Course Convenor: Dr Cynthia Johnston
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House

This course will pursue a panoptic view of the growth of book culture and the practice of book collecting by tracing a chronology of key developments from the ancient world to the present day. Beginning with the well documented libraries of the ancient world in various media – including the cuneiform library of Ashurbanipal in Assyria and the papyrus scrolls of Alexandria and Pergamum, as well as recent discoveries from the ‘Villa of Papyri’ in Herculaneum – we will examine the role of libraries in the context of power and identity. The course will proceed to explore collecting in medieval culture, on both institutional and personal levels, through monastic libraries and individual collections; the practice and cultural impact of book collecting in the Renaissance, with emphasis on the development of the individual collector; and the development of a culture of collecting in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the social diversification of the practice through the impact of the Industrial Revolution. These topics will lead up to a global retrospective from which to examine collecting in the digital age.

* This course involves a trip to the Parker Library in Cambridge. 

Recommended Introductory Reading

Toby Burrows and Cynthia Johnston, Collecting the Past, British Collectors and their Collections form the 18th through the 20th centuries (Routledge, 2018)

Leah R Clark, ‘Collecting, exchange, and sociability in the Renaissance studiolo’, Journal of the History of Collections, Volume 25, Issue 2, July 2013, pp. 171–184

James DeBurgho, Collecting the World: the life and curiosity of Hans Sloane (Penguin, 2018)

David McKitterick, The Invention of Rare Books; Private Interest and Public Memory (Cambridge, 2018)

Matthew Nicholls, ‘Libraries and communication in the Ancient World,’ F. Naide and R. Talbert, (eds.), Mercury's Wings: exploring modes of communication in the ancient world (Oxford 2017)

James Raven, (ed.), Lost Libraries: the destruction of great book collections since antiquity (Palgrave MacMillan, 2004)

Dora Thornton, The Scholar in his Study: Ownership and Experience in Renaissance Italy (Yale, 1997)