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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.

Reviews

'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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Contents


Page 1 of 3


  • 1 - Towards a bibliometric analysis of the surviving record, 1701–1800
    pp 37-65
  • View abstract

    Summary

    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
  • View abstract

    Summary

    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
  • View abstract

    Summary

    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.
  • 4 - Copyright, authors and censorship
    pp 118-131
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The period from 1695 to 1830, from the lapse of the Licensing Act to the eve of the Reform Bill, thus saw major transformations in the legal culture within which the book trade operated. When the guild system was supplanted by the Statute of Anne, however, the great booksellers managed to maintain control of their valuable old copyrights for the better part of a century until in 1774 the House of Lords declared copyright to be limited in term. Instead of basing the term of copyright protection solely on publication, the Act related it to the author's life by providing protection for twenty-eight years or the life of the author, whichever was longer. This marked a major conceptual evolution in copyright. The lapse of the Licensing Act ended pre-publication censorship and radically changed the power of the state to regulate the press, but it did not totally end regulation.
  • 5 - The rise of the professional author?
    pp 132-145
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The standard model of authorship in the 'long eighteenth century' is a narrative of transformation and modernization. Culturally conservative writers such as Pope continued to regard such authors as debasers of literature, but by the second quarter of the century the authors themselves began to declare openly that they wrote for money: they 'professed' themselves to be authors-for-pay. 'Literary marketplace', like 'professional author', is under-defined and undertheorized. It is now used loosely for three or four different transactions: the author sells a copyright to a bookseller; the booksellers sell shares in copyright to each other; the bookseller hires a writer and pays him so much per page; the bookseller, acting as retailer, sells printed books to the reader. Historians of the book trade show that very few authors would have had any bargaining power in selling copyrights. Authors who could consider themselves gentlemen shared the prejudice against writing for 'necessity' or 'livelihood'.
  • 6 - Women and print: readers, writers and the market
    pp 146-160
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Female authorship and female readership burgeoned during the long eighteenth century, and some women were also active in the book trade itself. Despite the rehearsal of woes and problems, the century ended with women active in some new book-trade trends: in new ways of illustrating and binding, and in content-related developments. Circulating libraries, which enjoyed their heyday between 1790 and 1820, did cater effectively if not exclusively for female clients, and were a major outlet for women's works. Women practised in most of the new or newly dominant genres: the novel first and foremost, but also children's literature, the national tale, the album and gift book, colonialist travel writing, the major literary series or collection, reviewing, popular science and many more. The question of what difference they made to the book trade might be answered cynically, but the question as to what difference they made to literature is only just being addressed by literary historians.
  • 7 - The technologies of printing
    pp 161-199
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The technique of printing and its ancillary processes is more certainly known for the eighteenth century than for any previous period. Changes in the technology of printing were driven by an increase in the scale of production, which was the fruit of the rapid increase in the population and its urbanization during the course of the nineteenth century, and of the improvement in networks for the distribution of products. Copperplate engraving and printing was a technique that differed radically from that of letterpress printing, and the two trades were generally carried on separately. Some major printing houses may have had several copperplate presses if an important part of their work included the printing of maps and charts. The introduction of industrial techniques to printing seems at first halting and partial if one compares it with contemporary changes in other industries.
  • 8 - The industrialization of the paper trade
    pp 200-217
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Paper remained one of the most expensive ingredients of book production during the eighteenth century, which ends when they were just beginning to recoup their investment in industrialization and when their customers in the book trade were just beginning to notice its effects. To give credit where it is due, the paper manufacturers' accomplishments should be viewed not so much as triumphs of technology, but as daring speculations, requiring financial acumen and managerial skills as well as mechanical ingenuity. Like the friends of Henry Fourdrinier, this chapter traces the development of the papermaking machine. It concentrates on the business conditions that made this invention possible, especially the robust growth and rising profitability of the paper trade during the eighteenth century. The Victorians would later lose their faith in the Industrial Revolution, but in 1837 they were enthralled with inventions like the Fourdrinier, which was finally producing significant savings in the book trade, after consuming an enormous investment in the paper trade.
  • 9 - A year’s work in the London printing house of the Bowyers
    pp 218-229
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The London printers William Bowyer, father and son, entered the year 1731 with justifiable confidence. The elder Bowyer had been in business since 1699, his skill and integrity securing valuable customers. Chief among these were the London booksellers, the wholesaling and retailing entrepreneurs who together virtually monopolized the British book trade. A closer sense of the resultant rhythms of work may be gained by surveying the year's work as a whole. There were twenty-five pay periods for the year, each ending on a Saturday. Seventeen covered the previous two weeks' work, the others either one or three weeks. The twenty-five works underline the printer's dependence on the London booksellers, especially when it is also noted that Bowyer had been given the printing of only part of seven works. Parliamentary work was thus all the more sought after, for it eventually yielded Bowyer (and his competitor Richardson) something like double the profit.
