Centre for the History of the Book

old mediaeval book

The Centre for the History of the Book has produced a series of videos designed to introduce key skills for Book Historians.

The videos provide guidance on how to handle rare books, how to tell a quarto from an octavo, how paper is made and where watermarks come from, how to read and write a collation, how to use a scholarly edition and more. These videos offer a useful resource for mastering research techniques that can be difficult to learn from a book.

The videos are presented by scholars at Scottish Universities, and they make use of the extraordinary collections of the University of Edinburgh Library and the National Library of Scotland.


Learn more about the Centre for the History of the Book and the MSc in Book History and Material Culture



Key Terms in Book History – Anne Peale explains the anatomy of the book and the terms bibliographers use to describe it.

Scrolls and The Early Codex – Larry Hurtado explains how scrolls were made and used, and how the codex emerged.

The Early codex – Larry Hurtado discusses early experimental forms of the codex.

Bibliographical Formats – Elizabeth Quarmby-Lawrence explains the different formats of books in the hand-press period.

Collation – Joseph Marshall explains how bibliographers notate the physical make-up of a book.

Collation and Cancellations – Joseph Marshall examines more complex collations.

Book Bindings – William Zachs explains what book-bindings can tell us about the history of a book.

Watermarks – Angus Vine explains how watermarks are made and what they can tell us.

Using Scholarly Editions – Penny Fielding explains how a scholarly edition records information about the transmission of a work.