A year in reading

by Nick

Here are some books and articles I’ve particularly enjoyed or been inspired by in 2008. Not all of them were published this year, but what they have in common is that this year I read them for the first time.

  • Don McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (Cambridge University Press, 1999). Along with Robert Darnton and Roger Chartier, McKenzie’s work has been hugely influential for historians of early modern books. This is a collection of essays and papers which contains the standout chapter on ‘the book as an expressive form’, which made me reassess my entire approach to early modern texts. It also has a great chapter on the role of literacy and orality in the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • Filippo de Vivo, Information and Communication in Venice (Oxford University Press, 2007).  Looks at political communication in early modern Venice in all its forms – whether ritual, manuscript, print, dress, graffiti, or rumour. The book argues that these formed a web of communication, each part of which cannot be understood without reference to the others. A fantastic integration of the history of political elites and history from below.
  • Kevin Sharpe, Remapping Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2000). The closest thing there is to a manifesto for the benefits of interdisciplinary work on this period.

The other book I’m looking forward to is Helen Pierce’s Unseemly Pictures (Yale University Press, 2008) which looks at graphic satire in seventeenth-century England. It’s only just come out in the past few days. Previously Pierce has published a brilliant article on satirical pictures of Archbishop Laud in the Historical Journal. I’m just hoping the Gower Street branch of Waterstone’s still has a copy of the book when I pop in later in the week!

My image is of a book wheel and is taken from Recueil d’Ouvrages curieux de mathématique et de mécanique by Gaspard Grollier de Servière, 1751 (via peacay’s BibliOdyssey).