My name is Bonnie and I’m from Colorado, USA. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in History and English from the University of Denver, and I have always loved books and reading. I’ve worked as an editor and enjoy seeing the process of making a book from start to finish. After finishing the MA, I hope to pursue a PhD in cultural history and become a university professor.
- What led you to enrol on the MA course in the History of the Book?
I wrote an undergraduate thesis on the history of the fantasy genre, which led me to some really fascinating discussions of readers and how they interact with books and authors. I wanted to explore more of the history of reading as well as the material object of the book so I could have a greater understanding of the historical background of these developments. When I discovered this course in book history, I felt like I had found exactly the sort of programme I was looking for to continue my research, as well as to explore other areas of book history I hadn’t even considered.
- How has the London setting contributed to your experience so far?
London is probably the perfect place to study the history of the book! I was definitely drawn to this programme by the opportunity to live and study in an area with such a rich history in the publishing world as well as many amazing artefact collections. We’ve had classes at the British Library and other book-related institutions where we got to go behind the scenes and get up close and personal with rare, antique books, some over a thousand years old. Through the program I also had the opportunity to work with the INK LDN rare book fair and interact with antiquarian booksellers. I even got to hold a manuscript, portable Bible from the thirteenth century—the very type of book I was in the middle of writing an essay about!
- How is the MA different from what you expected?
Most of the class sessions are taught by different professors, each an expert in the area of that particular day’s topic. This helps us as students to benefit from each professor’s expertise and leads to some really interesting discussions. Despite the rotating teachers, I still feel like I get the personal attention I need from the programme, especially with Cynthia, the course tutor, and the other IES staff. Also, the class sizes are nice and small, so you can really contribute and participate in class. I feel really free to ask questions, and I always either get an excellent answer or an interesting discussion as a result.
There is also not as much homework, per se, as I might have expected. The main focus is on the final essay for each class. Once you’ve decided your specific topic for the essay, this frees you to read more extensively in one particular area instead of trying to read all of the books about the entire ten weeks of discussion.
- Which module/topic are you most looking forward to studying?
I am really looking forward to the practical course on printing presses next term, as well as the internship at an antiquarian bookseller. These opportunities to be physically involved in the book world are really exciting.
- What would your advice be for any prospective students of the MA in the History of the Book?
Don’t worry if you’re not already an expert in the history of the book—that’s what this course is for. The Induction week was an excellent introduction to the discipline, and even still, the teachers don’t expect you to have memorized all the background information. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions; someone is always willing and able to help. All you really need is a love of books and history and the desire to read and learn more about them.