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Rare Books Virtual Lecture: What is a Book?

We invite you to visit our most recent addition to the Rare Books Virtual Lecture Series: What is a Book?, an exploration of the object we call the “book” that answers questions you never knew you had. What is a book? Where did it come from? Why does it look the way it does? What will happen to the book when we all go all digital? (We won’t.)

When we think of a “book,” we typically envision a rectangular shape made up of a stack of papers that are bound on one end. We are comfortable with this image of the book. What is the evolution of the “book” – a history that dates back some 4,500 years?

Palace Dedication Inscription of King Sin-kashid of Uruk
Old Babylonian period, c. 1900-1700 BCE

From Sumerian clay tablets to 20th century artists’ book, this lecture traces the origins of the book through its physical form, its readership, and its content, lingering at crucial moments in its history that changed the way we interact with books.

Modes of Prayer of St. Dominic
Fourteenth century, France

Learn about the girdle book, and why it became so popular among traveling monks and pilgrims…

Plate, from Encylopedié, by Denis Diderot

Consider an eighteenth-century multi-volume set which made things like Wikipedia possible.

Dlia golosa, by Vladimir Mayakovsky and El Lissitzky

Get inspired by the 20th century’s new concept of the book…

And don’t forget to visit our other virtual lectures!


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