The bash archive contains a main directory (bash-3.1 for the current version) and a set of files and subdirectories. Among the first files you should examine are:
A comprehensive list of bug fixes and new features since the last version
The GNU Copyleft for bash
A list of all the files and directories in the archive
A list of new features since the last version
A short introduction and instructions for compiling bash
You should also be aware of two directories:
Information related to bash in various formats
Examples of startup files, scripts, and functions
The other files and directories in the archive are mostly things that are needed during the build. Unless you are going to go hacking into the internal workings of the shell, they shouldn't concern you.
The doc directory contains a few articles that are worth reading. Indeed, it would be well worth printing out the manual entry for bash so you can use it in conjunction with this book. The README file gives a short summary of the files.
The document you'll most often use is the manpage entry
bash.1. The file is in troff
format—the same format used by the manpages. You can read it by
processing it with the text-formatter nroff and
piping the output to a pager utility; e.g.,
nroff-man bash.1 | more should do the trick.
You can also print it off by piping it to the line-printer
(lp). This summarizes all of the facilities your
version of bash has and is the most up-to-date ...