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Dreaming in Books

The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age

Dreaming in Books

The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age

Publication supported by the Bevington Fund

At the turn of the nineteenth century, publishing houses in London, New York, Paris, Stuttgart, and Berlin produced books in ever greater numbers. But it was not just the advent of mass printing that created the era’s “bookish” culture. According to Andrew Piper, romantic writing and romantic writers played a crucial role in adjusting readers to this increasingly international and overflowing literary environment. Learning how to use and to want books occurred through more than the technological, commercial, or legal conditions that made the growing proliferation of books possible; the making of such bibliographic fantasies was importantly a product of the symbolic operations contained within books as well.

            Examining novels, critical editions, gift books, translations, and illustrated books, as well as the communities who made them, Dreaming in Books tells a wide-ranging story of the book’s identity at the turn of the nineteenth century. In so doing, it shows how many of the most pressing modern communicative concerns are not unique to the digital age but emerged with a particular sense of urgency during the bookish upheavals of the romantic era. In revisiting the book’s rise through the prism of romantic literature, Piper aims to revise our assumptions about romanticism, the medium of the printed book, and, ultimately, the future of the book in our so-called digital age.

See Dreaming in Books: A Booklog, a website of material left out of the book.

320 pages | 28 halftones, 5 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Library Science and Publishing: Publishing

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature, Germanic Languages, Romance Languages


“Piper re-evaluates our relationship to the book and widens the scope of what is possible in the Humanities.”


"Andrew Piper has written a book about the nineteenth century’s romance with books, looking at the many ways in which the physical character of a book and its illustrations shaped a reader’s avidity. Piper’s scholarly history is fueled by a bookish ardor—you can feel the love that went into his footnotes. This writer’s thinking comes straight out of the long afternoons he must have spent in the library, pulling book after book off the shelves, experiencing the power not only of words but also of bindings, typefaces, and illustrations."

Jed Perl | The New Republic

“Beyond its value as a contribution to the broader history of the book, Piper’s relational study of the book aims to reassess today’s pervasive discourse of anxiety about the end of book culture in the digital age, suggesting instead that the book and the computer (along with other media) have existed and will continue to coexist side by side.”

ACLA, Harry Levin Prize Citation, 2011 runner-up | ACLA, Harry Levin Prize, 2011 runner-up

“Andrew Piper’s Dreaming in Books opens a new understanding of the history of the book as simultaneously historical and literary. With its scope and meticulous research, it documents the way the technologies of book production become ways to structure culture itself, and shows how the dawn of mass communication made books part of human relationships. Books, we see, sit at the very center of a Romantic culture that extends even into the digital age. This book itself will be of lasting value to scholars of book history, Romanticism, and literary studies.”

Barbara M. Benedict, Trinity College

“Andrew Piper’s sustained interdisciplinary venture in the material and literary culture of print circulation fuses book studies and literary history in an arresting new meld. With the manifold interactions, public and private, of an expanding literacy found rehearsed within one text after another, the Romantic book studies itself. Brought to a provocative focus in the rear-view mirror of electronic textuality and intermedia research, Dreaming in Books, as its double-edged title suggests, illuminates not only the particular mental landscapes released by reading but the social imaginary of bookhood all told. No one working in the crossover field of bibliographic and literary study can afford to ignore Piper’s original approach; no one working in either field separately can fail to learn from it.”

Garret Stewart, author of The Look of Reading: Book, Painting, Text

“This is the book that book history itself has been waiting for—a confirmation of that field’s capacity to construct vividly new literary histories. Dreaming in Books takes as its subject not just particular texts or particular practices—though examples of both abound—but an entire environment: the ‘international and overflowing bookish environment’ of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe. Romanticism emerges from Andrew Piper’s capacious analyses as more than the sum of its authors, lyrics, and novels. In these pages, it is the period in which the book took on its ‘cosmological identity as something that was everywhere and contained everything.’ Piper provides a natural history of the life form that comes to populate that cosmos—the bibliographic subject—and then concludes with a brilliant meditation on its remediated fate in the present: our own era of ‘translational humanism.’”

