Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 July 2011
Hundreds of thousands of novels have been published since the first novel was written by a North American in the early days of the republic. Between 1789 and 1800, about thirty novels written by Americans were published in the United States, at a time when “American” meant something very different, and much less separate, from what it means now. During that period about 350 other titles were published, creating a distinctly transatlantic (and very British) literary landscape. As late as 1875, the number of novels both written and published in the United States had never exceeded 175 per year. Not until the 1880s, in a booming economy – now featuring what has been termed “the industrial book” – did new American fiction titles exceed 1,000 per year. The numbers have been climbing exponentially ever since, flagging only slightly during economic downturns. The total had doubled again by the 1950s, and again by the 1980s. It had doubled yet again by the 1990s, and once more in the 2000s. At this writing, near the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, a book of fiction is being published in the United States every hour, on average (and that figure excludes vanity press and self-publishing ventures). That's more than 10,000 works of fiction – mostly novels – each year. Not only do rumors of the death of the novel appear greatly exaggerated, but these numbers alone (and the swiftly shifting landscape they portend) suggest that we need to consider the history of the novel anew.
- The Cambridge History of the American Novel , pp. 1 - 14Publisher: Cambridge University PressPrint publication year: 2011