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The Printed Book in Europe 1455-2020 


Course tutors: 

Professor Simon Eliot; Professor Ian Gadd 


This course will explore the origins, spread, and impact of printed materials in Europe, and particularly Great Britain, from Gutenberg to the point at which they appear to be facing their greatest challenge in five hundred and fifty years. The course will concern itself not only with processes and products, but with the problems of distribution raised by the mass-manufacture of printed materials, and by the changing nature of the ways in which these materials were read and stored. Most importantly of all, the material nature of the book will be emphasised, and its changing impact on the culture of Europe — and beyond — will be explained in terms of this materiality.  



  • To give the student a broad understanding of the history of printed books and other texts in post-medieval Europe.  
  • To present an overview of the social, economic, political, and religious contexts in which the European book developed.  
  • To introduce the student to the changing technologies of book production over the period.  
  • To provide the student with the opportunity to examine contemporary books and other historical artefacts that constitute the evidence on which the arguments of the course rest.  
  • To offer the student several case studies which will illustrate the arguments of the course.  



Seminar 1 Monday 14:00-15:30 
Printing in Europe and Britain to the 1520s 

Seminar 2 Monday 16:00-17:30 
Printing and Selling Books in Britain 1520s–1630s 

Seminar 3 Tuesday 09:30-11:00 (at Stationers’ Hall) 
Printing and Selling Books in Britain 1640s–1700s 

Seminar 4 Tuesday 11:30-13:00 (at Stationers’ Hall) 
Case Study: The Stationers’ Company 


Seminar 5 Tuesday [14:30-16:00] 
Making and Selling Books and Periodicals 1710s–1790s 

Seminar 6 Wednesday 09:30-11:00 
The First Industrial Revolution in Print 1800s–1860s 

Seminar 7 Wednesday 11:30-13:00 
Case Study: W.H. Smith 1790s–1900s 

Seminar 8 Wednesday 14:00-15:30 
The Second Industrial Revolution in Print 1860s–1910s 

Seminar 9 Thursday 09:30-11:00 
Global Markets and Global Conflicts 1910s–1950s 

Seminar 10 Thursday 11:30-15:30 
Case study: The Ministry of Information 1939-46 

Seminar 11 Thursday 14:00-15:30 
All Change 1960s–1990s 

Seminar 12  Friday 09:30-11:00 
Case study: Oxford University Press 1800–2004 

Seminar 13 Friday 11:30-13:30 
An experience of publishing in the later 20th and early 21st Centuries