Abstracts - Retailing and Distribution of Books and Printed Material: Historical Perspectives

James Davis, Queen's University Belfast - 14.00- 14.30

John Gough: Heretical Bookseller in Henrician England

The career of John Gough, London stationer and belligerent reformer, spans the formative period of the England Reformation from the 1520s to the 1540s. No other bookseller of the time perhaps so aptly illustrates the tribulations and changes that beset the book trade because of the proliferation of heretical and reforming texts.

Gough appears to have been involved in the illicit selling of William Tyndale’s works in the 1520s. He was caught for distributing forbidden books not once but twice. By the late 1530s Gough was an avid participant in the printing and distribution of reforming literature under Thomas Cromwell.

He was a close acquaintance of various reformers and the writer of an undisguised Protestant tract, as well as being censured for translating an unlicensed text. Devereux suggested that John Gough was ‘probably the most active distributor of Protestant books in all England’, while Brigden has referred to him as ‘a reckless evangelical’.

This paper will explore how Gough’s career highlights the involvement of booksellers and printers in early reformist ideas. His life and activities also give us a fascinating glimpse into how heresy, regulation and censorship impacted upon the development of the early printed book trade in Henrician England.

Email: james.davis@qub.ac.uk

James Wallace, McGill University -14.30 - 15.00

'Cramers, Chapmen and Running Stationers: Popular Print Distribution in Eighteenth-Century Scotland'

Although there has been some recent interest in the link between popular culture and print in Scotland, many aspects related to the production and distribution of broadsides, chapbooks and pamphlets – particularly in the early modern period – have remained unexplored.

This paper seeks to examine the issue of distributive networks for cheap print in eighteenth-century Scotland, both in relation to their geographical expansion over the course of the century and attempted regulation by municipal authorities. It begins with a critical discussion of several failed attempts to erect societies for distributive agents for both popular print and ‘news’ in Edinburgh that culminated in the successful establishment of the Society of Running Stationers in 1759.

The scope will then be widened in order to address debates on how far the “reach” of popular print extended in Scotland through chapmen networks and how selling strategies and public attitudes towards selling agents are implicated within developing ideas towards news and the renegotiation of national and cultural identities.

Finally, attention will be given to identifying popular print with its spaces of production and distribution. This will then be employed to situate changes in the relationship between production and both stationary and mobile distribution networks in Edinburgh.

Email: james.wallace2@mail.mcgill.ca

Andrew Hobbs, University of Central Lancashire 15.00 - 15.30

'Auctioning Secondhand Newspapers and Periodicals in News Rooms and Reading Rooms, 1851-1900'

A significant trade in secondhand newspapers and periodicals was conducted by nineteenth-century news rooms and reading rooms, and (for periodicals) by circulating libraries such as Mudie’s and WH Smith.

At yearly or quarterly auctions, members of news rooms bid in advance for the right to take home copies of each title, once the next issue arrived. Records of this ‘futures market’ in back issues provide a fascinating index of popularity, and were reported as such by provincial and metropolitan newspapers.

Calculating their re-sale values as a proportion of their cover price gives a rough measure of the perceived value of these secondhand publications.

A representative sample of three types of publications – periodicals, big city newspapers and local papers – auctioned at a provincial gentlemen’s club (the Winckley Club, Preston, Lancashire) reveals marked differences in the value of each genre, and change over time. This method of distributing newspapers and periodicals gives clues as to how readers valued different types of reading material, and reveals the long ‘after-life’ of supposedly ephemeral publications.

Email: ajhobbs@uclan.ac.uk

Nicola Wilson, University of Reading 16.00 - 16.30

'Boots and the Novel: The Circulating Libraries and their Readers, c. 1900-40'

In a letter to one of his authors describing the literary marketplace in 1937, the publisher Harold Raymond referred to Boots’ Booklovers Library, W. H. Smiths, Harrods, The Times and the Book Society as the ‘big noise’ retailers and distributors of books.

This paper looks at the impact of these distributors and their readers on the development and history of the novel, circa 1900-1940. The impact of the circulating libraries in the late Victorian period is well known (cf George Moore’s 1885 pamphlet Literature at Nurse, or Circulating Morals) but the continued influence of the circulating library market and their readers on the novel well into the twentieth century is less well understood.

The paper draws on original archival evidence gathered from the British Printing and Publishing archives held at the University of Reading, where I am working on an AHRC-funded project looking at the impact of distribution and reading patterns on the history of the novel 1880-1940.

Using the letters and ledgers contained in these archives I have been able to gain a privileged look at the impact that the circulating library market had on the editorial practices and decisions made in publishing houses. I will use a number of case studies and extracts from the letters in this talk.

Email: n.l.wilson@reading.ac.uk

Duygu Tekgul, University of Exeter 16.30 -17.00

'Translated Fiction as a Product Category in Contemporary British Book Market'

It is estimated that 3% of over 120.000 titles published annually are translations, and figures suggest that translations enjoy much less sales than originals in terms of copies. The study will outline the promotion and sales activities concerning translated fiction, and will conclude with the argument that the low sales success of translated novels might be attributed to market conditions in Britain.

From the 1980’s onwards, British publishing became a profit-driven and market-oriented industry, and this tendency has shaped the way new novels are produced. Translations can be seen as texts that have been originally written in one social and literary context, and then imported to another, with a different positioning in the new market. Therefore, it might be fruitful to analyse translated novels as a different category in the book market.

The paper will discuss promotion activities of British publishers regarding translated fiction, including book covers as a form of advertising, and event-based promotion, like author signings. The study will analyse packaging and reviews in relation to consumption. It will also outline sales activities of both brick-and-mortar and online retailers, focusing on display.

Primary research methods include discourse analysis on book covers, content analysis of publishers’ catalogues and book reviews, a study of display arrangements in mainstream bookshops, interviews with retailer sales staff and publishers.

Email: P.D.Tekgul@exeter.ac.uk

Contact 

Dr Laura Ugolini

School of Law, Social Sciences and Communications, Room MC334

Tel: 01902 321890

Email: L.Ugolini@wlv.ac.uk