Books are the cornerstone of our culture. They disseminate ideas, and preserve and transmit literature. Their contents underpin great religions, and have been responsible for wars and revolutions. They lie at the heart of education and scholarship. They have brought pleasure (and some pain) to countless millions of people for nearly three millennia.
The systematic study of books and the means by which they are created and distributed began in the eighteenth century, but it is only in the last 150 years or so that it has developed into an important field of scholarship. After an intellectual transformation in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the history of books-and particularly the commercial history of books-is now a vibrant and widely practised area of study and research. Literary scholars, historians, and many others in the humanities and social sciences, have a keen interest in how texts have reached us, how they were created, marketed and distributed, and what impact the commercial processes of publishing had on their contents.
As serious academic work on and around publishing and the printed book continues to flourish as never before, this new title in the Routledge Major Works series, Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, meets the need for an authoritative reference work to make sense of a growing and ever more complex corpus of literature, and to provide a map of the area as it has emerged and developed. It is a landmark collection of foundational and the best cutting-edge scholarship in the field and is organized in four volumes.
Volume I ('Concepts and Theories: Issues in Book History') deals with the discipline itself, its parameters, its theoretical foundations, and the issues and controversies which have helped it to develop and which are still carrying it forward. Volume II ('Publishing and the Book Trade'), meanwhile, focuses on the development of the publishing industry, the commercial heart of the book world, and the engine of its evolution. In the third volume ('Publishers and Authors'), the emphasis is on the extremities of the chain of production and distribution-the authors who create books, and the readers who use them-and on the complex relationships between both and the publishers. The final volume ('Printing and Book Production') is concerned with the history of printing-the most important single technological development in the whole history of the book.
The materials gathered in this collection exemplify schools of thought and the development of ideas about the discipline, as well as embodying some of the key results of scholarship, to give a coherent view of its achievements and of its potential for further development. For the novice or advanced student, the collection will be particularly useful as an essential database allowing scattered and often fugitive material to be easily located. And, for the more advanced scholar, it will be welcomed as a crucial tool permitting rapid access to less familiar-and sometimes overlooked-texts. For both, Book Publishing will be valued as a vital one-stop research and pedagogic resource.