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Yale Program in the History of the Book

The Yale Program in the History of the Book brings together scholars across disciplines to explore the materiality of the written word over time and across cultures.  A collaboration between Yale’s Department of English and Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, it offers seminar meetings for the Yale community and a series of public lectures by speakers across the field of book history. Beginning in autumn 2013, we will also host an annual symposium.

The Program is organized by David Scott Kastan, Chair (George M. Bodman Professor of English Literature, Yale Department of English); Kathryn James (Curator of Early Modern Books and Manuscripts & the Osborn Collection, Beinecke Library); and Aaron T. Pratt (Ph.D. candidate, Yale Department of English).

Events are usually located in the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  Lectures take the form of a forty-five minute talk followed by brief Q&A, and each seminar meeting provides an opportunity for discussion centered on a pre-circulated paper. To be added to the Program list and receive seminar readings, please contact Aaron Pratt.

Questions?  Please contact Aaron Pratt or Kathryn James. You can also find us on Twitter, where we post updates and sometimes live tweet our events: @yalebookhistory.

About the Program

To foster discussion across the many related fields practicing book history, the Yale Program in the History of the Book is organized around two events with each speaker: a public lecture and, on the following day, a seminar discussion centering on our guests’ work in progress. Beginning in the autumn of 2013, we will also host an annual symposium.

Papers are pre-circulated in the week preceding the seminar. To be added to the seminar list, please contact Aaron Pratt or Kathryn James.

Events Schedule

Beinecke Library, 121 Wall Street, New Haven, Connecticut
Lectures: 4:30 pm, mezzanine
Seminar: 5 pm, room 38

Spring 2014

Marc Michael Epstein, Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Vassar College
Book Arts and the Expansion of the Methodological Toolbox for the Study of Medieval Judaism
Lecture, Wednesday, February 12, 2014; Seminar, Thursday, February 13, 2014

Timothy Barrett, Director, Center for the Book, and Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Sciences, University of Iowa
Papermakers Who Made Parchment: Product Innovation in 14th- and 15th-Century European Papermaking
Lecture, Wednesday, March 5, 2014; Seminar, Thursday, March 6, 2014

Jessie Ann Owens, Professor of Music and Dean, Division of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies, University of California, Davis
From Concept to Printed Book: The Genesis and Manufacture of Thomas Morley’s 1597 Music Treatise
Lecture, Wednesday, April 9, 2014; Seminar, Thursday, April 10, 2014

Past Events

Fall 2013

Symposium, Structures of Meaning in the History of the Book
Friday and Saturday, September 20 and 21, 2013
See the “Annual Symposium” tab for more information

Leslie Howsam, University Professor of History, University of Windsor
Mediated Histories: How Victorian Periodicals Parsed the Past
Lecture, Wednesday, October 2, 2013; Seminar, Thursday, October 3, 2013

Randall McLeod, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, University of Toronto
De motu textis
Lecture, Wednesday, November 6, 2013; Seminar, Thursday, November 7, 2013

Peter Kornicki, Professor of Japanese Studies and Head of Department of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge
Sins of Omission: What the Publishers’ Catalogues of Edo-period Japan Left Out
Lecture, Wednesday, December 11, 2013; Seminar, Thursday, December 12, 2013


Michael Warner, “Preachers and Publics”
Lecture, Wednesday, October 10, 2012; Seminar, Thursday, October 11, 2012

Robert Darnton, “Blogging, Now and Then (250 Years Ago)”
Lecture, Wednesday, Oct 24, 2012; Seminar, Thursday, October 25, 2012*
Seminar details: 9-10:30 am, Linsly-Chittenden Hall, room 319, 63 High Street

David Brewer, “The Ancien Régime of Authorial Names”
Seminar, Thursday, December 13, 2012
Cosponsored by the 18th- and 19th-Century Colloquium, Department of English

Aaron T. Pratt, “Buying Playbooks in Early Modern England”
Seminar, Thursday, January 17, 2013

Roger Chartier, “Author’s Hand and Printer’s Mind in Early Modern Europe”
Lecture, Wednesday, February 6, 2013; Seminar, Thursday, February 7, 2013

Elizabeth Eisenstein, Reactions to a New Medium in the Old Millenium
Lecture, Wednesday, March 6, 2013; Seminar, Thursday, March 7, 2013

Matthew Kirschenbaum, “Track Changes: The Literary History of Word-Processing”
Seminar, Thursday, April 25, 2013



Structures of Meaning in The History of the Book
A Symposium of the Yale Program in the History of the Book
Friday and Saturday, September 20 and 21, 2013.

This symposium will examine how meaning has been and continues to be organized around the material structures of the book — those conceived in manuscript, print, and new media.

It will begin on Friday afternoon at the Beinecke with a “Biblio-Laboratory,” which will highlight particular questions or points of instability in the relationship between structure and meaning in book history. Drawing objects – with their elusive, resistant qualities – into the discussion of objects, the laboratory frames discussion around the relationships that articulate the textual artifact as focus of research. After this, David Scott Kastan will deliver the symposium’s keynote, which will be followed by a reception. We will then gather at the Yale Department of English on Saturday for three seminar sessions, each centering on short, pre-circulated papers from panelists that respond to a set of organizing questions. Seminar chairs will provide introductory comments, launching discussions that aim to get at what are arguably the central questions asked by what has become known as the History of the Book: how do the forms in which texts are physically constituted and circulated affect their meaning, and how might these forms affect the very texts that are written and transmitted in the first place?

If you would like to participate in the symposium, please RSVP to Aaron T. Pratt ( Space, unfortunately, is limited.


Friday, September 20

At the Beinecke Library

2:00-3:30pm – Biblio-Laboratory, rooms 38-39

Some lab stations include:

Chemical structures – Ink, Corrosion, and Text Loss
Marie-France Lemay (Yale)

Technological obsolescence – Data Recovery and Authorial Intent
Gabriela Redwine (Yale)

Survival – Text Fragments and Binding Structures
Ray Clemens (Yale)

Color – Joseph Albers’ Interaction of Color Re-Visited
Jae Rossman (Yale)

Binding Structures – Format, Literary Genre, and Disciplinary Reading
Aaron T. Pratt (Yale)

The Aura – Originality, Authenticity, and the Object as Fetish
Kathryn James (Yale)

4:30-6:00pm – Welcome and Keynote by David Scott Kastan (Yale)

6:00-7:00pm – Opening Reception

Saturday, September 21
At the Department of English, Linsly-Chittenden 319

9:00-10:00am – Morning Coffee

10:00-11:30am – Seminar 1, Pages and Screens
Panelists: Lisa Gitelman (NYU) and Bruce Gordon (Yale)
Respondent and Moderator: Jessica Brantley (Yale)

11:30-1:30pm – Break for Lunch

1:30-3:00pm – Seminar 2, Volumes and Packages
Panelists: Gabriela Redwine (Yale) and John Williams (Yale)
Respondent and Moderator: Aaron T. Pratt (Yale)

3:00-3:30pm – Afternoon Coffee

3:30-5:00pm – Seminar 3, Collections and Repositories
Panelists: Arthur Bahr (MIT) and Jeffrey Todd Knight (Washington)
Respondent and Moderator: Carol Chiodo (Yale)



Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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