  • 10 - Book illustration and the world of prints
    pp 230-247
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The use of prints to illustrate books was one branch of a wide-ranging business in the production of printed pictures. Away from the context of books, prints are usually thought of as decorative objects, but in the eighteenth century many were made for practical use. Throughout the long eighteenth century, specialists in printed pictures controlled their trade. Booksellers never dominated the business of printed pictures, although their interests frequently overlapped with those of printsellers. Booksellers occasionally published prints and London booksellers frequently helped with the distribution of prints, especially with expensive sets where a wide sale was needed to recover costs. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, most fine prints and books of prints were imported from abroad, chiefly from France and Italy. Large numbers of imported prints were advertised in the newspapers after the cessation of hostilities with France around 1711, and huge quantities of foreign prints continued to flood the British market for many years.
  • 11 - The morphology of the page
    pp 248-267
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The shape of words on a page followed conventions adopted without alteration from those of manuscript books. The study of the changes induced constitutes the morphology of the book, a phrase used by Henri-Jean Martin at a conference in 1977 to describe this process. The last decade of the eighteenth century and first of the nineteenth, a period of prosperity in time of war, were thus a high point in the appearance of books in Britain. It was also a period of great technological change, with the introduction of machine-made paper by the Fourdriniers, Lord Stanhope's iron press and first stereotype office, and finally the steam-powered press of Koenig and Bauer, of which Bensley and Richard Taylor were joint patentees. The increase in the number of newspaper and periodical titles in the last half of the century had been dramatic, and with it the demand for posters, playbills, forms and other jobbing work.
  • 12 - Bookbinding in the eighteenth century
    pp 268-290
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter focuses on the more standard types of binding and the more ephemeral protection offered to text blocks within the book trade. Within the decade of the 1760s, a number of significant changes took place that took the trade in two different directions. At the lower level, the introduction of both case binding and the use of linen canvas as a covering material set precedents not fully realized until the end of the period. At the upper level, there was a distinct movement towards greater precision of work in both forwarding and finishing, a development that was recognized by the master binder James Fraser in 1781. This decade saw also the reintroduction at the upper levels of the trade of sewing on recessed supports. The sewing structures of books bound in boards used either raised or recessed supports.
  • 13 - London and the central sites of the English book trade
    pp 291-308
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Mapping the location of printers, booksellers and allied businesses deepens our understanding of the commercial and cultural orientation of the book trade between the late seventeenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries. As this chapter seeks to demonstrate, the business of publishing and bookselling, characterized by increasing diversity and a steady expansion of production, was closely allied to the transformation of London during this period. With some important exceptions, seventeenth-century London printers continued to congregate in two broad areas of activity, one outside the City focused on Smithfield, and the other stretching broadly southwards from the cathedral to Paul's Wharf and London Bridge. Both old and new London venues sustained the advance of the eighteenth-century book trade. Several ancient sites had supported book-traders, some under the same distinctive trade sign, for generations stretching back before the Civil War, but recent research also reveals the recurrent reuse of many print and book shops by different trades.
  • 14 - Personnel within the London book trades: evidence from the Stationers’ Company
    pp 309-334
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The archives of the Stationers' Company provide our richest source of biographical material for members of the London book trades. The eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth saw a growth in the membership of the Company, an improvement in the record keeping and a wider range of information being recorded. Moreover, during this period the Company remained predominantly tied to the members of the book trade when other City companies were relaxing their guild connections. The English Stock was a joint trading company operated from within the Stationers' Company itself. There is a large area of the records where the information will lead to a fuller understanding of the sociology of the Company and the London trade. These relate to the paying of pensions and giving of charity to the less financially successful members of the Company.
  • 15 - The English provincial book trade: evidence from the British book trade index
    pp 335-351
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter explores British book trade index (BBTI)'s evidence for the systematic study of the English provincial book trade. In attempting to identify the scale of book-trade activity in the provinces between 1700 and 1850, BBTI records have been used to create a series of comparative 'snapshots' at twenty-five-year intervals for twenty-eight selected English provincial towns. This chapter shows the ratio of printers per thousand population in Bristol and Liverpool, and the development of printing in two medium-sized East Midlands market towns, namely, Leicester and Nottingham. Clearly, in order to understand the apparent surge in printing activity in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, one needs to delve beneath the broad term 'printer' to discover what exactly the traders so described were doing. Valuable evidence for the day-to-day work of the 'jobbing' printer has been presented by John Feather who cites, for example, the specialist box printer John Varden and the printer Cheney in Banbury in 1790.
  • 16 - The Scottish book trade
    pp 352-365
  • View abstract

