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Book History: Guide

A guide to the study of book history and the creation of books as art

About This Guide

Liturgical book leaf from the Queens College Rare Books CollectionAt its core, book history is a way of seeing. When we examine texts through the lens of book history, we do more than simply read words: we examine the physical objects that transmit those words to an audience. 

This guide is intended as an entryway into the world of books as physical objects. Here you can learn about

  • book anatomy, including an overview of book parts, specialist vocabulary, and an introduction to bibliography and textual scholarship
  • early writing technologies, including cuneiform, papyrus, and the development of paper
  • book history, including the development of the codex, the Gutenberg Bible, and overviews of significant eras in book history
  • book arts, including printmaking and illustration, the basics of typography, and how to make chapbooks and zines
  • further resources, including local centers devoted to book arts and links to small presses

As a whole, this guide is designed to help you analyze a text and its material form in order to illuminate its purpose, audience, production, reception, and social context at a moment or moments in time, and prepare you to contribute to book history by thoughtfully and purposefully creating books as art.