chapter  III
3 Pages

III.14 Books

BySTEPHANIE DOWNES

For Annales school founder Lucien Febvre, the historical study of both books and emotions was part of the same reconstructive and even mutually informative task.1

Febvre’s highly influential work on the social impact of print during early modernity, L’Apparition du livre (The Coming of the Book), published posthumously in 1958, explored the mentalités (habits of thought) of early modern people in relation to new production technologies.2 Despite Febvre’s perception of the close relationship between emotional and textual cultures in the past, it is only very recently that scholars have begun to consider books and book history as sources for the history of emotions. The study of early modern books – handmade or mass produced – offers new ways of thinking about the broader relationship between material culture and emotional expression during a lengthy period of great social and technological change. The advent of print in the early modern period necessarily affects how we ‘read’ the book’s emotional valencies and its ability to act as a conduit for personal relationships and individual or social emotions. Printed books could provoke new senses of excitement, prestige and pleasure in book ownership among wider social groups, while at the same time, manuscripts themselves took on new significance as alternatives to mass-produced repositories for the written word.