The History of the Book: The Long and Short of It

The Wall Street Journal‘s got a breezy and abbreviated history of the book all wrapped up in this entertaining six-minute video. Check it out:

A fun, snappy little glimpse at a four-hundred-year history, no? But if you want the full history of books in America in all its juicy detail, you can find it in (ahem) actual book form as the five-volume A History of the Book in America series, published by UNC Press in association with the American Antiquarian Society. Four volumes have already been released, and the final one (actually volume 2) will be coming down the line next month. You can order the whole set or individual volumes.

Dozens of contributors have collaborated to put together the most comprehensive history of books in the U.S. ever produced. Here’s the breakdown for each volume:

Volume 1: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World, edited by Hugh Amory and David D. Hall, covers the stories of publishing, writing, and reading from the beginning of the colonial period in America up to 1790.

Volume 2: An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790-1840, edited by Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley, continues the story as printing and publishing expanded and literate publics provided a ready market for novels, almanacs, newspapers, tracts, and periodicals. This volume will be available in July 2010.

Volume 3: The Industrial Book, 1840-1880, edited by Scott E. Casper, Jeffrey D. Groves, Stephen W. Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship, examines the age of industrialization and the development of a truly national book trade.

Volume 4: Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1940, edited by Carl F. Kaestle and Janice A. Radway, traces an era of expansion in print culture that enabled it to become part of Americans’ everyday business, social, political, and religious lives.

Volume 5: The Enduring Book: Print Culture in Postwar America, edited by David Paul Nord, Joan Shelley Rubin, and Michael Schudson, addresses the economic, social, and cultural shifts affecting print culture from World War II to the present and demonstrates that even in the digital age, when the history of the book can be condensed into a 6-minute video, there remains, in fact, a place for the book in American culture.

You can take a peek inside the volumes already published by clicking “view inside” in the widgets below. Here at UNC Press, ya know, we’re kinda into books. This documented history of our industry is a pretty big deal, not just for us but for those who are interested in the ways that we share ideas, build communities, define citizenship, integrate new technologies, and celebrate beauty. That’s really what the history of the book is about.
–ellen





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