MA in the History of the Book

Overview

Degree code (MA): NTEHB
Credit value: 180 (ECTS equivalent: 90)

The MA in the History of the Book is an interdisciplinary taught MA, which has been running at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study since the 1990s. It offers an unparalleled multidisciplinary opportunity to study the book's influence on cultural and intellectual change, emphasising creation, publication, manufacture, distribution, reception and survival of books from clay tablets to computers.

Teachers are recognised experts from the Centre for Manuscript and Print Studies, the British Library, the V&A and other institutions, where some of the teaching takes place.

The MA will provide students with a broad understanding and experience of the chronological range of book history from c.3000 BCE to 2000 CE. It will introduce students to the range of disciplines that make up the subject, including bibliography, palaeography, codicology, bookbinding, history of printing, bibliometrics, history of publishing, history of reading and library history. The course will provide frequent opportunities to handle archaeological and historical objects relating to the subject.

The MA consists of a series of six taught courses (including two core courses) plus a dissertation of 15,000 words. Each taught section is worth 20 credits and consists of ten formal teaching sessions (each session is not less than 90 minutes and not more than 120 minutes duration), plus one piece of written coursework. The dissertation is worth 60 credits. 

Structure

Core courses

  • The Medieval Book
  • Printed Texts, 1450-2010
  • Research Methodology

All students must complete the two core courses (20 credits each) during the MA programme: The Medieval Book (in the autumn term) and Printed Texts, 1450-2010 (in the spring term).

The aim of the two core courses is to provide a broad introduction to the discipline of Book History by encouraging students to undertake two chronological surveys, one covering the manuscript codex (The Medieval Book) and the other the printed text from the 1450s to the present day. This will involve introducing students to a number of historical approaches and methods, to a wide variety of textual materials, and to a range of libraries and archives containing these materials. Part-time students will normally take the required courses in their first year.

Each course consists of ten formal teaching sessions (each session will be of not less than 90 minutes and not more than 120 minutes duration), plus one piece of written coursework.

Research Methodology

All students will be expected to attend a short series of Saturday schools at the Institute of English Studies, given by senior teachers in the University and by staff of the British Library and covering topics of research methodology required by the British Academy, such as the use of libraries and other resources available in London, and the presentation of material at MA/MRes level. No assessed coursework will be required.

Courses

In addition to the two core courses, all students will take four other courses (20 credits each) during the MA programme. Full-time students will take four courses available in a given year; part-time students will be able to choose between one of two in each term. Each course will consist of ten formal teaching sessions (of not less than 90 minutes and not more than 120 minutes duration) plus a piece of written coursework.

Courses are to be selected from a list of eight offered in the following fixed pattern:

Option courses 2013-2014
Term Option Option
Term 1
Autumn
The Serial and the Book The Historical Reader
Term 2
Spring
Western Book Structures The Look of the Book
Option courses 2014-2015 (provisional)
Term Option Option
Term 1
Autumn
Digital Publishing and Book Studies The Book in the Ancient World
Term 2
Spring
The Book in Renaissance Italy  Textual Scholarship and Contemporary Editorial Theory

Students may take courses from the London Rare Books School in lieu of the above. This is by approval from the Course Director and Course Tutor and is subject to a small additional charge to cover catering costs throughout the summer school.

Mode of Study

The MA can be taken one-year full-time, to be completed within 12 months, or two-years part-time, to be completed within 24 months. Part-time students normally complete the two core courses and two courses in the first year, the third and fourth courses and the dissertation being taken in the second year. However, it is assumed that some preliminary work on the dissertation will be undertaken during the first year. In order to accommodate part-time study for students on day-release we try to arrange for most courses to be taught on one day in the week (usually Wednesday).

MA Full-time study (one year)
Term Modules
Term 1
Autumn

Core course (1)
Research Methodology
Course 1
Course 2

Term 2
Spring
Core course (2)
Research Methodology
Course 3
Course 4
Term 3
Summer
Dissertation
MA Part-time study (two years)
Term Modules
Year 1
Term 1
Autumn
Core course (1)
Research Methodology
Course 1
Term 2
Spring
Core course (2)
Research Methodology
Course 2
Term 3
Summer
Preliminary Work on the dissertation
Year 2
Term 1
Autumn
Course 3
Term 2
Spring
Course 4
Term 3
Summer
Dissertation

Assessment

The MA in the History of the Book is assessed on the basis of six course essays and a dissertation.

Each course is examined by one essay of c.5,000 words or a coursework project of a similar scale. In addition, all students will complete a mandatory diagnostic essay of c.1,500 due at the end of October in the first term. This will be marked but does not constitute part of the assessment. It is designed to enable the teaching faculty to evaluate each student's progress and to provide help and advice as necessary.

The dissertation is between 10,000 and 15,000 words and is due at the end of September. The research and writing of the dissertation is undertaken under the guidance of a supervisor who will help structure the research programme, suggested reading, and respond to written work.

Admission

The normal minimum entrance requirement for the MA is a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree, in any subject, from a university in the UK, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard (for example a Grade Point Average [GPA] of 3.0 or higher).

Applications may also be considered from candidates who do not meet the formal academic requirements, but who offer alternative qualifications and/or relevant experience.

All students will be required to possess a reader's ticket from the British Library; for some classes it will also be necessary to have a ticket of admission to the Department of Manuscripts in the British Library.