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Trading Places and Reading Spaces

Miraeus lecture, Wednesday 13 November 2013
Stephen Colclough

How did Victorian readers get hold of books, newspapers and other texts, and what impact did the places and spaces in which they acquired texts have upon their reading experience? Drawing on a range of sources, including tourist guides, trade directories, book trade publicity materials, paintings, photographs and the work of contemporary social investigators and book trade historians, this paper sets out to trace the range of print venues open to British readers in the 1850s. These ranged from elite bookshops, with spaces in which lounging customers could browse the daily papers, through to mobile book barrows stocked with remainders and second-hand books. It will pay particular attention to two 'new' spaces particularly associated with a period that Simon Eliot has defined as the age of the 'distribution revolution', the major circulating libraries and the railway bookstalls. These two sites were, of course, bound together at the bookstalls of W.H. Smith & Son which also acted as venues from which books could be rented. Recent work on the sites at which readers encountered texts has tended to focus on the best-known shops found in the bookselling capitals, London, Dublin and Edinburgh, but this paper sets out to contrast the kinds of spaces available in London (which is particularly well documented for 1851- the year of the Great Exhibition) with the often multipurpose venues that readers outside the major cities used to access texts. The final section will look at the evidence for bookselling along the North Wales coast at a period in which this part of Wales was becoming increasingly bi-lingual.


Free entrance
Venue: Universiteit Antwerpen, room R.225
B-2000 Antwerpen

The Miræus Lectures are an initiative of the Flanders Book Historical Society and are supported by the Antwerp Bibliophile Society and the Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience.