Mary Clapinson. A Brief History of the Bodleian Library (revised edition). Julia Walworth. Merton College Library.

Taken together, these two recent books provide a succinct – but very satisfying – description of two of the most famous libraries in the world.  In both, the text is accompanied by many appropriate illustrations, virtually all of them in color. In what follows, I emphasize the earliest and most formative years of each institution.

Andie Silva, The Brand of Print: Marketing Paratexts in the Early English Book Trade.

*Disclaimer: the author of the book is the current editor of SHARP News, however she did not procure nor edit this review in any way.*

In a year where bookcase credibility has become a crucial part of academic life, with towers of texts teetering into every Zoom call, Andie Silva’s insistence on the book as cultural commodity in this thought-provoking and innovative monograph is particularly resonant. From the introduction, the originality of Silva’s work becomes apparent as she productively combines contemporary marketing theory and book history. Sidestepping the focus upon the author found in Erne and Kastan, Silva places our attention firmly on “print agents” – a capacious term which here includes printers, publishers, editors, translators, stationers, and book sellers. By exploring the actions of these print agents through marketing theory, this wide-ranging, perceptive book draws together both market choices and cultural value, convincingly and cogently linking the commercial and rhetorical characteristics of the early modern marketplace of books and ideas. Silva challenges the distinctions that often stymie early modern book history: between reading for profit and reading for pleasure, literary and non-literary texts, canonical woks and printed ephemera, manuscript and print. 

Introducing SHARP Features

The book is so much more than that thing with pages sitting on your shelf, or the file on your e-reader. Books are concepts, symbols, the subjects of viral social media posts, set pieces in popular culture, and more. As book historians, we are used to engaging with these objects and ideas in a relatively formal way, via fairly prescriptive formats, such as articles and conference papers. But where do you go if you want to talk about how an anime interprets the development of the codex format and moveable type printing? Or if you want a quick overview of what’s going on on #BookTok? Or if you want speculation on the reading room practices of Terry Pratchett’s Unseen University? Welcome to SHARP News Features, the home of book history writing, scholarship, and reflections that are a little bit outside the norm.