The Enlightenment & the BookScottish Authors & Their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and America

The Enlightenment & the BookScottish Authors & Their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and America

Richard B. Sher

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226752525

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

The late eighteenth century witnessed an explosion of intellectual activity in Scotland by such luminaries as David Hume, Adam Smith, Hugh Blair, William Robertson, Adam Ferguson, James Boswell, and Robert Burns. And the books written by these seminal thinkers made a significant mark during their time in almost every field of polite literature and higher learning throughout Britain, Europe, and the Americas. This book seeks to remedy the common misperception that such classics as The Wealth of Nations and The Life of Samuel Johnson were written by authors who eyed their publishers as minor functionaries in their profession. To the contrary, it shows how the process of bookmaking during the late eighteenth century involved a deeply complex partnership between authors and their publishers, one in which writers saw the book industry not only as pivotal in the dissemination of their ideas, but also as crucial to their dreams of fame and monetary gain. Similarly, the book demonstrates that publishers were involved in the project of bookmaking in order to advance human knowledge as well as to accumulate profits, and explores this tension between creativity and commerce that still exists in scholarly publishing today.