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Book Studies Concentration

Students looking at books in the Mortimer Rare Book Room

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. Book studies is fueled by the intellectual energy and excitement released when a student’s reading and classroom study collide with 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. 

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The Book Studies Concentration is designed for bibliophiles—students who love books in all their forms and platforms—and who may be considering future work in publishing, libraries, teaching, graphic design and typography, book arts or information technology. Book studies combines classroom study, independent research and relevant hands-on experience. It will provide you with an introduction to the history, art and technology of the book, broadly defined to encompass oral memory and papyrus scrolls as well as manuscripts, printed books and digital media. Book studies will also connect you with the exceptional resources of the Mortimer Rare Book Collection, the wealth of book artists, craftspeople, small publishers and fine presses of the Pioneer Valley, and the unusual richness of book-related courses found in the Five College area. This concentration is interdisciplinary, allowing you to take classes offered by a wide range of departments and programs.

Gateway Course

BKX 120 ARX/BKX/MUX Gateway (new Spring 2023)
2 credits

This course serves as a shared gateway for the Archives, Book Studies, and Museums concentrations. Students will explore histories, futures, and systems of knowledge production, preservation, organization, and distribution through the kinds of objects and evidence held by archives, libraries, and museums. As evidence of their evolving and complex operations, this course introduces the history of such institutions, their evolving public mission, issues central to their work today, and the creation and uses of materials they hold. The course critically engages the emergence of such institutions, specifically within this regional context and in this framework of a college campus.

Course Requirements

The concentration is composed of six courses. In addition to the gateway course and the senior capstone seminar, a student must take one required core courses and three electives, chosen to support an area of focus. In addition, students are required to engage in two practical learning experiences in some field of book studies. The combined course work will total no fewer than 19 credits; the internships and practical learning experiences carry no credit.

One Required Core Course

ENG/HSC 207 The Technology of Reading and Writing 
4 credits

An introductory exploration of the physical forms that knowledge and communication have taken in the West, from ancient oral cultures to modern print-literate culture. Our main interest is in discovering how what is said and thought in a culture reflects its available kinds of literacy and media of communication. Topics to include poetry and memory in oral cultures; the invention of writing; the invention of prose; literature and science in a script culture; the coming of printing; changing concepts of publication, authorship and originality; movements toward standardization in language; the fundamentally transformative effects of electronic communication.

Three Electives

12 credits
Three existing courses—at Smith or any Five College department or program—that address the themes and concerns of the Book Studies Concentration and are approved by the Book Studies Advisory Committee. At least one of the courses must engage with the materials and process involved in creating physical books, such as typography, book arts, or printmaking. 

Not all of these courses are offered each year. Consult the Smith College Course Search for current offerings and times.

American Studies

  • AMS 171: The Material Culture of New England, 1630–1860
  • AMS 353: Native Literacies to 1880 (spring 2013)

Art History

  • ARH 268: The Artist Book in the 20th Century
  • ARH 101: Advertising and Visual Culture
  • ARH 268: Advertising and Visual Culture
  • ARH : Making Knowledge (Leibsohn, Spring 2016)
  • ARH 280: ARt Historical Studies: Approaches to Manga & Anime (Y. Guo, fall 2017)
  • ARH 291: The Presence of the Past: Libraries as Building Type (B. Kellym, spring 2018)
  • ARH 352: Art and Natural History: Beasts and Bestiaries (B. Buettner, fall 2017)

Studio Art

  • ARS 275: The Book: Theory and Priactice I (Moser, fall)
  • ARS 375: The Book: Theory and Practice II (Moser, spring)

Comparative Literature

  • CLT 100: The Pleasure of Reading
  • CLT 220: Imagining Language (Bruzelius)

East Asian Language & Literature

  • EAL 237: Chinese Poetry and the Other Arts

Education & Child Study

  • ECS 210: Literacy in Cross-Cultural Perspective
  • ECS 338: Children Learning to Read

English Language & Literature

  • ENG 228: Children's Literature
  • ENG 238: What Jane Austen Read (fall)
  • ENG 238: Victorian Medievalism
  • ENG 312:  Seminar: Converts, Criminals and Fugitives: Print Culture of the African American Diaspora (A. Stone, spring 2018)

German Studies

  • GER 249: Exhibiting the Visual Arts of Germany

Jewish Studies

  • JUD 110j: Introduction to Yiddish (J-term)

Presidential Seminars

  • PRS 306: Beowulf and Archaeology

Not all of these courses are offered each year. Consult the Five College Course Guide for current offerings and times.

