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Vernacular textbooks often seem less problematic on first examination than Latin schoolbooks because the non-Latin books were in fact prototypes for the textbooks that we are still using in the age of electronic literacy. But even in vernacular fields, textbooks tended (and still tend) to lag somewhat behind substantive advances in theory and practice. I hope that my study of the increasing divide between Latin and non-Latin books in the sixteenth century will offer useful parallels to the problems of textbook production in our own twenty-first century.

Textbooks (then as now) were tools, so it should come as no surprise that the history I have attempted in this online book is a pragmatic one, concerned with the field where the practices of teachers and those of printers intersected. It will offer little beyond raw data to those interested primarily in literary theory or philosophy, and still less for intellectual history in the old fashioned sense of great ideas embodied in great books. Nonetheless, I hope this volume will offer a useful collection of case studies for scholars interested in the histories of printing, education, psychology, and language. And of course, advertising and selling books.

Posted by admin on September 16, 2008
Tags: Introduction

Total comments on this page: 2

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amain270 on paragraph 1:

I am intrigued by the implied potential that digital books such as this one might be able to condense the lag between cutting-edge theory and on-the-ground pedagogy. The ability to modify the text to reflect new developments ensures at the very least the gap will not widen. Comments also offer the possibility of an always-updating paratext that can incorporate realtime debates in the field. However, this assumes sustained reader engagement with the text. It seems to me that one of the big requirements for the success of the interactive ebook model is vibrant audience participation. What tools do we have open to us to ensure this participation? How do we advertise these resources to the audience that will most benefit from them? It seems like Humanism for Sale has been very successful in drawing in an active body of interlocutors. How was this accomplished?

October 11, 2018 1:28 pm
Paul Gehl on paragraph 1:

Thanks for this perceptive comment, Ms. Main. You are right to point to the limited interactivity of Humanism For Sale, not so much because of the software but simply because we do not normally interact repeatedly with scholarly monographs. Typically such works get reviews (traditionally in print) and then accumulate a citation history in the relevant scholarly literature. But even scholars in the filed who might comment once on first reading will not comment on later readings, merely cite and go on to something else. By contrast to some e-fiction and music which is intended to grow via additions from an audience, the audience for a monograph is mostly static. Indeed if you quickly scan the HFS comments, only a few have multiple replies. The greatest number of comments, moreover, are my own, intended to bring the discussion up to date with citations of new literature.

October 11, 2018 4:25 pm

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