Book Parts

ISBN : 9780198812463

Dennis Duncan; Adam Smyth
320 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jun 2019
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  • Each chapter focuses on a different element of the book, from frontispieces and title pages, through to endpapers and blurbs
  • Written in a lively, accessible style
  • Generously illustrated throughout

What would an anatomy of the book look like? There is the main text, of course, the file that the author proudly submits to their publisher. But around this, hemming it in on the page or enclosing it at the front and back of the book, there are dozens of other texts—page numbers and running heads, copyright statements and errata lists—each possessed of particular conventions, each with their own lively histories. To consider these paratexts—recalling them from the margins, letting them take centre stage—is to be reminded that no book is the sole work of the author whose name appears on the cover; rather, every book is the sum of a series of collaborations. It is to be reminded, also, that not everything is intended for us, the readers. There are sections that are solely directed at others—binders, librarians, lawyers—parts of the book that, if they are working well, are working discreetly, like a theatrical prompt, whispering out of the audience's ear-shot
Book Parts is a bold and imaginative intervention in the fast growing field of book history: it pulls the book apart. Over twenty-two chapters, Book Parts tells the story of the components of the book: from title pages to endleaves; from dust jackets to indexes—and just about everything in between. Book Parts covers a broad historical range that runs from the pre-print era to the digital, bringing together the expertise of some of the most exciting scholars working on book history today in order to shine a new light on these elements hiding in plain sight in the books we all read.


1: Introductions, Adam Smyth and Dennis Duncan
2: Dust-jackets, Gill Partington
3: Frontispieces, Luisa Calè
4: Title Pages, Whitney Trettien
5: Imprints, Imprimaturs, and Copyright Pages, Shef Rogers
6: Tables of Contents, Joseph Howley
7: Addresses to the Reader, Meaghan J. Brown
8: Acknowledgements and Dedications, Helen Smith
9: Printer's Ornaments and Flowers, Hazel Wilkinson
10: Character Lists, Tamara Atkin
11: Page Numbers, Signatures, and Catchwords, Daniel Sawyer
12: Chapter Heads, Nicholas Dames
13: Epigraphs, Rachel Sagner Buurma
14: Stage Directions, Tiffany Stern
15: Running Titles, Claire M. L. Bourne
16: Woodcuts, Alexandra Franklin
17: Engravings, Sean Roberts
18: Footnotes, Jenny Davidson
19: Errata Lists, Adam Smyth
20: Indexes, Dennis Duncan
21: Endleaves, Sidney Berger
22: Blurbs, Abigail Williams
Select Bibliography

About the author: 

Edited by Dennis Duncan, Writer and translator, and Adam Smyth, Professor of English Literature and the History of the Book Balliol College, Oxford University
Dennis Duncan is a writer and translator based in London. He is currently writing a history of the book index, from the medieval period to the age of the Kindle, to be published by Penguin in 2020, and is author of The Oulipo and Modern Thought (Oxford University Press, 2019). His recent articles have considered Mallarmé and jugs, James Joyce and pornography, and the history of the Times New Roman typeface. Dr Duncan writes on bibliography and French literature for the Times Literary Supplement, and has published translations of Michel Foucault, Boris Vian, and Alfred Jarry.
Adam Smyth
is Professor of English Literature and the History of the Book at Balliol College, Oxford. His most recent books include Material Texts in Early Modern England(Cambridge University Press, 2018); Autobiography in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2010); A History of English Autobiography (edited, Cambridge University Press, 2016); and Book Destruction from the Medieval to the Contemporary (edited with Gill Partington, Palgrave, 2014). He is the co-editor of Routledge's book series Material Readings in Early Modern Culture. He also enjoys discussing his work beyond the academy: he writes regularly for the London Review of Books, and has appeared on TV and radio in the UK and abroad. Adam Smyth is the co-host of the literary discussion podcast and radio show, Litbits.
Tamara Atkin, Queen Mary University of London
Sidney Berger, Director Emeritus, Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum
Claire M. L. Bourne, The Pennsylvania State University
Meaghan J. Brown, Folger Shakespeare Library
Rachel Sagner Buurma, Swarthmore College
Luisa Calè, Birkbeck, University of London
Nicholas Dames, Columbia University
Jenny Davidson, Columbia University
Dennis Duncan, Writer and translator
Alexandra Franklin, University of Oxford
Joseph Howley, Columbia University
Gill Partington, Warwick University
Sean Roberts, Virginia Commonwealth University
Shef Rogers, University of Otago
Daniel Sawyer, University of Oxford
Helen Smith, University of York
Adam Smyth, University of Oxford
Tiffany Stern, Royal Holloway, University of London
Whitney Trettien, University of Pennsylvania
Abigail Williams, University of Oxford
Hazel Wilkinson, University of Birmingham

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