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The importation of early printed books into England was not an interesting sideline, but a primary factor in the history of the English book-trade. The richest single resource for assessing the scale of imported books is the series of customs accounts, both national and local, of London and other ports. This chapter presents a survey of the evidence for book importation residing in England's and London's customs records through 1557. There is an extensive body of relevant data which contributes significantly to the picture of England's printed-book trade during its first generations. To see the data in their appropriate context, the chapter analyzes several background topics: the dutiable distinctions between natives of England, general aliens, and Hansards; the survival rate of the customs rolls; the quantification of books on the customs rolls; and the customs duty on books.
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