The history of the book is a new scholarly adventure, still in its pioneering phase, which offers an innovative approach to studying both history and literature. It is based on two apparently simple premises, which have inspired some strikingly original work in the humanities. The first is that books make history. In The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (1979), Elizabeth Eisenstein argued that the invention of print technology made possible the scientific revolution, mobilized the Protestant Reformation, and broadcast the achievements of the Italian Renaissance. Meanwhile, Robert Darnton was making the case that scurrilous underground literature undermined France’s ancien régime to the point where it collapsed in 1789. They inspired other scholars to pose similar questions about books and historical causation. Did escalating press rhetoric precipitate the French Reign of Terror and the American Civil War? Did samizdat literature contribute to the implosion of Soviet communism? Can the arrested development of Middle Eastern print culture, hemmed in by censorship, help to explain problems of modernization in that part of the world? Book historians do not claim that books explain everything, but they do recognize that books are the primary tools that people use to transmit ideas, record memories, create narratives, exercise power, and distribute wealth.
Contents Part I Methods and Approaches 1 Why Bibliography Matters 2 What is Textual Scholarship? 3 The Uses of Quantification 4 Readers: Books and Biography Part II The History of the Material Text The World before the Codex 5 The Clay Tablet Book in Sumer, Assyria, and Babylonia 6 The Papyrus Roll in Egypt, Greece, and Rome
The Book beyond the West 7 China 8 Japan, Korea, and Vietnam 9 South Asia 10 Latin America 11 The Hebraic Book 12 The Islamic Book
The Codex in the West 400–2000 13 The Triumph of the Codex: The Manuscript Book before 1100 14 Parchment and Paper: Manuscript Culture 1100–1500 15 The Gutenberg Revolutions 16 The Book Trade Comes of Age: The Sixteenth Century 17 The British Book Market 1600–1800 18 Print and Public in Europe 1600–1800 19 North America and Transatlantic Book Culture to 1800 20 The Industrialization of the Book 1800–1970 21 From Few and Expensive to Many and Cheap: The British Book Market 1800–1890 22 A Continent of Texts: Europe 1800–1890 23 Building a National Literature: The United States 1800–1890 24 The Globalization of the Book 1800–1970 25 Modernity and Print I: Britain 1890–1970 26 Modernity and Print II: Europe 1890–1970 27 Modernity and Print III: The United States 1890–1970 28 Books and Bits: Texts and Technology 1970–2000 29 The Global Market 1970–2000: Producers 30 The Global Market 1970–2000: Consumers
Part III Beyond the Book 31 Periodicals and Periodicity 32 The Importance of Ephemera 33 The New Textual Technologies
Part IV Issues 34 New Histories of Literacy 35 Some Non-textual Uses of Books 36 The Book as Art 37 Obscenity, Censorship, and Modernity 38 Copyright and the Creation of Literary Property 39 Libraries and the Invention of Information