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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 Burden: Junk Mail and Religious Tracts

The Book as Burden: Junk Mail and Religious Tracts

(p.139) Chapter 5 The Book as Burden: Junk Mail and Religious Tracts
How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain

Leah Price

Princeton University Press

This chapter looks at religious tracts and junk mail. The Victorians pioneered institutions—whether secular (the post) or religious (the tract society)—that allowed printed matter to be distributed at the expense of someone other than its end user. By disjoining owning from choosing, those transactions challenged Enlightenment assumptions about the relation between reading and identity. Where the secular press trusted print to lift individuals out of their social origin, the niche marketing pioneered by Evangelical publishers and commercial advertisers alike vested it instead with the power to mark age, gender, and class. If the content of tracts interpellated new audiences by matching characters' demographic to readers', so did the different material forms that each text took—reprinted on different paper, sold at different price points, distributed in gross and in detail.

Keywords:   religious tracts, junk mail, printed matter, Enlightenment, reading, identity, secular press, niche marketing, Evangelical publishers

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