Since its first volume ten years ago, The Library of the Written Word has established itself as a major force in the world of book historical scholarship. Launched by Brill as a vehicle for the best new research in the field, The Library of the Written Word offers a mix of monographs, commissioned thematic collections, conference volumes and bibliographies, as well as collected papers of major figures in the field such as Lotte Hellinga and Ian Maclean. In 2018, the series will publish its seventieth volume. To celebrate this milestone, Brill have made one of its most influential titles, Lost Books, available in Open Access.
Lost Books. Reconstructing the Print World of Pre-Industrial Europe takes on one of the most challenging conundrums facing book history: how can one integrate into our understanding of the book industry works known to have been published, but no longer identifiable through a surviving copy? The scale of this disappearance is not in doubt. As many as one-third of the editions published in the first two centuries of print can now be traced in only a single copy; as many again, are likely to be lost altogether. In 2014, the St Andrews annual book conference brought together a number of specialists in the field to discuss ways of studying this phenomenon, the sources available, and whether it is possible to reach an accurate estimate of the extent of the loss. The published volume consists of twenty-four papers first presented at this conference and developed in the light of subsequent conversations. They range from the discussion of lost incunabula and genres of print particularly susceptible to loss, to lost libraries and the churning of library collections in the great conflicts of the twentieth century.
The reconstruction of the lost books of the first age of print has now become a major research theme for the St Andrews book group, which has focussed its attention on the mass of data available through contemporary book sales catalogues as well as other printed and archival data. In due course, all of the editions identified through this process will be added to the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC). For a first view of the possible interpretative value of work of this sort, readers are also directed to Alexandra Hill’s recently published monograph, Lost Books and Printing in London, 1557-1640 (Leiden: Brill, 2018).
To access Lost Books without charge, follow the link at https://brill.com/view/title/32814.