Amherst College

  • ENGL 01-04: Visuality and Literature
  • ENGL 272: Primer to Children’s Lit (Sanchez-Eppler)
  • ENGL 397: Editors and Authors (Acker)
  • ENGL: 05-01: Reading Historically
  • FAMS 485-01: Word/Life/Image

Hampshire College

  • CS 111: The Emergence of Literacy
  • HACU 120: The Anatormy of Pictures
  • HACU 233: Media Overload (Block)
  • HACU 334: The Collector: Theory and Practice
  • HACU 330: Books, Book Arts, Artists' Books, Bibliophilia
  • HACU 204: Artists’ Books
  • SS 244: Reading/Writing/Citizenship
  • SS/HACU 220-01: Dangerous Books: Introduction to Textuality and Culture
  • HACU 140-01: Comics Underground: Unconventional Comics in the U.S.

Mount Holyoke College

  • ARTH 271: Arts of Islam: Book, Mosque, and Palace
  • ARTH 301: Illuminated Manuscripts
  • ARTST 226: Digital Artists Books
  • ARTST 256: Printmaking
  • ARTST 264: Word and Image
  • ARTST 267: Papermaking with Local Plants (Hachiyanagi, fall semester)
  • ARTST 269: Japanese Papermaking (Hachiyanagi, spring semester)
  • ARTST 280: Multiples and Improvisations (Ginsberg, spring semester)
  • ENGL 283: Graphic Narrative (Young)
  • ENGL 317: Studies in Renaissance Literature: Renaissance Theater and the Early Modern Book

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

  • COMP LIT 234: Myth, Folktale and Children's Literature
  • COMP LIT 391cb: Comparative Book Cultures: Medieval
  • COMP LIT 393b: Comic Art in North America (Couch)
  • COMP LIT 393c: International Graphic Novel (Couch)
  • ENG 300: The History of the Book (Black)
  • ENG 491: The Origins of Reading
  • JUDAIC 392N: Jewish Graphic Novel
  • HST: Renaissance Humanism

Practical learning experiences or internships are an integral element of the Book Studies Concentration. Students will complete two practical learning experiences (paid or supported by Praxis or the Rosenthal Fund that provide practical, first-hand knowledge of publishing, printing, librarianship or any of the other professions and crafts that are encompassed by book studies. Students are responsible for researching and securing appropriate internships from the wide array of local, regional, national and international internships identified by the concentration advisers. Each internship needs to be approved by the student’s concentration adviser (see the Forms section).


Senior Capstone Seminar: BKX 300

2 credits, graded S/U
The culminating experience for the Book Studies Concentration is an independent research project that synthesizes the student’s academic and practical experiences in the concentration. 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.

Students complete the capstone and receive credit in the fall semester of the senior year; in spring they participate in a public presentation, ordinarily at Celebrating Collaborations in April, though other venues are possible, including web presentations. The concentration director approves the proposed projects. Projects may be supervised by members of the BKX steering committee or by other faculty members, or the concentration director may choose to supervise a set of related projects and meet with the seniors in a weekly seminar. Rising senior concentrators choose their projects and enlist their project supervisors in the spring of their junior year in time for the advising period for fall courses.


To earn the 2 credits carried by this course, students design projects comparable in time and effort to half of a full 4-credit course at Smith. In recent years, senior projects have included researching a notable rare book or other artifact from the Mortimer Rare Book Room collection or from another collection, such as the Berkshire Law Library, creating an artist’s book, writing and illustrating a children’s book, creating a work of digital art or a website, and designing and hand printing a volume of fiction or poetry. The book studies umbrella is very wide and students are encouraged to think creatively about how best to draw together their work in the concentration.


Declaration of Concentration

Students who have been accepted into the concentration and received their adviser’s name need to fill out the
→ Program of Study Declaration Form.
This is the last step in making the concentration official in Workday.

