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The Book in History, Society, and Culture   Tags: bibliography, course guide, culture, humanities, social aspects  

"Adventures of the Book: From the Clay Tablet and the Papyrus Scroll to the Cyberbook." UC Davis Honors Program seminar.
Last Updated: Jul 2, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Images of the Newspaper

  The book, and other written and printed texts, have been around for millenia, but the newspaper as we know it today is by comparison a rank newcomer, for there were few newspapers or magazines before the middle of the 18th century. Even the scholarly or scientific  periodical has a longer history, having made its uncertain entrance in the 17th century. So while the periodical as such has been in existence for a little longer, the newspaper and the popular magazine could scarcely have existed before the spread of literacy contributed to the formation of mass markets. And although human populations, particulary in the West, but also in other major civilizational centers like the Middle East, India, China, and Japan, had been slowly becoming more literate for some time, the really impressive surges do not occur until late in the revoutionary ferment of the 18th century, and still more in the highly-polarized and tumultuous first half of the 19th century. 

  Newspapers and magazines have been studied not only by book historians, but also by social, economic, and cultural historians, and more recently by sociologists and anthropologists. In this scanned sample of a front page from the Washington Post in the late 19th century, we can see, with some variations, a format looking similar to what the newspaper still looks like today: broad sheets with a number of narrow columns. A closer look at the content shows it to be extremely varied, from announcements of opera and theater performances, lists of men's gloves and their prices, a resume of financial doings, domestic politics, foreign affairs, and of course crime, especially violent infranctions such as murder. In fact, the page brings together dozens of stories, themes, and other narrative elements that seem to have nothing to do with one another. This led anthropologist Benedict Anderson, based on his reading of German phillosopher Walter Benjamin,  to the insight that the only thing they all have in common is that every single item is reported on the same day, thus illustrating, in Anderson's view, how newspapers presuppose a shared concept of time that is both "empty" and "calendrical." 


Title Page Scans

   Title pages are essential sources of data for catalogers, textual bibliographers, and intellectual historians. In the title page scan from the first edition of Marx's Das Kapital, for example, we get a standard bibliographic description (author, title, publisher, place of publication, and date of publication) but we also can detect an unexpected puzzle, from the seemingly anomalous reference, below the year of publication, to what looks like another publisher in a completely different location (New-York. W. Schmldt. 4 Barclay-Street.). But what might be the relataionship between Meissner and Schmidt? 

   Note also that in the Kapital und Arbeit example, no date of publication is given.  This poses immmdiate questions for the scholar: when was this item published? And how can anyone find out? And what could the absence of this essential bibliographic fact mean? 


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