The Newspaper and the Culture of Print in the Early American Republic

Summer Seminar in the History of the Book
June 18- June 23, 2008
David Paul Nord
John Nerone

detail from the Boston Notion mastheadTo write his classic History of Printing in America (1810), Isaiah Thomas collected newspapers. He knew well that the newspaper was the most common and most characteristic product of the early American press. This week-long seminar at the American Antiquarian Society, the library that Isaiah Thomas founded in 1812, will explore American print culture through the newspaper in the early republic.

The seminar will focus on the material base of newspaper printing and production, on the business side of newspapers, and on the readers of newspapers and the role that newspapers played in their public and private lives. Class sessions will include readings and discussions on the history of newspapers and the early republic as well as hands-on sessions with materials from the AAS's unrivaled collections. Participants will have the opportunity to work with original newspapers and other documents to study newspaper form, business strategies, and cultural uses.

The seminar will be led by David Paul Nord and John Nerone. Nord and Nerone, who have both held fellowships at the American Antiquarian Society, believe that the AAS is the best place in the country for such a seminar. At the core of the Society's collections are those early newspapers gathered by Isaiah Thomas in the first decade of the nineteenth century. The Society has steadily added to that core since 1812 and has also collected many supporting materials such as business records, newsboy broadsides, organizational newsletters, and other ephemeral documents related to the newspaper trade. The AAS collections include more than 15,000 different newspaper titles.

While this seminar should be of particular interest to scholars of historical media and communications, others working primarily in history, literature, and allied fields in early American culture may also gain an understanding of how to use this rich source material in their studies.

More information on the seminar was published in the July 2008 issue of The Book.

About the Faculty: 

David Paul Nord is Professor of journalism and adjunct professor of history at Indiana University and author of Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers (2001) and Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America (2004). Nord is co-editor, with Joan Shelley Rubin and Michael Schudson, of The Enduring Book: Publishing in Post-War America, Volume 5 in the five-volume series A History of the Book in America, a project supported by the AAS and published by the University of North Carolina Press. John Nerone is research professor in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois. He is author of Violence Against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History (1994) and co-author (with Kevin Barnhurst) of The Form of News: A History (2001). Nerone is also a contributor to A History of the Book in America. Guest faculty will include Vincent Golden, curator of newspapers and periodicals at the AAS.

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