• The uses of quantification

      Weedon, Alexis (Wiley Blackwell, 2019-08-16)
      Revised and updated chapter with new material for the second edition of A Companion to the History fo the Book. Because text production – in the past and now – frequently aimed at multiplying and spreading its product as much as possible, and because those texts commonly became subject to markets and market forces, historical records of books and the book trade sometimes take the form of lists of quantities. Particularly since the invention of printing, we sometimes have information about the fee paid to an author, cost of paper, cost of composition, print runs, cost and rate of binding, costs of advertizing and distribution, sales figures, library acquisitions and catalogues of private collections of readers. The information is usually patchy, the way it was recorded varied a great deal, and much more has been lost than survives but, even so, the data available is rich enough and important enough to be treated seriously. This is where the quantitative history of the book, or bibliometrics, comes in. It doesn’t answer all the questions, and often its answers need careful interpretation, but it does give us access to parts of book history that would otherwise be wholly inaccessible.