USTC Hosts Twelfth Annual Book History Conference

By Arthur der Weduwen |

Between Thursday 20 and Saturday 22 June, the USTC team hosted the twelfth annual St Andrews book history conference. Fifty-four scholars and students joined us for twenty-four papers on the subject of Crisis or Enlightenment? Developments in the Book Trade, 1650-1750. The conference attracted visitors from sixteen countries, from Colombia to Denmark, and we welcomed some familiar faces as well as new visitors. Over the course of three days, we were treated to a diverse array of contributions, highlighting changing patterns of book distribution and collecting, forms of censorship and reading tastes. We heard of cases of calamity and bankruptcy that destroyed firms, but also stories of innovation and resilience. One of the defining features of the conference was the persistence of established modes of publishing and collecting, and the unshakeable popularity of certain genres of books. Although the European book world was affected by changing methods of scholarship and business, the book trade was, around 1700, an unstoppable force which would continue to grow through any crisis. If anything, booksellers, printers and readers were happy to enjoy the old as much, if not more, than the new.

During the conference we were treated to two fantastic plenary lectures by Professor Ian Maclean (University of Oxford / St Andrews) on the structural changes within the international book trade and the relationship between the rise of scholarly journals and the German book fairs, and Professor Dominique Varry (ENSSIB, Lyon), who spoke on the identification of false Lyonnais imprints from the eighteenth century. An exhibit from the Special Collections of the University of St Andrews brought together some treasures related to the papers presented at the conference, including the oldest book printed in Mexico in the University’s possession, multiple examples of rare seventeenth-century auction catalogues and a volume of the famous Encyclopédie. We were also delighted to have Arjan van Dijk of Brill formally present a copy of Buying and Selling: The Business of Books in Early Modern Europe to Dr Shanti Graheli, who brought together twenty-four impressive articles from the book history conference that she organised in 2015. Later this year the proceedings of our 2016 conference, on Conflict and Controversy in the Early Modern Book World, will also appear with Brill’s Library of the Written Word.

Professor Andrew Pettegree and Brill’s Arjan van Dijk toasting Dr Shanti Graheli for her work editing the 2015 conference volume, Buying and Selling: The Business of Books in Early Modern Europe. 

Next year, between 2-4 July 2020, we will hope to welcome many past visitors and new friends at the thirteenth annual conference, on Gender and the Book Trades, co-organised by Dr Helen Smith (York) and Elise Watson (St Andrews).

The 2019 Book History conference was supported by the School of History of the University of St Andrews and by the committee of Transnational Affairs of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP). The organisers are grateful for their assistance.


Dr Arthur der Weduwen is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of St Andrews and the author of Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth Century (2 vols., Brill, 2017). His PhD (2018) is a study of government attempts to shape public opinion in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. He is a long-term associate of the Universal Short Title Catalogue project.  His most recent book, The Bookshop of the World. Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age(co-authored with Andrew Pettegree), appears on 26 February 2019 with Yale University Press (in English) and Atlas Contact (in Dutch).

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