The Local Press as a Source for the History of the British Book Trade

For centuries, the newspaper was the ‘poor relation’ of historical resources - underused and undervalued. Newspapers took up a large amount of storage space and were difficult to access as they lacked any kind of index. As such, historians rarely made use of them even though they contained a mass of contemporary information about people and events. Digitisation changed this and has made millions of newspaper articles available through the simplicity of keyword searching. Digitisation projects initially focused on the national daily press but it recent years focus has moved to making local newspapers available online.

Print Networks

Digitised newspapers are a wonderful source of information for historians of the book trade; they include biographical information of those involved in the book trade, contain trade advertisements, and tell us more about book trade happenings. Without digitised newspapers would we ever know that one Charles John Welton, a bookseller of Tottingham, was fined £1 and costs for exposing obscene pictures in 1894 or that Welsh inhabitants of London could order Welsh books and music through W H Roberts of Charing Cross Road?

Next time you are researching the book trade why not see what the local newspaper has to say?

British Newspaper Archive. Subscription required although access available through many public libraries. Ongoing digitisation programme and users can nominate newspapers for digitisation

Historians of the Welsh book trade should try Welsh Newspaper Online / Papurau Newydd Cymru Arlein.

Lisa Peters