This month in Special Collections we focus on the production and use of early printed books (1450-1850) and encounter the phenomenon of the unopened book. This is a result of the book production process itself, when several pages were printed onto a single large sheet and then folded into page order to create gatherings. Groups of gatherings were then stitched together to create the finished book. This folding process resulted in closed top and foredges in the newly printed book, which were usually trimmed and opened upon purchase or binding. On occasion, and regardless of age or ownership, we come across an unopened book in Special Collections.
In terms of collectability, unopened books can often be more valuable as, in their unread state, they tend to be in better condition. In terms of book history, however, the unopened book poses a question: a) is it an indication of a conscious effort on the part of its former owner(s) to preserve the pristine quality of the book, b) did the well-intentioned new owner get distracted, or c) is it more indicative of an inherent lack of interest in the book, the literary equivalent of getting a pair of socks on Christmas morning?
If you would like to view the Bad Books exhibition, please contact the staff of the Special Collections Reading Room in the Hardiman Research Building at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The spotlight exhibition can also be viewed in its entirety on the digital display wall in the Hardiman Foyer during the month of November.