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Book Studies

Book studies course support.

Suggestions for beginning your book research

  • Familiarize yourself with the Title Page

  • Identify:   TITLE, AUTHOR, and WHEN, WHERE, and by WHOM it was published.  

  • Check the reverse of the title page for COPYRIGHT, EDITION, and other information

It takes practice learning to "read" title pages--most of us tend to only glance at them. You should also note what information you would expect to find but didn't--  

The earliest printed books (15th century) did not have a title page, but instead what is called a Colophon. The colophon included similar information to a title page along with additional information on the printing process and often included a printer's mark or device (trademark).  During the early print era, the printer was often the publisher, designer, and sometimes author and/or editor. 

Fine/private press books often have a colophon. Because fine press books reflect the techniques and materials of the early print era, a colophon is where the printer can share additional information about the book and bookmaking process.

In order to best describe your book, you will need to familiarize yourself with book anatomy.  See MSE's diagram, Wallace Bookbinding, Ullman Classics Library Preservation and Book Repair.

Additional points of your book to study:

  • Printing method:  Hand- or mechanical-press:  we can discuss ways to identify this in class--date is usually a key indicator; however, FP books are often printed with a hand-press.

  • Paper

  • Typeface

  • Illustration

  • Binding

  • PRINTER - style, technique, aesthetics, what can you find out about them and why they printed your book. 

  • Front/End Matter:  Introductions, notes to readers, and so on

  • Copy-Specific:  provenance, signatures, bookplates, and more.

General Sources

Nicolas Barker & Simran Thadani. John Carter's ABC For Book Collectors. Oak Knoll Press, British Library. 2016. 8th Ed. Standard reference for bibliographical and other terms for rare books and antiquarian trade.   Available on line via ILAB in PDF format:

I have two copies in the SC&A Reading Room--one is the 9th illustrated edition.  Ref Z1006.C37 (2016)

Oxford Companion to the Book by Suarez, Michael   Publication Date: 2010  

Nancy Stock-Allen's Introduction to Graphic Design History.  Good background of different periods of printing history. The author has worked and taught in the rare books field for many years.  See sections 5 and 6.

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