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Technics of Print, 1500-1800 - HIS00104M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Hannah Jeans
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

This module offers an introduction to the technical analysis and interpretation of printed items made in the period 1500-1800. It is designed to provide students with the technical skills needed to begin research using early-modern printed sources. Students will learn about the historiography of print culture and associated concepts (such as reception and circulation). They will be able to see, first-hand, an early-modern printing-press and understand how it worked. They will handle a variety of early-modern sources – including but not limited to books, handbills, music, pamphlets, and plays – from the tens of thousands of printed items in the collections of York Minster Library.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • introduce students to the technical analysis of early-modern printed objects
  • cover a range of different types of printed sources
  • develop students’ familiarity with the technology of early-modern printing
  • fit together technical analysis with broader historiographical debates about print
  • enable students to handle printed items safely

Module learning outcomes

At the end of this module students will be able to:

  • use printed items in archival contexts for their own research
  • understand the mechanics of a printing-press
  • identify the technical attributes of early-modern printed items
  • evaluate the significance of print culture in the early-modern world
  • interpret the key differences between early-modern printed objects

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend a 2-hour seminar, two 4-hour workshops and a mini-conference in the spring term.

The provisional programme is as follows:

Week 1: Briefing (1 hour)
Week 2: Context/theory seminar: The Historiography of Print (2 hours)
Week 3: Workshop I: The Printing Press (4 hours)
Week 4: Workshop II: York Minster Library (4 hours)
Weeks 5-8: Independent project work
Week 8: Project Mini-Conference (3 hours)


Task Length % of module mark
University - project
Project Portfolio
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will submit a project portfolio in week 10 of the spring term for summative assessment, comprising of a 300-word technical description and a 1000-word reflective essay.

Students will produce a short technical description of their chosen item, focusing on one (or more) of its technical attributes, including but not limited to its title, size, edition, printer, publisher, typeface, marginalia or provenance. They may include up to three photographs of their object alongside the description. They will also write a reflective essay explaining how they traced this attribute and its significance for how the item may have been used.

Prior to that in week 8, students will make a short presentation to the group at the mini-conference about their chosen project, the research they have undertaken, and their likely direction for the reflective essay.


Task Length % of module mark
University - project
Project Portfolio
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive constructive verbal feedback from the module convenor and their peers during the mini-conference, which they can then take forward into the completion of their final project portfolio.

For their summative assessment task, students will receive written feedback within four working weeks of the submission deadline, after which the convenor will be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if necessary. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes..

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Green, Ian. ‘Print’ in Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources eds. Laura Sangha and Jonathan Willis. London: Routledge, 2016.

Eisenstein, Elizabeth. The Printing Press as an agent of change: Communications and cultural transformations in early modern Europe. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Febvre, Lucien & Henri-Jean Martin. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing, 1450-1800 (various editions).

Students should also explore the following online resources:

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.