Limit search to available items
Book Cover
Author Fyfe, Aileen.

Title Steam-powered knowledge : William Chambers and the business of publishing, 1820-1860 / Aileen Fyfe
Published Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2012
Online access available from:
EBSCO eBook Academic Collection    View Resource Record  


Description 1 online resource (xvi, 313 pages) : illustrations
Contents Introduction: the flood of cheap print -- W. & R. Chambers and the market for print -- Organizing a proper system of publishing -- Industrial book production -- Reaching a national market -- Production and steam power -- New formats for information -- Reaching an overseas market -- A modern printing establishment -- Railways and competition -- The coming of the railways -- Centralizing business in Edinburgh -- Routledge and the new competition -- Railway bookstalls -- Instruction in the railway marketplace -- The dignitaries of the trade take on Routledge -- Steamships and transatlantic business -- Transatlantic opportunities -- Getting to know the American market -- The dissemination of cheap instruction -- A new spirit of engagement -- Building relationships with Boston and Philadelphia -- Piracy and shipwreck! -- Epilogue
Summary "With the overwhelming amount of new information that bombards us each day, it is perhaps difficult to imagine a time when the widespread availability of the printed word was a novelty. In early nineteenth-century Britain, print was not novel-Gutenberg's printing press had been around for nearly four centuries-but printed matter was still a rare and relatively expensive luxury. All this changed, however, as publishers began employing new technologies to astounding effect, mass-producing instructive and educational books and magazines and revolutionizing how knowledge was disseminated to the general public. Aileen Fyfe explores the activities of William Chambers and the W. & R. Chambers publishing firm during its formative years, documenting for the first time how new technologies were integrated into existing business systems. Chambers was one of the first publishers to abandon traditional skills associated with hand printing, instead favoring the latest innovations in printing processes and machinery: machine-made paper, stereotyping, and, especially, printing machines driven by steam power. The mid-nineteenth century also witnessed dramatic advances in transportation, and Chambers used proliferating railway networks and steamship routes to speed up communication and distribution. As a result, his high-tech publishing firm became an exemplar of commercial success by 1850 and outlived all of its rivals in the business of cheap instructive print. Fyfe follows Chambers's journey from small-time bookseller and self-trained hand-press printer to wealthy and successful publisher of popular educational books on both sides of the Atlantic, demonstrating along the way the profound effects of his and his fellow publishers' willingness, or unwillingness, to incorporate these technological innovations into their businesses."
Bibliography Includes bibliographical references and index
Notes Print version record
Subject Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871.
Chambers, William, 1800-1883.
George Routledge and Sons -- History.
William and Robert Chambers -- History.
Booksellers and bookselling -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
Publishers and publishing -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
Railroads -- Economic aspects.
Form Electronic book
LC no. 2011029615
ISBN 0226276546 (electronic bk.)
9780226276540 (electronic bk.)