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Introduction to Book Collecting & Book Cultures


Course tutor: Cynthia Johnston

Standard: £680 / Student: £550


This course will pursue a panoptic view of the growth of book culture and the practice of book collecting by tracing the arc of book historical study. Beginning with the well-documented libraries of the ancient world in various media – including the cuneiform library of Ashurbanipal in Assyria and the papyrus scrolls of Alexandria and Pergamum, as well as recent discoveries from the ‘Villa of Papyri’ in Herculaneum – we will examine the role of libraries in the context of power and identity. The course will proceed to explore collecting in medieval culture, on both institutional and personal levels, through monastic libraries and individual collections; the practice and cultural impact of book collecting in the Renaissance, with emphasis on the development of the individual collector; and the development of a culture of collecting in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the social diversification of the practice through the impact of the Industrial Revolution. These topics will lead up to a global retrospective from which to interrogate the practice of collecting and the concept of book culture.