Though modern day notions of the book tend to be conceptualized in the form of paginated codices, the “book” is a capacious term. The physical form of the book, which changes through time and endless technological developments, has a rich history that forms the basis of Bibliography and the basis of how our societies consume information today.
This site is a compilation of the research conducted in Professor Whitney Trettien’s Cultures of the Book undergraduate seminar over the course of Fall 2018. From parchment and pagination to mimeographs and HTML, various book technologies were explored through presentations before being turned into research papers. The class’s emphasis on observing materiality, especially in the form of numerous objects from the University of Pennsylvania's Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts collection, unraveled discussions on the creation of meaning beyond content. Among other topics, we focused on:
- substrates: how do paper, parchment, and palm-leaf, among other materials, inform us of the contexts in which works were created?
- inscriptions: what implications do para-texts such as footnotes and apparatus such as binding have on the way content will be consumed?
- and platforms: in what ways do devices, software / hardware, and operating systems contribute function transitionally to give voice to content?
Our professor challenged us to publish our research on this MediaWiki platform. The Wikipedia platform has an ever-growing audience of readers / editors which represents an event in the incunabular era of the Digital Age, allowing the engagement of human knowledge from all corners of the globe. The page presents a specific contemporaneous evolution of the book. This process not only gave rise to a discussion on the role of this collaborative platform, but also gave us the opportunity to build a virtual museum that future students could continue to draw on and contribute to.
This project would not have been possible without the help of Cassidy Holahan, John Pollack, and the librarians and assistants in the University of Pennsylvania's Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.
|Chapters||A master of navigation, hated by John Locke, and a quintessential figure in both fictional and informative text. Read about the exciting journey of this seemingly ubiquitous paratext, its birth and its development, and how it completely altered our modern-day reading habits.||Identification |
|Early Duplicators||An examination of the social ramifications of early duplicators, especially in the context of underground movements. Explore how the democratization of printing lead to new bodies of art and literature, all characterized by resistance to dominant cultures.||Reproduction|
|Decorative Bindings||An investigation into how the binding of a book can provide an incredible amount of information as to its intellectual purpose, historical and cultural context, and its ownership.||Visual Technology |
|ePub||Taking a look at one of the most commonly used electronic file extensions for e-reading on digital platforms and how it changes our reading experience and our overall understanding of materiality.||Materiality Interactive|
|Flap Anatomies||Exploring a unique 3D genre that invites readers to participate using both sight and touch, originally created to better understand the human anatomy, and ever-expanding to a more creative purpose||Interactive|
|Footnotes||A method of organizing notes, commentary, and citations in the metadata of a text.||Metadata Identification Navigation|
|Fore-Edge Painting||An artform first utilized as a means of identification and later as embellishment. Take a look to learn more about these beautiful paintings.||Interactive Decorative Identification|
|HTML and the World Wide Web||Exploring markup languages, the World Wide Web, and the proliferation of perhaps the most universal and most precarious reading platform.||Materiality |
|Illumination||A view into understanding medieval illustrations and decorations featuring gold, silver, and other pigments. Learn how and why the illuminations were created. Read on to see how these phenomenal illustrations, designs, and miniatures could either help a reader, or distract them.||Visual Technology |
|Intaglio Printing||A brief history of intaglio printing as a genre of printing followed by an analysis and discussion of intaglio color printing, with a focus on its application today, and the question of the "copy" in a technology like intaglio.||Visual Technology|
|Movable Type||A fast, seamless means of reproducing text that revolutionized Renaissance Europe and the world. Arguably the most important invention of the millennium, Gutenberg's Printing Press transformed our conceptions of books, writing, and reading techniques and communities.||Reproduction|
|Page Numbers||While common today, page numbering is a technology that had to be invented and developed over time thanks to shifting reading cultures. Read on to understand the history of getting on the same page.||Navigation|
|Palm Leaf||Palm leaves are one of the earliest forms of writing media in the world, used for over 2,000 years primarily in South and Southeast Asia.||Materiality|
An analysis of the material qualities of The Crisis, the first Black-owned magazine in the United States. Read on to explore how this publication turned a simple substrate into a | tool for canonical inclusion.
|Parchment||Exploring the manufacturing process and history of parchment as well as the substrates uses through formal analysis of manuscripts created in the Middle Ages.||Materiality|
|Printer's Ornaments||These aren’t your garden-variety doodles; read along for interesting perspectives on how these print technologies impact the form and function of printed books.||Visual technology|
|Titles/Title Pages/Incipits/Colophons||How do you identify a book? Read to see how the everyday identifiers of titles and title pages correspond and coexist with their antiquated counterparts, the incipit and colophon.||Identification Navigation Metadata|
|Volvelles||A transformable book feature that connects book content with the external world through a reader's interaction; read on to explore this precursor to the calculator and its persistent evolution through human progress.||Visual Technology Materiality Navigation Interactive|
|Woodcuts||A woodcut is a kind of relief print in which material is removed from a wooden block to leave a raised design that will then be inked and printed. Through a focus on early printed herbals, this essay explores the idea of woodcut book illustration as representative of a burgeoning pursuit of accuracy and therefore of the rise of modern science in the Early Modern period.||Visual Technology |
- Visual Technology
Books from the Kislak Center
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