Fall 2015

(Updated August 12 2015)



Exploring The Book. Douglas Pfeiffer. Stony Brook Manhattan campus,  Fridays from 1 – 3:50 beginning on August 28.
Please direct any inquiries to douglas.pfeiffer@stonybrook.edu.
Course description: As an immersive introduction to the physical book as an object of study, this seminar examines the letterpress technology, printing and publishing practices, book trade history, and some of the dominant habits of editing, annotating, and preserving books in the first era of print, roughly 1450-1700. Though student knowledge of early modern literature is welcome, it is not required, as the course will deal with features of the material book that pertain to print culture more broadly. Also, insofar as resources allow, our chief examples for each class discussion will be drawn from the enrolled students’ expressed research interests, whatever their period and field. To facilitate a radically hands-on approach, class will meet biweekly at Stony Brook Manhattan and on alternate weeks at a different NYC-area rare book facility: Stony Brook’s Special Collections and University Archives, The Berg Collection of The New York Public, The Rare Book of Manuscript Library of Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary’s Burke Library, The Pierpont-Morgan Library, The Grolier Club, Yale University’s Beinecke Library, Princeton University’s Firestone Library Rare Book Collection, and the pioneering mega-scale book storage collective in New Jersey known as ReCAP.
Requirements: At the beginning of the term, each student will choose an individual copy of book to serve as the focus of the semester’s assignments: a battery of skill-based exercises culminating in a synoptic final account – part-descriptive, part-analytical, part-narrative – of the unique copy of the physical book in question. In addition to attending the bi-weekly meetings at SBU Manhattan and alternating-week onsite visits to area archives, students will also be required to attend a seminar (date and time TBA) at Stony Brook’s Special Collections as well as the visiting scholar talks at SBU in professors Teplitsky’s (History), Honisch’s (Music), and Vialette’s (Spanish) Fall 2015 “Colloquium on the Study of the Book: Cultures, Practices, Technologies”). There will also be three optional three-hour Saturday workshops: (1) at the New York City Center for Books Arts (CBA), where Master Printer Barbara Henry will instruct us in the steps of letterpress printing, from composing type to working the press, (2) at the Woodside Press, Brooklyn, where we will learn the process of hot-metal typecasting on one of the few surviving Linotype machines, (3) an introduction to historical and contemporary papermaking processes at Dieu Donné.
Goals: this course has three aims: (a) by multiplying the agencies involved in the creation of the material book and its meaning, to expand the students’ sense of the literary object of study beyond the author and text and (b) in doing so, to introduce students to the fundamental skills of archival and rare-book research. (c) With direct access to some of the world’s most important library collections and their curators, librarians, and preservationists, students in this class have the opportunity to work with primary materials that previously may not have been examined in detail. Participants thus stand to undertake truly new research.