Friday, January 22, 2010
In their authoritative essay, "The History of the Book in America" in the newly published The Oxford Companion to the Book, (ed. Michael F. Suarez, SJ and H.R. Woudhuysen, 2 vols. [Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2010], 1:425-42), Scott E. Casper and Joan Shelley Rubin survey and analyze the history of book production and culture in America from its 17th-century beginnings into the 21st century. They trace trends and milestones from John Eliot's Indian Bible (1661-63) printed in Cambridge, MA, through Benjamin Franklin and Peter Zenger, through the growth of Harper, Putnam, Houghton Mifflin, Lippincott, Holt, Knopf and Random House, Time-Warner and the other great American presses of the 20th century. In their survey they discuss the industrial book, literacy and modes of reading, the public library, trends in publishing, marketing and reading, consolidation and globalization, and conclude with a section on "The Future of the Book." Desktop publishing, POD and e-books follow in rapid succession, culminating in several examples of this future: Stephen King, Google Book, and (in some detail, p. 441) the American Council of Learned Societies' "History E-book project" (now, of course, ACLS Humanities E-Book). We're impressed to find ourselves in such good publishing and historical company and to be publicly recognized as a culminating element of the history of the book in America.