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LRBS 2021

Due to the global pandemic, LRBS 2021 was held entirely online. The courses consisted of live lectures and interactive discussion, as well as pre-recorded sessions.

Below are outlines of the courses that were run.

LRBS Week One, 21-25 June 2021

The Medieval Book | Michelle Brown

This course will provide an intensive introduction to manuscript culture during Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The historical contexts for manuscript production will be explored and the landscape populated with some of those who commissioned and made these remarkable works. Techniques of production, terminology and methods of description and cataloguing will be examined and a brief survey of palaeography and codicology will be provided. Styles and principal trends will be studied.

The Book in the Renaissance | Paolo Sachet

This course provides students with a comprehensive overview of the printed book during the Renaissance, broadly intended as the trans-European cultural renewal building on the recovery of Antiquity and spanning the mid-fourteenth to the mid-seventeenth century. Through a series of live sessions and individual exercises, students will be given the opportunity to explore the impact of printing at the dawn of the early modern era. Theoretical and practical instruments will be offered in order to appreciate the potential of the web in today’s research and learn about possible drawbacks. 

A History of Book Collecting and Book Culture | Cynthia Johnston

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. 

LRBS Week Two, 28 June - 2 July 2021

Provenance in Books | David Pearson

The primary aim of this course is to develop a personal toolkit to identify and interpret the various kinds of provenance evidence found in books before 1900.  Interest in historical book ownership and what we can learn from individual copies and whole libraries has steadily grown among librarians, scholars and collectors, and more attention is paid to recording it in catalogues. The course will cover different manifestations of provenance – inscriptions, bookplates and book labels, armorials and other evidence from bindings – and include practical instruction on palaeography, heraldry and reference sources. Although the focus will be on practical and factual learning to take away, some time will be devoted to the theoretical and interpretative book historical context within which provenance evidence is of value. This online course is adapted from the full five-day course which has been successfully taught at Senate House, and elsewhere, many times. Although it cannot offer hands-on time with books, it will include many illustrated powerpoints and virtual show and tell sessions. 

The Book Historian’s Digital Tool-Kit | Christopher Ohge

This course introduces a variety of digital methods and tools for book history research, in addition to a historical survey of digitisation and electronic books. The primary purpose of this introduction is to give students a view of the landscape of digital research in book history. The course will cover the following topics: co-creation transcription tools, bibliographic databases and data management, content management systems, text encoding and image annotation, digital editions, IIIF (the leading standard for image sharing and annotation in libraries and archives), computer vision, and digital collation. The emphasis will be placed on thinking computationally, and being willing to experiment with digital tools to enhance book historical research questions and information management. 

Introduction to Incunabula: European Printed Books of the Fifteenth Century | Laura Nuvoloni & Elizabeth Savage

This interdisciplinary, introductory course provides an overview of incunabula (Latin: cradle, swaddling clothes, birthplace), or material printed in the first 50 years of the press, c.1450–1500. Through lectures and guided tasks, participants will learn how printing transformed – and maintained – conventional methods of communication. Discussions will be based on the close analysis of many kinds of content, including text, illustrations, and devotional imagery. Participants will obtain an understanding of the development of early printing in western Europe and resources for identifying and researching them today. 

Modernism and the Book | Lise Jaillant

Works of literary modernism, such as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway or James Joyce’s Ulysses, are inseparable from the physical format in which they appeared. The 1922 Shakespeare & Company edition of Ulysses, with its iconic blue cover, is almost as famous as the characters in Joyce’s novel. But we need to look beyond those well-known first editions. By the mid-1920s, difficult modernist texts were no longer restricted to readers of little magazines or luxurious limited editions. They were read by a large audience in cheap reprint editions, and modernist writers became celebrities that often appeared in ‘slick’ magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. To gain greater control over the publication process, Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Nancy Cunard and others created their own presses and engaged closely with the physical materiality of books. 

The aim of this course is to study the material formats that made the diffusion of modernist literature possible. The course relies on an interdisciplinary framework, drawing from book and publishing history, archival studies, sociology, and digital humanities. It will be of interest to students of history and literature, librarians, archivists, rare book specialists, museum professionals, booksellers and anyone who enjoys twentieth-century books. 

