Victorian Print Media: A Reader

Victorian Print Media: A Reader

Victorian Print Media: A Reader

Victorian Print Media: A Reader


Victorian culture was dominated by an ever expanding world of print. A tremendous increase in the volume of books, newspapers, and periodicals, was matched by the corresponding development of the first mass reading public. Victorian Print Media: A Reader consists of edited extracts from nineteenth-century sources which discuss all aspects of the production and circulation of print media. The extracts are organised into themed sections such as authorship and journalism, reading spaces, and the influence of print.


We live and move and have our being in print.

[Abraham Hayward], ‘Advertising’,
Edinburgh Review, 77 (1843), 2.

A sceptic might remark that our epigraph is nothing but a hyperbolic marketing ploy: of course Hayward would make such a grandiose claim; he was a prolific writer who moved in London’s elite literary circles, and we are merely using his words to puff our own book. For all the validity of those assertions, it is also true that, during the period in which Hayward was in business, print came to dominate British society to such an extent that oral forms of culture lost much of their status. the essence of nineteenth-century Britain might indeed be defined as a move towards a society’s ‘Being-in-Print’. the mediasaturated society we experience today emerged from this nineteenthcentury mediamorphosis, and one of our aims is to provide a partial genealogy of the present, noting differences as well as similarities. This Reader gathers heterogeneous material so as to facilitate new understandings of the way print media operated in relation not only to the expected literary categories of authors and readers, but to society more generally. in so doing it aims to problematize the concepts of ’author’ and ‘reader’, and indeed, ‘print media’, ‘literature’, and ’society’, too.

It is a commonplace that the expansion of interest in book and print history has been encouraged by the growth of electronic media during the last thirty years. the doxa goes that such a confrontation with new media has alerted us to the material and phenomenological boundaries of the old: we are more attentive now to the specificities and limits of ‘Being-in-Print’ because it no longer seems to apply as comprehensively to us. Rather than simply sealing the limits of print, however, electronic media have also dramatically opened them up. As Jerome McGann and others have argued, modern technologies have transformed the scope as well as the methodology of research: they have . . .

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