The book trade and public policy in early modern Scotland c.1500-c.1720
Few historians would question the importance of national literature to the understanding of national history. Less frequently, especially in Scottish history, is equal attention given to the print medium. Publishing and the book trade represent a complex cocktail of conscience and commerce, of ideology and industry, and one of the tensions within the study of publishing, especially in the turmoil of the early modern period, is the assessment of motive underpinning the act of publication. Two objectives are sought in this research of the book trade of Scotland c1500 to c1720. The degree, scale, structure and financial basis of the book trade are considered. In particular, data obtained from a large number of existing and new references to individual booksellers and printers has been accumulated in order to establish the extent, development, and general pattern of commerce. Secondly, the interaction of public policy and the book trade is explored with separate chapters on the policy of the burghs, the church and the government. As part of government control close scrutiny is given to the law of publishing with chapters devoted to copyright and censorship, two themes for which adequate Scottish study is long overdue. In addition, a bridging chapter is included dealing with trade links between Scotland and the Low Countries, and this reflects vividly the conflicting demands of permission and prohibition for book merchants and book regulators. The research comes to two apparently contrasting conclusions. The book trade of early modern Scotland was in many respects similar to those of other European nations at this time, especially England and the Low Countries. The desire for profit and intellectual improvement, but also adequate controls, were common to all literate societies. Equally, although the beaches of Scottish print culture were battered by the influences of Dutch and English commercial, legal and administrative conventions, Scotland developed its own unique relationship to the printed word - a Scottish tradition.