G-20. Printed Books to 1800: Description & Analysis - Advance Reading List

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  • Preliminary Advices

    Students will get far more out of the course if the advance reading is done carefully and completely.  As you go through the reading, jot down what you would like to have explained, or see examples of, in class.  Among other topics, the course will cover the basics of descriptive bibliography (format, collational formula, and description of paper, typography, and binding), though with more emphasis on understanding descriptions found in bibliographies and catalogs than on writing one’s own.

    Required Reading

    Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972, corrected 2nd printing, 1974; paperback edition, New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1995. Use any printing except the 1st, uncorrected printing (1972). This is the primary text for the course, so please purchase a copy and bring it to class if possible. Please read pp. 1-185 (“Book Production: The Hand-Press Period 1500-1800”), 313-335, and 368-380.Don’t get bogged down in the more technical sections, as we will review much of Gaskell in class. Although this course will not cover the machine-press period (pp. 189-310), it would be helpful to skim this portion if you have time.

    Pearson, David.  Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook. [New and revised edition] Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2019. Despite its Anglocentric focus, this is a very useful introduction to marks of provenance and their identification, with excellent color images.  Please read pp. 1-92, 107-173, and 343-378; skim the rest to the extent of your interest. If you only have access to the first edition (1994 or 1998 printing), read pp. 1-26, 38-70, 82-139, and 274-296.

    Pearson, David.  English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800. London: The British Library; New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2005; corrected 2nd printing 2014.

    Another useful introduction to a very complex and amorphous subject. The text and illustrations (many in color) provide an excellent expansion of Gaskell’s limited coverage, albeit only partly applicable to binding styles elsewhere in Europe. Please read pp. x-xi, 1-40, and browse pp. 41-163.

    Required Viewing

    The Making of a Renaissance Book. 1969. 22 minutes. Available on YouTube.

    An excellent visualization of the punchcutting, typefounding, and printing processes described in Gaskell.

    The Anatomy of a Book: I. Format in the Hand-Press Period. 1991. 30 minutes. Available on YouTube.

    Please note: The video is supplemented by a set that includes a workbook and facsimile practice materials. The workbook and facsimile materials are optional, but recommended, and will be made available for purchase to admitted students for $25. To purchase the set, email rbsprograms@virginia.edu. Please be advised that orders placed fewer than two weeks prior to the course may not arrive in time. Additionally, students located outside of the United States must contact RBS for international shipping rates before sending payment.

    Recommended Reading

    Bowers, Fredson.  Principles of Bibliographical Description.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949; several reprint editions; paperback edition, with introduction by G. Thomas Tanselle, New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1994. Anyone with a serious interest in bibliography and book history should tackle this magisterial, but challenging work at some point. If you have time, please read at least Chapters 5 (skipping over the finer print) and 7, and Appendix I (pp. 193-254, 269-284, 457-462; see also Gaskell, pp. 328-335 for a concise—but not fully accurate—summary of these chapters.)  The basic concepts elucidated by Bowers will be covered in class.  Then read (or re-read) Bowers after taking this course, by which time his discussion should make considerably more sense.

    N.B. Bowers is out of print and used copies are difficult to find. The better option may be to borrow a copy from your library or via interlibrary loan.

    Carter, John.  ABC for Book Collectors. London: Hart-Davis, 1952.  9th edition, revised by Nicolas Barker & Simran Thadani, New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2016. Use any later edition. The 8th edition (2004) is available free of charge as a PDF.

    An elegant and witty guide to essential terminology, well worth reading. Some terms pertain to post-1800 imprints or are rarely used nowadays, but it is useful nonetheless to know these.