Studies in Newspaper and Periodical History: 1995 Annual

By Michael Harris ; Tom O'Malley | Go to book overview

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Locating the Serial: Some Ideas about the Position of the Serial in Relation to the EighteenthCentury Print Culture

Michael Harris

The worldwide appearance of projects concerned with the history of the book is running in tandem with the rapid development of electronic forms of communication. The new technology, which offers both a challenge to and a means of exploring print, seems to have provided a spur to action. There is now a real opportunity to build on existing lines of research and rethink some of the concepts around which histories of print can be constructed. A debate is beginning to take shape, though as yet in a highly fragmented way, and these remarks are intended as a contribution to the process.

As the projects proliferate, the general issue of how to approach the totality of the output of print and how to integrate its constituent elements in a convincing way has begun to sharpen. Part of a universal framework of organization is provided by the nation-state. The adoption of this form of cultural nationalism is usually said to be imposed by the availability of funding rather than by conceptual agreement. Histories of the book are constructed within the frontiers of countries whose pragmatic financial interests give a curious patchwork effect to the research process. In relation to Britain, with its far-flung empire, the possibility of geographical dislocation is considerable. In this case, the national approach is locked into a network of overlapping projects concerned not only with the book in Scotland, Wales and Ireland but also with the form as developed in the scattered compo-

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