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How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain$
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Leah Price

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691114170

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691114170.001.0001

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The Book as Waste: Henry Mayhew and the Fall of Paper Recycling

The Book as Waste: Henry Mayhew and the Fall of Paper Recycling

Chapter:
(p.219) Chapter 7 The Book as Waste: Henry Mayhew and the Fall of Paper Recycling
Source:
How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain
Author(s):

Leah Price

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691114170.003.0008

This chapter suggests that two phenomena that usually get explained in terms of the rise of electronic media in the late twentieth century—the dematerialization of the text and the disembodiment of the reader—have more to do with two much earlier developments. One is legal: the 1861 repeal of the taxes previously imposed on all paper except that used for printing bibles. The other is technological: the rise first of wood-pulp paper in the late nineteenth century and then of plastics in the twentieth. The chapter then looks at Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (1861–62), the loose, baggy ethnography of the urban underclass that swelled out of a messy series of media. Mayhew's “cyclopaedia of the industry, the want, and the vice of the great Metropolis” so encyclopedically catalogs the uses to which used paper can be turned.

Keywords:   electronic media, text, paper taxes, wood-pulp paper, plastics, Henry Mayhew, paper recycling

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