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Book Studies Concentration

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About the Concentration

The Concentration in Book Studies connects students with the exceptional resources of the Mortimer Rare Book Room and the wealth of book artists and craftspeople of the Pioneer Valley. Through classroom study, field projects and independent research, they learn about the history, art and technology of the "book," broadly defined to extend from oral memory to papyrus scrolls to manuscripts, printed books and digital media. Book studies concentrators design capstone projects in a wide variety of areas that include medieval manuscripts, early and fine printing, book illustration, children's picture books, the book trade, artists' books, censorship, the history of publishing, the secrets of today's bestsellers, the social history of books and literacy, the history of libraries and book collecting, and the effects of the current digital revolution on the material book.

Book studies is fueled by the intellectual energy and excitement released when a student's reading and classroom study collide with her hands-on work in fields such as book design, bookbinding, paper—and printmaking, publishing, printing, libraries, and special collections. Students in this concentration learn to read in a new way; each book becomes an archaeological site for exploring the history of its design, production, promotion and dissemination, as well as the sources of its craftsmanship and beauty. A student interested in literary texts will explore the variety of ways that the physical production of books impacts the various ways we understand them. Another student attracted to old books, rich leather bindings, tactile paper, fine printing and haunting illustrations will find a home in this concentration, as will one excited by new media and the digital revolution that promises a change in how and what we read, enabling radical new forms of typography, illustration and links to other media such as film, video and television. Will electronic books eventually unite the beauty and clarity of the forms that precede them with new possibilities as yet unimagined?