The Broadview Introduction to Book History, Michelle Levy and Tom Mole (Broadview, 2017)

The blurb on the back cover of this beautifully produced little book claims it is ‘a road map’ to the ‘dynamic, interdisciplinary field’ of book history.  That claim is justified by a reading of its content: five chapters which cover Materiality, Textuality, Printing and Reading, Intermediality, and Remediating. There are also invaluable Chronology, Glossary, and Further Reading sections at the end of the book, making it an ideal resource for anybody interested in getting a good grasp of the fundamentals—and the intersecting developing areas of study—of book history.   

Just like its rival (and more well-established) text, David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery’s An Introduction to Book History (Routledge, 2nd edition, 2013), The Broadview Introduction also has a companion Reader (Broadview, 2015). The Broadview Reader mirrors chapter headings in The Broadview Introduction, a simple structural decision that makes using the two books in the classroom very easy to do.  Indeed, The Broadview Introduction is written in an accessible style that students should respond well to. The book is not over-cluttered with footnotes, but it signposts key materials clearly and cross-references to The Broadview Reader so that extended reading is facilitated.  

The authors acknowledge that their approach is inevitably going to be marked by their own backgrounds in literary studies and as scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  But this does not prevent the book from ranging widely across other areas and disciplines, and sections such as those on Typography (pp. 22-25) and Orality and Writing (pp. 105-112) are packed full of details which should ignite interest in any reader. Where the authors’ specialist interests come through, in terms of examples used to illustrate certain points, like Keat’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, used to show how changes in textuality can impact on meaning, or the study of the poems of Wordsworth and Dickinson in the section on Intermediality, these add value by rooting the theories and ideas in confidently articulated case studies.  

Broadview should be commended for its production values, too. For any book lover, this is a book about books that is a covetable material object. Cover design, typography, layout—all are designed to make the reading experience a positive one.  As the book itself points out, ‘Books don’t speak to us only by using words but also through every aspect of their physical construction’ (p. 26).  This is an excellent addition to texts on Book History and should help to ensure the field continues to grow into the future. Highly recommended.  

Comment

Samantha Rayner

I teach and write on publishing and book related topics, with special interests in publishing archives and publishing paratexts, bibliography, the culture of bookselling, editors and editing, bibliotherapy, and academic publishing. I have also taught extensively on English Literature courses and have specialisms in Medieval and Arthurian texts.

I enjoy collaborative and interdisciplinary project work, including knowledge transfer activities. I have been Chair for the Association of Publishing Education (APE), which works to foster links and shared practice between all publishing courses across the UK, and was the Director of CoDE (see http://www.anglia.ac.uk/cultures-of-the-digital-economy) at Anglia Ruskin University, with a remit to foster research in the Creative Industries.

I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review Panel, and was the Principal Investigator on the AHRC/British Library Academic Book of the Future Project (see http://academicbookfuture.org/ ), as well as a member of the Advisory Board of the AHRC Reading Digital Fictions project (https://readingdigitalfiction.com/). Currently, I am working as part of the Advisory Board on the AHRC Digital Library Futures project.

I am also a Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies (see https://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/fellowships/research-fellows), the Deputy Editor for the Journal of the International Arthurian Society, and the General Editor for a new series of publishing mini-monographs with Cambridge University Press (info forthcoming). I also serve on the Board of UCL Press.