Authors, readers and the print trade before the 19th century in Britain

Oppgaven handler om hvordan bøker ble spredt i Storbritannia, og hva forfatterne skrev om. Videre tar oppgaven for seg betydningen bøkene hadde for vanlige folk.

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In my essay i am going to explain about the importance of Charles Stuart in spreading science and the changes in science, and that writers wrote differently in 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and the results of these changes. After that i will explain what readers liked to read about and who readers were and the hunger for new information, and the impacts of the Licensing Act in 1695. So i am going to write about how books spread and how people got the books and the popularity and the function of the books. I will write about what kind of function coffee houses had.


The main part

In the 16th century Charles Stuart showed his interest in new ideas and supported the arts and scienes. Musicians and painters from countries like Italia and France migrated to England, and playhouses came into existence again. Charles built the Royal Socity of London to increase the natural knowlede. In this way he gave the official approval to the scientific revolution. Now experiments were used and new worlds were being discovered. It was very exciting for the people.


The new science came into conflict with the old science and encouraged a challenge to traditional wisdom and learning. In the late 17th century a battle of books started suddenly. The battle was between the champions of ancient and of modern learning. Modern and new habits of thought started to be spread and to dominate intellectual life. New fields like statistics and economics were developed. For example a very popular book came out and it suggested that an endless nummber of alternate worlds and living creatures might exist in outer space and under our feet. Many writer"s mind were dominated of schemes for reforming society, and schools for the education of women was suggested. In 17th century a more respectable society was coming into being.


About 1660 a sudden change happened. This change had long been prepared in European culture, and there was a need for an elegant simplicity.The new simplicity of style aimed to give pleasure to readers and the language was so easy that everyone could understand it. It was a reaction against the difficulty and extravagance of late Renaissance literature. Writers and critics called for a new clarity, regularity and good sense.


Charles and his followers were the reason that an admiration of French literature and fashions were brought back. For the first time many women and men without a formal education could feel included in the literary world. In this time there was a growth in poetry and poets tried to see and represent nature. The landscape attracted attention in th 18th century as a source of pleasure and an object of reseach. Literary people gathered in the clubs. The coffeehouse of London was an informal meeting places. Here men could drink , smoke, read newspapers, write and receive letters, gossip, do business, change the ideas and argue. Good conversation was a lively 18th century art, and disagreements did not keep people from talking.


1800th-century literature, 1700-45

A new sort of reading matter began to be attractive to an audience keenly expectant to be entertained. The reading public expanded during the 1800th century, and its recruits included upper-class women and the prosperous men and women of the growing middle class. These readers liked to participate in print culture. People were hungry for information and the new journalism satisfied a hunger for information about politics, science, philosophy, and literature as well as for scandal and gossip. When the number of readers grew, the demand for writers grew, too. The new customers for print wanted to read about people whose lives were like their own. the readership changed and it resulted in changing in literature. Between 1700 and 1740 the forms of poetry shifted.



Novelists became better known and a different kind of poetry developed: humorous and personal. The reading public and the number of people who tried to write verse increased and they wrote about what they wanted. Women and men described the details of their lives. The modern novel came into its own in the 1740s. A critical mass of female readers and writers carried weight with publishers for the first time in British history. The focus on individual points of view and the popularity of fiction and sentimental, that expressed the feelings, freed many writers to question the norms of behavior. By the end of century most of the leading British novelists were women. In the18th century literature was first created by the Romantics. They wrote to serve their own interests.


A very importent event was the Licensing Act in 1695 which removed the hinder to the expansion of the press in 1782. By this Act the Stationer"s Company lost it"s legal monopoly on printing and publication. Thus the most important hinder to the growth of provincial printing was abolished. Provincial newspaper had an important role to develop publishing. Printers got local newsagents and booksellers to spread their newspaper and accepted advertisement. The end of licensing meant that the censorship of informations and books which existed before was finished, and when limitation and controls loosend, publishing grew fastly. When shops spread in provincial the bookselling increased, too.


Booksellers realized that the growth of a web of communications gave them access to a national market. The 18th century offered the author many entrances and numerous routes to publication. Magazin was published and there was an increasing competition among the magazins which meant that the demand for material was more than supply.(there were not enough magazins).


Publication enabled the professional authors to earn a living. In the middle of the century a small but growing group of professional writers was settled in London. Writing for mony redused authorship to a mechanical trade and ruined the value of the work. It was important to deny or hide any motiv to earn money, but this tradition died even amongst those who became professional authors. In the 18th century the professional author had become a recognizable type, distinguishable from the liberal writers. To become an author a person had to find a publisher, but the authors were not warm received.


The practice of book subscription

The goal of subscription of books was to secure down-payments and promises to buy a book before the book was published. Thus they ensured that the production and distribution costs were payed before a work was published. Booksellers were happy because it redused the risks and could have huge profits.


There was an improvement in male literacy, and it is interesting to mention a little about that. A) 10% in 1500 to 45% in 1714 B) 60% in the mid-18th century. After 1700 there was a growth in the reading and it happened because of the gradual spread of literarcy. The most frequently published type of literature was poetry. When publishing expaned in 18th century it increased the availability of traditional works and old forms and new types of literature.


When the number of books increased and the system for their spreading grew, it became easier to find them. People could buy or hire books. Commercial establishments, institutions and individuals lent books,too. There were some salesmenn who travelled the countryside and sold reading matters and other things. Some shops sold books and other things like tea because it was impossible to earn money only of bookselling. Almost every bookseller had s stock of books which patrons could borrow. It is important to mention something about the commercial libraries or circulating libraries. Their job was to lend out books for their customers to read at home. New books were not cheap.


The book club existed in small towns and large villages. It gathered the local elite of professional men, merchants, rich farmers and others. Here they debated the issues of the day and last, ate and drank. Readers could secure a book without having to buy it from circulating libraries, subscription libraries and book club. In the coffee houses people could pay a low price to have access to the books and newspaper. Books, print and readers were everywhere. Even those who could not read tok part in a culture of print and books. They were asked to buy a few books so that their literate guests and friends could read to them. Reading aloud in public and private was a universal practice which enabled people who could not read to take part in that. Books had become like friends to people.


After 1850 authors accepted the public and they understood that their independent was dependent on public"s support. Books entertained, instruct and amuse, bind together family and friends, created a common culture.



I think that the 16th, 17th and 18th were very important centuries because what happened during these centuries changed the future of Great Britain, and i believe that reading and studing helped that Britain became a powerful union later. It is very interesting that in a society which most people could not read and write suddenly people took part in the new print and reading culture, and it is amazing that books had a magic function and gathered people.



Sources: Compendium 2 and Norton, pp.2045-68

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