INFO 284-01
INFO 284-11
Seminar in Archives and Records Management
Topic: Incunabula and Early Printing
Fall 2018 Syllabus

Dr. Linda Main
Office: Clark Hall 420B (San José)
Phone: 408-924-2494
Office Hours: Virtually by e-mail

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 21st, 6 am PT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

This course will focus on incunabula. The name comes from a word meaning "cradle" or "birthplace" in Latin and is used to describe the birth of printing using moveable type and in general books published in Europe before 1501.

As a digital exhibit at the University of Tennesse (Martin) pointed out:

Through our digital lens, we can experience the newness of the printing press, capturing the attention of late medieval Europe.  We can erase not only the time separating us from the 15th-century, but also the distance separating us from the physical collections as well as the restrictions of library schedules, by consulting and reading incunabula from where we sit, or from wherever we carry a mobile digital communication device.  We can compare typefaces, page layouts, abbreviations, punctuation, spelling, etc.  

The course runs for 8 weeks: September 4th-October 30th.

We will explore:

  • The invention of printing
  • Key incunabula printers
  • The role of the manuscript as the design model for the printed book
  • Books as physical objects providing evidence of how the printers of the incunabula worked (vellum, paper studies; formats; gatherings; signatures; the identification of type and printing house practices)
  • New features, such as title pages, printed pagination, and spacing
  • Methods of book decoration and illustration (woodcut, illumination by hand or using stencils and model books, and copper engraving)
  • Binding
  • Labor, economic organization of the print shop and distribution and readership
  • Identification of type and printing house practices
  • Dating and valuing incunabula
  • The role of printing in the spread of ideas, language, information, knowledge, and culture across many cultures and civilizations

Course Requirements

The assignments will focus on fun and innovative ways to teach about incunabula and the assignments should act as evidence for comps J and K.

There will be 4 assignments and four discussion items as follows:

Assignment One Printers 10 points CLO 1,3 Due:  18th September
Assignment Two Exhibition: Project Plan 30 points CLO 2,3 Due: 2nd October
Assignment Three Typeface 25 points CLO 2,3 Due: 16th October
Assignment Four Exhibition: Completion 30 points CLO 3,4 Due: 30th October
Discussions One-Four    5 points CLO 1-4 Due: 11th September, 25th September, 9th October; 23rd October

No late assignments will be accepted.

Course Technology

This class makes use of a variety of technologies, and you should not take the class if your computer and Internet access is not fast and you are not comfortable with Web interactive tools. The assignments will be submitted as websites built on a passworded Wordpress site dedicated to the class, and on  No Web programming skills are required but you will be expected to be comfortable with Web tools that have easy to use user interfaces.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 284 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Explore the key printers of the incunabula.
  2. Understand the development of printing with moveable type.
  3. Develop an historical sense of the evolution of the tools, materials, and techniques of book production and printing technology during the period of the incunabula.
  4. Explore how to date and value incunabula.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 284 supports the following core competencies:

  1. C Recognize the diversity (such as cultural and economic) in the clientele and employees of an information organization and be familiar with actions the organization should take to address this diversity.
  2. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.


No Textbooks For This Course.

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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