This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of the purpose of the book, which is to contribute to the new interdisciplinary field of book history, considering all aspects of print culture, from textual production and consumption to social contexts of print, including interpretive communities as well as the influence of books on the emergence of modern consciousness. The chapter then discusses the ‘rise’ of the novel, women readers, and the problem of evidence; London booksellers and their archives; and the nature and problems of Clay day books. An overview of the subsequent chapters is presented.
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