Course Code
HIST 0486
Course Type
Subject Credit
Course Availability

Before the Internet, there was the printing press. Exploited by some as an engine of reform, and condemned by others as the end of knowledge itself, ‘the art of artificial writing’ had revolutionary consequences for Europe. From its arrival in the 1440s, we find entrepreneurs using fonts to imitate manuscripts, but in numbers never attainable by the scribes that preceded them. During the Reformation, the technology was put to ideological ends by both establishment and anti-establishment authors. Printing also left its mark on language and literature: in the earliest English printed books we find editors grappling with a multiplicity of dialects that eventually becomes standardized, while some poets actively shunned the medium, seeing it as inherently prone to error. This course includes an introduction to the practical study of books as objects: how they were made, and how we interpret the variety of fonts and marginalia found in them. Students will have the opportunity to work with the rich resources on offer both through the Bodleian libraries and within our own collection of early printed books and manuscripts in the Feneley Library.