Books Before Print


Books Before Print

ISBN: 9781942401612


This beautifully illustrated book provides an accessible introduction to the medieval manuscript and what it can tell us about the world in which it was made and used. Captured in the materiality of manuscripts are the data enabling us to make sense of the preferences and habits of the individuals who made up medieval society. With short chapters grouped under thematic headings, Books Before Print shows how we may tap into the evidence and explores how manuscripts can act as a vibrant and versatile tool to understand the deep historical roots of human interaction with written information. It highlights extraordinary continuities between medieval book culture and modern-world communication, as witnessed in medieval pop-up books, posters, speech bubbles, book advertisements, and even sticky notes.


General Introduction
Filling the Page: Script, Writing, and Page Design
1. Medieval Script
2. Cracking Codes: Abbreviations in Medieval Script
3. The Empty Part of the Page
4. Footnotes Before Print
5. The First Page of the Manuscript
6. The Last Page of the Manuscript
Enhancing the Manuscript: Binding and Decoration
7. Dressing Up the Manuscript
8. Hugging a Manuscript
9. Judging a Book by its Cover
10. Mary Had a Little Book
11. Drawing with Words
12. Speech Bubbles
13. Model Books
Reading in Context: Annotations, Bookmarks, and Libraries
14. Getting Personal in the Margin
15. Helping Hands on the Page
16. Smart Bookmarks
17. Location, Location
18. Combating Book Theft
The Margins of Manuscript Culture
19. The Incredible Expandable Book
20. Books on a Diet
21. Books on a Stick
22. Slips, Strips, and Scraps: Messaging
23. Slips, Strips, and Scraps: Scholarly Notes
24. Medieval Name Tags
25. Posters Before Print
26. Medieval Book Apps
Contextualizing the Medieval Manuscript
27. Where are the Scriptoria?
28. Desktops
29. Second-Hand Books Before Print
30. Manuscripts on the Move
31. The Skinny on Bad Parchment
32. Destroying Medieval Books (and Why That’s Useful)
Epilogue: The Legacy of the Medieval Book
Recommended Reading

Author Bio(s)

Erik Kwakkel is book historian and professor at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Reviewer Quote(s)

Kwakkel is to be applauded for what he has achieved, but then he always is at his very best when enthusing others about the myriad surprises that medieval manuscripts can reveal. If this book is not a staple of book history curricula within the next few years, I shall be astonished., Leah Tether, University of Bristol, Plekos 21 (2019): 225–28 (URL:, 1 April 2019

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Arc Humanities Press