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Michelle Levy and Tom Mole, eds. The Broadview Introduction to Book History

Michelle Levy and Tom Mole, eds. The Broadview Introduction to Book History. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2017. 256 p., ill. ISBN: 9781554810871. $US31.95.

The Broadview Introduction to Book History (2017) is an unusual textbook. It provides an informed introduction that is scholarly, concise and accessible to readers at different points in their education. At the same time, it is written in such an animated style and tone that I cannot wait to use it in class and follow through on the suggested readings myself. Although packaged as a companion book to The Broadview Reader in Book History (2014),I found the Introduction to be excellent by itself as it provides such a thorough and contained discussion.

The writing, tone and balanced approach to some “hot spots” in book history studies such as the material/digital divide are all excellent. The content and style are exemplary as educational prompts. The examples are very well chosen from a wide range of texts from different periods and genres of English and American literature, including Children’s Literature. Used as a textbook, one can link class activities with some of its rhetorical approaches and discussions. For example, the beginning of the first chapter, “Materiality,” gives me an idea for extending a class exercise in both undergraduate surveys of children’s literature and graduate courses on historical children’s books. Doing the exercise based on this discussion, it could be called Pre-reading, or the book as object, or what the book tells you about itself, would enable an instructor to hook a class’s attention to books as objects and texts, as well as become self-reflective about the roles of a reader. Similarly, Ch. 2 on “Textuality” begins with a teachable discussion about the capitalization and punctuation of Keats “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

Due to my own interests, I found the discussion of marginalia most rewarding. Due to my own learning trajectory, I found Ch. 3 on “Printing and Reading” and Ch 4. on “Intermediality” most informative. My only criticism is that the last chapter on “Remediating,” although it necessarily covers a wide span of material, became a bit too survey-like. Here, although I understand the constraints of both writing an introduction and of glossary-making, I would have liked a few more key digital literacy terms defined – especially “remediation,” drawing on media-in- transition thinkers such as Jay David Bolter, Richard Grusin, David Thornburn ,and Henry Jenkins.

I applaud Broadview for the attractive layout but have two criticisms. The page numbers are unusual in the side margins but the small size makes them hard to spot quickly. The choice of and location of the figures are excellent. In one place though, unfortunately the placement worked against the argument a bit. If figure 4.2 could have been placed above the final paragraph on page 121 that starts another discussion, the reader could compare the facsimile image and the typed words of Emily Dickinson’s poem more fully.

I want to congratulate and thank Michelle Levy and Tom Mole and Broadview for undertaking this important and fascinating contribution to book history.

Jacqueline Reid-Walsh
Pennsylvania State University

Published inBook review

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