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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 August 2020
At a 2004 conference at Princeton University, the leading practitioners of two influential approaches to studying the history of texts—the “history of the book” and “intellectual” history—compared the underpinnings of their respective methods. Robert Darnton contended that while seemingly “made for each other,” book history and intellectual history had proceeded along parallel paths over the late twentieth century, with the latter focused on the analysis of discourse, while historians of the book concerned themselves with the diffusion of texts. Quentin Skinner responded to Darnton by elaborating on these “contrasts.” He characterized the history of the book as “a specialized form of inquiry into the production, diffusion and enjoyment of printed and scribally published material,” while describing intellectual historians as primarily concerned with the meanings that actors in the past have ascribed to concepts as they expressed them in language. Intellectual historians, Skinner suggested, had paid relatively little attention to the social histories of how texts were produced and received, including questions of their physical attributes.
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2 Skinner, Quentin, “On Intellectual History and the History of Books,” Contributions to the History of Concepts 1/1 (2005), 29–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 29.
3 Soll, Jacob, “Intellectual History and the History of the Book,” in Whatmore, Richard and Young, Brian, eds., A Companion to Intellectual History (Malden, MA, 2016), 72–82Google Scholar.
4 Jennifer Schuessler, “The Paper Trail through History,” New York Times, 17 Dec. 2012, C1.
5 Cf. Eisenstein, Elizabeth, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe, vols. 1, 2 (Cambridge, 1979)Google Scholar; Darnton, Robert, The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (New York, 1996)Google Scholar, Part III: “Do Books Cause Revolutions?”; Chartier, Roger, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution, trans. Cochrane, Lydia G. (Durham, NC, 1991)Google Scholar, chap. 4; and Johns, Adrian, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago, 1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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7 Cf. Harris, Verne, “The Archival Sliver: Power, Memory, and Archives in South Africa,” Archival Science 2 (2002), 63–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Head, Randolph, Making Archives in Early Modern Europe: Proof, Information, and Political Record-Keeping, 1400–1700 (Cambridge, 2019)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Robertson, Craig, The Passport in America: The History of a Document (New York, 2010)Google Scholar; and Weld, Kirsten, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (Durham, NC, 2014)Google Scholar.
8 Cf. Curti, Merle, The Growth of American Thought, 3rd edn (New Brunswick, 1982)Google Scholar; Perry, Lewis, Intellectual Life in America: A History (New York, 1984)Google Scholar; Rodgers, Daniel T., Contested Truths: Keywords in American Politics since Independence (New York, 1987)Google Scholar; Menand, Louis, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America (New York, 2001)Google Scholar; and Ratner-Rosenhagen, Jennifer, The Ideas That Made America: A Brief History (New York, 2019)Google Scholar. Neither of two recent edited collections on the state of the field of American intellectual history includes an essay on ideas of media or communication: see Isaac, Joel, Kloppenberg, James T., O'Brien, Michael, and Ratner-Rosenhagen, Jennifer, eds., The Worlds of American Intellectual History (New York, 2017)Google Scholar; and Haberski, Raymond Jr. and Hartman, Andrew, eds., American Labyrinth: Intellectual History for Complicated Times (Ithaca, 2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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11 For “print capitalism” see Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 2006; first published 1983), chap. 3Google Scholar.
12 For the “managerial revolution” see Chandler, Alfred D. Jr, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, MA, 1977)Google Scholar; and for the role of paperwork see Yates, JoAnne, Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management (Baltimore, 1989)Google Scholar.
13 Brooks, Joanna, “The Early American Public Sphere and the Emergence of a Black Print Counterpublic,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series 62/1 (2005), 67–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Loughran, Trish, The Republic in Print: Print Culture in the Age of U.S. Nation Building, 1770–1870 (New York, 2007)Google Scholar; Pratt, Lloyd, Archives of American Time: Literature and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Senchyne, Jonathan, “Paper Nationalism: Material Textuality and Communal Affiliation in Early America,” Book History 19 (2016), 66–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
14 Gitelman's account of the relationship between paperwork and “the liberal subject” in the United States (49) bears comparison with Joyce's argument for the entanglement of liberal subjectivity, bureaucracy, and paperwork in the nineteenth-century British state and empire. See Joyce, Patrick, The State of Freedom: A Social History of the British State since 1800 (Cambridge, 2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, chaps. 3–4.
15 Skinner, Quentin, Visions of Politics, vol. 1, Regarding Method (Cambridge, 2002), 16Google Scholar. For Skinner's debts to Wittgenstein and Austin see ibid., 161.
16 Chartier, Roger, “Laborers and Voyagers: From the Text to the Reader,” diacritics 22/2 (1992), 49–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 50 (“forms produce meaning”); and McKenzie, D. F., Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (Cambridge, 1999; first published 1985), 13CrossRefGoogle Scholar (“forms effect meaning”). With respect to intention, Chartier has written that “meanings and significations … are not reducible to the intentions of authors of texts or producers of books.” See Chartier, Roger, “Texts, Printing, Readings,” in Hunt, Lynn, ed., The New Cultural History (Berkeley, 1989), 156Google Scholar.
17 On the heterogeneous theoretical underpinnings of book history see Suarez, Michael F. SJ, “Historiographical Problems and Possibilities in Book History and National Histories of the Book,” Studies in Bibliography 56 (2003–4), 141–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
18 An excellent entryway into this literature remains the special issue on New German Media Theory, Grey Room 29 (2007), 7–133.
19 See also Gitelman, Lisa, Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era (Stanford, 1999), 3–4Google Scholar.
20 Kafka, Ben, “Paperwork: The State of the Discipline,” Book History 12 (2009), 340–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 351.
21 Darnton, Robert, “‘What Is the History of Books?’ Revisited,” Modern Intellectual History 4/3 (2007), 495–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 495.
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