Practical Experience Forms

After discussing the proposed practical experience with their advisers, students need to fill out the corresponding practical experience approval form in order to have the experience count towards the concentration requirements:

  • Summer Internship (100 hours or more) → Internship Credit Application
    All students undertaking a summer internship of at least 100 hours are eligible to receive academic credit (0.25 credits per experience) that will appear on their transcript. We encourage all students who qualify to apply for internship credit. Students applying for Praxis funding don’t need to fill out this form, and should instead use the “Praxis with Credit” form below.
  • Unpaid Summer Internship (220 hours or more) → Praxis with Credit Application
    All Smith students are eligible to receive a stipend payment for one normally unpaid internship through the Praxis program at the Lazarus Center. These internships must take place during the summer, and must comprise at least 220 working hours. Students in Concentrations are eligible to apply for Praxis a second time– Praxis Plus. When applying for a Praxis internship, the applicant must specify if the internship counts towards a concentration and should fill out the “Praxis with Credit” application.
  • Other Internships and Practical Experiences
    Students whose internships do not meet the above requirements because they take place during Interterm, during the school year, or for any other reason, should fill out the following forms.
    Prior to starting the internship please fill out the → Practical Experience Approval Form.
    Upon completion of the practical experience please fill out the → Practical Experience Completion Form.
  • Retroactive Credit for an Experience
    Students who completed a practical experience relevant to the concentration prior to being accepted into the cohort should discuss the experience with their concentration adviser as soon as possible. Once the experience is approved, students must fill out the → Practical Experience Completion Form and check the “Retroactive Experience” box on the form.

Advising Checklist for Graduation

Students are required to submit a completed Concentration Advising Checklist at the start of their final semester. This form documents the completed components of the concentration requirements, and must be signed by the student’s concentration adviser. Completed form should be sent to the registrar’s office ( and to the administrative coordinator for concentrations (

Practical Experience Information

These are examples of recent internships, and similar ones may be available. Check with your adviser about what would fulfill your requirement, and with the Lazarus Center to see what may be available.

Babylon Revisited Rare Books (Easthampon, MA)

For the past two summers (2018 & 2019) these booksellers had a part-time paid position, which went to a BKX student. This was a summer position, and the hours worked counted toward the internship requirements.

Wide Awake Garage (Easthampton, MA)

Daniel E. Kelm is a book artist who enjoys expanding the concept of the book. During the academic year of 2016–17, he sought three interns to help create an inventory. Duties included cataloging/documenting 110 publishing projects of the production archive of the Wide Awake Garage (Kelm’s studio). This was an unpaid internship during studio hours, 10 a.m–5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Interns could design an individual schedule (days/hours) within open studio hours. View selected works by Dan Kelm.


Historic Deerfield (Deerfield, MA)

The Summer Fellowship Program in History and Material Culture is a residential living and learning opportunity, where accepted applicants received a fellowship, room and board; some were also awarded stipends to compensate for the loss of summer income.

North Atlantic Books (Berkley, CA)

North Atlantic Books, an independent nonprofit publishing company, sponsored an editorial production internship. The work consisted of proofreading, checking indexes, applying for catalog-in-publication data, research projects, writing press releases, building contact lists, and writing for blogs and social media.

Rebecca Samay Rosenthal '07

The Rebecca Samay Rosenthal ’07 Fund supports student internships and capstone research in the archives and book studies concentrations.

During her undergraduate years, Rebecca, known as Becca, was a student assistant in the Mortimer Rare Book Room, where she processed the correspondence in the Sylvia Plath Collection under the direction of Karen Kukil, associate curator of special collections. After graduation, Becca tried her hand at music promotion and banking before returning to her first passion—archival work. She was in the process of earning her graduate degree from Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science before her untimely death in October 2012, at the age of 27. Friends and family established this memorial fund in 2014 in the hopes that each recipient will honor Becca's multitalented gifts and extraordinary appreciation of special collections, becoming devoted archivists and librarians in her stead.

How to Apply

To apply for the Rosenthal Fund, please download and fill out the application below.

For more information, please contact Beth Myers, director of special collections.

Recent Recipients of the Rosenthal Fund

  • Tanya Pearson ’16: Women in Rock Oral History Project, awarded funds for capstone research
  • Sarah Orsak ’16, Archiving Gretchen Phillips, awarded funds for an internship
  • Jenny Park ’18, Women’s Suffrage Movement Tactics, awarded funds for capstone research


To apply for the Book Studies Concentration, log in and fill out the online application. You may apply to the concentration in your sophomore or junior year.

Next application deadline is October 13, 2023


Concentration in Book Studies

Young Library 219J
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01060

Director: Lily Gurton-Wachter
Administrative Assistant: Veeka Stanton