Every individual book has a history which can help us to understand what difference it may have made in the world. Within these pages you will find books damaged by bullets or graffiti, recovered from fire or water, or even disguised as completely different texts for protection in dangerous times. Marks of ownership – be it a rich treasure binding or a humble family inscription – shine a light on social history and literacy, while student doodles from the sixteenth century and a variety of pithy annotations give us a sense of readers through the ages.
We increasingly recognise that the cultural and research value of books lies not just in their printed contents, but in the many other things they can tell us about the ways they have been used, read and regarded. Generously illustrated with examples from the early Middle Ages to the present day, Speaking Volumes presents a fascinating selection of books in both public and private collections whose individual histories tell surprising and illuminating stories, encouraging us to look at and appreciate books in new and non-traditional ways.