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21st June 2024 Ana Bradley (2023, English)

Alumnus Adam Smyth publishes The Book-Makers: History of the Book in 18 Remarkable Lives

In April of this year, Exeter alumnus Adam Smyth (1990, Modern History) published his latest book, The Book-Makers: A History of the Book in 18 Remarkable Lives. Through the eponymous 18 lives, Smyth humanises the story of the printed book in what author and critic Martin Latham called a ‘soul-expanding celebration of the human spirit’.

The Times Literary Supplement pronounced: ‘The charm of The Book-Makers comes from its interest in wear and tear, blunders and errata, the spontaneous and the scrappy, the residual and the recycled—and in edges, of pages and bindings, society and taste’.

These edges are brought to life in the stories of figures such as Sarah Eaves, the wife of John Baskerville, who was crucial in the development of the Baskerville typeface, and William Wildgoose, the binder of Shakespeare’s first folio. Both figures had fallen to the wayside of history, but Smyth repositions them in front and centre. However, he also casts famous figures such as Benjamin Franklin into new light, focusing not on his position as a founding father of the United States, but on his time as a jobbing printer and the founder of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Adam Smyth is Professor of English Literature and the History of the Book at Oxford University and a Fellow in English Literature at Balliol College. He is the co-founder of the 39 Steps Press printing collective and has published widely on literature from all periods, but particularly the 16th to 17th centuries. The Book-Makers: A History of the Book in 18 Remarkable Lives, can be purchased here.

Book cover of The Book-Makers: A History of the Book in 18 Remarkable Lives

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