- The Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, Volume 2: Expansion and Evolution, 1800–1900 ed. by David Finkelstein, and: The Periodical Press in Nineteenth-Century Ireland by Elizabeth Tilley
Transcribing a thorough history of the British and Irish press over an entire century may seem like a daunting task, yet David Finkelstein completes it with aplomb. When faced with such a project, one may wonder what constitutes “the press.” The Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press contests the notion that periodicals and newspapers should be studied separately. In the editorial introduction to the collection, Finkelstein claims to “challenge the artificial divide that in the past has governed the use of the terms ‘the press’ . . . and ‘the periodical press’” (8). Indeed, this volume takes a multifaceted approach, curating an array of chapters focused on English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh print media consumed within and, importantly, beyond major metropolitan areas. It aims to draw attention to spaces that are often overlooked, such as regional and local news outlets; the Welsh-, Irish-, and Scots Gaelic-language press; and imperial discourse in countries like India. Finkelstein’s ground-breaking work is the first study in the field to examine the British and Irish press together through this wide lens.
Despite its broad scope, the collection dexterously moves from general context to specialized content. The substantial volume is organized into six sections with twenty-six key chapters accompanied by twenty-four case [End Page 625] studies. Forty-eight experts in the field contribute to the text. The first five sections lay the groundwork for understanding how the press operated in the marketplace, providing background on economics, production and distribution, readership, communities, and legal structures. The sixth and longest section spans twenty themed chapters, each highlighting a specialized press genre. Throughout the volume, illustrations effectively enrich the reader’s understanding of the associated text. For instance, Rose Roberto’s “The Evolution of Image-Making Industries and the Mid-to Late Victorian Press” uses visual examples to help the reader differentiate between wood cuts and wood engravings, and Elizabeth Tilley’s “Comics, Cartoons, and the Illustrated Press” uses full-color images to highlight the importance of illustrations in the press.
The first section explains how the economics of the publishing industry were affected by government taxes and control. Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt reinforce Finkelstein’s intent to simultaneously study periodicals and newspapers, observing for example that newspaper publishing flourished outside of metropolitan areas while magazine publishing remained localized in major cities during the second half of the nineteenth century. The second section covers the evolution of print technology and image-making. Helen S. Williams provides an in-depth account of how machinery, typesetting, illustrations, and raw materials were forced to evolve to meet the demands of the growing literary marketplace, an account that leads seamlessly into Rose Roberto’s chapter on image-making. Roberto carefully explains the different methods used to publish images from lithography to electrotyping, ultimately contending that “knowledge was spread by images that could be easily reproduced” (124). The next two sections concentrate on the people consuming and producing the press: readers and publishers. Paul Raphael Rooney opens the third section by ruminating on where and how print media was consumed. Noting that studying readership “presents something of a challenge for the press historian,” he argues that there is still much work to be done and ends the chapter with suggestions for future scholarship (146). The fourth section looks at the growth of professions within the publishing industry. As Joanne Shattock states, by the end of the century journalism became “a viable and respectable career for writers” (169). The fifth section explores how the legal and publishing realms were interdependent. “On the one hand the law provided the framework within which the press thrived; on the other the press normalised the workings...