A History of Maps and Mapping | Katherine Parker

Maps are simultaneously ubiquitous in everyday life yet also strangely absent from much scholarly work outside the niche field of the history of cartography. How to catalogue, study, and discuss maps as historical sources for research is a subject that draws insight from critical bibliography, the history of the book, historical geography, and other subjects, making it an interdisciplinary and dynamic field. Since the 1980s, scholars have placed maps under critical review, questioning precisely what a map is and probing the social and cultural roles maps, and their makers and consumers, play. However, this re-envisioning of map scholarship has not reached general or popular literature. 

This course will challenge students to destabilize and broaden the traditional definition of ‘map’, and to recognize maps as socially constructed objects that are indicative of the values and biases of their makers and the cultures that created them. Students will learn how to analyse and catalogue maps for a variety of research purposes, and to discuss changes in map technology and style without recourse to a progressive narrative of scientific improvement.    

LRBS Week Three, 5-9 July 2021

The Book in the Ancient World | Marigold Norbye

This course is an intensive survey of the origins of, and the changes in, textual culture that took place between c. 3100 BC and 500 AD, covering Egyptian, Greek and Roman book cultures. It will set these changes into their related historical contexts and place close emphasis on the material nature of writing and book construction. In one session, we will examine the practical methods by which ancient children learnt to read and write, and see how they have been re-created in the Reading University Ancient Schoolroom.  In another, we will explore a selection of advanced imaging techniques used to document and study ancient text-objects.  We will see how hidden and difficult-to-read texts can be made accessible using digital tools that not only reveal written content but also material features in order to shed light on the life history of manuscripts and books from the ancient world.  The course will end by looking at the ways in which the modern book form (the codex) emerged at the end of the period, and how some of the ancient texts studied in the course survived through the post-classical manuscript periods to the age of printing. 

The Queer Book | Brooke Palmieri

This course draws upon elements from the vibrant field of queer studies to restructure our understanding of media and materiality. Applying queer theory—a field dedicated to challenging norms and forms of oppression—to our understanding of both ‘The Book’ and its place within the history of information, demands a re-evaluation of documentary history, and the institutions and agents of its preservation. There is no ‘Queer Book’, as an object per se, but rather, the Queer Book collates and analyses the shifting relationships between the materialities of printed matter, other artefacts, and the fragmented and highly contingent histories we are able to tell from them.

Gutenberg’s Bible: Back to the Evidence | Elizabeth Savage and Eric White

This course introduces the Gutenberg Bible, printed in Mainz ca. 1455, the first substantial book printed in Europe with moveable type. Today, Johannes Gutenberg’s famous 42-Line Bible is perhaps the most researched of all books, but centuries of solid scholarship have been undermined by national bias, myth, and hype. This course aims to sweep away misconceptions by starting over. It examines afresh the early documentary and physical evidence relating to the surviving copies. By doing so, it asks what we know we know about this landmark in European cultural history.

Students will apply a range of bibliographical and historical research methods to physical and documentary evidence, including archival documents and legal records, marks of use and ownership, illumination, bindings, and typographical details in copies and fragments of the Gutenberg Bible. The course will feature a virtual live viewing of Princeton University’s Gutenberg Bible. At the end of the course, participants will have a deep, evidence-based understanding of the production, early reception, and geographic dissemination of copies of Europe’s first significant edition; a portfolio of advanced research skills relevant to early European printed material; and, more broadly, a critical engagement with the history of bibliographical research.

A History of Chapbooks in Britain c.1650-1900 | Giles Bergel

Certain short, cheap pamphlets sold by travelling pedlars, or ‘chapmen’, have been known to historians of the book in Britain as chapbooks for almost two centuries. While the term has been applied to many kinds of books, including those of an older date or produced in other parts of the world, there is little consensus on what chapbooks are or were. Certainly, many thousands of cheap books containing songs, stories, poetry, histories, riddles, prophecies and advice were printed and sold in Britain throughout the hand-press period and afterwards, but many more have been lost or are known by other names. This course will survey the production, content and reception of the chapbook, covering its producers and distributors; readers and collectors; rediscovery by book historians; and its meaning and legacy today. The course will showcase a range of approaches to studying the chapbook, including bibliographical study of the material text; the social history of reading and of popular culture; book trade history; provenance studies; and digital support for these approaches.