Book History and Print Culture

While all print materials reveal—to the trained eye—something of their production, distribution, and reception, Bruce Peel Special Collections has numerous collections that are particularly useful to those who research the history of the book. One can learn a great deal about print culture by examining a range of printing formats from a 4,000 year-old cuneiform tablet to a nineteenth-century penny dreadful and from a fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript to a twentieth-century artist’s book. In addition to some special items printed by pioneering printers like William Caxton (1422–1491) or Aldus Manutius (1449–1515), extensive collections of publications by several important presses—Minerva, Hogarth, Curwen, and Arion (to name a few)—offer important research opportunities for book historians. Beyond the print materials in Bruce Peel Special Collections, University of Alberta Library subscribes to numerous digital collections that offer a glimpse of primary documents that support the work of book historians in many different subject areas. While book history research today supports scholarship in almost every field of study—an interdiscipline that has moved well beyond its original borders—it is still possible to identify some key periodicals (such as Book History and Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada) and foundational scholarship such as Robert Darnton’s “What is the History of Books?” 

You may also want to check out UCLA's The History of the Book or browse the Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing database created through a partnership between McMaster University Library, Queen's University Archives, and the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at University of Toronto.

Collection Formats: 16th Century, 17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century -- click to see other collections with this format