class 2 lesson plan
Context for the Cultural Record
Taking It Further — Beyond the Primary Lesson
Additional Topics for Discussion
The additional topics described below could be the subject of classroom discussion and activities if more time is available, or they could be incorporated into the primary lesson as desired, depending on the instructor’s interests and background. Topics and activities are divided according to the three main parts of the primary lesson, and additional readings for students (upon which the discussions/activities are based) are provided.
Part I: The Importance of Context
Part II: Physical Aspects of Context
Activity: Have the class compare the styles and purposes of picture and text in manuscript and book design to the “look and feel” of electronic productions, particularly Internet productions.
Activity: Have the class debate this in relation to the growing dependence on digital surrogates for rare and fragile materials.
Part III: Preservation of Context
Activity: Create a handout for researchers explaining the criteria for consulting fragile rare “original” objects, the problems of using these materials, and the proper methods of handling them.
Activity: Develop a one-hour presentation for library staff on the criteria for adding “historical context” materials to special collections and on the conditions for transfer of these materials from the main stack areas.
Suggested Further Readings for Students
The Importance of Context
Febvre, Lucien, and Henri-Jean Martin. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450–1800. Translated by David Gerard. London and New York: Verso, 1990. L’Apparition du livre first appeared in 1958. Especially relevant are “Preface” and “The Book as a Force for Change.”
One of the most important modern studies to analyze the historical relationship between printing and culture, its sociological emphasis laid the foundation for contextual scholarship. “[The printed book] rendered vital service to research by immediately transmitting results from one researcher to another; and speedily, without laborious effort or unsupportable costs, it assembled permanently the works of the most sublime creative spirits in all fields.”
Physical Aspects of Context
Avrin, Leila. Scribes, Script, and Books: The Book Arts from Antiquity to the Renaissance. Chicago: American Library Association; London: British Library, 1991. “Chapter 9: Codices Manu Scripti: Books Written by Hand.”
A learned yet lucid account of the design and production of manuscripts from the medieval period leading up to the invention of printing. It discusses text, illumination, materials, production, and physical format.
Tanselle, G. Thomas. “Libraries, Museums, and Reading.” Sixth Sol M. Malkin Lecture in Bibliography. New York: Book Arts Press, Columbia University School of Library Service, 1991.
Tanselle is a highly respected bibliographic scholar who represents one important, but extreme, view of the value of original documents. This short paper presents his belief that “every ‘copy’ of every printed edition” is unique as an artifact and should thus be preserved for study of the past. It also develops his theory that language is intangible and thus the only “reality” is the physical format itself. In other words, there is no distinction between form and content, a view that goes against most library preservation programs today that distinguish between conserving the “artifact” (i.e., the physical embodiment) and “preserving” the content (i.e., the text and images) in any appropriate medium.
Preservation of Context
Lavender, Kenneth. “Preservation Education for the Library User: The Special Collections Perspective.” In Jeanne M. Drewes and Julie A. Page, eds. Promoting Preservation Awareness in Libraries. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997, pp. 263–79.
This article establishes the history of the book as one of the most influential contexts for preservation of special materials, especially popular culture publications. It discusses the problems for conservators trying to treat this type of historical publication and establishes methods for teaching readers how to handle this fragile material.
NEDCC, 100 Brickstone Square, Andover, MA 01810-1494 • Phone: 978-470-1010 • Fax: 978-475-6021 •