History of the book, first readings

Darnton and Chartier, mainly focus on 18th C; De Certeau a more recent view of reading. Items marked * are for information only (i.e., optional readings).

Darnton, "What Is the History of Books?" BHR, 9

Emergence of book history; case study of Rigaud, bookseller of Montpellier; headings for research: Authors; Publishers; Printers; Shippers; Booksellers; Readers. Interdisciplinarity needed.

Darnton, "First Steps Toward a History of Reading," in online Readings

Readers in history: "our relation to those texts cannot be the same as that of readers in the past" (155); readers of Rousseau's La Nouvelle Héloïse; reading was more closely related to life then; reading "fever" of 18th C; problems of studying history of reading; reading clubs; issues for research

*Darnton, "Readers Respond to Rousseau: The Fabrication of Romantic Sensitivity." The Great Cat Massacre (2001), pp. 215-256.

For a detailed study of readers of Rousseau's La Nouvelle Héloïse. Intensive reading; Rousseau's correspondence with readers: "They wanted to tell him how they identified with his characters, how they, too, had loved, sinned, suffered, and resolved to be virtuous again in the midst of a wicked and uncomprehending world" (246)

*Darnton, Robert, "Histoire du Livre. Geschichte des Buchwesens. An Agenda for Comparative History." Publishing History, 22 (1987): 33-41.

headings: Piracy; Trade patterns; Trading techniques; Finance; Literary property; Payments to authors; Subscriptions; Censorship; Reading societies; Popular literature; General patterns of book production; Reading habits; Sociology of consumption; Roles and functions in the communications circuit

Chartier, Roger, "Labourers and Voyagers" BHR, 87 (1992)

Indeterminacy of reading; transformative effects of reading; misleading emphasis on class; reading practices that have disappeared; material basis of book; influence of differences in book quality; three "revolutions" in reading history; measuring reading in history; inventiveness of readers

Certeau, Michel De, "Reading as Poaching" (original publication 1974) in online Readings

Influence of the media, the academy; consumption model of reading; reading active not passive; interpretive monopoly of critics; transgressive acts of real readers; withdrawal of the body in reading.

Some differences, thinking of Darnton essay, BHR, 9, then/ now

Power of the book
Literacy rates
Literary education
Censorship, illegal importation, etc.
Patronage of authors, subscription
Rise of the novel
Consumerism, mass production
Other media (photography, film, radio, TV, internet; newspapers, journals)
Modern printing methods, binding
Cost of printing and binding
Limited circulation of books, then / Amazon
Stratification by class, editions (penny dreadfuls, etc.)
Copyright, piracy
Public libraries
Book clubs, reading groups; middle / working class
Disposable income for books

return to Making Readers

Document created September 19th 2006 / updated January 31st 2011