    Summary

    By the early nineteenth century, booksellers and printers had set up business in many of the smaller towns, and Scotland had printing, publishing and paper industries operating on a British scale. This enlarged trade can be viewed against a broader social and economic context. By the mid-1830s, the Scottish trade was complaining about the intense competition that had led to the frequent undercutting of the full retail prices. Yet the controversy was not remotely new. The Edinburgh Booksellers' Society had confronted the problem in 1796 and found one of their number, George Mudie, guilty of a practice 'highly detrimental to the interest of the fair trader'. Mudie gave in, but the problem nevertheless slowly grew. The Edinburgh trade recognized that a unified approach was necessary, and that the active support of London publishers and wholesalers was needed to control underselling. The principles of free trade were about to envelop the British book trade.
  • 17 - The Irish trade
    pp 366-382
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The late start of printing in Ireland, in 1551, is an indication of the relative isolation and backwardness of its economy. Printing was introduced to the country as an instrument of government policy to promote its secular aim of securing power and religious objective of promoting the reformed religion. The potential growth of the book trade was hampered by the highly exclusive nature of the powers granted in the patents of the successive King's Printers. A real sign of the development of the trade came with the establishment of the Guild of St Luke in Dublin in 1670. An anguished notice by the journeymen printers in Dublin in 1825, intended to deter potential apprentices, stated that the art of printing in Ireland had been rapidly decaying under the withering influence of English monopoly. The 1830s and 1840s were to see the stirrings of independent Irish publishing feeding a growing appetite for nationalist literature.
  • 18 - Richard Francklin: a controversial publisher, bookseller and printer, 1718–1765
    pp 383-396
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The career of Richard Francklin, c.1696-1765, bookseller, publisher and printer, spanned a crucial period in the history of the eighteenth-century book. Examining Francklin's mix of business activities, this chapter considers Francklin's career as a representative example of early to mid-Georgian stationers. The alliance of the author to his or her stationer was one of the more important associations in the eighteenth-century literary world. The almost feudal or patronal attachment that an author like Swift demonstrated towards someone like Benjamin Tooke or George Faulkner, and the personal betrayal Swift felt from Benjamin Motte II, suggest the intensity of feelings which author-publisher relations inspired. Much of Francklin's work, especially on books from the first years of his business, 1718-26, was collaborative, with risks and profits shared among several stationers; multivolume large works were almost always undertaken in such coalitions.
  • 19 - The Longmans and the book trade, c.1730–1830
    pp 397-412
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The House of Longman, founded in 1724, which survived for 270 years, through seven generations, might well have come to an early end in 1755 with the death of its founder, Thomas Longman (1699-1755). The word 'conger', describing the group participating in the sale, was familiar to both Thomas I and Thomas II, although its meaning changed over the course of the eighteenth century, as did the words 'publisher' and 'publishing'. The history of serial publications, particularly in the eighteenth century, could never be completely separated from the history of books. Thomas I and his nephew preferred building up a substantial home trade, wholesaling books as well as retailing them, and developing a foreign trade to making bold innovations and diversifying their business, as some other booksellers, notably the Newberys, chose to do. The expanding Longman home trade rested on a network of contacts, some of them expressed in imprints that were not always consistently framed.
  • 20 - London newspapers
    pp 413-433
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Serial publication was the engine that drove the generalized expansion of print through London and the nation during the long eighteenth century. This chapter offers a short sequence of temporal snapshots within which some of the variables in the history of the newspaper during this long period can be indicated. The years chosen, 1720, 1775 and 1830, simply offer an evenly spaced sequence from which it is possible to take stock of the changes that crystallized around them. This is a supply-side view with the emphasis placed on the newspaper as a part of the output of the general trade in print. The year 1830 was pivotal in the history of the London newspapers. Change had begun, but the elements that linked the publications of 1720, 1775 and 1830 were probably stronger than the differences. In organisation, scale of production and character of content and readership, the main London newspapers stood in a recognizable evolutionary relationship to each other.
  • 21 - Newspapers and the sale of books in the provinces
    pp 434-447
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The provincial newspaper trade was an entirely new development in the eighteenth century, enabled by the lapse of the Printing Acts in 1695. The London printing trade had made a good recovery after the Great Fire and plague in the 1660s and the capital was overcrowded with printers by the end of the century. Newspapers were a natural source of information for the book-buying public, but they were always part of a larger book-marketing strategy and it is useful to remember that the booksellers continued to attract their country readers' attention in other ways. The brief local news sections, the way other news was edited, and especially the advertising in provincial newspapers, were adjusted to local developments and interests. The successful weekly local paper became a distinctive part of the rhythm of country life, in a cycle of publication, delivery and reading that was repeated on a more intimate scale with informally shared subscriptions.

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