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On overview of the history of books

Do you want to read more about the history of books? We will be reading some during the course of the semester. The main text by Chappell will provide an historical overview of texts and printing.

Martyn Lyons Books: A Living History (Los Angeles: The J.Paul Getty Museum, 2011) is an illustrated overview of the history of books from the earliest written texts (about 2000 BCE) to the present. Although he says he’s covering the world, most of his examples are from the Western World. There are some examples from Asia and Arab countries which provide context for developments of movable type in Europe and for woodblock prints that prevalent in Asia. The photographs are lovely and set the book in context.

David Pearson’s  Books as History: The Importance of Books Beyond Their Text (London & New Castle, DE: British Library & Oak Knoll Press, 2008, 2012) discusses how books fit in our lives and in the lives of our ancestors. Pearson takes readers beyond the text to consider why books are important.

If you are more interested in how the book changes over time, you should consult Frederick G. Kilgour   The Evolution of the Book (NY: Oxford University Press, 1998). Kilgour, of OCLC fame, describes how books evolve from the prehistoric period to the electronic book. Lacking color illustration, and indeed almost all illustration, this text focuses on the physical construction of books, their content, and markets.

To complement Chappell, you might look at S.H. Steinberg’s  Five Hundred Years of Printing (London & New Castle, DE: British Library & Oak Knoll Press, 1955, 1996). Steinberg’s expertise is printing, so he focuses on changes in type faces, layout, and design.

The newest book on the history of the book is a one volume work by Michael F. Suarez S.J. and H. R. Woudhuysen entitled The Book: A Global History (Oxford University Press, 2014). This work is a series of essays by scholars of the book covering every imaginable topic. Arranged chronologically and geographically, this book is perfect for the student and scholar who wants a thorough overview of scholarship of the field in the early 21st century.

There are many more books available on the history of the book from every imaginable perspective. I’ve selected a few from my favorites and my personal library. Let me know what your favorites are.


About mbkcons

I love research, books, reading, and learning new things.


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