The Centre for the History of the Book recently began its afternoon seminar series for the term. The first of these presentations was done by the Centre for Research Collections Honorary Research Fellow Louise Gardiner, MSc, who presented this past Friday on a “royal letter book” manuscript from the reign of Richard II (1377-1399). Louise’s seminar was illuminating both to the history of the manuscript and royal administrative duties of the fourteenth century. However, she made clear that this is work in progress, as the manuscript itself is a bit of a mystery. Continue reading
Over and over again we hear that the printed book is disappearing; some of the more inflammatory appeals even refer to ‘the death of the book’. Who killed the book? Computers, tablets, e-readers, and other technological tools have become the primary suspects. Indirectly, Amazon and other online retailers have been charged with accessory to murder. It was reported that the cyber world was a hostile environment for the printed book.
It is probably extreme to announce the death of the book. According to some reports, e-book sales have surpassed printed book sales in at least some areas of the market — but the printed book continues to be an important object in the way we communicate, transfer, and safeguard knowledge. The new fields of study that have been developed such as book history, material culture, and so on, have now expanded the book as both object and concept, and they have allowed us to revitalize the book under fresh perspectives.
It has been a month since I attended the second of the two twined symposia co-organized by The University of Edinburgh and Harvard University, and nearly daily an insightful comment or compelling example from the symposium crosses my mind.
The symposium thrived within the conceptual space afforded by the difference between the History of the Book and the history of a book. This seemingly small grammatical difference, as well as the interplay between thinking of the book and new media and then the book as new media, opened the theoretical space of the conference.
At the conference’s concluding roundtable, the presenter’s joked about the rigorous work undertaken in the sliver of conceptual slippage offered by the different prepositions, noting that the symposium could be summarized in one sentence – “What are a book?”