This modular collection of courses encompasses all aspects of the book in its many manifestations, across time and space. Drawing on the rich collections of Harvard’s libraries and museums, learners are invited to explore the book not simply as a container of content, but as a meaningful physical object that has shaped the way we understand the world around us.

  • The first three modules focus on the advent of printing in Europe, the role of books as physical and intellectual objects during the Enlightenment, and the rise of the reading public.
  • The following four modules focuses on the making and meaning of Medieval manuscripts, the importance of scrolls during the age of the codex, and the role of manuscripts in Medieval art, prayer, and worship.
  • The final two modules introduce students to the world of medieval paleography, the science of reading old handwriting. Two modules, on monastic bookhand and notarial cursive, introduce you to some of the major hands from the period. Along the way, they will give you an unprecedented experience working with real medieval documents.

We begin with a look at The Book: Histories Across Time and Space in primarily Western contexts and medieval timeframes. Future courses will expand to additional historical periods and geographical regions. 

This nine-part course is self-paced; you can begin anytime and with any module(s) that interest you.

Courses