The Early Book Society is pleased to announce the publication of member Alex da Costa’s monograph, Marketing English Books, 1476-1550: How Printers Changed Reading (OUP, 2020)(https://global.oup.com/academic/product/marketing-english-books-1476-1550-9780198847588?cc=us&lang=en&).
Until the advent of print, the sale of books had been primarily a bespoke trade, but printers faced a new sales challenge: how to sell hundreds of identical books to individuals, who had many other demands on their purses. This book contends that this forced printers to think carefully about marketing and potential demand, for even if they sold through a middleman—as most did—that wholesaler, bookseller, or chapman needed to be convinced the books would attract customers. Marketing English Books sets out, therefore, to show how markets for a wide range of texts were cultivated by English printers between 1476 and 1550 within a wider, European context: devotional tracts; forbidden evangelical books; romances, gests, and bawdy tales; news; pilgrimage guides, souvenirs and advertisements; and household advice. Through close analysis of paratexts—including title-pages, prefaces, tables of contents, envoys, colophons, and images—the book reveals the cultural impact of printers in this often overlooked period. It argues that while print and manuscript continued alongside each other, developments in the marketing of printed texts began to change what readers read and the place of reading in their lives on a larger scale and at a faster pace than had occurred before, shaping their expectations, tastes, and even their practices and beliefs.