Bookselling before 1700
This chapter discusses the history of bookselling in Ireland before the 17th century. The historian's difficulties are compounded by the paucity of source material, a want that is true of the whole period of 1800. The single printer allowed to operate under the King's Printer's patent in the 17th century obviously could not, and did not, satisfy the country's basic needs, and until well into the 18th century almost all books had to be imported. While it seems likely that general wholesale merchants everywhere dealt in certain classes of books, in Ireland their importance was greater and lasted longer because no lively specialized trade could develop under monopoly. From before 1545 to the end of the 17th century a sizeable portion of the books on sale in Ireland was brought in by general merchants. A rapid expansion of the book trade followed the breaking of the monopoly in the 18th century, and both of these phenomena were to some extent dependent on the growing demand for books that Joseph Ray claimed to exist in 1680. The most ambitious bookselling operation in Ireland in the 17th century was that run by the Stationer's Company of London.
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