H-30. The Printed Book in the West to 1800 - Advance Reading List

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  • Preliminary Advices

    This course is intended as a basic survey of and introduction to the history of the western book to 1800. For purposes of admission to the class I neither assumed nor expected any prior knowledge of the subject on your part. However, now that you have been admitted, I’d like to insure that you and all your fellows come to Charlottesville with a common chronological and technical framework and a basic working vocabulary. So, to that end please prepare yourself by doing some preliminary reading before you arrive. Start with Warren Chappell’s Short History of the Printed Word; read at least up through page 190; if you’ve got the time and inclination, do read to the end. John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors is also essential; read it cover to cover—but not necessarily in order—you can graze if you like!

    Please note that these first two texts are required reading: my presentations throughout the week will make reference to the names and dates given in Chappell and be sprinkled with the technical vocabulary given in Carter.

    If you’re game, you may want to move on to the secondary reading list, preferably in the order given. And for those of you who want still more, please note that I’ll be sending you home at the end of the week with a substantial reading list in your course packet.

    Chappell, Warren and Robert Bringhurst. A Short History of the Printed Word. Revised and updated edn. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 2000. The most recent edition of a classic text: an excellent introduction to the technical aspects of early book production.

    Carter, John. ABC for Book Collectors. 8th edition by John Carter and Nicolas Barker. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books; and London: British Library, 2004. Dictionary format, but surprisingly readable as a book, nevertheless. (The most recent edition of Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors is also available as a free PDF download.)

  • Suggestions for Further Advance Reading

    Cavallo, Guglielmo and Roger Chartier, eds. A History of Reading in the West. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999. I recommend that you read the following:

    • Chapter 7: “The Humanist as Reader” by Anthony Grafton
    • Chapter 8: “Protestant Reformation and Reading” by Jean-François Gilmont
    • Chapter 9: “Reading and the Counter-Reformation” by Dominique Julia
    • Chapter 10: “Reading Matter and ‘Popular’ Reading” by Roger Chartier, and
    • Chapter 11: “Was There a Reading Revolution at the End of the Eighteenth Century?” by Reinhard Wittman


  • Suggestions for Beach Reading Later in the Summer

    Febvre, Lucien and Henri-Jean Martin. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450–1800. London: Verso Books, 1984, most recently reprinted 1997. Covers the transition from manuscripts to printed books from the perspectives of technology, trade, and intellectual history. This is an exceedingly rich text, but is really not an introduction to the field; rather, this course will prepare you to read it.

    Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983; several reprints. Part II, a syncretistic view of printing that examines the invention within the broader context of European intellectual culture, is especially valuable.

    Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. Divine Art, Infernal Machine: The Reception of Printing in the West from First Impressions to the Sense of an Ending. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. Her most recent book also links technological changes with large cultural and social shifts, and perhaps just as controversially as the above.

  • Possible Sources for Textbooks

    This online version of this reading list has live links to Amazon.com for the in-print books.

    Used copies of most of the books on this list are currently available on one or another of the Internet used/antiquarian book services, most easily accessed through Bookfinder.com or viaLibri.net. And see also:

    Colophon Book Shop
    117 Water Street, Exeter, NH 03833
    phone: 603-772-8443
    email: orders@colophonbooks.com

    Dawson’s Book Shop
    535 North Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004
    phone: 213-665-8866
    email: orders@dawsonbooks.com

    Oak Knoll Books
    414 Delaware Street, New Castle, DE 19720
    phone: 1-800-996-2556
    email: oakknoll@oakknoll.com

    Pierpont Morgan Library Book Shop
    29 East 36th St, New York, NY 10016
    phone: 212-685-0008;
    email: giftshop@morganlibrary.org

    The Veatchs Arts of the Book
    PO Box 328, Northampton, MA 01060
    phone: 413-584-1867
    email: veatchs@veatchs.com