Courses in foreign languages at the Faculty

Anna Olszewska

Semester: all

Key words: media history, history of the book, visual communication, manuscript, print, text and image relationship.


Course description:

The purpose of these classes is to introduce the issues related to the cultural context of the printed books and manuscripts in the history of Euroean civilization, as well as to present the basic research methods by means of which a historian deals with the objects of this kind. During the classes the participants will mainly be dealing with examples coming from the late medieval and the early modern periods. In the second part of the classes the chronological scope will be broadened to include issues related to the contemporary times. I am planning to conduct some of the classes examinning the original manuscripts and the old prints in the collection of the the Jagiellonian Library.

Issues discussed during the classes:

1. The medieval scriptorium and the printing house of the modern period.

The organization of manuscript production and printing in Europe, circulation and dissemination of copies, the publishing market, places where books were sold, the prices of books and the ways of popularizing them. The Gutenberg Bible and the printing House of Aldus in Venice - two esthetic currents as far as the printed book was concerned.

2. The book in the treasury and in the library.

The oldest collections of books in Europe and their significance, what fraction of them have survived till this day, the causes of their destruction.

3. The collection and the study – social status markers:

Church, court and municipal patronage, the private collections of the Renaissance era, examples of the ways in which the collections were created and exhibited.

4. The original, the copy and the forgery.

Methods of copying texts and images, Gutenberg and the problems with the movable type, block books, printing blocks and their history, the so-called ‘states’ of graphic proofs (exemplified by Rembrandt’s Faust), how to compare styles of images to those in writing in order to state whether the work is an original or not.

5. Forms of the book: scrolls, volumes and portfolios.

Types of books, their formats, volume, weight and shapes as well as the ways in which they are to be stored.

6. Materials: parchement and paper.

Methods of production, the materials and techniques used to create the volume. Wood engraving, copperplate engraving, etching and their derivatives: lithography and offset – how to identify a graphic technique and its imitation.

7. The layout of the page and the function of the codex.

Proportions in laying out the page of a manuscript and print, it’s esthetis and functional consequences.

8. An image in the structure of the manuscript and print.

Kinds of initials and their structure, typography, ornaments on margins, vignettes, head- and tailpieces ways of reusing wood engraving matrices and blocks.

9. The book as a means of conveying style and iconographic solutions (part: 1 and 2)

Graphic patterns and examples of their significance for other fields of art, sketchbooks and pattern books - the issue of the range of their influence.

10. Relationships between image and text (part 1 and 2).

Basic methods of interpretation of prints, engravings and miniatures which accompany the written word.

11. One work, many authors.

How to identify authors, where to look for their signatures – the abbreviations used in graphics (inc. pinx, exc and others.). Title page, the colophon the incipit and the explicit.

12. Virtual editions, e-libraries.

The contemporary forms of the book and the development trends.


  • Jonathan, Alexander J.G. Medieval Illuminators and Theirs Methods of Work. New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 1992.

  • Roland, Barthes. Rhetoric of the Image, In Stephen Heath [ed. and trans]. Image, Music, Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. pp. 32-51.

  • Bignell, Jonathan. Media Semiotics: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998.

  • Hamel, Christopher D. Glossed Books of the Bible and the Origins of the Paris Book Trade. Woodbridge and Wolfeboro, N.H.: Boydell & Brewer, 1984.

  • Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe Canto Edition. Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1993.

  • Gombrich, Eernst H. The Visual Image. In David R Olson [ed.]: Media and Symbols: The Forms of Expression, Communication and Education. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1974. pp. 255-8

  • McKitterick, David. Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order, 1450-1830. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

  • McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962.

  • Parkes, Malcolm B. Scribes, Scripts, and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation, and Dissemination of Medieval Texts. London, U.K., Rio Grande, Ohio: Hambledon Press, 1991.Thompson, James W. The Medieval Library. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1939

    Ullman, Berthold L. Ancient writing and its influence. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969. Weitzmann, Kurt. Illustrations in roll and codex; a study of the origin and method of text illustration. In Studies in Manuscript Illumination. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970.

    Zielinski, Siegfried. Deep Time of the Media (translated by Gloria Custance). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006.

Grading system:

Students are obliged to attend sessions plus submit one written assignment.


Course is given on individual tutorial basis.