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History of the Book: Home

This guide provides introductory resources to learn about the History of the Book.

What's in this Guide?

Use the tabs above or the links below to navigate this guide.

Boston-Area Special Collections

If you're a Simmons student and/or in the Boston area, there are many special collections to visit that house old, rare books and other materials relevant to the study of book history:

Welcome!

Books are a huge part of our culture, and have been for hundreds of years. From the Bible to the dictionary, War and Peace to Twilight, illuminated manuscripts to middle school science textbooks, books span virtually every subject and allow humans to share ideas across time and space. The importance of texts contained in books is widely acknowledged and if you were to ask a random person to name a book, they would likely respond with something like Pride and Prejudice or The DaVinci Code. After all, literature is studied extensively and when we speak of "books" in that context, we mean the story or content -- not the physical form in which they are contained. At the same time, though, if you were to hold up a copy of Pride and Prejudice that doesn't have the title on the cover and ask what it was, most people would still answer, "a book." While most disciplines use books to study their content, book historians look at how books have existed as material objects.

Books as objects have just as much of a story to tell as the texts they contain, and the field of book history (or, history of the book) aims to study the role they have played throughout history. The field is interdisciplinary and looks to everything from history to science to art to understand the ways in which humans have created and interacted with books throughout history. In this guide, you'll be introduced to some major concepts in book history and be provided with resources to pursue research in more specific areas of the field. Use the tabs along the top of the page (or in the "What's in this Guide?" box to the left) to navigate through the different pages and locate resources relevant to you and your interests.

If you are a Simmons SLIS student and find this material interesting, consider taking LIS-425 History of the Book with Professor Katherine Ruffin to learn more. Alternately, this guide also contains links to professional organizations and other groups pertaining to the history of the book. Many of these offer classes, workshops, or lectures to learn more about specific topics within the field.

"Glorious Bookishness"

In this TED Talk, Michael Suarez, director of the Rare Book School (see resource list below) discusses why studying books as objects is so valuable.

Professional Organizations and Resources for Book History

Miscellaneous Resources