The Chair of Book Studies at WWU Münster specializes in research on book history and publishing studies with a particular focus on the Anglophone world. We base our research and teaching activities on a broad understanding of book studies, which comprises printed and digital text forms and focuses on the various contexts of book production, distribution and reception (i.e. the cultural, social, economic, political and legal dimensions).
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Book Studies at WWU: a brief history
The former Institute for Book Studies & Textual Research (Institut für Buchwissenschaft & Textforschung) was founded in the 1950s and was called the “Research Institute for Book Studies and Bibliography / Institutum Erasmianum” until 1999. It was originally founded by the scholar Heinrich Lausberg. The research work of these early years was particularly focused on medieval manuscript culture and palaeographic studies. In the late 1950s, the historian Otto Herding briefly headed the institute and devoted himself mainly to the editing of the works of Erasmus of Rotterdam and early German humanistic texts (hence the original name of the institute, Institutum Erasmianum). Beginning in the 1960s, the Institute was linked directly to the English Seminar through its two directors, Bernhard Fabian and Marvin Spevack, both scholars of English literature and culture.
Since the 1960s, the institute’s research work has focused particularly on the history of books, from the invention of letterpress printing, analytical printing research, librarianship, and basic research into problems of edition theory and practice. Over the years, the institute took part in various externally funded projects from both the public and private sectors. Notable sponsors, especially for the research projects supervised by Bernhard Fabian, include the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), and the Volkswagen Group. These long-term research projects culminated in the publication of various works, such as the Katalog englischsprachiger Druckwerke vor 1800 der Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen (1987-1988: three volumes), the Neuausgabe der Meßkataloge, and Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland und Europa, which was completed in 2001.
From 1998 to 2015, under the direction of Professor Gabriele Müller-Oberhäuser, the discipline of book studies was integrated into the teaching at the English Department through the development of corresponding modules in the new master’s programs. During this era, research focus shifted primarily toward English book history of the late Middle Ages and the Reformation period. Several externally funded projects were located at the institute within the framework of interdisciplinary research alliances of the WWU Münster. One example is the project on book gifts within the framework of the SFB “Symbolische Kommunikation und gesellschaftliche Wertesysteme” (SFB 496, funded from 2006 to 2011). A second example is the project on book censorship and verbal violence in written communication within the framework of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion und Politik”.
In accordance with the decision of the faculty council of 13 July 2015, the Institute was integrated into the English Department of the University of Münster from 1 August 2015. Book studies has its own specialized library, housed in Aegidistraße 5, of about 9,000 volumes. From 2015 to 2020, book studies saw an interim phase, during which all book studies teaching and extracurricular activities were led by Dr. Simon Rosenberg.
In April 2020, Professor Corinna Norrick-Rühl began her tenure as Chair of Book Studies. In alignment with her research agenda and that of her team, she plans to integrate more elements of 20th- and 21st-century anglophone book culture and commerce into the curriculum.
Barth, Ellen. “A Brief History of Book Studies in Münster.” Satura, 1 (2018), 85-90. (Available via the library website [de].)
Müller-Oberhäuser, Gabriele. “Buchwissenschaft in Münster.” Buchwissenschaft und Buchwirkungsforschung, VIII. Leipziger Hochschultage für Medien und Kommunikation, eds. Dietrich Kerlen and Inka Kirste. Leipzig: Institut für Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft, 2000, pp. 57–66.