Learn about the History of the Book and the role of books during the Enlightenment and how literature emerged as a modern form of culture.
About this course
This module of The Book: Histories Across Time and Space focuses on the physical qualities of books, the role of books in 17th and 18th century France, and the emergence of literature as a modern form of culture.
We will focus on the importance of books as physical objects and the raw material of literature–namely, paper. By considering the nature of paper and how it was made during the early modern period–from Gutenberg’s time to the early nineteenth century–we can begin to understand the character of books and the way they worked.
The History of the Book: Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries France
This module also examines how books fit into the legal and political system of France under the Old Regime during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the French set standards imitated throughout Europe. Before modern copyright, legal books had privileges, granted by the king, which provided a guarantee of quality as well as certification of orthodoxy. To qualify for a privilege, books had to be approved by censors. Uncensored books, including most of the works of the Enlightenment, were usually produced outside France and circulated in the kingdom through a vast underground distribution system.
The History of the Book: Eighteenth-century England
In addition, this module addresses the emergence of literature as a modern form of culture, which can be studied best in eighteenth-century England. The first copyright law (1710), a high rate of literacy, a booming consumer market, a precocious periodical industry, and entrepreneurial publishing concentrated in London led to the development of a new kind of author–the independent writer. Samuel Johnson epitomized this new phenomenon. This module will allow you to get a close look at him and everything he represented by providing access to the Hyde Collection of Johnson’s books and papers in Houghton Library at Harvard.
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What you will learn from the History of the Book course?
- The importance of books as physical objects.
- The construction of books.
- The role of legal books in 17th and 18th century France.
- The subversive role of illegal books in 17th and 18th century France.
- The circumstances surrounding the emergence of literature as a modern form of culture.
- The early stages of copyright law and the development of the independent writer.
1. ‘The Book: Histories Across Time and Space’
- Welcome to ‘The Book’
- Welcome to Houghton Library
- Important Pre-Course Survey
2. The History of the Book: The Physical Qualities of Books
- Decoding the Physical Qualities of Books
3. The History of the Book: The Enlightenment
- Books in the Enlightenment
4. Encyclopédie de Diderot et d’Alembert
- A Dangerous Book
5. An Independent Author
- The Writings of Samuel Johnson
- The First Dictionary
- A Writer’s Declaration of Independence
- Becoming a Samuel Johnson, The Writer
- A New Era for Literature: Johnson and Boswell
- The Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson
- Independent Author
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- Harvard University
- Online Course
- 1-4 Weeks
- Free Course (Affordable Certificate)
- Books and Manuscripts Culture French History History Law