IES - In this section

Professor Simon Eliot 
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House


This course will introduce students to the material history of the novel in Britain from the rise of the form in the early eighteenth century to the digital present. A chronological survey will assess the different material forms taken by the novel, including serial formats, multi-volume editions, limited editions, mass-market paperback reprints and digital editions. It will trace the impact of changes in technologies of printing, structures of publishing and distribution, libraries and reading environments, and bookshops and retail outlets. The course includes a rare opportunity to work with historical artefacts including first editions of novels in serial and volume form.


  • To give the student a broad understanding of the material history of the novel in Britain from its emergence in the early eighteenth century to the present.
  • To present an overview of the social, economic, political, legal, and religious contexts in which the novel developed.
  • To introduce the student to some of the changing technologies of book and periodical production that transformed the nature and appearance of the novel.
  • To offer the student case studies of authors, novels, and publishers to illustrate these transformations.
  • To provide the student with the opportunity to examine contemporary books and other historical artefacts that constitute the evidence on which the arguments of the course rest.


Background Reading


The Oxford History of the Novel in English (Oxford, 2011-). [A multi-volume series with introductory chapters on book history and the material forms of the novel. Suggested reading below]

Volume 1 (ed. Thomas Keymer), chapter 2

Volume 2 (ed. Peter Garside and Karen O’Brien), chapters 1-3

Volume 3 (ed. John Kucich and Jenny Bourne-Taylor), chapters 1-3

Volume 4 (ed. Patrick Parrinder and Andrzej Gasiorek), chapters 1-3

The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999-2019). [Another multi-volume series with dedicated chapters on the publishing of literature. Suggested reading below]

           Volume 5: 1695-1830 (ed. Michael F. Suarez, S.J. and Michael L. Turner), chapters 34 & 35

Volume 6: 1830-1914 (ed. David McKitterick), chapter 11.

Volume 7: the Twentieth Century and Beyond (ed. Andrew Nash, Claire Squires and Ian Willison), chapter 8.

Other introductory and background studies:

Altick, R.D., The English Common Reader (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1957).

Eliot, Simon ‘The Business of Victorian Publishing’ in The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel, second edition, edited by Deirdre A. David (Cambridge: CUP, 2012), pp. 36-61.

St Clair, William The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Sutherland, J.A. Victorian Novelists and Publishers (London: Athlone Press, 1976).

Sutherland, John Fiction and the Fiction Industry (London: Athlone Press, 1978).