Iain Donaldson on the Legacy of the Early Printed Book to its Modern Descendants

On a particularly cold and rainy November the 13th, the Center for the History of the Book welcomed Professor Iain Donaldson from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh to speak about the important features of the modern book that derived from the early printed books created before the end of the sixteenth century. By providing examples through books found in the Royal College of Physicians’ Library, Professor Donaldson argued that many of the elements we see today in modern publishing are direct, or close indirect, descendants from those first printed books. Although they may look very different now, the functionality and look of these elements remain relatively unchanged. Specifically, those that favor the accessibility of readers seem to survive today, while those intended for the printer’s use have dwindled away with the inventions of new technologies and processes.

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ABC for Book Collectors

This post is part of a series about useful books and online resources for students of book history and material culture, written by current MSc students at the University of Edinburgh.


If asked, I would say that I am equal parts book history student and book collector; not only do these identifications intersect nicely, but I find it difficult to imagine any student escaping a book history degree without one or two volumes that in some way highlight their specific interests within the field. ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter and Nicolas Barker is a delightful illustration of this intersection. It is both an amazing resource for understanding the sometimes nebulous terminology that sometimes seems rife within the field of bibliography as well as a genuinely interesting read.

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