Michael Winship

H-15: The History of the Book in America: A Survey from Colonial to Modern

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: The pre-course readings were very informative. Specifically, the readings provided a useful overview of American book history. There is no need to bring the books to class, though. 2: Pre-course readings were very interesting and appropriate. I made every effort to get as much done as possible before I came. I am glad I did as it helped to have some reference points on the subject before class. I enjoyed most of the readings. 3: Readings definitely useful. 4: They were useful. Lehmann-Haupt gave a good overview, and the American Antiquarian Society documents volume was lively and I will use it in future teaching. I also looked at a couple from the supplementary list, but extensive reading on this wasn't necessary. 5: The pre-course readings provided the intellectual scaffolding for the lectures. 6: They were very useful in giving a basic overview of the topics which were discussed in more detail in the class. 8: The suggested readings prepared me well without duplicating too closely the course discussions. I plan to revisit them when I get home. 9: They were indeed useful. I read a few items from my personal collection to add a little flavor to the suggested readings. 10: The pre-course reading was helpful and fun to read. Great selections. 11: Very applicable and enjoyable. Easy to understand and purchase if desired. 12: I found they prepared me well for the lectures. 13: The pre-course readings were informative, especially the Lehmann-Haupt, which gave me a good overview.

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 reading list will be very helpful. I'm looking forward to continuing to expand my understanding of American book history. 2: Other materials distributed in class and the demonstrations given were exceedingly helpful. The demonstrations and exhibits brought the lectures to life, made everything we were learning very relevant, and enhanced learning the important and historical developments in each period. 3: Yes. 4: MW's bibliography of book history studies will be very useful for me. 5: There was no workbook. No materials were distributed in class. 7: The lists of materials from our sessions at UVA Special Collections (SC) were very helpful. Also, MW's advice on relevant readings to out fields was very helpful. 8: The bibliography of recently published resources will be a valuable resource. 9: Indeed. 10: N/A. Did not have many handouts. Except for the list of books we saw in SC. 11: Yes. 13: Yes—the bibliography will be useful, I think.

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

2: This was excellent, the course this week. I have never been disappointed by any of the courses taken at RBS, but this one was the best so far. 3: This was my first course. 4: This was my first year. 6: This was my first class. 7: N/A. 8:  This course was my first. 9: About the same. 10: N/A. 11: Yes. Not as packed with activity as some, but this allowed more time for absorption and reflection. Readings doable and not too numerous. No homework at night—which I think was a good thing after full days. 13: No.

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

1: I was most interested in the nineteenth century; fortunately, we spent two days on this time period. 2: I liked the balance of lecture, show-and-tell, and discussion. 4: The nineteenth century and the industrial book are my period, but I found the colonial era study really helpful in resituating my knowledge of this. 5: The aspects of book production and distribution were very relevant to my research interests. 6: I was especially interested in the material on the American book in the Colonial period. 7: All of it, really. But in particular I found the history of the distribution and production systems interesting. The information on periodicals and serials was very informative. And also the history of book design and illustration was very interesting. 8: The hands-on demonstrations and materials from SC helped me understand concepts from the readings and were great fun. 9: The overall, broad approach of the topic. 10: All of it. Not able to yet pinpoint. 11: MW's personal insight and anecdotes about what resources and archival material would be useful for a book history researcher. It helps to know what to highlight of a manuscript collection in catalogs or finding aids. 12: Authorship and publishing. 13: I really wanted a big, broad-sweep overview, and that is what I got. MW is also great at focusing in on specific moments/events/issues—which I hadn't expected but which was excellent.

