SC, would have been nice to have had some sort of assembly line or something for better viewing. 2: Maybe include some mini-demonstrations of processes such as letterpress and binding. 3: Some of the processes are hard to visualize without any background in the field—as many video clips, samples, and objects as possible always help. 4: Some more coherent setup in the SC room would have been good, in terms of seeing items without incessant craning or feeling obstructive to others. 5: A little more room in the SC display area would have been nice. 7: One evening lecture (after hours) was poorly organized and should have been substituted or cut entirely. 8: At times the course focused a little more than I expected on the rarefied world of fine book collecting, which is a strength of EH's obviously but, I feel, not as relevant as it could be to a course such as this. So maybe a bit more focus instead on the larger readership/publishing industry. 9: Maybe include some information regarding medical books and how difficult it must have been to document and publish changes in the medical field. 10: 1) More coverage of social factors (conditions for workers, role of readers/reception). 2) More coverage of developments in the continent. 11: The material raises various intellectual questions and debates that could be discussed, as we did in the final class, throughout the week. 12: The "hands on" comparisons were excellent (e.g., Janson editions) and, if possible, more of this should be incorporated. EH had difficulty laying his hands on physical objects, but we have to acknowledge that he was in a new space. Perhaps he could have an RBS aide helping? EH should download and embed his YouTube videos into his PowerPoint and generally become more proficient with PowerPoint. He's an excellent teacher and his technical bungling took a bit away from this impression.

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

1–7: Yes. 8: Yes. Excellent and deep survey. 9: Yes. 10: Yes/No. Somewhat, but the course did not cover the printed book "in the West" but almost exclusively in England and U.S. 11–12: Yes.

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

1–6: Yes. 7: Yes. Especially valuable in the area of illustration technologies. 8: Yes. Although more design-related discussion is always welcome! 9: Yes. I learned more than I thought I would as a first-timer—wonderful information that will last a lifetime. 10: Yes/No. Somewhat, but see above. 11–12: Yes.

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

1: Simply in examination and appreciation of books. 2: I will transcribe and organize my notes and do follow-up in-depth research in those areas that most relate to my job. I will pull additional examples illustrating the topics (e.g., book illustration methods) and examine them all in a new light. 3: For my thesis— I will attempt to apply the information about production to my interests in literary reception. 4: I hope to know what I am looking at in RBS, the library, and the outside world. 5: Buying, selling, collecting, and appraising books, rare and otherwise. 6: Yes! 7: Better able to accurately describe, formally or informally, books in personal collections of in those of friends and associates. 8: In my own designs for book covers and interiors and my own vision of how publishers operate; basically contextualization/inspiration. Also, perhaps in choosing a graduate school path. 9: The information will be used to further the value of my own collection as well as additional education for my son. 10: The course will help me understand what I'm seeing as I catalog. Unfortunately, I do not work much with Anglo-American materials. Where processes differ, I will have to do my own research. 11: I will bring this background to courses I teach on 20th-century literature, as well as to my own research. I'm glad to be able to emphasize (with greater specificity) physical features of my objects I study. 12: Great background, which is what a survey course should give.

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

1: Yes (SC). 2: N/A. (Except for visits to SC which were awesome!) 3: SC very pertinent to the subject. 4–5: Yes. 6: We visited SC three times. Each visit was invaluable for illustrating what we had learned about during the lectures. 7: Yes. 8: Yes. I adored the trips to SC and Lower Tibet. 9: Yes—our field trips to SC were great! Even Lower Tibet was very interesting. 10: Trips to Special Collections were great. 11: Yes, the time spent in SC was valuable—great examples, though viewing them as a group is always a challenge. 12: Yes. To SC.

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

1: Yes, absolutely. Great lecture by Matthew Carter (MC). 2: Yes. 3: The MC lecture was lovely. 4: Yes. 6: I attended both speakers (Monday and Wednesday). They were both well-worth attending. 7: All but one. 8: Yes! I went to both lectures (MC was a dream) and Booksellers' Night. Wonderful. 9: Yes. The lectures were very interesting. 10: Lectures were good. Booksellers' Night was worthwhile. 11: Yes. I especially enjoyed MC's lecture on typography, a topic I know little about. 12: You bet. I only missed Video Night because of a previous engagement.

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: N/A. 2: Larger table would help avoid potential damage caused by cramped conditions. 3: I think we had too many items on the table at once, printing samples and a monotype matrix sat out between each pair for days. 7: None; all were properly careful and respectful. 8: I thought it was all handled very well and I never felt uncomfortable on the book's behalf. 9: I think the hand-washing requirement was great and absolutely essential! People just don't realize what their hands can carry. 12: RBS is very careful about materials.

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

1: Yes, absolutely. 2: Yes. Yes. 3: Yes. 4: Yes, yes, depending on their goals. 5: Yes. Yes. 6–7: Yes, and yes. 8: Yes. I felt so privileged to have won a scholarship here and it was time more than well spent. 9:  Yes, and yes. I'm already planning to apply next year. 11: Yes. 12: 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 [] or Michael Suarez [].)

1: I highly recommend the course. I was delighted with nearly all aspects of the course and thought the course flowed very well. 2: I strongly recommend this course, EH is extremely knowledgeable and an erudite and congenial instructor. 3: Glad I was able to come and now have knowledge on a field I knew nothing about. 4: Chromolithography is fascinating. 5: Excellent course overall! 7: Excellent content prepared and delivered by the instructor. 8: Already planning to return whenever I can. Thank you! 9: I'm coming back as often as you'll let me! 10: This course should be renamed "The Printed Book in England and the U.S.," or the content should be expanded. 112: The New York Times article came out this week and caused me to think about how RBS is describing itself. We may laugh about "book nerds" and "boot camp," but it harms RBS's professional reputation if that is how we present ourselves to the world. This is not "basic training" but rather "Officer Training School" where highly skilled professionals come together for certification and are able to be promoted to officer level by attaining skills in weeks that would otherwise take years to gain (if at all) as an enlisted man.

Number of respondents: 12





Institution gave me leave


5 (43%)


I took vacation time


2 (16%)


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


3 (25%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course

1 (8%)


other (RBS staff)

1 (8%)


Institution paid tuition


6 (50%)


Institution paid tuition ___%




I paid tuition myself


4 (34%)


Exchange or barter


1 (8%)


N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

1 (8%)




Institution paid housing


2 (16%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing




I paid for my own housing


6 (50%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


4 (34%)




Institution paid travel


2 (16%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel


1 (9%)


I paid my own travel


6 (50%)


N/A: lived nearby


3 (25%)





There were one cataloguer (8%), one non-tenure track professor (8%), one full-time student working towards M.A. (humanities) (8%), one full-time student working towards B.A (8%), three book collectors (27%), one library assistant/clerk (8%), one antiquarian bookseller (8%), one librarian with no rare book duties (8%), two other (1 Library Communications Department, 1 Manager of the publications department of a small theatrical publisher/freelance graphic designer) (17%).


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

3 (24%)

Work Colleague

1 (8%)


1 (8%) (after emailing staff at the Morgan)



Word of mouth

5 (43%)

RBS faculty or staff recommendation

2 (17%)





Where did you stay?

Brown College 2 (17%)

Budget Inn 1 (8%)

Hampton Inn & Suites 2 (76%)

Red Roof Inn 1 (8%)

Other 6 (50%) (3 home, 1 unspecified, 2 Dinsmore house)