Welcome to

Scanned image of Teacher with mortar board reading GRAMMAR and cane.

The TEXTBOOK COLLOQUIUM,

where any and every aspect of textbooks
is or are investigated.

Is or are?

We are not as prescriptive as some textbooks. The Colloquium is home to studies empirical, theoretical, historical, postmodernist, marxist, sociological, local - and to people who just like collecting.

For a long time, such books were the poor relations of the academic world. Acceded or stored or catalogued (if at all) separately in large libraries, they were regarded as second-class citizens of the world of books. The romantic ideology of authorship banished them to limbo as derivative, factual and useful. But now the Good Fairy of book history (aka l’ histoire de livre, or the history of the book[s]) has set up open house, a place where a book is a book is a book. The palace of book history has many wings, and to some of them the poor relations have been allowed back in.

The Colloquium was founded in 1988 by Ian Michael and Chris Stray. Both had worked on the history of individual subjects (English and Classics respectively), had come to appreciate the central role played by textbooks, and deplored the lack of any shared forum for their study. We now have 130 members, mostly in Britain but also in Europe (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway) and elsewhere (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan).

Our membership is mixed. Some of us are academics interested in the history of our subjects; some are working on the history or sociology of printing and publishing; others explore the boundary zone between instruction and pleasure (textbook / children's book).

We hold meetings every year in London and in the provinces (once, at the Newberry Library in Chicago). These are one-day meetings in which papers are delivered informally and discussion is encouraged. Working sessions are also included to which members bring books to discuss. We aim to be serious without being pompous; to promote research and discussion without creating bureaucratic structures.

PARADIGM is our publication. It acts as journal and newsletter combined. Longer papers are refereed. In it appear full texts or summaries of papers given at our meetings. News and notes sections are also included. Cumulative indexes are published, as is a Register listing members’ names and addresses and publications.

Eight papers from the Joint Meeting between the Textbook Colloquium and The British Society for the History of Science held on January 10th 1998 at Leeds University have been 'published' here on the web:

For further details about the Textbook Colloquium please contact:

This web page is hosted on the Open University's web server and was generated by Simon Rae, July 1998.


Open University Faculty of Arts

To the OU Main Entrance