About The Seminar
Book history is an area of interdisciplinary enquiry, drawing on the methods of Bibliography, Social History, Literary Criticism, and Cultural Theory. Its specific objects of study include literacy and reading practices, relations among publishers, authors, and readers, and media production technology. According to Robert Darnton,
a pioneer among book historians.
“ ‘Histoire du livre’ in France, ‘Geschichte des Buchwesens’ in Germany, ‘history of books’ or ‘of the book’ in English-speaking countries - its name varies from place to place, but everywhere it is being recognized as an important new discipline. It might even be called the social and cultural history of communication by print, […] because its purpose is to understand how ideas were transmitted through print and how exposure to the printed word affected the thought and behavior of mankind during the last five hundred years […] The field can be extended and expanded in many ways; but for the most part, it concerns books since the time of Gutenberg, an area of research that has developed so rapidly during the last few years, that it seems likely to win a place alongside fields like the history of science and the history of art in the canon of scholarly disciplines.” Book history concerns each phase in the process; that is, the production, circulation and consumption of books; and the process as a whole, in all its variations over space and time and in all its relations with other systems, economic, social, political, and cultural, in the surrounding environment. Darnton further notes, “Books […] do not respect limits either linguistic or national. They have often been written by authors who belonged to an international republic of letters, composed by printers and who did not work in their native tongue, sold by booksellers who operated across national boundaries, and read in one language by readers who spoke another. Books also refuse to be contained within the confines of a single discipline when treated as objects of study. Neither history nor literature nor economics nor sociology nor bibliography can do justice to all the aspects of the life of a book. By its very nature, therefore, the history of books must be international in scale and interdisciplinary in method.” With the much acclaimed ‘digital revolution’ this internationality and interdisciplinarity has been merged in time and space so rapidly as to make it almost imperative to look at a text— be it a book, a periodical, a pamphlet, newspaper, manuscript or hypertext—in terms of its metamorphosed condition. ‘Journey of the Book: From the Manuscript to the Digital’ hopes to raise questions and debates concerning this new area of scholarship.