Pioneers, publishers and the dissemination of archaeological knowledge: A study of publishing in British archaeology 1816-1851

Sarah Scott

School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, LE1 7RH. Email:

Cite this as: Scott, S. 2013 Pioneers, publishers and the dissemination of archaeological knowledge: A study of publishing in British archaeology 1816-1851, Internet Archaeology 35.


Page from Reliquiae Britannico Romanae published 1817

Plate XXXII, Reliquiae Britannico Romanae III (1817).

The first half of the nineteenth century was a formative period in the development of archaeology as a discipline and archaeological publishing played a key role in this. Libraries were an essential marker of social and intellectual status and there now exists a considerable body of scholarship on the most impressive publications of the day and on the factors influencing their presentation; for example, in relation to the publication of Mediterranean classical antiquities. The crucial role which publishers played in the selection and dissemination of scholarship has been addressed in recent studies of the history of the book, and there is a growing literature on the role of publishers in the dissemination of scientific knowledge, but there has to date been very limited evaluation of the role of publishers in the selection and dissemination of archaeological knowledge in Britain in this period. This study will investigate the extent to which the publication and dissemination of archaeological knowledge, and hence the discipline itself, was shaped by the intellectual and/or commercial concerns of publishers, with a view to providing a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which knowledge was filtered and the impact that this had. Key trends in archaeological publishing in the period 1816-51 will be identified, based on the London Catalogue of Books, and will show how and why this kind of study should be seen as an essential component of any research which considers the history of the discipline. Selected case studies will show the immense, and previously unacknowledged, importance of decisions made during the publication process on the development of archaeology in Britain, and directions for further study will be identified.

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