The Renaissance Book, 1400–1650

Current faculty: Craig Kallendorf & Daniel J. Slive

This course will serve as a comprehensive introduction to the history of the book in early modern Europe, from the beginning of the fifteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth.  Our goal will be to use the holdings of the UCLA Special Collections, focusing on Aldines and other pre-1600 imprints, the Getty Research Institute Special Collections, and the Huntington Library to learn to “read” a Renaissance book, both as a physical object and as a carrier of both informational content and cultural values.  We will examine in turn how these books were produced, distributed, and used by those who bought and read them.  Topics include:

  • the transition from manuscript to printed book
  • the mechanics of early printing
  • famous scholar-printers
  • editing and correcting
  • woodcuts and engravings
  • typeface and its meaning
  • the popular print
  • bindings
  • the Renaissance book trade
  • censorship
  • the formation of libraries, both individual and institutional
  • marginalia as clues to reading practices and information management, and
  • researching a Renaissance book, using both print and online sources.

The course is intended for special collections librarians, collectors, booksellers, and scholars and graduate students in any field of Renaissance studies.

Recommended reading:

Primary texts:

Carter, John.  ABC for Book Collectors. 9th ed. Revised by Nicolas Barker and Simran Thadani.  (New Castle, DE, 2016).  Any of the more recent editions will do, although this edition is illustrated.

Pettegree, Andrew, The Book in the Renaissance (New Haven and London, 2010).

Supplementary material:

Cavallo, Guglielmo and Roger Chartier (eds.), A History of Reading in the West (Amherst, MA, 1999).

Darnton, Robert, “What Is the History of Books?” in The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History (New York, 1990), 107-35.

Eisenstein, Elizabeth, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1979).

Jardine, Lisa, “The Triumph of the Book,” Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (London: Macmillan, 1996), pp. 133-80.

Johns, Adrian, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago, 1998).

Kallendorf, Craig, Virgil and the Myth of Venice: Books and Readers in the Italian Renaissance (Oxford, 1999).

Lefebvre, Lucien and Henri Jean Martin, The Coming of the Book: The Impact of the Book 1450-1800, trans. David Gerard (London and New York, 1976).

McKitterick, David., Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order, 1450-1830 (Cambridge, 2003).

Pearson, David, Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook (London and New Castle, DE, 1994; rpt. 1998).

Scribner, Robert W., For the Sake of Simple Folk: Popular Propaganda for the German Reformation (Oxford, 1994).

Sherman, William H., Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia, 2008).

Storm van Leeuwen, Jan, “Bookbindings, Their Depictions, Their Owners and Their Contents,” in Eloquent Witnesses: Bookbindings and their History (London and New Castle, Del., 2004), 30-52.

–A packet of readings will also be prepared by the instructors.

Years taught: 2013, 2015, 2017 by Craig Kallendorf; 2021 by Craig Kallendorf & Daniel J. Slive

Previous Title: History of the Renaissance Book