History of the Book in America, 1700–1900

Course Information

Instructors: John Garcia
Location: Los Angeles
Format: In-person
Dates: August 12–16, 2024
Tuition: $1200


This seminar provides the foundations for a critical analysis of “the book” in American society and culture, from the arrival of moveable type in North America to the immense world of nineteenth-century print culture. We will examine and discuss a variety of print artifacts to understand how early American books influenced (and were influenced by) politics, commerce, technology, religion, and literary and popular culture. The seminar centers the experiences and voices of groups who struggled to find their way into print, especially Indigenous peoples, Latina/os, and African Americans. Likewise, participants will learn how marginalized groups were always present in the material practices of early American printing, illustrating, papermaking, binding, and bookselling. Geographical coverage extends beyond the territories that became the United States to include the Caribbean, the Pacific, and portions of Latin America. Hands-on sessions with primary sources will explore ways that bibliographical analysis lends itself to richer interpretations of American history and culture. We will also give time to collecting Americana and discuss how collections are worthy objects of study in their own right. 

We will take a trip to the Huntington Library to examine early American books in that important collection. Participants will be exposed to the rich collections of the American Antiquarian Society, the largest and most accessible repository of pre-1900 American print culture. We will also handle rare materials in the UCLA Library Special Collections such as almanacs, children’s books, bibles, ephemera, and books related to California and the American West. Graduate students, established scholars, librarians, collectors, and members of the antiquarian book trade are all encouraged to apply.

Course readings draw from recent scholarship on early American books and print culture (Gruesz, Stein, Loughran, Spires, Dinius, Round, and others). Participants are encouraged to peruse in advance the first three volumes in the History of the Book in Americaseries published by UNC Press: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World (2007), An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790-1840 (2010), and The Industrial Book: 1840-1880 (2009). Essays from these volumes will be on the list of required readings. 

Participants will receive a digital course packet with PDFs of assigned readings, reference guides compiled for further study, and images of archival materials from major institutional collections.





Completion of this course helps to meet requirements for one of the following certificate requirements:

  • 1 of 3 elective credit courses for Certificate in Rare Books and Manuscripts, or
  • 1 History of the Book course for Certificate in Rare Books and Manuscripts
  • 1 of 2 elective credit courses for Certificate in Librarianship, Activism, and Justice
  • 1 History of the Book course for Certificate in Librarianship, Activism, and Justice