PUB 480: Library research guide

This guide is intended to help with your course assignments for PUB480-4 Special Topics Buy the Book: A History of Publication Design.

If you need help, please contact Matt Kingcroft, Librarian for Interactive Arts & Technology and Publishing at 778.782.7588 or or Ask a librarian.

Finding background sources

Background resources, such as subject encyclopedias and handbooks, can provide useful context, background information, and citations to related readings. If you need an overview of art, design, or publishing trends over a period of time, background resources can be a good place to start. See Background Resources for Publishing for a full list.

Finding books

To find print books and ebooks, journals, articles, background sources, and more, start with a keyword search in our Library Catalogue.

If you find a book that is relevant to your research, you can use the subject headings for that book to find other related resources. A book is usually given several subject headings, and each heading is linked to lists of other resources about the same topic.

If you want to find resources ABOUT a book rather than actual editions of that book, use the advanced search to do a "subject" search for the book's title . For instance, a keyword search for "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in the subject field will lead us to a number of search results that have the subject heading "Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896. Uncle Tom's cabin" and that discuss the work and its publication.

Here is a selection headings that may be useful for publication design research, but make sure to keep an eye out for more:

Subject headings will often include additional segments that indicate the region or time period upon which the book focuses (e.g. Literature publishing—United States—History—19th Century). Time periods are often divided up by century (e.g. 15th and 16th Century; 17th Century; 20th Century, etc), so you can also try add these terms or names of countries to keyword searches.

Literature databases

MLA Bibliography
Scholarly literature on topics related to historical aspects of printing and publishing; literary theory & criticism; folklore; dramatic arts; linguistics; and modern languages. Includes citations to journal articles, books, conference proceedings, and other formats.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index 
Multidisciplinary index to the journal literature of the arts and humanities. Some of the disciplines covered include: Archaeology, Architecture, Art, Asian Studies, Classics, Dance, Folklore, History, Language, Linguistics, Literary Reviews, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Poetry, Radio, Television, & Film, Religion, Theatre.

Design and Applied Arts Index (DAAI)
DAAI covers both new designers and the development of design and the applied arts since the mid-19th century. Includes articles, topical news items, conference and seminar reports, and book, video and exhibition reviews.

Art Full Text
Scholarly research and reproduction of images covering fine, decorative and commercial art, folk art, photography, film, and architecture

Business Source Complete
Thousands of scholarly business journals, industry magazines, company profiles, and industry & market reports.

CBCA Complete
This database includes articles on the Canadian publishing industry and indexes older articles from Quill & Quire.

Primary source databases

Finding editions and images

WorldCat is a combined catalogue that lists titles held by over 9,000 libraries around the world. With an Advanced Search you can limit a search to specific years of publication, which is useful for determining the number of various editions of a book over time. WorldCat includes some book cover images for newer titles, but it is an excellent source of publication information that you can use in other online searches.

Online used book sellers like or book enthusiast websites can be another source of cover images, but often require additional verification. Antiquarian and rare book seller websites or auction houses can be another excellent source of online images for a particular edition and may include some images of interior pages. 

The Internet Archive's Open Library can also be used to identify editions of a book and often has book covers. Interior scans are available for individual titles in the public domain (look for titles whose availability is set to "Read"), while some other titles may be viewed by signing up for a "virtual library card" (look for titles whose availability is set to "Borrow"). Public domain titles can be downloaded in full, or you can page through spreads online.

HathiTrust Digital Library is another repository of digitized books, some of which are are in the public domain. There are a number of useful advanced search and filtering options to help focus in on particular types of editions, including the ability to search for or limit results by publisher, series title, date of publication, and place of publication. Selecting "full view" will show you editions where interior scans are available for download or online viewing.

Design Resources

See the Publishing - Additional Resources guide for a full list of Design resources.