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The Book: Print and Manuscript in Western Europe, Asia and the Middle East (1450-1650) - Harvard University



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Learn how book printing first developed and shaped the modern book by examining some examples of rare materials from Harvard's collections. With this course you earn while you learn, you gain recognized qualifications, job specific skills and knowledge and this helps you stand out in the job market.

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Cosa impari in questo corso?

Middle East
Book printing


Printing, or the capacity to reproduce text and image mechanically, has rightly been hailed as a technology with far-reaching impact. But the technology takes more than one form and originated in more than one historical context.

In this module of The Book: Histories Across Space and Time, you will learn how early printed books in mid-fifteenth century Europe were first modeled on medieval manuscripts, but soon developed new conventions that remain familiar to us today. This module also explores printing in East Asia, by wood block and movable type, and the late dominance of manuscript production in the Islamic world. 

In the first units of this module we compare and contrast manuscripts and printed books produced mainly in Europe from 1470-1700, looking at continuities and differences in layout, format, and the methods, materials, and economics of production. We also discuss examples of illustrated books and of handwritten annotations in books, including marginal annotations by readers and the marks of censors.

Two shorter units in this module focus on printing in East Asia, especially China, to highlight the features of woodblock printing which was common there, and on the Middle East, especially the Ottoman context, where a vibrant manuscript culture remained dominant until 1800. Taken together, this module gives an overview of three different contexts and technologies of book production before 1800.

Each unit features rare manuscripts and printed books in the Harvard Libraries, which viewers can investigate in more depth within the courseware and on their own.

What you'll learn

  • How a printed book differs from a manuscript
  • How xylography differs from typography
  • How illustrations were printed
  • How books were censored
  • How printing developed differently in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East

Ulteriori informazioni

Ann M. Blair Ann Blair is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Harvard University where she specializes in early modern European history and book history. She received her B.A. at Harvard (1984) and her PhD at Princeton (1990). She has been on the faculty at Harvard since 1996. She is the author of The Theater of Nature: Jean Bodin and Renaissance Science (1997) and Too Much To Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age (2010) and continues to investigate topics in intellectual history and in the history of pedagogical and scholarly practices. Lianbin Dai Lianbin Dai is a historian of late imperial China, majoring in history of the book, history of reading, bibliography and textual scholarship.