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What is the History of the Book?

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James Raven, a leading historian of the book, offers a fresh and accessible guide to the global study of the production, dissemination and reception of written and printed texts across all societies and in all ages.

Students, teachers, researchers and general readers will benefit from the book’s investigation of the subject’s origins, scope and future direction. Based on original research and a wide range of sources, What is the History of the Book? shows how book history crosses disciplinary boundaries and intersects with literary, historical, media, library, conservation and communications studies. Raven uses examples from around the world to explore different traditions in bibliography, palaeography and manuscript studies. He analyses book history’s growing global ambition and demonstrates how the study of reading practices opens up new horizons in social history and the history of knowledge. He shows how book history is contributing to debates about intellectual and popular culture, colonialism and the communication of ideas.

The first global, accessible introduction to the field of book history from ancient to modern times, What is the History of the Book? is essential reading for all those interested in one of society’s most important cultural artefacts.

Author: Raven James
Pages: 191
ISBN: 9780745641621
Cover: Paperback
Edition Number: 1
Release Year: 2018



List of illustrations and tables

1. The Scope of Book History

Redefining the book

First books first

2. The Early History of Book History

Pre-histories of the book

Towards bibliography

3. Description, Enumeration and Modelling

Retrospective catalogues and bibliometrics

New perspectives and projects

Circuits and diagrams

4. Who, What and How?


Wider horizons

Control: Copyright, censorship and circulation


Cautions and precepts

5. Reading

Identifying readers

Recovering reading practises


Further reading Index

James Raven is Professor of Modern History at the University of Essex and a Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Formerly he was Reader in Social and Cultural History, University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow of Mansfield College.

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