featured image for Digital Literary Sphere showing a laptop with book pages coming off the screen

Simone Murray, The Digital Literary Sphere: Reading, Writing, and Selling Books in the Internet Era

Simone Murray’s The Digital Literary Sphere has a set of ambitious and interrelated objectives. The book proposes to understand digital writing as the product of an industry that is also becoming digital, touching on the ways that the digital sphere creates its own conceptualizations of authorship, marketing, book reviewing and reading. The Digital Literary Sphere additionally features a rationale for thinking of “the digital’s significance for literary culture” (1) via some of the methods and concerns of book history, media studies, and a specific aspect of electronic literary studies. Along the way, Murray considers, and for the most part discards, other ways of understanding digital writing, including literary studies more generally, the Digital Humanities, cultural studies, approaches making use of Bourdieu’s conception of the literary field, and literary sociology.

Cover of the book Radiant with Color and Art

Lauren B. Hewes and Kayla Haveles Hopper, eds., Radiant with Color & Art: McLoughlin Brothers and the Business of Picture Books, 1858-1920

“What’s the use of an exhibition catalog,” Alice might well have said to herself, “if it doesn’t have beautiful pictures and brilliant essays?” This catalog of the McLoughlin Brothers’ more than sixty years of publishing children’s books, games, and toys surely would have delighted little Alice. The first third of the book consists of three well-written informative essays and the last two thirds make up the illustrated exhibition catalog itself. The items were drawn primarily from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society with help from private collectors Linda F. and Julian L. Lapides, Richard Cheek, and the George M. Fox Collection at the San Francisco Public Library.

Cover for Limited Editions Club book

Carol Porter Grossman, The History of the Limited Editions Club

Every publisher deserves a historian like Carol Porter Grossman. This absorbing book recounts the remarkable story of the Limited Editions Club (LEC) and its offshoots, as well as that of the Club’s indefatigable and imaginative founder, George Macy, and those who kept the LEC going after his untimely death in 1956. Drawing on extensive archives at the Harry Ransom Center, Columbia University, the Newberry Library, and the Grolier Club, as well as private archives and several important oral histories, Grossman is able to reconstruct in great and fascinating detail the eight decades of fine book production by the LEC.

Cover page of The Earliest Dutch Imposition Manual: A Facsimile of the Manuscript “Overslag-Boek” by Joannes Josephus Balthazar Vanderstraelen

Frans A. Janssen, ed., The Earliest Dutch Imposition Manual: A Facsimile of the Manuscript “Overslag-Boek” by Joannes Josephus Balthazar Vanderstraelen

Apprentice typographers learned the trade on the job; instruction manuals were wasted on them. That such books were made all the same is owing to “the relative small number of the most educated and ambitious master printers and overseers” (Janssen, ed. Wardenaar, 11). One such man was Joannes Josephus Balthazar Vanderstraelen from Antwerp who, in 1784–5, wrote an instruction manual explaining how to place type for different formats into the forme in the correct manner.

Cover for Island of Blue Dolphins, featuring an image of an indigenous woman

Sara L. Schwebel (ed.) and Scott O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Readers Edition

It’s surprising that one of the most important children’s books of the twentieth century has only recently started receiving the critical attention it deserves. Sara L. Schwebel’s excellent Complete Readers Edition offers a significant contribution to a growing body of book histories about classic children’s literature texts and their impacts on generations of readers. Used by countless American K-12 schools and public libraries from the 1960s onward, O’Dell’s historical fiction robinsonade about the real-life Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, Juana Maria, has been seen as a critical multicultural, feminist young adult text despite some very real concerns about historical accuracy, vanishing Indian tropes, and racism.

Cover image for The Country House Library featuring a photo of a large private library

Mark Purcell, The Country House Library

Following work at the Bodleian Library, Mark Purcell became responsible for libraries in the care of the British National Trust, and he is now in the research-collections department at Cambridge University. With this background, and with his own scholarly focus on private and country-house libraries, he was eminently qualified to write this fine book. It has more than 225 illustrations, many of them in color.

The Hymnal Cover showing title and author

Christopher N. Phillips, The Hymnal: A Reading History

Phillips divides the book into three sites of social reading: the church, the school, and the home, primarily in English society of the 18th and 19th Century. The church was a place of social identity where hymns were sung. James Martineau, a British Unitarian compiler and hymnist, recorded in his hymn book the dates that hymns were sung. In schools, the hymn book was a way of teaching reading to children. The hymn, “When I Can Read My Title Clear” was one of the most popular family hymns that helped children to read (106). The home was the place of the “private hymnbook” (185). A title such as Hymns for Mothers and Children traveled from one family to another because of its large size and many illustrations. Today, we would probably call this a coffee table book. Phillips points out that his chapters may be read separately or chronologically to give a sense of history.

Lucy Peltz, Facing the Text: Extra-Illustration, Print Culture, and Society in Britain 1769-1840

Nearly every rare book library has at least one extra-illustrated book; many archives hold hundreds of them. Yet the polarizing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century practice of extra-illustration has rarely been studied in its own right. Instead it is generally mentioned only briefly as part of larger arguments about marginalia, book use, and private libraries. Lucy Peltz’s extravagantly illustrated and extraordinarily well-researched Facing the Text: Extra-Illustration, Print Culture, and Society in Britain 1769-1840 offers a strikingly new approach as it both defines extra-illustration against similar “bibliographic activities” (5) and traces the rise and fall of what might be called its golden age.

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Pier Mattia Tommasino, The Venetian Qur’an: A Renaissance Companion to Islam

Published in the Material Texts series of the University of Pennsylvania Press, Pier Mattia Tommasino’s The Venetial Qur’an is an exemplary work of textual scholarship and a fascinating exploration of the political, religious, and literary milieu of sixteenth-century Italy. Remarkable both for its impressive erudition and refreshing readability, this monograph delves into the history of the (presumably) first translation of the Qur’an from Arabic into a European vernacular language.

Herman Melville Among the Magazines Book Cover

Graham Thompson, Herman Melville Among the Magazines

The book details the practices and priorities of an evolving US periodical culture by elaborating Melville’s “embeddedness” (8–13) within it. The method foregrounds Thompson’s expert command of the author’s correspondence, publishing relationships, and bibliography. The book takes a “writer’s eye” (7) view with accounts of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine and Putnam’s Monthly focalized through Melville’s transactions with the attendant circle of publishers, editors, and printers.