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Adam Smyth: A Human History of Books

Wednesday 12th June

Topping & Company Booksellers of Edinburgh, 2 Blenheim Place, Edinburgh EH7 5JH
Doors Open
Start Time
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If you're a bibliophile, this is your dream! Join us for an evening with Adam Smyth, Professor of English Literature and the History of the Book at the University of Oxford, for his latest publication The Book-Makers, a time-machine of a book that explores in compelling fashion eighteen fascinating book makers, women and men, and their often-surprising books.

The Book-Makers

This is an extraordinary story of skill, craft, mess, cunning, triumph, improvisation, and error. Of printers and binders, publishers and artists, paper-makers and library founders.

Some we know. We meet jobbing printer (and United States Founding Father) Benjamin Franklin, and watch Thomas Cobden-Sanderson conjure books that flicker between the 20th and 15th centuries. Others we’ve forgotten. We don't recall Sarah Eaves, wife of John Baskerville, and her crucial contribution to the history of type. Nor Charles Edward Mudie, populariser of the circulating library – and the most influential figure in publishing before Jeff Bezos. Nor William Wildgoose, who meticulously bound Shakespeare’s First Folio, then disappeared.

The Book-Makers puts people back into the story of the book. It takes us inside the print-shop as the deadline looms and the adrenaline flows – from the Fleet Street of 1492 to present-day New York. It’s a tale of contingencies and quirks, of successes and failures, of routes forward and paths not taken. This is a history of book-making that leaves ink on your fingers, and shows why the printed book will continue to flourish.

About Adam Smyth

Adam Smyth runs the 39 Step Press, an experiment in printing, from a cold barn in Oxfordshire. He is also Professor of English Literature and the History of the Book at Balliol College, University of Oxford.

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