Centre for the History of the Book

Instructional videos

The Centre for the History of the Book has produced a series of videos designed to introduce key skills for Book Historians.

With the help of our experts, you can learn how to handle rare books, how to tell a quarto from an octavo, how paper is made and where watermarks come from, how to read and write a collation, how to use a scholarly edition and more. These videos offer a useful resource for mastering research techniques that can be difficult to learn from a book.

The videos are presented by scholars at Scottish Universities, and they make use of the extraordinary collections of the University of Edinburgh Library and the National Library of Scotland. We'll be adding to the series of videos over time, so check the CHB website regularly, and let us know what other topics you'd like to see covered.

Guide to Handling Collections Material

A beginner's guide to handling rare books and special collections materials.

Key Terms in Book History

Anne Peale explains the anatomy of the book and the terms bibliographers use to describe it.

Scrolls and The Early Codex

Larry Hurtado explains how scrolls were made and used, and how the codex emerged.

The Early Codex

Larry Hurtado discusses early experimental forms of the codex.

Bibliographic Format

Elizabeth Quarmby-Lawrence explains the different formats of books in the hand-press period.

Reading and Writing Collation Statements

Joseph Marshall explains how bibliographers notate the physical make-up of a book.

Collation and Cancellations

Joseph Marshall examines more complex collations.

Book Bindings

William Zachs explains what book-bindings can tell us about the history of a book.


Angus Vine explains how watermarks are made and what they can tell us.

Using Scholarly Editions

Penny Fielding explains how a scholarly edition records information about the transmission of a work.


MSc students and colleagues from the University Library introduce digitisation and the process of making collections available online.