The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making

by Adrian Johns

Hardcover, 1998




Chicago, Ill. : University of Chicago Press, 1998.


In The Nature of the Book, a tour de force of cultural history, Adrian Johns constructs an entirely original and vivid picture of print culture and its many arenas--commercial, intellectual, political, and individual. "A compelling exposition of how authors, printers, booksellers and readers competed for power over the printed page. . . . The richness of Mr. Johns's book lies in the splendid detail he has collected to describe the world of books in the first two centuries after the printing press arrived in England."--Alberto Manguel, Washington Times "[A] mammoth and stimulating account of the place of print in the history of knowledge. . . . Johns has written a tremendously learned primer."--D. Graham Burnett, New Republic "A detailed, engrossing, and genuinely eye-opening account of the formative stages of the print culture. . . . This is scholarship at its best."--Merle Rubin, Christian Science Monitor "The most lucid and persuasive account of the new kind of knowledge produced by print. . . . A work to rank alongside McLuhan."--John Sutherland, The Independent "Entertainingly written. . . . The most comprehensive account available . . . well documented and engaging."--Ian Maclean, Times Literary Supplement… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member rivkat
We think of books as distilled artifacts of knowledge, immutable, capable of speaking across time and space, the same in the US and in France. But that wasn’t always true—books did differ, printing was a move in a larger game rather than a source of independent artifacts that could be removed from their contexts--and Johns tells the story of how books, and printing, came to be understood as a standard of fixation: how they became trustworthy. For example, “the first folio of Shakespeare boasted some six hundred different typefaces, along with nonuniform spelling and punctuation, erratic divisions and arrangement, mispaging, and irregular proofing. No two copies were identical. It is impossible to decide even that any one is ‘typical.’” Any book could find itself called a “piracy,” because authors and books were part of a struggle for authority. Also challenges the idea that copy-right as initially developed by the Stationers covered only exact copies; Stationers claimed rights against condensed versions, paraphrases, and translations; they even claimed control over entire genres. Stationers and licensers alsohad a complex relationship beforelicensing was abandoned; somelicensors were quite compliant, others didn’t read the books they licensed,and many fell prey to politics for allowing or not allowing certain books through. Long but very interesting, especially given that reliability of print is once again in question now that we have all these revision histories on Wikipedia and so on.… (more)
LibraryThing member jdanforth
OMG, I am so exhausted. But in a good way.



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