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

Scott E. Casper Jeffrey D. Groves

A survey of the role of the book in American society and culture from colonial times to the early twenty-first century. The course will first examine the early trans-Atlantic trade in books, the beginning and early years of local American book production, and the place of books in colonial American life. The focus will then shift to the establishment of a national book trade in an expanding United States during the industrial era. Topics to be investigated include the industrialization and mechanization of book production, methods of bookselling and distribution, and patterns of reading in the United States. Finally, twentieth-century and contemporary developments will be discussed, including the introduction of book clubs as well as mass and trade paperbacks, alternative and oppositional forms of publishing, and long-standing discussions about the future of books, publishing, and reading.

This course is intended for individuals broadly interested in the history of the book in America, but who have little formal training or exposure to the subject. In their personal statement, applicants are encouraged to describe the nature of their developing interest in the history of the book and (if relevant) explain briefly the causes of this interest and the purposes to which they propose to put the knowledge gained from the course.

Course History

Scott E. Casper and Jeffrey D. Groves co-teach this course.
Michael Winship teaches this course.
Michael Winship and Edwin Wolf 2d. co-teach a precursor course, "History of the American Book."

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

Related Courses


  • Scott E. Casper
  • Jeffrey D. Groves

Scott E. Casper

Scott Casper is is president of the American Antiquarian Society (AAS), “a national research library of American history and culture to 1900.” He is the author of Constructing American Lives: Biography and Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (1999) and Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon: The Forgotten History of an American Shrine (2008); and the co-editor of Perspectives on American Book History: Artifacts and Commentary (2002, with Joanne D. Chaison and Jeffrey D. Groves), A History of the Book in America, Volume III: The Industrial Book, 1840–1880 (2007, with Jeffrey D. Groves, Stephen Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship), and The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History (2013, with Joan Shelley Rubin). Before joining AAS, he was dean of the college of arts, humanities, and social sciences and professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Foundation Professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Full Bio »

Jeffrey D. Groves

Jeff Groves is the Louisa and Robert Miller Professor of Humanities at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. He is a contributor to and co-editor of Perspectives on American Book History: Artifacts and Commentary (2002, with Scott E. Casper and Joanne D. Chaison) and A History of the Book in America, Volume III: The Industrial Book, 1840–1880 (2007, with Scott E. Casper, Stephen Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship).  He is the founder of The First-Floor Press, a letterpress teaching studio at the Claremont Colleges Library

Full Bio »