"As bibliographers or book historians, we perform our work by changing the function of the objects we study. We rarely pick up an Aldine edition to read one of the classical texts it contains. . . . Print culture, under this notion, is not a medium for writing or thought but a historical object of study; our bibliographical field, our own concoction, becomes the true referent of the objects we define as its foundation."—From the Introduction
What is a book in the study of print culture? For the scholar of material texts, it is not only a singular copy carrying the unique traces of printing and preservation efforts, or an edition, repeated and repeatable, or a vehicle for ideas to be abstracted from the physical copy. But when the bibliographer situates a book copy within the methods of book history, Joseph A. Dane contends, it is the known set of assumptions which govern the discipline that bibliographic arguments privilege, repeat, or challenge. "Book history," he writes, "is us."
In Blind Impressions, Dane reexamines the field of material book history by questioning its most basic assumptions and definitions. How is print defined? What are the limits of printing history? What constitutes evidence? His concluding section takes form as a series of short studies in theme and variation, considering such matters as two-color printing, the composing stick used by hand-press printers, the bibliographical status of book fragments, and the function of scholarly illustration in the Digital Age. Meticulously detailed, deeply learned, and often contrarian, Blind Impressions is a bracing critique of the way scholars define and solve problems.
PART I. WHAT IS PRINT?
Chapter 1. Paleography Versus Typography
Chapter 2. "Ca. 1800": What's in a Date?
Chapter 3. Bibliographers of the Mind
PART II. ON THE MAKING OF LISTS
Chapter 4. Herman R. Mead's Incunabula in the Huntington Library and the Notion of "Typographical Value"
Chapter 5. Catchtitles in English Books to 1550
Chapter 6. An Editorial Propaedeutic
PART III. IRONIES OF HISTORY AND REPRESENTATION: THEME AND VARIATION
III.1. Book History and Book Histories: On the Making of Lists
III.2. Meditation on the Composing Stick
III.3. The Red and the Black
III.5. The Nature and Function of Scholarly Illustration in a Digital World
III.6. Art of the Mind
Principal Sources Cited
"Dane not only enlivens his text with the refreshing polemical cast with which bibliographers from Housman to Greg and Tanselle have become deservedly well known, but also spices his discussion with arresting contemporary references. . . . The historical range, critical acuity and cumulative evidence from various sources, genres and media make the books a rich resource on any bibliographer's shelves."—SHARP News