Cambridge Catalog  
  • Your account
  • View basket
  • Help
Home > Catalog > The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period
The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period
Google Book Search

Search this book



  • 22 b/w illus. 13 tables
  • Page extent: 796 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 1.195 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 028/.9
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: Z1003 .S77 2004
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Books and reading--Social aspects--History
    • Book industries and trade--History
    • Literature and society--History
    • English literature--History and criticism
    • Books and reading--Social aspects--England--History

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521810067 | ISBN-10: 052181006X)

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published August 2004

Replaced by 9780521699440


Most people believed that reading significantly influenced minds, attitudes, and actions during the centuries when printed paper was the only means by which texts could travel across time and distance. William St. Clair offers a very different picture of the past from those presented by traditional approaches through quantified information he provides on book prices, print runs, intellectual property, and readerships gathered from over fifty publishing and printing archives.


Illustrations; Tables; Acknowledgments; Abbreviations; 1. Reading and its consequences; 2. Economic characteristics of the printed book industry; 3. Intellectual property; 4. Anthologies, abridgment, and the development of commercial vested interests in prolonging the obsolete; 5. The high monopoly period in England; 6. The explosion of reading; 7. The old canon; 8. Shakespeare; 9. Literary production in the Romantic period; 10. Manufacturing; 11. Selling, prices, and access; 12. Romance; 13. Reading constituencies; 14. Horizons of expectations; 15. 'Those vile French piracies'; 16. 'Preparatory schools for the brothel and the gallows'; 17. At the boundaries of the reading nation; 18. Frankenstein; 19. North America; 20. Reading, reception, and dissemination; 21. The romantic poets in the Victorian age; 22. The political economy of reading.


"One of the most important scholarly books I have ever read.As a contribution to book history and reading history, this study would be hard to surpass. I hope that every scholar in these fields as well as those in English literature 1590-1890 will find a copy, engage seriously with it, and try to see that his or her local academic library scrapes up the money to invest in one." Rob Hume, Philological Quarterly

"St. Clair's voluminous book is important in the inter-related fields of publishing history, history of the book, and history of reading on two grounds--its methodology and its detailed data." Henry Berry, The Midwest Book Review

"...a rich, ambitious, and invariably stimulating study of publishing practices in the English-speaking world." Times Literary Supplement

Mr. St. Clair's The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period is the most important and useful book I've ever read on the history of the English book trade. It covers a much greater time period than the title implies." Terry Belanger, University Professor, University of Virginia

"… magnificent, original and compelling study … stretches far wider than its title suggests. He has a mass of new and fascinating things to say about the centuries that followed the invention of printing and also about the Victorian age which succeeded the Romantic period … The Reading Nation is clearly written and is throughout enjoyable to read." Ian Gilmour, London Review of Books

". . .nothing short of monumental. Moving beyond the typical perspective offered by book history –that of the producers and sellers of books –and instead telling the story from the point of view of the consumer, The Reading Nation brilliantly narrates the enduring and evolving struggle to obtain access to books." Michelle Levy Huntington Library Quarterly

". .. shows how one can revise many of the old unexamined truisms concerning romanticism by scrupulous quantitative analysis, without necessarily forfeiting an evaluative and critical stance. . .Even more important is the dire story which the book tells, and the warning which it delivers to our own era, about the social and historical consequences of monopolizing knowledge." Nigel Leask, History Workshop Journal

"… this dazzling, compulsively readable, intellectually challenging tour de force … St Clair brilliantly explores and explains the impact of economics, legal history, popular culture, societal structure, and bibliographic evidence, creating a seminal work, one that is truly indispensable to Romantic period scholars of every discipline. … This is a work of rigorous scholarship, imagination, supportable conclusions, and disciplined speculation. It is not to be missed." Jack Gumpert Wasserman, The Byron Journal

"The biggest idea the Tories ever had was to stop the people reading. Byron did more than anyone else to expose that crime and William St Clair has presented the whole story in an original guise." Michael Foot, Tribune

"St Clair's first few chapters are so well written and lucid that readers will be very quickly propelled into the subject, ready for the always pertinent supporting detail in chapters that range from Shakespeare to Frankenstein." Times Higher Education Supplement

"William St Clair's The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (CUP) is a masterly investigation … St Clair pieces together a picture that is both startling and disturbing. St Clair's narrative is fascinating, illuminating and provocative with a liberal dash of humour, and at every stage his arguments are supported with an abundance of data gleaned from an astonishing array of sources. … this book is a rare find, challenging and profoundly important and at the same time intriguing and eminently readable. I cannot recommend it highly enough." The Edinburgh Academy Chronicle

"The footnotes in St Clair's narrative constantly refer the reader to his own appendices, a sign that the author has ploughed new and compelling scholarly furrows and has derived his interesting and equally compelling conclusions from a massive piece of genuinely new archival research. … undoubtedly worth every penny." Rare Books Newsletter

"To anyone interested in intellectual property, or competition law, this scholarly, but eminently readable, work is highly commended. … it is invaluable as a well researched and readable discussion of the practical working such property rights in the publishing trade. It would not be surprising were this outstanding work to be found as 'lecture de chevet' for officials of the competition authorities in DG IV in Brussels or elsewhere." Hon Lord Eassie, Legal Information Management

"William St Clair's monumental new book is the most important contribution yet of the expanding field of book history to the study of Romantic literature … he has provided a firmer empirical foundation for speculation about the mentalities of Romantic readers than anything available before, and the implications of his stunningly original research will be pondered for years to come." BARS Bulletin

". . . an extraordinarily ambitious and impressive attempt to reformulate our knowledge of literary production and reception in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. With nearly 300 Circle pages devoted to thirteen appendices and bibliography, The Reading Nation is one of the most useful volumes ever published on Romantic literature." Wordsworth Circle

printer iconPrinter friendly version AddThis