Subscription Publishing in America over Three Centuries

Michael Winship

Rare Book School’s inaugural Kenneth Karmiole Endowed Lecture on the History of the Book Trades, held on Tuesday, 13 July 2021,  5:30–6:30 p.m. ET, including a brief Q&A at the end.

Over the centuries, subscription publishing has been a constant feature of the book world of the American colonies and the United States from the eighteenth to the present century. But the term “subscription publishing” has proved to be remarkably difficult to define, as it has been applied to a variety of publishing practices. This lecture will begin by sketching the various forms that American subscription publishing has taken over these years, and a few prominent examples will be described in more detail. Then, it will suggest what characteristics are shared by many, if not most, of these different subscription publishing arrangements.

This lecture was presented live in July 2021. You are invited to watch the recording of the event below via our RBS YouTube channel. 

Michael Winship, the Iris Howard Regents Professor of English II (emeritus) at the University of Texas at Austin, was an editor for A History of the Book in America and has published extensively on American literary publishing of the industrial era.

The Kenneth Karmiole Endowed Lecture on the History of the Book Trades was established in 2020, thanks to a generous gift from Kenneth Karmiole. Ken is a member of the RBS Board of Directors and president of Kenneth Karmiole, Bookseller, Inc., a Santa Monica-based antiquarian bookselling firm specializing in early printing, travel, history of printing, science and technology, and incunabula. In addition to this endowment, he annually funds the Kenneth Karmiole Scholarship at RBS, a full-tuition scholarship awarded to a student whose work or interests focus on the study of the physical book. RBS is grateful to Ken for his ongoing philanthropic support.

Header image courtesy of American Subscription Publishing Collection, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

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