Buying a Book in Early Modern England

Date: 22 July 2024
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UVA Edgar Shannon Library, Room 330
Lecturer: Aaron Pratt - Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

There is a healthy amount of writing out there on the printing and publishing process: how authors interacted with publishers, how publishers without presses of their own interacted with printers, and especially how printers turned manuscripts into the printed sheets that went to publishers for sale. According to Aaron Pratt, there is no dedicated study, however, that offers a reliable account of how regular buyers—readers—acquired their books from English booksellers. What did shops look like? How did potential customers interact with booksellers and the physical books they were interested in? What, exactly, did customers leave the shop with when they followed through on a purchase? And when they did, how soon after buying? During this lecture, Pratt will cover some of this terrain, helping correct some sticky misconceptions and offer some clarity about one of the most basic aspects of England’s early modern book trade.