2018-2019 Book History Colloquium at Columbia University

The Book History Colloquium at Columbia University, open to any discipline, aims to provide a broad outlet for the scholarly discussion of book history, print culture, the book arts, and bibliographical research, and (ideally) the promotion of research and publication in these fields. Our presenters include Columbia faculty members and advanced graduate students, and scholars of national prominence from a range of institutions.

Unless otherwise noted, all sessions take place at 6:00pm in Butler Library, Room 523, on the Columbia University Morningside Campus. These talks are free and open to the public. However, please note that as of August 2016 registration is required. To pre-register, please use the buttons below each event. Non-Columbia affiliates should register as guests.



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Old Books as Digital Objects

A lecture by Sarah Werner, independent scholar, editor of the blog Wynken de Worde

We are used to reading texts with our eyes—reading the words and images for their content (in fact, this is so obvious it’s odd to describe it). But we also read texts with our fingers—the feel of the materials, the act of navigating through a codex or scroll, and the feel of the weight shifting or paper folding as we move through the content all contribute to our understanding of the work we’re reading. This talk will use the practice of reading with our fingers to explore how we experience old books in that other sense of being digital—as bits of data able to be seen and manipulated by computer software. How does the transformation of early printed texts into digital images change how we use and understand the books we study and teach? And how can we take advantage of and respond to these changes without losing the tactile experience of reading material texts?

RSVP for this event


Monday, April 18, 2019

Who Made This Book? Bookwork in the Global Supply Chain

A lecture by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Professor of English and Digital Studies at the University of Maryland

Most any author can tell you who published their book, but how many know where it was printed? Or by whom? Or how the paper stock was sourced? Or even who was responsible for the jacket and interior design? This talk explores the nature of contemporary bookmaking amid the realities of a global supply chain, an increasingly casualized labor market, and digital workflows that effortlessly move digital files around the world. The emphasis is not on reportage but rather on raising questions of methodologies and priorities for the field of book history and its relationships to allied projects, including the environmental humanities, the digital humanities, and the work of social justice.

RSVP for this event

FALL 2018


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Huxleyed into the Full Orwell: How Digital Copyright Abuse Has Abetted a Culture of Mass Surveillance and Social Control

Journalist and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow will talk about the millennia-old social compact of the book, and the arbitrary renegotiation of that contract in the age of ebooks, where prior restraint, restrictions on lending, donation and gifting, and invasive, surveillant technologies have become the norm. He will investigate how technology and license agreements have gone on to colonize our relationships with other devices and systems, from voting machines to tractors, insulin pumps to thermostats.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Susan Orlean's The Library Book

New Yorker Staff writer and author Susan Orlean will talk about her latest work, The Library Book, which is both an investigation of the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire and a meditation on her lifelong love of books and libraries. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired Orlean's archive in 2015.