PUB801 Syllabus Spr16

Acknowledgement of Territory:

I would like to acknowledge that our class gathers on unceded Indigenous land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples. Unceded means that this land was never surrendered, relinquished or handed over in any way. This includes the territories of the Musqueam, Skohomish, Stó:lo, and Tsleil-Waututh nations.

Course Information:

Tuesdays and Fridays 9:30-11:30

Required Text:

  • Keith Houston, The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time (Norton 2016)
  • History of the Book in Canada, volumes 1-3 (on reserve in the Belzberg Library)

Useful online resources:

Course Description:

A consideration of publishing from tablets, scrolls and codices to movable type and mass production including discussion of the medium of print and its influence on human expression. Emphasis is placed on the evolution of publishing and publishing policies in history. Prerequisite: Admittance to the program.

Course Objectives:

Students will gain familiarity with major technological and social changes to gave rise to contemporary forms of print culture and publishing, with a focus on books and magazines. Students will gain familiarity with print culture forms from different historical periods, learn to contextualize print artifacts in terms of the larger shifts in the history of publishing, and gain experience in remediating and/or publicizing aspects of publishing history. Particular attention will be paid to the challenges of putting various forces in conversation: technological, social, cultural, and political.

Assignments and Evaluation (see Evaluation page for details):

  • Participation (cumulative) (20%)
  • Seminar Presentation (by sign-up) (20%)
  • Project Proposal (February 3) (10%)
  • Research Paper and Lightning Presentations (February 24) (20%)
  • Final Project (April 7) (30%)

Course Schedule:

Intro: There is no class on January 6; please take this time to read (or listen to!):
Week One: How to study publishing history

Jan 10: What is Publishing History? (Howsam & Gerson)

Jan 13: How do we study the history of publishing?

Week Two: Papyrus & Parchment

Jan 17: No class

Jan 20: The invention of papyrus and parchment

  • Houston ch. 1-2
Week Three: actual paper, not made of skin

Jan 24: Special Collections Visit 

Jan 27: Pulp paper and the globalization of the paper trade

  • Houston ch. 3-4 (Lydhia)
Week Four: Paper problems (colonization, digitization)

Jan 31: The colonial history of paper

  • Keshav Mukunda (Publishing Librarian) on research skills
  • J. Matthew Huculak, “Reading Forensically: Modernist Paper, Newfoundland, and Transatlantic Materiality” ( (Apurva)
  • HBiC v.1, “Part Two: Printing in British North America”

Feb 3: From print ephemera to digital preservation

Week Five: Emerging Leaders


Week Six: Reading Week


Week Seven: Writing & Moveable Type

Feb 21: John Maxwell: Gutenberg and the invention of print

  • Houston ch. 5-6 (Summer)

Feb 24: Print and the rise of mass literacy

  • Richard, Altick, “The Past and the Present,” The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800-1900 (pub800-g100 course list) (Aurora)
  • Research Papers & Lightning Presentations Due
Week Eight: Typesetting & Periodicals

Feb 28: Newspapers and Print Technology

  • HBiC v. 2, “Part Two: Printing and Material Form” (Keyan)
  • HBiC v.2, “Part Seven: Readers and Reading” (Ariel)
  • Linotype: The Film (screening date TBD, but there will be popcorn)

Mar 3: Print Culture vs. Publishing

  • Houston ch. 7
  • Lisa Gitelman, “Print Culture (Other Than Codex): Job Printing and Its Importance,” N. Katherine Hayles and Jessica Pressman, eds., Comparative Textual Media: Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era (pub800-g100 course list) (Kate) 
Week Nine: illuminations & Illustrations

Mar 7: Alessandra Bordini: Aldus Manutius’ Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (The Strife of Love in a Dream, 1499)

  • Houston ch. 8-10 (Kirsten)

Mar 10: Conversion through the printed image

  • HBiC v.1, “Part One: Print and a New World” (Bec)
  • Rubric Development for Final Projects 


Week Ten: better living through science

Mar 14: Lithography and Photography

  • Houston ch. 11 (Jess R.)

Mar 17: Mass Culture and Magazines

  • Richard Ohmann, “The Origins of Mass Culture,” Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century (pub800-g100 course list) (Dana)
Week Eleven: the invention of the codex

Mar 21: From the Scroll to the Codex

  • Houston ch. 12-13 (Carmen)

Mar 24: Serialization and the multiple forms of the book

  • HBiC v. 2, “Part Six: Print in Daily Life” (Lauren)
Week Twelve: Binding & the Modern Book

Mar 28: Why books look like this

  • Houston ch. 14-15 (Jess K.)

Mar 31: Libraries, collections, clubs

  • Janice A. Radway, “A Library of Books for the Aspiring Professional: Some Effects of Middlebrow Reading,” A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire (pub800-g100 course list) (Tara)
Week Thirteen: eBooks and the History of Publishing

Apr 4: eBooks as a Bibliographic Problem

*NB* Apr 5Final Projects & Presentations Due