Railway Reading and Late-Victorian Literary Series  book cover
1st Edition

Railway Reading and Late-Victorian Literary Series

ISBN 9780367787042
Published March 31, 2021 by Routledge
190 Pages

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Book Description

The railway was one of the principal Victorian spaces of reading. This book spotlights one of the leading audience demographics in this late-Victorian market: the newly empowered readers of the expanding middle class. The transactions in which late-Victorian readers acquired the books read whilst travelling are reconstructed by exploring the leading determinants of consumers’ purchasing choices at the railway station bookstalls selling books intended for reading in this zone. This exploration concentrates on the impact of forces like the input of the staff running the bookstalls and the commercial environment in which consumers made their purchases.
At the center of this study is a leading (and still relatively under-examined) genre of Victorian print culture circulating in this reading space― the series. Rooney examines three leading examples of late-Victorian series, which sought to satisfy railway passengers’ need for literary reading matter. Many of the period’s principal authors and literary genres featured in their lists. Each venture is representative of one of the three main pricing tiers of series publishing. Employing an eclectic methodological framework combining cultural studies and book history approaches with concepts from the new humanities, the reading experiences furnished by the light fiction of these series are reconstructed. This study reflects the recent growth in scholarship on historical readership, the expansion in the canon of Victorian popular literature, and the broader material turn in nineteenth-century studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Audiences and Publisher’s Series

1. Railway Readers in the Post-1870 Reading Climate

2. "Food for the Mind," Consumer Choices, and the Railway Bookstall Environment

3. Second Generation Yellowbacks: Chatto & Windus’s Cheap Editions of Popular Novels (1877-1897)

4. Transnational Crime Writing and the Cheap Series Reprint: Routledge’s Sixpenny Detective Books (1887-1888)

5. "As necessary to the traveller as a rug in winter and a dust-coat in summer": Light Reading and Arrowsmith’s Bristol Library (1884-1898)


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Paul Raphael Rooney is an early career researcher of Victorian print culture and popular fiction. He was an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of English, Trinity College Dublin and has also worked as a research assistant on the Irish Research Council Nineteenth-Century Trade Periodicals project at the National University of Ireland, Galway.