Call for papers: The People of Print: printers, stationers, and booksellers 1500-1830

Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK: 12-14 September 2019

Plenary Speakers: Professor Lisa Maruca, Wayne State University and Professor James Raven, University of Cambridge

Whether we view them as tastemakers, ideological brokers, or entrepreneurial opportunists, the personnel of the book trade undeniably shaped the book cultures of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. While capital, technology, and markets are all powerful factors in the trade’s development, its people are its most significant agents. Current research across periods is demonstrating the creative agency of book trade personnel, and the extent of their cultural and political engagement. As recent monographs and essay collections demonstrate, book trade history is now firmly established as a field of study: James Raven, The Business of Books: Booksellers and the English Book Trade, 1450-1850 (2007) and Publishing Business in Eighteenth-Century England (2017); Lisa Maruca, The Work of Print: Authorship and the English Text Trades, 1660-1760 (2007);Marta Straznicky, ed., Shakespeare’s Stationers: Studies in Cultural Bibliography (2013); Kathleen Tonry, Agency and Intention in English Print, 1476-1526 (2016); Kirk Melnikoff, Elizabethan Publishing and the Makings of Literary Culture (2018). Much remains to be done, however, to understand and theorise the cultural and social activities, subjectivities, and identities of book trade personnel. This interdisciplinary conference will re-evaluate their roles, and explore directions for future research. We seek to draw together book history, printing history, reading history, and literary studies.

Topics for consideration:

  • gender in the print trades

  • representations of the book trade in print

  • roles and figures within the Stationers’ Company

  • ethnicity and the print trades

  • queering the print trades

  • the shaping of professional identity

  • genres developed by the print trade

  • printing families and inheritance

  • interactions with other professional groups: guildsmen, theatre people, lawyers

  • bookshops and printing houses as sites of sociability and education

  • apprentices and youthfulness

  • the gendering of print trade labour

  • the social status of book trade personnel and the social stratification of the book trades

  • regional and national identities in print

  • creative influences

  • pamphlets, periodicals, and ephemera

  • copyright and property

  • regulation and control

  • libel, and seditious printing

  • printers’ catalogues, wills, and effects

  • the writer-as/and-printer; the printer-as/and-writer

We are keen to hear from established and early career researchers. For information, or if you would like to discuss your proposal in advance of submission, please email

Abstracts of 300 words can be sent to by 15 May 2019. Please include a brief bio (50 words).

Follow us on Twitter @PrintPeopleConf

This event is organised by the Print Culture, Agency, and Regional Identity network, led by the Universities of Sheffield Hallam, Sussex, and York St John. in partnership with the Centre for Printing History and Culture, Birmingham. We are working on an open access narrative database of print personnel and their work, comprising short essays of 1-2,000 words. Participants in the conference will have the opportunity to offer their research to this database.