The course is an intensive survey of the origins of, and the changes in, textual culture that took place between c. 2500 BC and 400 AD. It will set these changes into their related historical contexts and place considerable emphasis on the material nature of writing and book construction. This will involve extensive use of materials from the Museum of Writing (Curator: Mr Alan Cole) currently housed in the Senate House Library. In addition to handling and using original artefacts, students will have the opportunity to experiment with writing on clay tablets, on papyrus, and on wax tablets using modern reconstructions under the guidance of Alan Cole who will provide practical sessions during some of the seminars (these are asterisked). The course will end by looking at the ways in which the modern book form (the codex) emerged at the end of the period, and how some of the ancient texts studied in the course survived through the post-classical manuscript periods to the age of printing.
The London Rare Books School (LRBS) is a series of five-day, intensive courses on a variety of book-related subjects to be taught in and around Senate House, which is the centre of the University of London's federal system. The courses will be taught by internationally renowned scholars associated with the Institute's Centre for Manuscript and Print Studies, using the unrivalled library and museum resources of London, including the British Library, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Senate House Libraries, and many more. All courses will stress the materiality of the book so you can expect to have close encounters with remarkable books and other artefacts from some of the world's greatest collections.
Each course on offer will consist of thirteen seminars, amounting in all to twenty hours of teaching time spread between Monday afternoon and Friday afternoon. It is therefore only possible to take one course per week. There will be timetabled 'library time' that will allow students to explore the rich resources of the University's Senate House Library, one of the UK's major research libraries. There will also be an evening programme with an opening reception and talk, a book history lecture, and receptions hosted by major London antiquarian booksellers.