Main Page

From Cultures of the Book at Penn
Revision as of 06:30, 2 December 2020 by (talk)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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.

Technology Description Image Category
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.
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.
Resistance mimeograph machines.JPG
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.
Blind and Gold Tooling.png
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.
Screenshot 2018-12-10 14.07.42.png
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
Thumbnail Picture.jpeg
Footnotes A method of organizing notes, commentary, and citations in the metadata of a text.
Footnotes from Harper & Brothers Revised Old Testament.jpeg
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.
Cave Dwellers, The World Before the Flood, Boston Public Library.jpeg
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.
HTML5 Logo 256.png
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.
Livre des faits de Jacques de Lalaing .jpg
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.
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.
Hoernen pages.PNG
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.
Second folio from Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā.png

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.
Page 28r of Ms. Codex 236.png
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.
Ornament 1.png
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.
Main page thumb.jpg
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.
Woodcut blurb.jpg
Visual Technology


Books from the Kislak Center

BS185 1694 .L6 1694

BS185 1811 .L6

Ms. Coll. 1225.

Ms. Indic 32.

Oversize Ms. Codex 1859


Folio DA130 .H7 1587

Folio Inc B-543

Inc B-744.

PS3503.A723 W59 1900

FC6 D4538 Ef662Sb

RG652 .S767o

Folio Z1033.T68 M55

Oversize Ms. Codex 1881

PR2043 .C63

PA6156 .G4 1927

PA6613.F8 E7

Ms. Drawer 52 - 220.39T 1

PR6060.O3 U54 1999

PQ7797.C7145 R313 1987

PA6446 .A2 1501b.

Lea Collection Inc S-285.

Folio Inc B-143.

Folio 580 F953a

Folio QK41 .M3515 1563

Folio QK99.A1 M38 1600

Folio 580 M433.3

Bib 7249834

Hekto-Printer gelatin transfer duplicator

Lea Collection. D.2.10-11

Lea Collection. S-31.4.1

90 1880H

PR2807.A2 C4 1965

QD14 .D423

E185.5 .C92

Ms. Codex 1057

Folio GrC P7468.3 1509.

Folio Inc B-526.

Ms. Codex. 273

Ms. Codex. 236

Ms. Codex. 1053

SC V7438 515s

SC55 C3986 548c 1550

EC Sh155 622oc

EC65 C3558 658l


The content in this book is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International unless otherwise stated on individual pages, in which case the individual licenses supercede this general one. To understand your rights as a user of this website, please see this page:

2020 edits

Remote Book History Resources