The Book-Makers: A History of the Book in Eighteen Lives

Basic: Perseus. May 2024. 400p. ISBN 9781541605640. $32. HIST
This lively and enlightening history of books and the people who made them is packed with fascinating people and facts and buttressed by a flood of informative illustrations scattered across the text and in folio. The discussion starts with the late 15th-century successor to William Caxton, Wynkyn deWorde, who was innovative both in what he published and how he did it. Across 40 years, his press published more than 800 titles, accounting for about 15 percent of the known printing output in England prior to 1550. Smyth’s book ends with an introduction to self-published zines and Nancy Cunard’s avant-garde Hours Press, which was responsible for the first separately published work by Samuel Beckett, “Whoroscope,” in 1930. Throughout this volume, Smyth (English literature and book history, Univ. of Oxford; editor, Oxford Handbook of the History of the Book in Early Modern England) conveys just how fluid book text and format has been and still is.
VERDICT A must for book lovers. Give to fans of Christopher de Hamel’s The Manuscripts Club.
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