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.
A large concern of mine in the field of book history is the relatively small number of comprehensive studies done on print cultures in non-Western cultures. Outside of brief articles and specific examples, there has not been a lot of information (or so this amateur researcher has found) to be had about broader print cultures. The strength of Daniel E. White’s book From Little London to Little Bengal: Religion, Print, and Modernity in Early British India is its ability to provide a broad framework for continued research in the print cultures of non-Western cultures, through the specific example of India.
Professor Faye Hammill kicked off the new seminar series with a talk that spanned three glossy magazines from the early 20th century: Vanity Fair, Tatler, and the Toronto-based Mayfair.
Reflecting on trends in the field of periodical studies, Hammill observed that the periodical itself tends not to be the object of knowledge. Rather, magazines and newspapers are used to illuminate other genres, or to tell us something about the periodical’s historical context.
While Alistair McCleery’s talk was titled “Postcolonial Penguins,” his discussion extended far beyond the nuances of the book trade and into areas such as book historical theory and international politics. At the outset, he explained that his research stemmed from two sources of interest, one professional and one personal. His professional interest, he recounted, was based in a desire for book historians to work harder at finding patterns and models rather than sticking to the kind of case study tradition he has observed for many years. Professor McCleery gave a brief explanation of the British publishing structures post-World War II, and why things changed so dramatically in the world of books at that time. Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, in the aftermath of the war, opened satellite branches all over the world. These wholly-owned overseas branches grew and grew until some locations began to devolve based on further development of local communities and new international involvement in publishing.