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. The course provided as thorough of an overview of American book history as possible in one week. The course also exposed me to resources that will enable me to continue pursuing my interest in this subject area. 2: Yes, he did. Yes, the level was appropriate. 3: Absolutely, as far as I can judge. 4: Yes. We covered a lot of ground in a short time. I felt MW dealt well with a wide range of abilities and experience. The course was always challenging but not daunting. 6: MW's use of anecdotes successfully conveyed some of the more complicated topics in an original way. The intellectual level of the course was very good. 7: Yes, and yes. 8: As a newcomer to the field, I felt some anxiety coming into the course, which was quickly alleviated. MW balanced the varying degrees of student experience well. 9–10: Yes. Yes. 11: Yes, although not a chronological course, arranged topically and resources were arranged in a chronological fashion. So exposed to both ways of covering book history. 12: Yes, very productive level and atmosphere. 13: Yes.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: MW is a fantastic storyteller; his expertise was quite impressive and he is a wonderful source of information. I also appreciated the opportunity to meet people from a wide variety of professional fields who are interested in book history. The periods spent in SC are particularly valuable—I really enjoyed seeing editions of Anne Bradstreet's poems and Uncle Tom's Cabin.  2: Everything, but especially the demonstrations of the books. 3: The instructor's vast and deep knowledge of the subject. The plentiful collection of items from RBS holdings. 4: I liked looking at the SC—the material texts really helped to cement classroom learning, and were exciting to see. However, it was MW's extensive knowledge and willingness to discuss our areas of interest that really made it work. 6: I liked the course's focus on the physical aspects of the books and enjoyed having the opportunity to see and handle as many examples of American books. In addition, the SC visits were wonderful. 7: The professor. He was outstanding. I appreciated the approach he took, the themes he discussed, and his enthusiasm. 8: The instructor's mix of storytelling, metaphors, and hands-on demonstrations facilitated my understanding of course concepts. 9: The interactions and the visit to SC. Meeting new colleagues. 10: What I liked best was that I came in thinking the class would help in one aspect, rare books and the overall book collections at the library, but now I see how what I learned helped me with the archives of the library; the library history. 11: The variety of teaching methods, objects shown on-screen, physical objects. Rare and common books. Biographical knowledge of some of the key players in American book history. 12: I liked the lecture format. Very solid pacing, too. 13: It took me a day or so to get used to MW's style—he goes into a lot of tangents—but now that I'm used to it, I love it. The things that seem like tangents are really rich and interesting, and somehow they always loop back to the topic or question with which we began.

7) How could the course have been improved?

1: It was great. I really appreciated MW's willingness to talk to me about my research projects. It would have been interesting to see even more material from publishers' archives. 2: Impossible to say. The course was excellent. 4: Fourteen is probably the largest class size that could work and maybe a smaller class would have been better. 6: It would have been nice to have more time in SC. 7: I supposed if it were longer—two weeks—we could spend more time pulling materials from SC. 8: Longer! 9: Book as a social commentary—perhaps too much emphasis on the book as simply a physical object. 10: Cannot really think of anything. 11: Even more names spelled out on the board or on a handout? So we can look them up later (in an ideal world). 12: I would make two changes to the organization. First, begin the week with HOB lecture, and then do introductions in a second session. More importantly, the lecture on typography and type design should come before the second visit to SC. 13: Not sure.

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

1–2: Yes. 3: 4–9: Yes. 10: Yes. And more. 11–13: Yes.

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

1: Yes. The information about distribution as well as serial publication was particularly useful to me. 2: Yes. 4: Yes. MW is a great teacher with seemingly excellent knowledge – none of our questions stumped him. 6: Yes. 7: Yes. I now have the tools to go deeper in the areas that most interest me. 8: Yes. And more! 9: Yes. 10: Yes. And more. 11–13: Yes.

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

1: I intend to use the skills gained to write my dissertation. Looking at the materials from publishers' archives gives me a better sense of what I might find in my own research as well as an understanding of how to "read" that material. 2: I intend to use/apply the publishing history to my daily work. I will be much more aware of how items I work with were produced, and I have been provoked by the course to do more reading. 4: It will be useful for my current research and gave ideas for future areas for study. I also want to try to incorporate book history into my teaching. 7: I will apply this knowledge in my doctoral research an in my teaching. 8: I will definitely apply some of the methodologies in future research. Also, I will share content and teaching methods with colleagues at home. 9: Yes. 10: To understand the history of the library buying books from the nineteenth century to the present. To understand the books on the rare shelves better. 11: To improve interpretation of archival materials in the collections and to improve the level of public service as related to books. 12: Primarily to understand the precedent for contemporary conditions of publishing. 13: I'm hoping to infuse this information into my existing American Literature courses—and to develop a book history course (for undergraduates) in the next few years.

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

1: Yes. The trips to SC provided excellent examples of the historical issues/movements we discussed. 2: Yes. 4: Yes—Special Collections visits were informative and fun, as was using the press. 7: Yes. 8: The trips to SC—such a wonderful collection! 9: Yes. 10: Yes. Rare book/SC. 11: The two trips to SC fit very well with topics in class. 12: Yes. 13: Yes. SC was great. I loved the printing/type "field trip"—really useful for me as a newbie to this field.

