ENMRPB-Researching the Printed Book

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Paddy Bullard

Email: p.s.bullard@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

In ‘Researching the Printed Book’ we look at a different rare, distinctive or important item from University of Reading Special Collections each week. Hands-on study of particular books is focused through a survey of current theories in ‘The History of the Book’ – that is, the group of interdisciplinary methods that includes the study of bibliography, typography, authorship, library history, digital humanities, textual criticism, editorial theory, printing and publishing history, the law of copyright and censorship, and related themes.


The aim is to give students opportunities for guided, in-depth, hands-on study of rare printed books from the University of Reading archives. Reading Special Collections hold many important examples of finely printed and bibliographically significant books from Renaissance to the present day, including (but not limited to) the John and Griselda Lewis Collection of printed leaves, the Printing Collection, The Beckett Archive, The Private Press and Fine Printing Collections and the Mark Longman Library of books relating to the publishing trade. This module equips students with skills and knowledge that will allow them to work with these and similar collections as independent researchers.

Tutors from the Schools of Literature and Language Languages and Arts and Communication Design will give weekly master-classes on particular books, showcasing a range of methodologies and theoretical approaches to the study of printed texts. The module is designed so that students can explore the University of Reading’s nationally designated archives for themselves. It gives students an opportunity to complete a short, stand-alone book history project. Students may also approach the module as an opportunity for detailed bibliographical groundwork for their MA dissertations, or as a chance to prepare for doctoral level projects.

The module is designed to supplement the Autumn Term ‘Materiality and Textuality’ module, but it is not a formal requirement that students take both modules.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:

  • trace the key developments in the history of the book

  • place printed books within a range of cultural and historical contexts

  • consider how the material production of books affects textual and visual interpretation

  • read historical and archival materials in the light of established and emerging Book History methodologies

  • conduct and demonstrate independent thought and research in the selection and critical analysis of printed books

  • undertake bibliographic research and analysis of primary texts and printed materials

Additional outcomes:

Students will develop oral communication skills through seminar discussions. Students will develop research communication and personal archiving skills through the maintenance of a weekly digital learning journal. They will develop in-depth knowledge of both bibliographic and electronic resources for the study of material texts.

Outline content:

Each week students will be set a minimum of one chapter to read from The Broadview Reader in Books History, ed. Michelle Levy and Tom Mole (2015) as a methodological focus, and will be given further reading to explore as a preparation for the seminar. Classes will be conducted at Special Collections, London Road Campus. Weekly classes may include (but are not confined to):

  • David Scott Kastan on early modern play houses and printing houses; with Ben Jonson’s Workes (1616)

  • Franco Moretti on big data and ‘distance reading’; with Eliza Haywood, Secret Histories, Novels and Poems (1742)

  • Adrian Johns on ‘the book of nature’; with Helen Maria Williams’ 7-vol. translation of Alexander von Humboldt’s Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America (1818-29)

  • Michael Twyman on ‘What is Printing?’; with Owen Jones, Grammar of Ornament (1856)

  • Roger Chartier on communities of readers; with Aunt Judy’s Magazine (1866-73); and manuscript sources on printing history from the George Bell archive.

  • Anthony Grafton on the dematerialization of the book; with H.J. Massingham, Country Relics (1939), studied alongside actual objects described in this book, now in MERL’s collections.

  • Brenda R. Silver on textual criticism as feminist practice; with printed books from Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press, and relevant manuscript sources from the Private Press collection

  • D.F. McKenzie on the dialectics of bibliography; with printed materials from the Samuel Beckett Archive

  • Pierre Bourdieu on fields of cultural production; with Luigi Meneghello, The Outlaws (1964), and manuscript materials relating to its 1967 English tr. by Raleigh Trevelyan.

Preparatory reading will focus on secondary (theoretical and methodological) texts from the Broadview Reader. Students will not be expected to read modern editions or archive copies of the primary materials ahead of the seminar, unless a seminar leader sets extracts, in which case electronic copies will be made available through Blackboard.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module consists of eleven weekly seminars, each two-hours long. Each seminar will involve discussion of secondary texts prepared in advance, together with hands-on work with archive materials. The convenor will be available for consultation on a one-to-one basis to discuss students’ work and the progress of the module as a whole. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 22
Project Supervision 1
Guided independent study 177
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Dissertation 50
Portfolio 50

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

2000-word Dissertation 50%

Portfolio of five 300-word learning journals 50%

Formative assessment methods:

Students will complete a total of ten learning journal entries, five of which will be selected as summative, and five of which will remain as formative.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:


Reassessment arrangements:

Re-submission of coursework

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 20 April 2018


Things to do now