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Faculty Expertise in the History of the Book

Children are routinely told not to judge a book by its cover, yet we do it all the time (and indeed we would find it quite difficult to judge books at all without the evidence provided by their covers and other physical aspects). Scholars of the history of the book are interested in books as material objects and how they work in the world. We study the people surrounding books: not just authors and readers, but also printers, publishers, editors, binders, booksellers, librarians, smugglers, even rag pickers. We study the other species that go into books (animals who supplied leather and glue for binding; plants whose fibers were used to make paper). We study how things like color, layout, heft and (yes) covers affect the ways in which we interact with and assess texts (a 19th-century novel published in monthly installments over the course of a year and a half provides a rather different experience than the supposedly “same” text in a modern classroom edition). And we study the uses to which books are put, which are hardly limited to reading.

Students of the history of the book at Ohio State benefit from our extensive and actively expanding Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, our membership in the Folger Institute Consortium and our Print and Media History reading group.


Jolie Braun (Curator of American Literature, Rare Books and Manuscripts Library): zines and self-publishing; literary manuscripts and archival research; women publishers and booksellers; 19th-century book canvassing

David Brewer: the history of authorship and reading, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries; books as both material objects and sensory experiences; ephemera

Alan Farmer: Renaissance book history; popularity in print; early modern reading practices; playbooks; newsbooks; digital humanities

Molly Farrell: colonial American writing; history of population science; arithmetic; women's, gender and sexuality studies; science studies

Jared Gardner: history of popular print; periodicals

Hannibal Hamlin: Shakespeare; Milton; poetry; the English Bible; literature and religion; adaptation; allusion and intertextuality; words and music

Eric Johnson (Lead Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts Library): Medieval manuscript studies; paleography and codicology; fragmentology; descriptive bibliography; book history; pedagogical uses of primary sources in K-12 and university classrooms

Elizabeth Kolkovich: reading; manuscript culture; authorial revision; women in book history; editorial history

Leslie Lockett: medieval paleography; manuscript culture; glossed manuscripts; retrograde verse (Latin poems that remain metrically and syntactically viable when they are read backwards)

Sarah Neville: historical and analytical bibliography; textual and editorial theory; history of science; Renaissance literature and culture; performance; digital humanities

Susan Williams: history of authorship; antebellum U.S. publishing; American periodicals


Louis Ulman: textual editing; digital humanities; history of writing


Graduate/undergraduate courses

  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies 5610: Manuscript Studies
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies 5611: History of the Book Studies
  • English 5612: The History of the Book in Modernity


Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum

Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Rare Books and Manuscripts Library

Folger Institute Consortium


Print and Media History reading group