Category Archives: Book History

Washington DC: A black woman becomes a world leader

from The Library of Congress

In September, one of the world’s most important library positions was assumed by Dr Carla Hayden who became the 14th Librarian of Congress. In an interview with Time she identified the significance of her appointment as ‘Being the first female and the first African American means that the legacy of the 14 Librarians of Congress will include diversity–and also a female in a female-dominated profession.’ She is a former president of the American Library Association who has not been shy of conflict: she kept her library open during the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore in 2015 and opposed the government’s collection of readers’ records.

Article in The Guardian.

Robert Darnton discusses the challenges that Hayden faces as well as the future of libraries in The New York Review of Books.


Martin Luther: 500 Years

2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the celebrated Ninety-five Theses that Luther affixed to the church doors in Wittenberg. It’s only with a broad brush-stroke that one could claim that this will be the 500th anniversary of The Reformation, but 2017 is as good a date as any to mark one of the great turning points in European (and subsequently world) history.

As is to be expected, there will be a rush of associated publications. We have already had Brand Luther on Luther and the printing press and now there is a biography from the distinguished historian Lyndal Roper: Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet
(the review is positive about the book but somewhat negative about Luther).

The anniversary is also responsible for the Playmobil (it’s like Lego) Luther that is now in my office and that’s become a best-selling toy. I purchased it along with a Luther comic book on a recent trip to Germany. Actually I purchased two copies of the comic and my nephew who is studying Renaissance and Reformation history at school will have to pretend to be happy to get it.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200
The doors of the church in Wittenberg

RUG Conference: The Politics of Paper in the Early Modern World

Groningen, 9-10 June 2016

This two-day conference seeks to bring together scholars and paper experts working across a range of disciplines and geographic areas who are interested in the ways in which paper supported, shaped, or otherwise influenced practices of politics and political communications in the period ca.1350-ca.1800. It aims to sketch a more integral picture of the ways in which paper permitted early modern politics and political communications to unfold.

Keynote speakers include: Prof. Lothar Muller, Prof. Andrew Pettegree, Prof. Jonathan Bloom, and Prof. Jacob Soll.


Marking Books, Mutilating Books: Censorship, Reading, & the Formation of Religious Identities in Sixteenth- Century England

Public Lecture – all welcome

February 8th, 16:00 in Academy Building A3

Speaker: Gabriele Müller-Oberhäuser is professor of book studies at the University of Münster. She recently published Book Gifts and Cultural Networks from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century (2015) with co-editor Kerstin Meyer-Bialk.
Marking Books

Literary Censorship in Schools

School literature syllabuses are particular sites of contention. The best-known cases in the anglophone world derive from the US where parents’ associations, school boards and state legislatures have significant input into the syllabus and where the supporters and opponents of particular censorship decisions have the freedom to publish their views. The amount of information on the internet about censorship decisions in the US can obscure the debates around similiar issues elsewhere.

Americal Library Association (ALA) on school censorship.

British Library site on censorship in schools.

More fuss over Harry Potter.

Israel’s education ministry has disqualified an acclaimed book depicting a love story between an Israeli and a Palestinian from being taught in schools because of perceptions that mixed relationships are a “threat to a separate identity”.

See article in The Telegraph.

No gay penguins for the students in Venice’s schools. See the article in The Telegraph.

Photo credit: es0teric/Creative Commons

Technologies of Print and Power in the Age of Revolution (1750-1850)

17 – 18 September 2015

The second meeting of the U4 network “Reverberations of Revolution,” to be held at the University of Groningen, will focus on the role technologies of printing, publishing and dissemination played in the Age of Revolution (1750-1850).

Programme: Technologies of Print and Power in the Age of Revolution (1750-1850)

Location: University College, Hoendiep 23/24

Information: Wil Verhoeven

Book Stores to buy up novels to limit their e-availability

A major Japanese bookshop chain is taking a stand against the increasing dominance of online retailers such as Amazon by restricting their access to the first print run of a new essay collection by Haruki Murakami.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, the 66-store chain Kinokuniya is set to acquire 90,000 copies of the 100,000-copy first print run of Murakami’s Novelist As a Vocation, which is out in Japanese on 10 September. The chain, reported the Japanese paper, then plans to sell the title at its own stores, and distribute it to other shops around Japan through wholesalers. See The Guardian article here.