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Making scholarly research possible is what the American Antiquarian Society is all about. Mostly, such research is carried out by the thousands of scholars who travel from all over the world to work in the Society's library. The "research" part of the Society's mandate is intended both to provide the means by which its staff carries on research and to provide directed activities in which others take part. The Society's director of research and publication coordinates funded research projects within the Society. Such undertakings have included the Catalogue of American Engravings and the North American Imprints Program, both funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The former is a checklist of all engravings that were published in America through 1820 either as separates or as illustrations in books. The latter is an undertaking that will result in a computerized database describing all books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed in America through 1876.

One major research program has educational overtones as well. It is the Program in the History of the Book in American Culture. AAS established the Program in 1983 in order to focus the Society's resources on promoting an emerging field of interdisciplinary inquiry. In doing so, AAS draws not only on its traditional resources as a center of bibliographical research and as a matchless repository of printed matter, but also on certain intellectual currents from abroad that look at the history of books in their full economic, social, and cultural context. In order to accomplish its goal of providing intellectual leadership in this field, the Program has sponsored conferences, publications, seminars, and research fellowships. A summer seminar in the history of the book, offering short-term, intensive training in methodologies and concepts, was initiated in 1985. The seminar has been successful in assembling a stimulating range of persons concerned with the field. A conference that included European scholars was held in 1984, and resulted in the publication of Needs and Opportunities in the History of the Book: America, 1639- 1876. An earlier conference in 1980 resulted in the publication of Printing and Society in Early America, a collection of original essays, some of which have since become widely cited. More recent conferences have focused on teaching the history of the book and on the iconography of the book. The annual series of James Russell Wiggins Lectures in the History of the Book in American Culture, inaugurated in 1983, has brought forth important conceptual statements by leading scholars in different disciplines touching on the field. A thrice-yearly newsletter, The Book, serves as the chief means by which the Program communicates with its various constituencies and publishes substantive pieces on research collections and on research in progress. A significant goal of the Program is the publication, in the 1990s, of a multivolume, collaborative history of the book in American culture from the early seventeenth century to our own times.

-John B. Hench, Vice-President for Collections and Programs


The First Democratization Project is a collection of election returns for the United States during the period 1787-1825.


More information on the Society's Program in the History of the Book is available under the heading of "History of the Book" under the heading of "Academic Programs" in the "Programs" section of this website.


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Last updated September 2, 2004

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