chapter  2
10 Pages

Books in the Marketplace

When Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558, the art of printing had been practised in her kingdom for less than a century. During that comparatively short time, however, the printed book had begun to make fundamental changes in the lives of many of her subjects. The ancient crafts of book production had been virtually eradicated by the new art, and the economics of the book trade had been radically changed. The need to intervene in the free flow of printed matter, which had been felt since the reign of Henry VIII, testifies to the importance ascribed to the printing press and its products. For the printers and booksellers, however, such considerations of state were subordinate to their commercial concern with the selling of books. Printing made it comparatively easy to produce books, but exacerbated the problem of sales. The foundations for the future successes of the book trade lay in the existence and expansion of the market for books.