2. The role of the publisher: a review of recent scholarship

It is often assumed that the diffusion of knowledge, from author to the reading public, was a straightforward and linear process (e.g. Whitley 1985; Hilgartner 1990 and Cooter and Pumfrey 1994, discuss this diffusionist approach). Yet, as Cooter and Pumfrey argue (1994; see also Topham 2000, 561), there are many factors which must be taken into account if we are to more fully comprehend how and why particular forms of knowledge developed and came to be accepted. In relation to the history of the book, Darnton (1990a, 111) has proposed a 'communication circuit' of print, in which knowledge was mediated and disseminated through a 'circuit' of authors, publishers, printers, distributors, booksellers and readers, and back to authors. Richard Sher's recent volume explores this 'communication circuit' in relation to Scottish authors and their publishers in the eighteenth century; he argues that the latter part of the century was particularly important in the development of author-publisher relations, and was an era of transition for publishers, characterised by the emergence of large publishing houses which had not yet developed into specialised and formal entities. Authors and publishers often had close relationships, and publishers were often deeply committed to the works that they produced. Publishers played a hugely significant role in deciding who and what to publish, when and in what format, and how much they would sell for and how much authors would be paid (Sher 2006, 5). By the nineteenth century the increasing complexity of the book trade meant that it was very difficult to become a successful author without the backing of a commercially astute publisher; those authors who made a decision to self-publish generally lacked access to essential advertising and distribution networks (Topham 2000, 582; Noblett 1988).

The study of British book history is dominated by studies of English literature. Yet this period witnessed dramatic changes in scientific publishing as the mass medium of print developed, and these changes were closely linked with the development of distinct academic disciplines in what has been termed a 'second scientific revolution' (Topham 2000, 559-561; Cohen 1985, 91-101; Schaffer 1986; Cunningham 1988; Cunningham and Williams 1993; Foucault 1974). The practice of science was increasingly restricted to a more specialised body of trained researchers, while the public audience gradually slipped into the role of passive consumers (Golinski 1992; see Levine 1986 on the rise of professional historians and archaeologists in the nineteenth century). Recent scholarship has primarily focussed on the ways in which scientific specialists asserted their authority through various means, including print media, and has considered the impact of this on the diffusion of scientific knowledge and the popularisation of science (e.g. Williams 1988, 236-8). However, Sher (2006, 31) argues that the publication process must be seen as equally important since access to texts, particularly in the eighteenth century, depended on decisions made by publishers e.g. price, print runs, advertising, distribution and contractual arrangements (Sher 2006, 32). Similarly, St Clair argues that any study of book history should consider what, and how much, was produced, and what was actually read (2004, 14-18; see also Eliot 1994).

There has, to date, been no comprehensive overview of trends in archaeological publishing in Britain in this period, or indeed of scientific publishing in general. The same is true for the history of reading, as St Clair notes that

'The history of reading is at the stage of astronomy before telescopes, economics before statistics, heavily reliant on a few commonly repeated traditional narratives and favourite anecdotes, but weak on the spade-work of basic empirical research, quantification, consolidation, and scrutiny of primary information, upon which both narrative theory ought to rest' (2004, 10).

St Clair himself goes a considerable way towards redressing this problem, compiling a series of tables with data derived from a wide range of sources, including publishing and printing archives, library catalogues and archives and printed trade catalogues. He provides an in-depth evaluation of reading trends in the Romantic period, and his data and analysis provide a useful backdrop to this study (2004, appendices; see also Darnton 1990b), although the discussion here will focus on the publication process, rather than on reading and reception. While many studies in the history of archaeology address the development of period-based interests, in general the emphasis has been on the factors shaping interests, rather than on the publishers or the process of publication (e.g. Jasanoff 2005; Malley 2012; Moser 2006).

Information regarding the authors, subjects, publishers, formats and prices of archaeological volumes in this period can be obtained through scrutiny of catalogues, such as the Publishers Circular, The London Catalogue of Books, the British Museum copyright receipt books and the Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue (see St Clair 2004, 729-732 for sources; many volumes are available online; e.g. Hathi Trust Digital Library). The immense value of this type of study is clear from Altick's (1957) social history of the mass reading public, and more recently through the work of Eliot, whose application of bibliometric techniques to publishing in the nineteenth-century, notwithstanding the range of factors complicating data collection, has revealed long-term patterns in book publishing (1994; 1995; 2002). Eliot's analysis of the Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue (NSTC) has further refined this picture of long-term trends in book publishing (1997; 1998). The scale and complexity of this type of study is undoubtedly daunting but, as Topham (2000) makes clear, the collection of basic production data is an essential starting point in any study of the publication process, since it provides a wealth of information regarding the subjects and titles selected for publication, quantities produced and prices charged (see Eliot 2002 on complexity of data collection and analysis). While case studies are important for understanding the motivations of particular authors and publishers (e.g. Bohrer 1992 on Murray's publications of Layard's discoveries), it is essential to consider the wider publishing context in order to fully appreciate their significance. The collection of data relating to the publication of volumes on archaeological topics is challenging, but it can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the range of archaeological knowledge produced and consumed in this period.


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