In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Texts, Printing, and the Book

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Primary and Data Sources
  • The Print Revolution
  • Scribal and Manuscript Culture
  • Printers and Industry
  • Design and Technology
  • Copyright
  • Readers
  • Censorship and Government
  • Literacy, Education, and the Scholarly Community
  • Transatlantic Representations
  • Newspapers
  • Periodicals
  • Libraries

Atlantic History Texts, Printing, and the Book
Finn Pollard
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 June 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0057


The subject embraced by this topic is vast and, in recent years, it has attracted increasing scholarly attention, symbolized, above all, by the publication of a number of nation- focused multivolume General Overviews and Histories of the Book. However, much of the literature continues to focus on individual nations, obliging Atlantic historians to develop their own comparisons. This article, therefore, includes works with a specific national focus while, where possible, works with a comparative or transatlantic element are prioritized. After general sections covering the multivolume histories, journals, and primary sources, the material is broken down thematically, though works often bear on more than one theme (indicated in the commentary paragraphs). We begin with sections on the much-debated Print Revolution, which follows from Eisenstein 1979 (cited under Print Revolution), and the persistence and importance of Scribal and Manuscript Culture. We then move on to personnel and their organization together with printing Design and Technology. Studies of the book trade, which follows, have, in recent times, shifted from an economic focus on profit and sales to the book trade as a vehicle for the building of transatlantic identities and the transatlantic transmission of ideas. Raven 2002, a study of the Charleston Library Society (cited under Transatlantic Book Trade), is an especially striking example. Because of the breadth of material on these topics, works are subdivided under Old World, New World, and the Transatlantic Book Trade sections. We then move on to another area that has seen increasing attention in recent decades—readership—and the question of whether a reading revolution did, in fact, occur during the 18th century. Because the growing literate public at that time posed a challenge to governments, it also provoked a reaction, explored in the next section. Moving away from politics we proceed to consider the effect of the various changes already documented on the character of education and the more rarified scholarly community. The article ends with sections devoted to Newspapers, Periodicals, and Libraries, all of which played significant roles in the larger processes of change already discussed. For material dealing specifically with fiction, see the Oxford Bibliographies Online article on Literature and Culture. No section is devoted to particularly significant individual texts, but researchers in this area will want to take note of important case studies concerning the role of print in the Atlantic world between the 16th and 19th centuries, such as the Declaration of Independence or Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.

General Overviews and Histories of the Book

No overview encompassing the entire topic of this article is available. The overviews and general histories that do exist are generally national in focus, and the same applies to the multivolume histories of the book. The latter are probably the best starting points for research. Materials reflect the multiple historical fields embraced by the history of the book ranging from basic bibliographies of exactly what was published to the personnel who were publishing, selling, and reading, and the relationships among these individuals, to the circulation of ideas and the attempt by groups, particularly governments and the churches, to control and sometimes prevent that circulation. General overviews and histories have been divided into Britain and Europe, Africa, New World (North and South America and the Caribbean), and Transatlantic and Global.

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