Kate Ozment deposited Publishers Marketing Restoration Drama: A Case Study of Paratextual Experimentation in the group LLC Restoration and Early-18th-Century English on MLA Commons 6 years ago
Although we have long discussed the rise of consumer culture and the increase of print in Restoration England (see Birth of a Consumer Society, 1982), comparatively little information exists on specific methods publishers used to advertise to audiences and what role they played in creating new markets. My project fills this gap by examining paratextual marketing tactics used by major publishers.
I extend Peter Lindenbaum’s 2010 study of booklists to drama to show how in the 1660s and 1670s, publishers advertised a variety of works, but by the end of the century, they focused these booklists by purpose and audience. Leisure reading such as novels, drama, histories, and the like are marketed together, whereas sermons and religious texts find a different audience, law books another, and scientific texts another. Targeted advertising persisted from the eighteenth century to the present day, indicating publishers’ experimentation had a lasting effect on how we perceive audience tastes and genre. Furthermore, publishers tested new selling points by including actors’ and actresses’ names next to the roles they played. While this was uncommon in the 1660s, by the 1690s it was typical even on reprints. This suggests that the celebrity of performers was a significant boon to publishers who capitalized on audience interest and extended their fascination to printed plays.
These case studies demonstrate that publishers not only responded to the desire for leisure activities by creating a sophisticated and adaptable business model, but that these techniques shaped the appetite for luxuries by connecting them to the irresistible aspects of Restoration society: celebrity, conspicuous consumerism, and literary communities.