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The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain
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Book description

This volume covers the history of printing and publishing from the lapse of government licensing of printed works in 1695 to the development of publishing as a specialist commercial undertaking and the industrialization of book production around 1830. During this period, literacy rose and the world of print became an integral part of everyday life, a phenomenon that had profound effects on politics and commerce, on literature and cultural identity, on education and the dissemination of practical knowledge. Written by a distinguished international team of experts, this study examines print culture from all angles: readers and authors, publishers and booksellers; books, newspapers and periodicals; social places and networks for reading; new genres (children's books, the novel); the growth of specialist markets; and British book exports, especially to the colonies. Interdisciplinary in its perspective, this book will be an important scholarly resource for many years to come.


'This volume of The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain is an impressive and valuable achievement: it not only surveys a vast range of material, but also presents a great deal of detailed new primary research.'

Rosemary Dixon - Queen Mary, University of London

'This volume provides essential reading for both expert and beginning scholar … wide-ranging, scholarly and frequently fascinating examination of print products embedded in their wider contexts …'

Stefanie Lethbridge Source: Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik

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Page 1 of 3

  • 1 - Towards a bibliometric analysis of the surviving record, 1701–1800
    pp 37-65
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    This chapter describes the preliminary analysis of the surviving record of eighteenth-century imprints in Britain and Ireland based on an ordered sampling of the English short-title catalogue (ESTC). Altogether, the 34,335 records scrutinized yielded some 134,732 items of data. This information was acquired by examining every record for information pertinent to five principal categories: genre, place of publication, bibliographical format, length (in sheets) and reprints and/or repeat publications. When one considers one-sheet formats, that is, both unfolded publications such as broadsides in their several manifestations and single-sheet pamphlets, he/she should be even more troubled by the inherent uncertainties introduced both by the ephemerality of such forms and by the cataloguing practices of the ESTC. It is important to bear in mind too that reprints were likely to be published in smaller formats than first editions, increasingly so as the century progressed, and that these 'little books last least'.
  • 2 - Printed ephemera
    pp 66-82
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    Ephemera that survive from the eighteenth century suggest a general opening up of printing to ordinary people on an unprecedented scale. With the relaxation of control over the setting up of printing houses in Britain, one sees a gradual spread of printing beyond London and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge to the rest of the country. The innovations such as emphatic typographic display, colour-printing, lithography and steel-engraving, prepared the way for changes in the appearance of ephemera in the early nineteenth century. Among other things, these new approaches to design and production helped to characterize different market sectors: monochrome and often robust letterpress printing catered for routine work; coloured and refined designs for the tastes of a leisured class. This distinction may not have been entirely new, but it was one that must have become increasingly evident from the 1820s.
  • 3 - The book as a commodity
    pp 83-117
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    Commercial ingenuity dominates the history of printing and publishing in Britain in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and in many ways booksellers, but also authors and readers, came to treat the various products of the printing press more as market commodities, more as goods directed to specific audiences. The expansion in literary commerce turned, like all other domestic industries, on the attractiveness of the product. The fundamental determinant of the market for new publications was price, and although it is extremely perilous to do so, one should try to establish the course of the relative price of new books. In establishing a wholesale price structure, the London publishers had to consider the mark-up necessary to make the participation of retailers worthwhile. Bookselling success derived far less from supply-led production than it did from the successful exploitation of cartels and techniques to create the appearance of new markets.