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The Oxford Companion to the Book is a unique work of reference, covering the book, broadly conceived, throughout the world from ancient to modern times.
It includes traditional subjects such as bibliography, palaeography, the history of printing, editorial theory and practice, textual criticism, book collecting, and libraries, but it also engages with newer disciplines such as the history of the book and the electronic book. It pays particular attention to how different societies shape books and how books shape societies.
The two-volume work is organized in two parts, totalling a million words. The first part is a substantial series of introductory essays, making up about a third of the text. Nineteen of the essays provide generic histories of the subject ranging from writing systems, the ancient and the medieval book, through central aspects of book production, to theories of text, editorial theory and textual criticism, the economics of print, and the sacred book.
These are complemented by 29 surveys of the history of the book around the world, including the Muslim world, Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The second part of the Companion comprises an A-Z section of over 5,000 entries on every aspect of this exceptionally rich and diverse subject, ranging from brief definitions and biographical entries to more extensive treatments of up to 2,000 words.
The two parts are linked by thorough cross-referencing (both between and within the sections) and the whole is also served by a general index and a classified index of entries. The text is illustrated throughout with reproductions, diagrams, and examples of various typographical features.The contents of the book have been planned around the following scheme which aptly illustrates the breadth and depth of this most interdisciplinary of subjects:-