Two notable books have recently appeared on the relationship of books and book history to our understanding of the nineteenth-century.
The first is Andrew Piper’s Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age (University of Chicago, 2009). This looks like an extremely interesting book, and I’ll be reviewing it next year for Studies in Romanticism. Here is Piper’s description:
“At the turn of the nineteenth century, publishing houses in London, New York, Paris, Stuttgart, and Berlin produced books in ever greater numbers. But it was not just the advent of mass printing that created the era’s “bookish” culture. According to Andrew Piper, romantic writing and romantic writers played a crucial role in adjusting readers to this increasingly international and overflowing literary environment. Learning how to use and to want books occurred through more than the technological, commercial, or legal conditions that made the growing proliferation of books possible; the making of such bibliographic fantasies was importantly a product of the symbolic operations contained within books as well.
“Examining novels, critical editions, gift books, translations, and illustrated books, as well as the communities who made them, Dreaming in Books tells a wide-ranging story of the book’s identity at the turn of the nineteenth century. In so doing, it shows how many of the most pressing modern communicative concerns are not unique to the digital age but emerged with a particular sense of urgency during the bookish upheavals of the romantic era. In revisiting the book’s rise through the prism of romantic literature, Piper aims to revise our assumptions about romanticism, the medium of the printed book, and, ultimately, the future of the book in our so-called digital age.”
Piper’s book also has its own blog, or booklog, available here.
The second book of note is a collection of what look to be fascinating essays, Bookish Histories, edited by Ina Ferris and Paul Keen; can’t wait to see this:
Introduction: Towards a Bookish Literary History; I.Ferris & P.Keen
PART ONE: RECONFIGURING LITERARY HISTORY
Wild Bibliography: The Rise and Fall Book History in Nineteenth-Century Britain; J.Klancher
‘Uncommon Animals’: Making Virtue of Necessity in the Age of Authors; P.Keen
Making Literary History in the Age of Steam; W.McKelvy
PART TWO: BOOKS IN THE EVERYDAY
Canons’ Clockwork: Novels for Everyday Use; D.Lynch
Book-Love and the Remaking of Literary Culture in the Romantic Periodical; I.Ferris
The Art of Sharing: Reading in the Romantic Miscellany; A.Piper
Getting the Reading Out of London Labor; L.Price
PART THREE: REMAPPING THE LITERARY FIELD
Reading Collections: The Literary Discourse of Eighteenth-Century Libraries; B.M.Benedict
Imagining Hegel: Bookish Form and the Romantic Synopticon; M.Macovski
‘The Society of Agreeable and Worthy Companions’: Bookishness and Manuscript Culture after 1750; B.A.Schellenberg
The Practice and Poetics of Curlism: Print, Obscenity, and the Merryland Pamphlets in the Career of Edmund Curll; T.Keymer
Charlatanism and Resentment in London’s Mid-Eighteenth Century Literary Marketplace; S.During