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The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period

4.48  ·  Rating Details ·  23 Ratings  ·  6 Reviews
Most people believed that reading significantly influenced minds, attitudes, and actions during the centuries when printed paper was the only means by which texts could travel across time and distance. William St. Clair offers a very different picture of the past from those presented by traditional approaches through quantified information he provides on book prices, print ...more
Hardcover, 796 pages
Published August 16th 2004 by Cambridge University Press
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·Karen·
Apr 30, 2012 ·Karen· rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The achievement of actually finishing this brick of a book is somewhat diminished when you realise that of those 765 pages, roughly 300 are appendices; tables and statistics and figures of print runs - an indication of its academic character and St Clair's method. He declines to merely guess what people were reading at the beginning of the 19th century, preferring to attack the question by quantifying exactly what books were available, to whom, at what price, in what numbers. That sounds as dry ...more
Liam Guilar
Feb 28, 2012 Liam Guilar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating study that provides a serious qualification to the usual Lit Crit mythologies of "The Romantic Period". St. Clair looks at what people were actually reading, based on surviving sales figures which he reproduces as appendices to the book. These alone are worth the price of admission.

Millions lived and died without ever hearing the names literary studies spend so much time analysing and discussing. Some idea of the size of the reading public can be gained from the fact that Old Moore
...more
Christie
Exhaustive and easy to read, this is a fascinating look at how the reading public exploded during the Romantic era, and highlights who sold the best and who sold the least across the board, and who exactly *was* doing all the reading. The dozen appendices are detailed, down to the last number, and are as enlightening as the rest of the work. I read this last year and enjoyed it so I purchased a copy for my own collection.
Dianna Rostad
Even with the enormous amount of data in this book, I still found it an easy read. A lot of work went into compiling the history of what people read in the early nineteenth century, and I'm grateful to St. Clair for his work. In the details of this data, what fascinated me most is that Shelley and Keats sold hardly any copies of their work while they were alive. What makes them so famous now? Tragic deaths? Monuments at Oxford?
Liz
I wouldn't exactly recommend this book, but if you're in the market for a tome about how intellectual property laws in particular shaped the reading habits and imaginations of three centuries worth of readers and reframes our understanding of who read what during the 19th century, this is an excellently written specimen.
Mark
Jan 28, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most consistently compelling and productive works of research I've ever read, St Clair's study now easily ranks among my top five favourite nonfiction books ever.
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