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The Provincial Book Trade in Eighteenth-Century England by John Feather

By John Feather

It used to be no longer until eventually the eighteenth century that books turned generally on hand in the course of the complete of britain. Publishing remained principally London-based, however the provincial marketplace grew progressively in value. during this examine, drawing on quite a lot of fundamental assets, John Feather strains the commercial, social and cultural forces which made attainable this basic swap, and assesses the influence of the metropolitan revealed notice on provincial society. He discusses the $64000 problems with copyright and piracy; a number of the monetary preparations among booksellers and publishers; and certainly the frilly distribution and company platforms that enabled London publishers to continue their powerful stranglehold by means of penetrating the provincial industry at each point.

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Although he was to build a reputation as a printer of ballads and chapbooks, he also did a great deal of jobbing work throughout his life, and jobbing was the most important part of his trade when he 26 A Century of Growth first went into business. Within three years, he was earning about £50 a year from printing, undertaking such jobs as advertising handbills, auction catalogues, blank forms for legal documents, and letterhead writing paper. Within a very short time the tradesmen of Banbury must have wondered how they had functioned at all when the nearest printer was twenty miles away in Oxford.

37 Watts's Hymns and spiritual songs became a staple soon after its publication in 1707, joining Pilgrim's Progress as a work often produced by provincial printers in a chapbook format. 38 The rapid increase in literacy, and the closely related growth of protestant fundamentalism, among small traders and labourers in town and country alike, provided a good income for the provincial book trade. THE LEISURE MARKET From schoolboys to bishops those who read of necessity also read for pleasure. 39 Reading for pleasure was widespread among all classes, so much so that it became a matter of contemporary comment.

The tendency seems to have been to rely on agents in towns and newsmen in rural areas. In 1769, for example, the comparatively young Leeds Mercury had eighteen agents. Two were newsmen: one was based in Harrogate, and the other travelled Airedale and Wharfedale from a base at Malham. 41 Because of these developments, we can best understand the country trade in the middle of the century if we see it functioning on three levels: the newspaper owners; the newsagents; and the rest. The newspaper owners are the easiest group to study because through their papers they have left abundant evidence of their activities, but there is some information about all levels of the trade.

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