Although the transformative influence of the printed word is acknowledged in the history of the common law (I will focus primarily on law books), there is as yet no comprehensive study which looks at how the production and dissemination of that printed word was shaped by “communities of printers, booksellers, readers and (for want of a better word) censors”. Not only does this deprive us of a fascinating narrative on the history of the law book, but also, as a consequence, prevents us from tracking more accurately than before the impact of the printed word on legal development across the centuries. As only a book length study could provide a complete narrative on this history, the present article will focus on one part of this story, namely the impact of the practices of printers and booksellers (who were the most important members of the book trade and will therefore be collectively referred to as “the book trade”) on law book publishing in the eighteenth century.
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