Penn State faculty members approach book history and textual studies with a variety of methodologies and critical questions. In addition to ambitious editorial projects, professors, graduate students, and undergraduates are engaged in work on print culture, new media and literacy studies, literary communities, manuscript culture, and the histories of authorship, publication, and reading.
One notable strength is the Penn State Center for the History of the Book, which is an interdisciplinary effort to promote the study of book culture. It offers graduate seminars, brings lecturers to campus, mounts exhibits, and publishes a book series with Penn State Press. The Center is affiliated with the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress and is part of a confederation of similar centers at the British Library, the Sorbonne, the University of London, and several American universities. It is also linked with such scholarly organizations as the American Antiquarian Society; the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing; and the Society for Textual Scholarship. Directed by James L. W. West III, the Center is based in the Department of English and is closely affiliated with the Special Collections Department in Pattee Library. The Center is supported by the Department of English, the College of the Liberal Arts, the Penn State Press, the University Libraries, and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.
Winner of the 2012 William L. Mitchell prize awarded by the Bibliographical Society of America every other year for the best publication in British periodicals. Work in the field includes studies of manuscript culture and scribal publication along with studies of print media. Dissertations directed in this area include those by Amy E. Winans and Steven Thomas.
History of knowledge transmission through consolidated knowledge-products such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, particularly long-running series whose run extends across multiple editors.