During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the English book trade was transformed from a small business into a major industry. This course explores the history of the production, distribution and consumption of both printed books and manuscripts in England during this crucial period of change. Tracing the rise of publishing in English, it will examine some of the factors which stimulated the growth of the book trade, such as the Reformation, the English Civil War, the role of the Stationers’ Company and the spread of literacy. Themes such as copyright legislation, censorship and control of the press will be discussed, as well as the role of manuscripts in an age of print, the development of new markets in the English provinces and overseas, and the emergence of new printed genres such as newspapers and novels. The course will introduce the records of the Stationers’ Company (with a workshop held at Stationers’ Hall) and the English Short-Title Catalogue as research resources. It offers an opportunity to look closely at books as historical artefacts, including aspects such as formats, imprints and survival, and to interpret the physical evidence in the light of a range of contemporary documentary sources.

The course is taught jointly by Arnold Hunt and Giles Mandelbrote, both formerly curators (of manuscripts and early printed books respectively) at the British Library. Arnold Hunt teaches early modern history at the University of Cambridge. His publications include The Art of Hearing: English Preachers and their Audiences, 1590-1640 (2010), and his research interests are focused on the history of religion, censorship, the book trade and the history of collecting. Giles Mandelbrote is Librarian and Director of Collections at the Warburg Institute, University of London. His research interests are mainly concerned with the history of the book trade, book ownership and collecting in early modern Europe. Among his publications are Out of Print & Into Profit: A history of the rare and secondhand book trade in Britain in the 20th century (2006), volume II (1640-1850) of The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland (2006), and Libraries within the Library: The Origins of the British Library's Printed Collections (2009).

Additional Information

Learning Outcomes

  1. An awareness of printed books and manuscripts as physical objects, and their use as historical evidence. 
  2. An awareness of printed books and manuscripts in their library and archival context. 
  3. An awareness of some of the more important documentary sources for the history of the book in early modern England and how to use and interpret them. 
  4.  An understanding of the principal historical themes relating to the production, distribution and consumption of printed books and manuscripts in early modern England. 

TBC shortly


This course will take place in Senate House, and likely include visits to Lambeth Palace Library and Stationers' Hall.

Course Tutors

Arnold Hunt

Lecturer in Early Modern Palaeography at Durham University