The History of the Book Lecture Series

About the Series

Through a partnership between Galloway Ridge, a retirement community in Chapel Hill, and health humanities at UNC opened an opportunity for graduate students to propose a “mini series” to teach to residents. My proposed series was “A History of the Book from Antiquity to the Present Day.” Although originally scheduled to take place in the Spring of 2020, the timing was shifted as a result of COVID-19. I was able to move forward with a virtual lecture series in the Fall of 2020.

The content of the series stems from own research on the history of the book, as well as from the course I completed at Rare Book School, “The History of the Book, 200–2000”. The originally proposed course extended over seven weeks, with the last week intended as an excursion to Wilson Library, UNC’s Rare Book Collection; of course, virtual learning made prevented the excursion, but we were at no loss for content.

Each lecture covered a distinct period in the history of the book, and was accompanied by visuals and videos to better illustrate the materiality that is so integral to book history. The topics covered were:

  1. The Ancient Book: Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Rome
  2. The Medieval Manuscript
  3. The Gutenberg Revolution
  4. the Enlightenment Book
  5. The Nineteenth-Century Democratization of Print
  6. The Present and Future of Print

While the lectures series was not presented in a traditional college-classroom, the content is suited well to undergraduates as a general overview to the history of the book. I look forward to the opportunity to teach this again: in an undergraduate classroom, I would put more focus on workshops and creative projects including paper-making, manuscript design, and (if the resources are available) letterpress printing. While my research emphasizes nineteenth-century print, the lecture series gave me the freedom to explore other time periods and to think more broadly about the relationships between materiality, textuality, and use.