Dr Ben Higgins
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House

This course will provide students with a comprehensive introduction to the key concepts and principles of bibliography, and a lively guide to the ways that this discipline relates to the study of literature and to editing. Through a series of engaging seminars, and an emphasis on the exploration of primary materials, the course will lead students to think critically about the study of books as material objects in the early modern period, including manuscript, printed books, and the various hybrid categories that lie between. 

Students will explore a balanced mixture of broader concepts and more specific circumstances of the production, use, and circulation of texts in the early modern period, and the challenges these topics pose to the modern bibliographer and literary scholar. The course begins with broader questions such as: what is bibliography, and what is its object of study? How far do we agree with the book historian Peter Blayney’s recent assessment that ‘The word bibliography has been stretched so far beyond all useful limits […] that it has lost its ability to mean anything very specific at all’? What are bibliographers doing in English studies today? What can we learn about the modern shift from print to digital by looking to the previous such movement from manuscript to print? However students will also get to grips with the practical details of the material text itself, including learning about the processes by which books were made, sold, and bound. Students will consider questions including how can we best describe the contingencies of early modern books and manuscripts? How is bibliographic research used in editing? How was the act of writing in manuscript changed by the culture of print? How, as critics, can we ‘read’ and describe the materiality of a text? What relationships might we propose between material and literary form? And what does it mean to study bibliography in the digital age? At each stage, the critical ideas and primary documents with which students will be engaged are set within their appropriate historical and methodological contexts.

Key Texts

Mark Bland, A Guide to Early Printed Books and Manuscripts (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)
Fredson Bowers, Principles of Bibliographical Description (Winchester: St Paul's Bibliographies, 1986 and 1994)
Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972)
D. F. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
Joseph Moxon, Mechanick exercises on the whole art of printing (1683–4), edited by Herbert Davis and Harry Carter. 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 1962; reprinted Dover Publications, 1978.)

Recommended Reading
Abbott, C. and W.P. Williams, An Introduction to Bibliographical and Textual Studies (New York: MLA, 1989)
Peter Beal, A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology: 1450 to 2000 (Oxford University Press, 2009) 
Peter Beal ed., Discovering, Identifying and Editing Early Modern Manuscripts (London: British Library, 2013)
Peter W. M. Blayney, ‘The Publication of Playbooks,’ in A New History of Early English Drama, eds John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), pp. 389-415.
Fredson Bowers, Bibliography and Textual Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1964)
David Greetham, Scholarly Editing: A Guide to Research (New York: MLA, 1995)
Joseph Lowenstein, The Author’s Due: Printing and the Prehistory of Copyright (University of Chicago Press, 2002) 
Jerome J. McGann, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (University of Virginia Press, 1983) 
Harriet Phillips and Claire Loffman eds., A Handbook of Editing Early Modern Texts (London: Routledge, 2018)
Henry Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts (Clarendon Press, 1996)