Educational Programs | March 9, 2023

The History of the Book in Antebellum America

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Happening for the first time in person since 2019 The History of the Book in Antebellum America returns to Rare Book School.

Taught by James N. Green and Michael Winship at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries in Philadelphia, the Rare Book School course focuses on the emergence of a national trade publishing system in the United States by examining the production, distribution, and reception of books and other printed materials during the years from 1800 to 1860, with particular emphasis on the crucial transition period of 1819 to 1837.

Among the themes explored are:

  • how the publishing and book trades established and developed themselves over this period
  • the introduction of new production and distribution technologies
  • changes in the economics of publishing and how they affected the price of books and the practice of discounting
  • the development of different markets for books and the various ways books reached readers as the nation expanded westward

Students will have an opportunity to study many examples that illustrate important features of the history of the American antebellum book. Using digital copies of manuscript sources they will also study the business practices of printers and publishers, and material practices of authorship and reading. Students will examine copies of scarce or rare material, including works by African Americans and cheap print aimed at urban and working-class readers.

Students will also be introduced to important reference works and other resources for the study of American book history. The class will be run as a seminar, so students will be encouraged to discuss their own interests and research projects with the group as a whole.

The course is aimed at scholars, librarians, collectors, and others who are already familiar with the broad outlines of American book history but who wish to focus on what is specific to the book culture of the antebellum period.

The course length is 30 hours and the course week is July 23–28, 2023. More details and how to apply here.