Lab Exercises for a Course on the Material Book

Elizabeth Yale
University of Iowa


Sequence of Lab Exercises for a Course on the Material Book in the Early Modern World

Elizabeth Yale, Department of History and Center for the Book, University of Iowa, Spring 2016



Lab Assignment 1

Review the books on the class cart. Choose “your” book (choose carefully; you’ll be learning intimately the physical structure/content of this book over the next six weeks). Describe your book (this time, in any way you choose, whether that means focusing on content, structure, or both). Why have you chosen this book?


Lab Assignment 2

Select your assigned book from our class cart. Identify the signatures and format. Do your best to describe the book using the collation formulas given in Gaskell, “Bibliographical Description.” Briefly review content (e.g. check title page, skim prefatory material). What do you think the significance of format might be in relation to content?


Lab Assignment 3

Locate three different descriptions of your book (use sellers’ catalogues, library catalogs, and bibliographical reference works.) What are the differences and similarities between each of these descriptions? What does each description do? Is it the same “book” in each description?


Lab Assignment 4

For assigned book, make a full transcription of the title page. Read the dedication: to whom is the book dedicated, and why? Choose three other books printed in different countries and centuries (15th–18th). Locate the name of the author, the printer, and the place and date of publication on each. Write this information down for submission on Thursday. What do you learn from it?


Lab Assignment 5

Download the EEBO copy of one of your lab books (Instructions will be given in class for how to do this). Print out five pages of the EEBO copy. Compare and contrast these five pages with the same pages of your physical lab book. Do you see any typographical differences? Study the running heads in both your lab copy and in the EEBO copy. Do you see patterns in the running heads? What are these patterns, and what do they tell you about how the book was printed? Are there differences between the copies?


Lab Assignment 6

Reflect on and summarize the arguments that McKenzie and Dane make in this week’s readings. How might these arguments impact your assessment and analysis of your book?


Lab Assignment 7

Identify binding style and materials of your book. Describe and identify conservation work that has been done to the book (or, if the book has not been conserved, describe work that needs to be done). What does the binding and conservation of this book suggest about its history?


Lab Assignment 8

Examine the illustrations in your book. How many are there? How are they positioned in relation to the text? How were they made? What are their function? Do they support the communication of information in the text, do they stand in contradiction to it, or do they bear some other relationship to the text?


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