Summary of Adams and Barker, “A New Model for the Study of the Book”

This blog entry, written by David J. Gary from CUNY, summarizes Adams and Barker’s article in which they present a “new model” of the communications circuit in response to the one created by Robert Darnton in his famous essay, “What is the history of books?” Gary provides a summary of each stage in the circuit: publishing, manufacture, distribution, reception, and survival. His blog, as a whole, provides summaries of some important book history texts, book reviews, and some entries on original research as well. Might be worth having a look at, to see what contemporary scholars of book history are up to.

Function Follows Forme

Thomas R. Adams and Nicolas Barker published this important article in the edited volume, A Potencie of Life: Books in Society; The Clark Lectures, 1986–1987.  It was written in response to the schematic model of the history of the book presented by Robert Darnton’s 1982 article “What is the History of Books?”  While Darnton focuses on people first and the artifact second in his trajectory of book history, Adams and Barker invert this and put the book as object at the center of their model of book history.  They focus on society’s impact on the book and not the book’s impact on society.

Instead of Darnton’s six stages (publishers, printer, shipper, bookseller, reader, author), Adams and Barker argue there are five events in the life of a book (publishing, manufacture, distribution, reception, and survival), which they place at the center of their model, and four…

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