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David Pearson (2) (1955–)

Forfatter af Books as History: The Importance of Books Beyond Their Texts

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David Pearson is Director of the University of London Research Library Services.
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David Pearson's very useful overview of Durham booksellers and bookbinders, with rubbings of tools used, diagrams of typical binding styles, and photographs of example bindings.
JBD1 | Jul 14, 2019 |
This revised third edition of David Pearson's Books as History includes a new foreword, an updated list of further reading, and various other additions and updates. Updated in light of the recent development of the e-book, this version will offer new pictures, new ideas on the life of the book, and further thoughts on how the book will survive.

Books have been hugely important in human civilization as instruments for communicating information and ideas. The digital age has caused the landscape of books to change, with more and more of the traditional functions of books being performed electronically. People usually think of books in terms of their contents or their texts, but in fact, books may possess all kinds of potentially interesting qualities beyond their texts, as designed or artistic objects, or because they have unique properties deriving from the ways they have been printed, bound, annotated, beautified or defaced.

David Pearson explores these themes and uses many examples of books from the Middle Ages to the present day to show why books may be interesting beyond their texts. As the format of the book becomes history - as texts are increasingly communicated electronically - we can recognize that books are also history in another significant way. Books can develop their own individual histories, which provide important evidence about the way they were used and regarded in the past, which make them an indispensable part of the fabric of our cultural heritage. This book will raise awareness of an important aspect of the life of books in the context of the ongoing debate about their future. Extensively illustrated with a wide range of images, it will not only be approachable but also thought-provoking.

David Pearson has extensive experience in managing and working in major research collections. He is also a respected scholar in the field of book history, whose articles and books, including Provenance Research in Book History (Oak Knoll Press and The British Library, 1994) and English Bookbinding Styles, 1450-1800: a Handbook (Oak Knoll Press and The British Library 2005), have focused on various aspects of the ownership and binding of books.
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AntonioGallo | 3 andre anmeldelser | Nov 2, 2017 |
A lovely compilation of treasures from the City of London's extensive and varied archival collections. To highlight everything from manuscripts to rare books to paintings and objects, Pearson and his team have written lively texts and complemented them with excellent photographs.
JBD1 | Jun 2, 2014 |
David Pearson's Books as History (first published 2008; revised edition published by the British Library and Oak Knoll Press, 2011) ought to be read by, well, everyone, frankly, but at the very least anyone with even the slightest interest in books. Most especially, perhaps, it should be required reading for those who pen breathless screeds about "the death of the book," or who simply don't understand the fact that books can be important historical artifacts, imparting lessons far more important than the text contained within them. "Books may cease to be read," Pearson writes, "but let us recognise that we may have other reasons to value them" (p. 5).

Pearson, director of the City of London's Library, Archives, and Guildhall Art Gallery, is one of the best-qualified people in the world to write a book about the importance of books as history. An expert on both bookbindings and provenance research (among other aspects of book history), he puts that knowledge to good use here, pointing out in several chapters the various ways in which a book can become, as he puts it, "a preservable object with an individual history" (p. 22), a "unique artefact in the fabric of cultural heritage, with a wealth of meaning worth preserving and interpreting" (p. 25).

Through different typographic choices, design styles, illustration techniques, &c., Pearson first examines how a single text can be changed and altered, and he shows how, do to the production processes during the hand-press period, no two books even from the same edition are likely to be identical, strictly speaking. And then he digs deeper, noting that even in cases where the text and design may be identical, all of the individual copies of a particular edition become unique objects in their own right. He uses the example of 1,000 unbound copies of an 18th-century book, all of which go to different owners, each to be bound to the purchaser's own preferences, and later to be marked up, used, and passed on to subsequent owners. Each of those copies is a unique historical object, different, however slightly, from all of its edition-mates. A case study at the end of the book examines in detail five copies of a single book, to prove the point.

In his penultimate chapter, Pearson examines the role of libraries as historical artifacts themselves: "Knowing the contents of private and institutional libraries of the past allows us to compare them with other collections of the time, and to build up wider pictures of book ownership over the centuries, looking at average sizes, changing trends in language or subject, and in the place of origin of the books. We can see which books were popular and which were not; books have survived today in very uneven ways, and ones which are very rare today may once have been much more widely read than ones which have survived in relatively large quanitities. ... Looking carefully at [historical peoples'] collections, and the physical evidence of the ways in which they treated them, helps us to better understand these various roles which books have played in history" (p. 166-7).

Looking forward, Pearson makes the very important point that "If [books'] rationale is solely textual, their obsolescence seems guaranteed; the key point is that it is not, and that we are collectively in danger of making bad decisions about what should and should not be preserved for posterity if we overlook this" (p. 21).

Books as History as a book-object also happens to be very well designed, and is thoroughly illustrated with example images that nicely complement Pearson's text. A good list of sources for further reading is included for those who find something intriguing and want to read more. It's an excellent introduction to the book history field, and a book which should, as I said at the outset, be read by anyone with even a remote interest in the subject.

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JBD1 | 3 andre anmeldelser | Jan 16, 2012 |


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