Serial Publication in England before 1750

Serial Publication in England before 1750

Serial Publication in England before 1750

Serial Publication in England before 1750

Excerpt

This book began as a brief introductory essay prefixed to a list of about 150 titles of works published in 'numbers' during the first half of the eighteenth century. As the list of titles grew, the introductory essay expanded into half a dozen chapters. What was at first intended only as a mildly interesting note for librarians has turned into a treatise on an important phase of England's literary history. Evidence of the growth of the reading public had earlier been seen in the phenomenal increase in the number of newspapers and other periodical publications. What is here discussed is a curious and extensive development of the book trade brought about by an entirely new mode of publishing and vending books. This was the device of issuing books in instalments. Publishers discovered that hundreds -- even thousands -- of people not previously interested in books would buy them if they could get them in inexpensive parts, piecemeal. It became quite the thing to buy books in monthly or weekly fascicules -- that is, in small batches of printed sheets, folded, collated, and stitched in blue paper covers -- at prices everyone could manage. Many of the books issued in fascicules (then called 'numbers') were reprints; but the publishers of several important new books deliberately chose to put them before the world in successive portions rather than in complete volumes. More than three hundred new and reprinted works were so issued before 1750, on almost every conceivable subject: history, theology, biography, fiction, travel, drama, music, mathematics, geography, architecture, astronomy, botany, anatomy, medicine, calligraphy -- even carpentry. The extent of the trade is indicated by the sheer bulk of the short-title catalogue in Appendix B, and it is quite probable that within a year after this book is published a dozen or more works missing from the list will be reported.

This new branch of the book publishing business has not previously been studied with any thoroughness. Evidence brought forward here shows that during the first few decades after it was introduced, publishing in numbers became both highly competitive and highly remunerative for the booksellers, if not for the authors and compilers; it was . . .

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