For those who are really ambitious about learning textual criticism and want to place it in a concrete context (the various characteristics of the materials and the human process of making or copying actual manuscripts), I recommend the following classic primer on paleography, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Paleography, by Bruce M. Metzger.
Though someone with a working knowledge of the Greek language will appreciate this book more, it is not necessary to know Greek to get the gist of this specialized discipline–and at best, it may induce you to take up learning Greek.
The book covers the following topics:
How ancient manuscripts were made (Did you know that scribes did not sit at a table to do their work–they sat on the floor, stool, or even stood at times).
Material: papyri to parchment to paper.
The “Codex.” Are you aware that it is Christians who invented what we know as the form of the book at the turn of the 2nd Century?
Styles of Greek Handwriting: Uncial, Minuscule, Scriptio Continua
Palimpsest: the “Etch-A-Sketch” of antiquity.
Ancient Punctuation, Abbreviations, and Symbols.
And many more paleographical features….