The Book-Makers - A Talk by Adam Smyth

  • Venue


  • Time

    6:30 PM

  • Price

    £5 plus booking fee

  • Book Tickets

Every book-lover's dream: a celebration of 550 years of the printed book

The Book-Makers is a celebration of 550 years of the printed book, told through the lives of eighteen extraordinary men and women who took the book in radical new directions: printers and binders, publishers and artists, paper-makers and library founders. This is a story of skill, craft, mess, cunning, triumph, improvisation, and error.

Some of these names we know. We meet jobbing printer (and United States Founding Father) Benjamin Franklin. We watch Thomas Cobden-Sanderson conjure books that flicker between the early twentieth century and the fifteenth. Others have been forgotten. We don't remember Sarah Eaves, wife of John Baskerville, and her crucial contribution to the history of type. Nor Charles Edward Mudie, populariser of the circulating library – and the most influential figure in book publishing before Jeff Bezos. Nor William Wildgoose, who meticulously bound Shakespeare’s First Folio, and then disappeared from history.

The Book-Makers puts people back into the story of the book. It takes you inside the print-shop as the deadline looms and the adrenaline flows – from the Fleet Street of 1492 to present-day New York. It’s a story of contingencies and quirks, of successes and failures, of routes forward and paths not taken. The Book-Makers is a history of book-making that leaves ink on your fingers, and shows why the printed book will continue to flourish.

Adam Smyth runs the 39 Step Press, an experiment in printing, from a cold barn in Oxfordshire. He is also Professor of English Literature and the History of the Book at Balliol College, University of Oxford.

This event is in-person only and won't be streamed or recorded. Doors will at 6.15pm and copies of The Book-Makers: A History of the Book in 18 Remarkable Lives will be available to purchase on the evening.