I-40v. Making the Early Modern Illustrated Scientific Book

Roger Gaskell

Assisted by Caroline Duroselle-Melish

Length: 10 hours
Format: Online

This online course will concentrate on the production history of illustrated books in the fields of science, medicine, technology and natural history between 1500–1800. Topics will include letterpress book production; woodcut and engraved illustration; the cutting of woodblocks and the engraving of copperplates; the printing of woodcuts with text and the separate printing of engravings; and bibliographical analysis and description. We will look at online books and discuss what can—and cannot—be learned from digital surrogates, how to research the production of illustrated books, and the implications for interpretation.

The course will be of interest to all those who curate, collect, and research scientific books and want to ask: how were the illustrations made; how was the book made; and what are the implications for our historical understanding of the book. The books analyzed will be, broadly, in the history of science, but the course would be valuable to anyone working with illustrated books in other fields. 

There will be 10 hours of online sessions over 5 days, including PowerPoint presentations, virtual show-and-tells of books and artifacts, and opportunities for discussion. Students are strongly encouraged to spend an additional one hour per day of directed private study. 

This course differs from The Illustrated Scientific Book to 1800 (I-40) in that the focus will be on production history, bibliographical description, and analysis. Without being able to work first-hand with the range of books as we do in the full-length in-person course, we will spend less time on the formal analysis of images and their role in scientific communication in different genres. The full-length course also includes handling printing blocks and plates and printing on the replica eighteenth-century common press and rolling press.

Click here to view the course description for the in-person version of this course, “The Illustrated Scientific Book to 1800.”

Course History

Roger Gaskell teaches this course, assisted by Caroline Duroselle-Melish, online as "Making the Early Modern Illustrated Scientific Book" (10 hours).
Roger Gaskell teaches this course, assisted by Caroline Duroselle-Melish, in person as "The Illustrated Scientific Book to 1800."


Roger Gaskell

Roger Gaskell

Roger Gaskell is a retired antiquarian bookseller specializing in scientific medical and technical books, and has worked closely with academic libraries in the U.K. and the U.S. He has taught seminars in book history and scientific illustration at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Since 2013, he has taught a course on illustrated scientific books at Rare Book School. He has served as a council member of the Bibliographical Society (U.K.).

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