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date: 19 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay provides an overview of the publishing context at the turn of the eighteenth century out of which the novel would emerge, including the development and early dominance of the London book, before going on to describe the conditions for the spread of printing and bookselling nationally from 1695 onwards. As well as considering book production, the essay examines readers’ experiences in the period, looking at the testimony of individual, historical readers, and some specific genres of writing—such as diaries, autobiographies, and collections of letters—often considered important for the emergence of the novel form. The essay then turns to establish the ‘conceptual horizons’ of readers’ expectations with regard to fiction—horizons which authors could work within or seek to challenge and push further by innovating new forms of literary expression, the novel amongst them.

Keywords: book trade, bookshop, bookseller, readers, copyright, letters, literacy, novel, Stationers’ Company

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