A History of British Publishing by John Feather

By John Feather

This complete historical past (first released in 1987) covers the total interval during which books were revealed in Britain. although Gutenberg had the sting over Caxton, England speedy proven itself within the leading edge of the overseas e-book exchange. The gradual technique of copying manuscripts gave option to an more and more refined alternate within the revealed be aware which introduced unique literature, translations, broadsheets and chapbooks or even the Bible in the purview of an more and more extensive slice of society. robust political forces endured to manage the publication alternate for hundreds of years earlier than the main of freedom of opinion used to be confirmed. within the 19th and early 20th centuries the contest from pirated united states versions - the place there have been no copyright legislation - supplied a robust possibility to the exchange. this era additionally observed the increase of remaindering, reasonable literature, and lots of different 'modern' positive aspects of the alternate. the writer surveys these kind of advancements, bringing his historical past as much as the current age.

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By the middle of the sixteenth century it was clear that if the trade was to be properly regulated and organised, as contemporary opinion held that every activity should be, new mechanisms would be needed to achieve that end. The mechanism which emerged was the Stationers’ Company — the Worshipful Company of Stationers of London, to give it its full title — whose history from the 1550s to the early eighteenth century is central to the wider history of British publishing and whose residual influence survived long after its legal position had been undermined.

It created also the perception of the need to control this everincreasing flood of words. It might seem that the interests of the producers of books and the state were inevitably to conflict, and indeed such confrontations did take place from time to time. In England, however, the book trade arrived at a compromise with the state which was to be the foundation of its prosperity. The first years of the trade in printed books in England were disorganised and even anarchic, but as the state recognised the importance of the new trade, and the printers and booksellers themselves came to recognise the need to protect their investments, it came to be accepted that some form of control was necessary for commercial as well as for political reasons.

10 44 A TASTE OF FREEDOM The newsbooks of the 1640s were quite different from their predecessors which had been generally neutral in tone and confined by the licensers to foreign news. From 1641 onwards the newsbooks were politically committed and almost entirely concerned with domestic affairs. By the summer of 1643 a newspaper war was running in parallel to the real war, coordinated on the royalist side by the remarkable Sir John Berkenhead, who has some claim to be regarded as the first English editor.

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