Traditionally, nineteenth-century etiquette books have been used by scholars mainly as evidence of conventions of manners and good behavior, supporting an expanding print culture in a new mass market. It is argued here that etiquette books should be re-explored in terms of the emerging information culture of the nineteenth century and that viewed in this light they can be seen to be disseminating information of two very particular kinds different from the traditional maxims of behavior and social decorum associated with etiquette. The first was the very practical type of information they espoused—information that served a functional purpose. The second was the way in which new forms of promotion and puffery about products and changing social expectations were used within etiquette books, embracing the broader information discourse of this period. Together, it is suggested that the Victorians’ fascination with information was not limited to early forms of information management or technology but also embraced more sociocultural forms and that information historiography can offer new insights into traditionally overlooked source material.


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pp. 663-680
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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