The Business of Books


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Booksellers and the English Book Trade 1450-1850

James Raven

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In 1450 very few English men or women were personally familiar with a book; by 1850, the great majority of people daily encountered books, magazines, or newspapers. This book explores the history of this fundamental transformation, from the arrival of the printing press to the coming of steam. James Raven presents a lively and original account of the English book trade and the printers, booksellers, and entrepreneurs who promoted its development.
Viewing print and book culture through the lens of commerce, Raven offers a new interpretation of the genesis of literature and literary commerce in England. He draws on extensive archival sources to reconstruct the successes and failures of those involved in the book trade—a cast of heroes and heroines, villains, and rogues. And, through groundbreaking investigations of neglected aspects of book-trade history, Raven thoroughly revises our understanding of the massive popularization of the book and the dramatic expansion of its markets over the centuries.

James Raven is professor of modern history, University of Essex. He is the author of numerous studies in cultural history and has published extensively on the history of the book and related topics.

"The sweep of this book is remarkable—it single-handedly covers 400 years of the English book trade."—John Barnard, University of Leeds

"A wonderfully rich, informative, and well-documented treatment of an important aspect of the history of the book."—Ann Blair, Harvard University

"This is a masterful survey of the economics of publishing and the book trade in England from the origins of the handpress through the industrialization of the 19th century.  The  Business of Books brings a welcome new perspective to recent work in the history of the book which has mostly focused on texts, authors and readers rather than the trade itself."—Ann Blair, Harvard University

"This is a compendious, confident, and fascinating work, the fruit of years of scholarship."—John Mullan, University of London

"Raven has a remarkable touch, and the history of the book trade gives him the richness of material he thrives within." - Tim Waterstone, The Times

"...this is a very impressive history of a huge and complex subject.  With any work of history, our basic human interest in the subject can take either of two forms: wondering at how different the past seems from the present, or marvelling at how similar it really was.  Both kinds of interest are constantly aroused by this work -- a book about books which have harldly changed, and about the business of them, which has." - Noel Malcolm, The Sunday Telegraph

'Raven's book has been handsomely published by Yale University Press...This is a work of scholarship and research; it is not a student text and, despite some excellent illustrations, not a coffee-table book.'  - Jeremy Tunstall, Times Higher Education Supplement

"The Business of Books presumes little prior knowledge of the subject and takes care, as a rule, to explain concepts that might be unfamiliar; but it is not just an introductory study.  Packed with information, and offering an original perspective, it will interest the specialist as well as the general reader.  Both would be well advised to read it through once and then keep it on hand as a reference book for the sake of its concise mini-histories, its comprehensive and up-to-date biography, and an excellent index that makes these things readily accessible."  - H.J. Jackson, Times Literary Supplement

"An extremely ambitious survey of the commercial book trade 1450-1850. . . . This exhaustive study begins with the arrival of print and the evolution of markets, and continues through and with the religious controversies of the Tudor era and the developments inspired by the late Stuart trade. . . . The result is a new kind of social history from a previously forgotten perspective."—Catherine Gimelli Martin, Studies in English Literature: The English Renaissance

"[A] valuable and absorbing book. . . . A highly enjoyable read as well as a gathering of a vast amount of factual information: it is a lively book about a huge variety of people connected to the business of books. . . . As well as a permanently useful reference book, [it] is remarkably entertaining."—Antonia Forster, Notes and Queries

"[A] majestic achievement, a culmination of an already outstanding career in the field of book history. . . .The book jacket calls The Business of Books 'definitive,' and I can think of no reason to disagree with that assessment." —Norbert Schürer, The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer

"By providing a business history of the book trade, which takes the political context into account, rather than primarily examining the social and political consequences of the press, Raven makes a significant contribution to the history of the press. . . . [A] thoroughly researched and detailed appraisal of the men and women who made up the printing, publishing, and bookselling industries."—Jessica Steinberg, H-Albion

"Whether read cover-to-cover or consulted on specific topics, his book is now the definitive history of its subject."—Adrian Johns, Europe: Early Modern and Modern

“[A] first-rate publication of which the author and publisher may be justifiably proud”—John Hinks, English Historical Review

Winner of the 2007 Jeanne S. DeLong Prize in Book History, given by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing.
ISBN: 9780300181630
Publication Date: July 9, 2007
512 pages, 234 x 156
20 b/w illus