It's hard to imagine that today's undergraduates, who have used technology all their lives, would be interested in studying the book as an object. Are book studies relevant in the era of the Kindle, the Nook, etc.? Smith College, my alma mater, answers this question in the affirmative with its concentration on Book Studies. As a budding librarian during my college years, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to take classes on "the history, art and technology of the 'book.'" I eventually did just this while pursuing my M.L.S. at Columbia's now-defunct School of Library Service--my favorite course was the History of the Printed Book, taught by Professor Terry Belanger, a well-known expert on the subject. Smith's offerings on book studies go way beyond anything available at Columbia. According to the website, the concentration "connects students with the exceptional resources of [Smith's] Mortimer Rare Book Room and the wealth of book artists and craftspeople of the Pioneer Valley." Students take courses at Smith and at the other schools that are part of the Five College consortium. They learn about book design, binding, paper, publishing, printing, libraries, rare books and manuscripts. All students in the concentration are required to undertake a "practical learning experience" or internship related to book studies. Students are encouraged to think about "radical new forms of typography, illustration and links to other media," and to ponder whether "electronic books [will] eventually unite the beauty and clarity of the forms that precede them with new possibilities as yet unimagined?"
The illustration for this blog post shows Martin Antonetti, Smith College's Curator of Rare Books, during an instructional session in the Mortimer Rare Book Room.