The Book History & Print Culture Collaborative Specialization

Histoire du livre, History of the Book, Textual Studies, Print Culture, Sociology of the Text: all these names have been used to describe an international academic movement that rose to prominence in the late twentieth century and continues to expand today. The field of Book History creates and applies knowledge of the material, cultural, and theoretical aspects of books and other textual and pictorial forms, including manuscript, print, and digital media, along with associated practices of authorship, reading, and collecting, within different disciplines in the humanities and information sciences. BHPC admitted its first cohort of graduate students in September 2000, and now has a flourishing network of alumni in academia, library and information sciences, publishing and related fields in Canada and around the world.

Fisher copy of Caxton's Cicero, with marginaliaSponsored by the Department of English and the Faculty of Information in conjunction with Massey College, and now involving more than a dozen further participating units, BHPC is an interdisciplinary graduate program in which the rich physical and human resources of the University of Toronto are brought to bear on multiple aspects of the creation, transmission, and reception of books. As one of the University of Toronto’s collaborative specializations, BHPC is designed to bring together graduate students from a variety of disciplines based on their common research interest in the physical, cultural, and theoretical aspects of the book. The program augments the learning and research potential of existing master’s and doctoral programs by pooling the expertise of U of T faculty members in this field from several disciplines. No extra coursework is required (except for the BKS 2001 Practicum for PhD students), and the core BHPC courses will count as electives in a student’s home program.

Students apply first for admission to the master’s or doctoral program in their prospective home unit and then to the BHPC program. All students are therefore registered in a master’s or doctoral program in one of our participating graduate units (listed below) as well as in BHPC.

Participating Units:


Department of Art History Department of Classics Centre for Comparative Literature
Department of East Asian Studies Department of English Department of French
Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures Department of History Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science & Technology
Faculty of Information Department of Italian Studies Centre for Medieval Studies
Faculty of Music Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations Department for the Study of Religion
Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures Department of Spanish & Portuguese

During their time in the Collaborative Specialization, BHPC students gain a distinctive approach to the materials of their home subject, a methodology fostered by course work, public lectures, student focused workshops, hands-on experience with special collections and the five iron hand-presses in the Bibliography Room at Massey, and intellectual exchange among members of a diverse community. All BHPC students begin with the core course, BKS 1001, “Introduction to Book History” (normally taught in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library), which introduces scholarly approaches to the field. At the master’s level, the core course is complemented by BKS 1002, “Book History in Practice,” and (depending on home program) a certain number of  cross-listed electives. At the doctoral level, students take the advanced seminar, BKS 2000, and complete a Practicum, BKS 2001, in which they bring their skills to bear on a major research project. Upon completion of their home program and the BHPC collaborative specialization, students receive their degree with the transcript notation “Collaborative Specialization in Book History and Print Culture.”

Travaux et thèses peuvent être soumis en français, avec l’approbation des instructeurs et/ou du département d’attache. Les étudiants travaillant en domaine français sont spécialement encouragés à le faire.

In 2020 the BHPC program successfully completed a cyclical review as part of the University of Toronto Quality Assurance Process (UTQAP). For more about the program, see the BHPC 2019 self-study prepared for the review.