A History of Book Publishing: Cambridge

After completing essay one, I was particularly interested in the effects of reading on personal development-how the books we choose to purchase (or not to purchase) speak to the person that we are. Although conjecture, I concluded that the books I purchase reflect the person I am (those being the books that I have already read, and read many times) as well as the person I hope to be (books I have purchased but not yet read). Is it really as simple as that? Hardly. There are many other factors involved in the purchase of books, notably the availability of books themselves. Although I can make assumptions about how the books I’ve purchased reflect parts of my identity, the choices I make when browsing the shelves are equally dictated by what publishers choose to put there. I’d like to think that my choice are my own (maybe a misguided need for self expression or free will…), but the choices I make are often dictated for me.

In order to better understand this process, I am using Essay 3 to learn more about the history of book publishing, specifically Cambridge University Press, the oldest registered publishing house in England. Publishing has changed in many amazing ways since the creation of the printing press in 1440. Although not entirely helpful to my research, I thought that this graphic was a cool representation of publishing, especially for its inclusion of more modern publishing outlets like Twitter.

The Evolution of Publishing: from 1400 to Today

Image Courtesy of Visual.ly

Cambridge University Press began in 1534, and is connected to the Cambridge University. The publishing house is also known for its ties to the Royal Family, as well as its educational programs. In terms of the research paper, the following statements are what I am hoping to explore:

I am studying: the historical uprising of the Cambridge publishing house after 1534…
Because: I want to better understanding the connections between what was popularly published by the Cambridge publishing house and what was happening in the world of England
So That: I can evaluate the effects of books (and what is published) on human socialization.

Clearly that’s a bit confusing, if not entirely convoluted. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to research, and I realize that looking at the social history of an entire country is way too much. And I’m not even entirely sure what I mean by ‘socialization’, but right now my brain just can’t find the right words. I am really interesting in seeing if there is a connection between the books that were being published in England and how people were acting in terms of social movements. If there is even a correlation at all. I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding sources/research on the topic (again, it might not even be researchable), so fine-tuning the goals of this paper is something that I will definitely be working on in the next week or two. As I find more research, hopefully I will be able to better express the question I am trying to answer.

In terms of finding more research though, I am a bit stuck. This is where any suggestions/tips would be more than welcome! I have yet to fully compile a list of resources yet, which I apologize for. I am applying for a fellowship that has been consuming all ton of my time, but as soon as I finish the application I will more actively be searching for sources. I have been browsing on the University site though, and there is a fair amount of information pertaining to Cambridge itself. Similarly, there is a ton of information that documents the large social movements of England. Now though, is the task of looking for connections between the two. It is logical that books about social things are written after the fact, but what I am more curious in exploring is books that were written before social things. Again, I need to refine this search, but I think this is something that will happen more naturally through the research project itself. It seems like I have a lot of library time ahead of me. That said, here is my timeline moving forward-

March 18: Go to the library to talk with a specialist on British Lit (if that exists)
March 20: blog post critiquing one source for the project
March 21: Rework my Research Question for clarity and feasibility
March 23-24: Document and summarize 3 academic sources
March 27: Individual Meeting
April 1: ‘Rough’ rough draft finished
April 6: Rough Draft due!

I am having trouble planning more than this though, just because I am not really sure where my research is going to end up taking me. I’m excited to move forward, and answers to any of these questions would be helpful!

Q: Any relevant sources/places to look? I don’t have much experience with research papers, so any advice on where to go online or in the libraries would be awesome! Really any suggestions here would be SUPER helpful!
Q: Is this a topic of interest? I don’t want to pursue something that’s simply boring.
Q: Is it unrealistic to think that there is a connection between book production and social actions?



2 thoughts on “A History of Book Publishing: Cambridge

  1. I think your topic is definitely interesting, and will be more so once you become more specific. I also feel there is a connection between what’s published and how society acts, so I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think there’s a connection. You may think it’s unrealistic at this point because you don’t know the connection yet, which is why further research is going to help you make that connection. Unfortunately, I don’t know any sources you can use. I’m also struggling with resources, but I think that’s because, at least in my case, we’ve only just begun searching. I’m sure with further investigation and help you will find more resources and discover the connection between book production and social actions.

  2. Jeff,
    A brief response before I dash to class, with more to follow.
    Here’s the starting point: a history of cambridge university press. There are several, published for its anniversary.


    Reading this–even skimming it quickly–will help you understand the general story of CUP. Then, you can figure out what period of the press’s production, and even what book or author, might be good to investigate.

    Regarding social movements in England, there are lots of opportunities. Sometimes, I think that the periodical press is more interesting for tracking such things, but certainly a book has to become influential in order to start a social movement and part of that influence in spread through periodicals, so you’ll probably wind up investigating some of each.

    To narrow this topic down, I’d suggest two moves:

    1) look at the bibliography of the Cambridge University Press–a record of its output–and identify books or authors you KNOW are important just from your own reading. Who was Darwin’s publisher, for instance? Such a bibliography may be contained in the book about the history of the press. Or online, in connection with one of the anniversary exhibits. Alternatively, you can look through, say, the English Short Title Catalogue and search for “Cambridge University Press” in the publisher field.
    2) think about social movements that interest you. I’m a nineteenth century person so I think about the Reform Bill of 1832 which made a number of sweeping changes, also the anti-slave trade movement, women’s movement, labor movement, etc. Of course, the nineteenth century doesn’t have a monopoly on social movements. An online timeline of British history, or even British social movements, could spark an idea.

    It’s a promising topic, and I look forward to talking more with you about it. Happy hunting!

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