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

1: Yes. The lectures were very helpful. I think that it would be useful to have someone speak who theorized the work we are doing a bit more. 2: I attended all of the above events, including the Paper Museum which was astonishing not only by what had been collected but also by the presentation at each table. 4: I attended most of these—worth attending and everyone was so hospitable. I also enjoyed the Paper Museum. These were fun ways to socialize with other students. 5: The lectures augmented the classroom experience. 6: Yes, the lectures were very informative. 7: Yes. I enjoyed the lectures. I wish there had been an exhibition tour of the exhibits in SC. 8: Matthew Carter's (MC) lecture was fascinating and related well to our discussions in class about type design. 9: Yes. 10: Yes. I missed the Forum because of my flight, but I would have been there. I'd seen the videos before. 11: Yes, even with technical difficulties involved. 12: Yes. 13: Yes—I was at the MC lecture and the Paper Museum—both excellent. I would have also loved the Binding Museum had it been possible.

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?

4: None. I feel it is important that, as far as possible, students can handle objects as it provides information on the material text. 6: None. 7: No suggestions, but I hope to adopt the baskets used in SC at my own institution. 8: None. 9: This is always a difficult issue. Consumptive use of material is just that. With 80,000 volumes, I think RBS overreacts to the condition of their teaching collection. 10: N/A. 13: None.

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

1: Yes! I would strongly recommend this course to others. 2: Yes, well worth it. Yes, I would recommend to others. 4: I had an RBS scholarship, but I already want to start saving to come back! It would be an international flight for me to return and it would still be worth it. I would recommend this course highly. 5: Absolutely. 6: This class was definitely worth the cost and I would recommend it to anyone interested in rare books. 7: I think that the course was absolutely "worth" it. But I must admit that if my institution didn't pay for me I would not be able to afford to attend RBS. I wish there were more scholarship competitions, especially for the certificate since I doubt my institution will fund additional RBS courses. 8: Absolutely—I will definitely recommend this course and RBS to colleagues, and I hope to return next year. 9: Yes. Absolutely. 10: Yes, and more so. Yes!! 11: Yes. 12: Worth every penny. 13: 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: I encourage RBS to provide courses concerning: distribution, serial and subscription publishing, regional differences in publishing practices, the history of the American publisher. 2: The pre-course reading is important. I may have been a little lost if I had not done this as the field is a new one to me. I learned so much and the course opened many dimensions and new horizons which I know will be invaluable to my work. 3: 4: I would enjoy a course on subscription/serial publishing in the nineteenth century and on research methods for book history (e.g., how to find/use publishers archives, ephemera, how to work out distribution routes, &c.) 5: Course suggestion: The History of the Bible in Print. 9: Keep up the good work! 10: The class was super informative. MW was so wonderful. A real treat to be a part of his class. Super honored. Very happy. Thank you. 11: Good overview course for beginners. 13: I want to come back!

Number of respondents: 13





Institution gave me leave


7 (54%)


I took vacation time




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


6 (46%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course



Institution paid tuition


6 (46%)


Institution paid tuition ___%


1 (8%)


I paid tuition myself


3 (23%)


Exchange or barter


1 (8%)


N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

2 (15%)


Institution paid housing


6 (47%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing


1 (8%)


I paid for my own housing


4 (31%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


2 (16%)



1 (8%)



Institution paid travel


4 (30%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel


1 (8%)


I paid my own travel


5 (38%)


N/A: lived nearby


1 (8%)



1 (8%)



1 (8%)





There were three full-time students working towards Ph.D. (humanities) (22%), two rare book librarians (14%), one Conservator/binder/preservation librarian (8%), one librarian/archivist of digital materials (8%), one library assistant/clerk (8%), one library/university administrator (8%), one worked in a museum or cultural institution (8%), one full or associate professor (8%), one assistant professor (8%), and one full-time student (8%).


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

6 (46%)

RBS Printed Schedule

2 (15%)

Work Colleague

1 (8%)


1 (8%)

("Supervisor as work wanted me to attend RBS and suggested I find a relevant course appropriate to my responsibilities at work")


Word of mouth

1 (8%)

Social media

2 (15%)




Where did you stay?

Brown College: 6 (46%)

Hampton Inn & Suites: 1 (8%)

Red Roof Inn: 4 (31%)

Other: 2 (15)% (rented in someone's house found online, stayed at home)