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Libraries & Culture 37.2 (2002) 203-204

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Book Review

The Human Face of the Book Trade:
Print Culture and Its Creators

Reciprocal Influences:
Literary Production, Distribution, and Consumption in America

The Human Face of the Book Trade: Print Culture and Its Creators. Edited by Peter Isaac and Barry McKay. Winchester: St. Paul's Bibliographies, and New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 1999. x, 228 pp. $39.95. ISBN 1-873040-54-7 (U.K.); 1-58456-003-7 (U.S.).

Reciprocal Influences: Literary Production, Distribution, and Consumption in America.Edited by Steven Fink and Susan S. Williams. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999. viii, 220 pp. $40.00 (cloth); $20.00 (paper). ISBN 0-8142-5031-9.

The Human Face of the Book Trade: Print Culture and Its Creators is a baker's dozen of essays selected from the Sixteenth Seminar on the British Book Trade, held at Napier University, Edinburgh, in July 1998. The third in a series entitled Print Networks, this volume was preceded by volumes entitled Images and Texts (containing papers from the 1996 seminar) and The Reach of Print (with papers from the 1997 seminar). With essays spanning the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, it holds something for nearly everyone who is interested in the human dimensions of the book trade. Stephen Brown's study of printer William Smellie, for instance, illustrates how an individual's idiosyncracies helped shape the book trade in Edinburgh, Scotland, while Richard B. Sher uncovers hidden dimensions of authorship with his study of the publication history of William Buchan's Domestic Medicine.

Diverse in topic and time period, The Human Face of the Book Trade illustrates some important research questions historians can ask of publishers' records, newspaper advertisements, library catalogs, and the publications themselves. Moreover, contributors, who include librarians, professors, curators, and booksellers, have not limited themselves to elite perspectives of the book trade. Iain Beavan, for instance, examines the significance of the magazine the Aberdeen Shaver to its working-class and middle-class readers. Additionally, readers who are interested in the life and work of bookseller Charles Elliot will be pleased to find two essays ("Charles Elliot and the London Booksellers in the Early Years" and "Charles Elliot and the English Provincial Book Trade").

Reciprocal Influences: Literary Production, Distribution, and Consumption in America consists of papers originally delivered at a 1996 colloquium entitled "The Profession of Authorship in America: The Legacy of William Charvat." Most of the [End Page 203] contributors, who include Lawrence Buell, Michael T. Gilmore, and Michael Winship, are professors of English. Unlike The Human Face of the Book Trade, Reciprocal Influences is prefaced with an introduction that attempts to synthesize and contextualize the essays contained therein. In it, co-editors Steven Fink and Susan S. Williams argue that former Ohio State University English professor Charvat's "triangulation model actually better captures the dynamic reciprocity of all the components [of the communications circuit] than the essentially one-way circuit constructed by [Robert] Darnton" (3).

The twelve essays that follow are arranged in a rough chronological order and explore several critical aspects of authorship, reading, and the publishing trade in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America. Several focus on the material conditions of production and reception, including Frances Smith Foster's insightful "African Americans, Literature, and the Nineteenth-Century Afro-Protestant Press" and Martha Banta's fascinating "Periodicals Back (Advertisers) to Front (Editors): Whose National Values Market Best?" Other essays probe the authorial careers of such individuals as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. Like The Human Face of the Book Trade,Reciprocal Influences also includes essays that shed light on reader reception and the politics of authorship and publishing.

The essays contained in both works will appeal to anyone interested in the evolving history of print culture. Read in tandem, they enhance our understanding of the social, economic, and political dimensions of the book trade on both sides of the Atlantic. While brief, they constitute a seedbed of ideas for further...


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