Clifford Siskin, New York University and director of the Re:Enlightenment Project at New York University and the New York Public Library

“Andrew Piper’s exploration of the bibliographic imaginary deftly interweaves book history, media theory, visual studies, and textual interpretation. His critical voice is at once erudite and enthusiastic, his method both descriptive and allegorical. With remarkable intellectual agility, he moves from the center to the periphery of the canon, from literature (in the inherited sense of the term) to science to scholarship, and from past to present. Under his gaze, dedications, editions, translations, and, especially, the practices surrounding them become the focus of compelling cultural-historical insight. Romanticism emerges here as stranger than we had ever thought and yet surprisingly close to contemporary concerns. A fine achievement.”

David E. Wellbery, University of Chicago

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations

Introduction / Bibliographic Subjects

“Hypothesis: All is Leaf”    

Books: Past, Present, and Future   

Is Literary History Book History?    

Bibliographic Romanticism    

Romanticizing Books  

One / Networking

Fortresses of the Spirit    

Rethinking the Book of Everything   

The Novel as Network: J.W. Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Travels   

The Problem of the Where   

The Ladies’ Pocket-Book and the Excerpt    

The Ausgabe letzter Hand and a Poetics of the Version    

Cartography and the Novel   

The Anatomy of the Book: The Work of Art as Technological Präparat   

Coda: Faust and the Future  

Two / Copying

Making Classics   

The Combinatory Spirit and the Collected Edition   

Producing Corporeal Integrity (Wieland, Byron, Rousseau)   

Reprinting, Reproducibility, and the Novella Collection   

E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Serapion Brothers and the Crisis of Originality    

“The Uncanny Guest” and the Poetics of the Same   

The Plot of the Returning Husband   

The Magnetic Doppelgänger   

The Whisper, Noise, and the Acoustics of Relocatability   

The Collectivity of the Copy   


Three / Processing

Printing the Past (Intermediality and the Book I)   

The Editor’s Rise and Fall   

Immaculate Reception: From Erneuung to Critical Edition (Tieck, Hagen, Lachmann)   

Walter Scott, the Ballad, and the Book   

The Borders of Books: Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border    

Narrating Editing: The Historical Novel and Tales of My Landlord   

“By Heart” v. “From the Heart” in The Heart of Mid-Lothian   

Producing Singularity  

Four / Sharing

Assorted Books: The Romantic Miscellany (Almanacs, Taschenbücher, Gift-Books)   

Common Right v. Copyright   

Book-Keeping and the Inscription (Intermediality and the Book II)   

Hollow Texts, Textual Hollows   

The Problem of the “Of”: Washington Irving’s “An Unwritten Drama of Lord Byron”   

Sharing Sharing: Poe, Hawthorne, and Mrs. Chamberlain’s “Jottings from an Old Journal”  

Five / Overhearing

The Problem of Open Source   

“Le commerce intellectuel”   

Women, Translation, Transnation   

Overheard in Translation: Sophie Mereau’s La Princesse de Clèves and the Loose Confession   

María de Zayas’s Novelas Amorosas y Ejemplares and the Betrayal of Writing   

Boccaccio, Privacy, and Partiality: Fiammetta and Decameron 10.3  

Six / Adapting

Romantic Lines: Illustrated Books (Intermediality and the Book III)   

Afterimages: Goethe and the Lily   

Stems, Spirals, and the New Scientific Graphics    

Overwriting: Balzac between Script and Scribble   

Parallels, or Stendhal and the Line of the Self   

Coda: Sebald’s Bibliographic Vanishing Points  

In Place of an Afterword / Next to the Book


Book Was There, It Was There   

Besides: Towards a Translational Humanism   

Beckett’s “Eff”  




American Comparative Literature Association: Harry Levin Prize
Honorable Mention

Modern Language Association: MLA Prize for a First Book

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