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From the mid-eighteenth to the late nineteenth centuries the chronology of production and distribution of the Bible, especially in popular editions, combines two narratives. The first traces a remarkable story of technological development in the printing and related industries, while the second follows the growth of cultural infrastructures that supported evangelical enthusiasm. Once printed, bibles had to be distributed. In the decades before the introduction of bible societies, religious authorities undertook this task directly. Within the Roman Catholic communion, distribution was generally limited to those copies required by members of the clergy. The laws and structure of the new organisation, called the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS), responded to the social and religious tensions within English society. American Bible Society (ABS) incursions were facilitated by an 1860 agreement permitting either society to print editions financed by the other, provided that no changes were made to the text.
Throughout human history, the world's knowledge and fruits of the creative imagination have been produced, circulated and received through the medium of the material text. This Companion provides a wide-ranging account of the history of the book and its ways of thinking about works from ancient inscription to contemporary e-books, discussing thematic, chronological and methodological aspects of this interdisciplinary field. The first part considers book cultures from local, national and global perspectives. Part two, organized around the dynamic relationship between the material book and the mutable text, develops a loosely chronological narrative from early writing, through manuscript and early printing, to the institution of a mechanized book trade, and on to the globalization of publishing and the introduction of the electronic book. A third part takes a practical turn, discussing methods, sources and approaches: bibliographical, archival and reading experience methodologies, as well as pedagogical strategies.