It sounds simple enough: The history of journalism is part of the history of publishing, and the history of publishing is part of the history of journalism. They overlap. Journalism historians write about newspapers, magazines, and books, and so do historians of what is sometimes called “print culture” or the “history of the book.” Each field might also seem to be encompassed by a broader category, such as the history of media or communication or information. Furthermore, journalism historians, publishing historians, and media historians increasingly see their fields as convergent, especially for the centuries before broadcast and film, when publication meant print. Each field consciously courts the other. Though they use the term “book,” the practitioners of the “history of the book,” for example, actually seek to study publishing and “print culture” in its broadest sense. They include in their field popular print media such as magazines and newspapers, tracts and broadsides, engravings and photo reproductions. Historians of journalism and mass media embrace those same popular printed materials. All of these historians take their subject to be mediated communication-that is, human communication in the age of mechanical reproduction, to borrow Stephen Greenblatt’s phrase, which he borrowed from Walter Benjamin.1 Scholars of journalism history, media history, and book history share much, including interests in language, information, technology, law, business organization, and popular culture. All are fascinated by (and sometimes worried about) the convergence of print and electronic media systems in our own digital age. All are self-consciously interdisciplinary and cheerfully ecumenical. And yet, despite the will, the way to convergence in the fields of journalism

history, media history, and book history has yet to be found, for even though they overlap on subject matter, they are theoretically and conceptually distinct. They are still largely nonintersecting academic fields. I believe these fields might be better understood-and perhaps improved-if we could see why they remain so different. In this essay, my method will be to examine several early, critical commentaries in the fields of journalism history and history of the

book, and then to survey some recent scholarship in three specialized journals: Book History, Journalism History, and American Journalism (see Appendix). I believe that current book history and current journalism history (and media history more broadly) grew from critiques of older scholarly fields and from pleas in the 1970s for enriched historical and historiographical contexts. I will argue that the new book history is largely a reaction against the decontextualized study of texts, while the new journalism history is a reaction against the decontextualized study of institutions. As they have added historical breadth and context, the fields should be on the road to convergence. But they are not. Just as traces of earlier life forms persist in the DNA of living organisms, so the scholarly origins of these two species of history remain detectable at their core and guide their evolution still. The gist of my argument can be illustrated in a comparison of two surveys

published in 2005: Comparative Media History by Jane Chapman and An Introduction to Book History by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.2 In some ways these books are quite similar. Both are international in scope and sweep across centuries. Both are designed as textbooks and as guides to new scholarship and perspectives on the history of publishing. Both books seek to historicize print, to locate it in time and space, to set it into the contexts of culture. Both focus on technology and the material production and distribution of printed material. Both are concerned with the business of publishing and with politics, government, and law. Both assert the power of the press on audiences. But at every moment of harmony the two books remain just a bit out of sync. Chapman describes culture in terms of modernity, ideology, authority, democracy, capitalism, imperialism, globalization, and consumer society. Finkelstein and McCleery use some of those terms, but their notion of culture is more about regimes of knowledge associated with orality, literacy, and the changing uses of print. Technology for Chapman is mainly about the speed, capacity, and reach of distribution, while Finkelstein and McCleery are more interested in how technology shapes the form and therefore the use of printed material. The business side of publishing for Chapman is about publishers and media entrepreneurs; Finkelstein and McCleery pay more attention to other roles in the business, including author, translator, and artisan. In the realm of law, both books explore government censorship and regulation, but Finkelstein and McCleery are more concerned than Chapman with intellectual property and copyright. In Chapman’s account, the press exercises power over audiences, but audiences are usually abstractions, off stage. Finkelstein and McCleery assign audience members a more active role in the transformation of print into meaning, into culture. And they give these people a more homely name: readers. For Finkelstein and McCleery, the key theoretical perspective is the “sociol-

ogy of texts,” a term coined by Oxford University scholar Don McKenzie and adapted by historians such as Roger Chartier in France and Robert Darnton and David Hall in the United States.3 McKenzie’s crucial insight was, in the words of Chartier, simply this:

Against the abstraction of the text, it shows that the status and interpretation of a work depend on material considerations; against the “death of the author,” it stresses the author’s role, at the side of the booksellerprinter, in defining the form given to the work; against the absence of the reader, it recalls that the meaning of a text is always produced in a historical setting and depends on the differing and plural readings that assign meaning to it.4