Core Courses

BKS 1001H: Introduction to Book History

David Fernández (Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library), Fall 2023, Mondays 2:00 – 5:00 pm, Fisher Library.

This foundational course, required for all BHPC students in their first term, will introduce students to basic topics such as the semiotics of the book; orality and writing systems; book production from manuscript to computer technology; the development of printing; the concept of authorship; copyright; censorship; the economics of book production and distribution; libraries and the organization of information; principles of bibliographical description; print in other formats (newspapers, magazines, advertisements, etc.); reading and readership; editorial theory and practice.

Sample syllabi:

BKS 1002H: Book History in Practice

Dr. Alan Galey (Faculty of Information), Winter 2024, Mondays 2:00 – 5:00 pm, Round Room, Massey College.

Offered in the Winter Term and required for all Master’s students in the BHPC Program, this course develops many of the themes from BKS 1001H in a seminar format. The approach of the course reflects what David Greetham calls “the disciplinary interrelatedness of all aspects of the study of the book” (Textual Scholarship: An Introduction, p. 2). The course consists of seminars on key topics in book history, punctuated by case studies of particular books, events, and debates. These case studies are designed to pull together ongoing threads of inquiry from the readings, and to allow students to work outward from specific artifacts to general questions. Prerequisite: BKS 1001H.

Sample syllabi:

BKS 1002 class visiting Coach House Books

BKS 2000H: Advanced Seminar in Book History and Print Culture

An advanced seminar required for all doctoral students in the BHPC Program, this course will vary in content from year to year depending upon the expertise of the faculty member appointed to lead it. The term-paper research project will be open to work in all disciplines, periods, and languages in consultation with the instructor. Prerequisite or corequisite for BHPC students: BKS 1001H. May be available without prerequisite to students outside the program by permission of instructor.

2022-2023 seminar (cross-listed as COL 5147H):

Books at Risk

Dr. Ann Komaromi (Comparative Literature), Winter 2023, Thursdays 2:00 – 4:00 pm, Round Room, Massey College.

This course combines questions and methods from book history and comparative literature to examine what happens to textual objects when they travel (or fail to travel) across geographical and temporal borders. Seizure and prohibition, fire, theft, bombing and physical decay are among the factors that may threaten the life of books. How do publishing and self-publishing, distribution, collection and restoration in institutional, private or clandestine libraries reflect interests in cultural production, preservation and transmission? What have people considered to be the books and texts worth saving and why?

We will take up B. Venkat Mani’s challenge to abstract and cloistered concepts of world literature and examine as he does the life and death of the material text in concrete locations. This means critically interrogating what David Damrosch described as the “detached engagement” with world literature. It also entails nuancing broad claims by critics including Emily Apter and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak about power imbalances. We will look at the range of values and circumstances that influence the life of books in locations where war, disaster, authoritarian governments and regime change may impact what and how people read. We will develop our analytic toolkit by moving from Darnton’s communication circuit toward a socialized and material understanding of the text’s lives and afterlives as outlined by scholars including Peter McDonald, Jerome McGann and D. F. McKenzie. We will consider examples such as the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, the clandestine book trade in pre-revolutionary France, attempts to save books and manuscripts during WWII, literary censorship in South Africa, literature smuggled across Soviet borders and the restoration of damaged medieval manuscripts. Students will be encouraged to hone their analysis of material and social aspects of texts that interest them in light of questions about cultural production, transmission and preservation.

A list of previous offerings of BKS 2000H can be found here.

BKS2001H: Practicum in Book History and Print Culture

An individual project for PhD students intended to serve as a bridge from coursework to the dissertation, taken under the supervision of a BHPC-affiliated faculty member. The practicum project may lead directly into dissertation research, or may allow the student to explore a side project, and the student’s approach should be decided in consultation with the PhD supervisor and BHPC Director. The primary learning outcome of any BKS 2001H project should be for the student to be able to translate individual research interests into scholarly projects that engage with methods and concepts from the field of book history, broadly defined. Proposals from BHPC Master’s students may be considered under exceptional circumstances; interested Master’s students should email the Director and Program Coordinator well in advance of the deadline to consult about eligibility.

Timing.    Enrollment is normally limited to doctoral students in the BHPC Program. BKS 2001H should be completed by the end of the student’s coursework period within the home unit (normally Year 1), or in the summer immediately thereafter. Please note that eligibility for the BHPC Student Research Awards and BHPC Printing Apprenticeships at Massey College is conditional upon timely enrollment in BKS 2001H.

Types of Projects.      Examples of BHPC practicum projects include exhibitions and/or accompanying catalogues, online exhibitions or other digital projects, bibliographies, scholarly editions of short works and other forms of in-depth case studies, and printing or other projects in conjunction with the Massey College Library’s Bibliography Room. A list of completed practicum projects may be found here. Students are welcome and encouraged to expand upon the forms of previous practicum projects, and to propose hands-on projects that take advantage of the resources available through Massey College, the University of Toronto, and the city’s book arts community, and are advised to consult with librarians and archivists as they plan their projects. It is possible for a student to work closely with a non-faculty mentor or collaborator, as long as the official practicum supervisor holds an SGS appointment and BHPC affiliation. (The BHPC Director can add new faculty members to the affiliated list upon their request, provided the faculty member’s research has a demonstrable connection to BHPC’s fields of study, broadly defined.)

Students whose projects incur expenses for materials (e.g. special paper for a printing project) are encouraged to contact the Director and Program Coordinator.

Grading and Structure.          The practicum is a graded course. The student and supervisor must consult in advance on how the final grade will be determined, and make the grading structure (including percentages for graded deliverables) clear in the practicum proposal. The participation grade, if any, may not exceed 20% of the course grade. It is recommended that students and supervisors avoid single end-of-term deliverables worth more than 80%, and instead break large assignments into smaller, separately graded stages (e.g. a preliminary outline, annotated bibliography, etc.) so that students receive feedback early in the project. (See also the section on reading and research courses, under “Alternate Course Types,” in the SGS Policy on Graduate Courses & Other Academic Activities.)

Submitting a Proposal.           The practicum proposal must be submitted to the Program Coordinator ( by November 1 for a Winter Term course and April 1 for a Summer or Fall course. The proposal should be a single PDF document, and should include the following information:

  • practicum title
  • name of practicum supervisor
  • 500-word description of the project, detailing its scope, methods, goals, and the collections and resources it will draw upon
  • a brief bibliography of primary and secondary sources
  • grading structure

The practicum supervisor should also send the Program Coordinator an email confirming that they’ve read and approved the proposal. Proposals will be reviewed by the Program Director and Committee, with the results communicated to students normally within two weeks of submission.

Examples of successful proposals may be requested from the Program Coordinator.

Final Grade Submission.     Supervisors must submit final course grades to the Program Coordinator at least 10 business days prior to the SGS grade submission deadline for the term (see the SGS listing of sessional dates for specific deadlines. Please note that outside of serious health or personal emergencies, there is normally no flexibility on SGS grade submission deadlines. Supervisors and students should determine assignment deadlines accordingly.