Chapmen in Eighteenth-Century Scotland
Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines a little-studied aspect of Scottish reading history: chapmen who sold cheap print to Scots in the past, both in towns and in the country. Surviving chapbooks have been studied extensively by scholars, but far less attention has been paid to chapmen themselves, despite their role in supporting wider reading habits in the population. This article expands that picture, examining the distribution of chapmen in the eighteenth century, their likely numbers, and the types of books they sold, and to whom. Evidence used includes inventories, contemporary accounts, and a particularly valuable record of a local society of chapmen. Throughout the emphasis is on building a picture across Scotland, but this is enhanced by comparisons with the situation in England and elsewhere in Europe. The argument is made for Scottish chapmen having been too numerous and important for scholars to overlook, indeed that they were a vital conduit through which cheap print reached many ordinary Scots.