CFP: Documenting the early modern book world: inventories and catalogues in manuscript and print

Documenting the early modern book world: inventories and catalogues in manuscript and print
7- 8 July 2011
School of History, University of St. Andrews, St Andrews

Call For Papers
It has become customary in documenting the world of early printed books to rely primarily on surveys of survivors: that is, books that have weathered the buffeting of history to reach the comparative safety of modern library collections. Most national bibliographical catalogues are aggregates of the holdings of library catalogues; faute de mieux these are taken to offer a reasonable account of the original output.

But the urge to list, catalogue and advertise the wealth of the new printed book culture was just as strong in the first age of books. Printers made lists of their available stock; owners proudly catalogued their libraries; assessors inventoried collections and stock as part of the settlement of estates, or legal proceedings. In an age of religious discord, censorship required the publication of lists of forbidden books (though at the risk of advertising their contents); book-sellers’ shelves, private and public libraries were examined for forbidden material.

These various classes of lists contain indispensable material on various aspects of the 16th century book trade: on cost, retail pricing, second hand values, binding and library practice. They allow the reconstruction of lost or dispersed libraries. They also document many thousands of titles and editions that have now disappeared altogether.

The third St Andrews book history conference will engage a wide-ranging discussion and analysis of contemporary book lists, manuscript or printed. Participants, who will be invited to pre-circulate the lists in question, are asked to propose contributions to Dr Natasha Constantinidou by 30 November 2010.

The papers presented at this conference will form the basis for a volume in the Brill book history series, The Library of the Written Word.

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