A history of British publishing by John Feather

By John Feather

Completely revised, restructured and up-to-date, A heritage of British Publishing covers six centuries of publishing in Britain from sooner than the discovery of the printing press, to the digital period of this day. John Feather areas Britain and her industries in a global market and examines simply how ‘British’, British publishing particularly is. contemplating not just the publishing itself, but in addition the components affecting, and stricken by it, Feather lines the heritage of publishing books in Britain and examines: schooling politics know-how legislation faith customized category finance, construction and distribution the onslaught of world firms. in particular designed for publishing and booklet background classes, this is often the one publication to offer an total historical past of British publishing, and may be a useful source for all scholars of this attention-grabbing topic.

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The trend was, however, reinforced by political considerations. The initial impact of the printed word was on the traditionally literate classes: clergy, lawyers, aristocrats and other wealthy laymen. However great that impact may have been it was nevertheless confined to this elite; when, however, it began to be seen that the dissemination of print was beginning to disturb the very foundations of society, kings and bishops began to take a closer interest in the new art. This interest became closer from the 1520s onwards as the unity of western Christendom was wrenched apart by the Protestant Reformation.

During the next ten years, only four men held the office: John Cawood (1561, 1562, 1566), Richard Waye (1558, 1563), Reyner Wolfe (1559, 1564, 1567) and Steven Kevall (1560, 1565) (Greg and Boswell 1930: 95–6; Duff 1905: 23, 85, 167, 171–2). Cawood had been Queen’s Printer since 1553; he had survived the transition from Mary I to Elizabeth I and was obviously a politically wise choice. Waye, Wolfe and Kevall, however, were quite different. Although Wolfe was a printer, printing was a very small part of a very large business and neither Waye nor Kevall ever printed at all.

Yet from the beginning of printing in England, vernacular books intended for the devout layman formed an important part of the products of the press, and played a significant role in laying the foundations for an economically viable trade in printed books. Among the major printers of the period, Caxton, de Worde, Pynson and Berthelet all devoted about 40 per cent of their output to religious books of one sort or another. In the context of the import of the majority of liturgies intended for use in England, and of academic theology, this output can be taken to be aimed at the popular market, although the English market was large enough to enable de Worde and others to produce Books of Hours (Horae) and the devotional works in Latin for the pious laity (Bennett 1969: 65–6; Erler 1999).

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