Biographical and bibliographical information on the book trades
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13 April 2014

About this site

About this website
The earlier Exeter Working Papers originally appeared as limited issue publications from the 1970s to the 1990s. These are now out of print except for The London book trades 1775-1800. They aimed to make generally available biographical information on book trade personnel gathered in the course of research. In a revised form they were subsequently included on the website of Devon Library Services. They were migrated to the present website in 2005 where the information is constantly being updated and extended. More detail on the development of the website is given below. The information is issued in digital format under a Creative Commons license, meaning that you are free to copy, distribute, transmit or adapt a reasonable proportion of the content, provided that you attribute Exeter Working papers in Book History to Ian Maxted with a link. You may not use the contents of this work for commercial purposes. The on-line content is covered by copyright legislation in the same way as printed material. Libraries and similar institutions may supply to users copies of a reasonable proportion for private study and research under the fair dealing clause of the copyright legislation.

Please contact the editor of the series, Ian Maxted, at for comments and corrections.

About the compiler : apologia pro vita mea

I never meant to become a librarian and bibliographer. From 1963 to 1966 I studied at the University of Oxford (Keble College) where I took a BA  in modern languages (2nd class German main, French subsidiary). I only took my MA in 2000, to coincide with my son, who was also graduating at Oxford from the same college. Languages in themselves, I was told by careers advisers, qualified me for very little and I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do with my life, so I decided to take a job in the reference department of Croydon Public Library. After all, the entire world was in a library and it would be a splendid place to take stock of things and come to a decision. Half a century on, I am still undecided. The reference department proved to be a fascinating place to work in under the guidance of a book-man of the old school, Peter Glover. I could browse through guides to careers and a wealth of other reference works and undertook much indexing for the local studies collection. After a year I found myself on the road to the University of Sheffield, Postgraduate School of Librarianship to study for a Diploma in Librarianship which I obtained with distinction in the academic year 1967-68, being joint winner of the Dunn and Wilson prize for the humanities course. I eventually converted my Dip. Lib. to a University of Sheffield MA in Librarianship in 1974 by a thesis on the London book trades 1775-1800.

Would I have made the same career decision today when the profession of librarian seems to have virtually disappeared under the twin pressures of austerity and the digital revolution? In those halcyon days there were jobs a-plenty. In the recently established Sussex University they virtually made up a post of German subject adviser for me at the interview but I opted for a job as research assistant at Guildhall Library in the City of London, a neo-gothic pile run on the model of the British Museum Library with an army of uniformed attendants, the fetchers and carriers of the items requested by the users - the bulk of the collections were on closed access. 

The Department of Reference Services worked in the same room as the Department of Prints and art gallery and the Department of Manuscripts, so I had extensive experience of reference work in the humanities in this unique collection with its unrivalled library of historical material relating to London. More book-men, notably Donovan Dawe, gave detailed instruction in the use of historical sources and I also attended one of the courses on reference services run by Charles Toase. As a result I took for granted the use of illustrations and archival material in conjunction with printed items to provide full documentation for historical researchers, long before heritage centres became a catch-phrase. I undertook work with the horological collections, among the finest in the world, for which I devised a faceted classification. This was the start of my thinking about indexing special and local collections. Among other activities I chaired a working party on producing a guide to local studies collections in all the Greater London boroughs. I also prepared various library exhibitions including one for the opening of the library in its new buildings when it moved from its gothic home in 1974 and another for the Caxton quin-centenary celebrations in 1976.

In 1977 I moved to Exeter to work for Devon Library Services as Westcountry Studies Librarian. The Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter, Devon's main  local studies collection, had recently been formed from a merger of the Exeter City Library and Devon County Council's local studies collection. Duties included book selection, cataloguing and reader services with an advisory role on provision throughout the county. This was a considerable research collection with 70,000 monographs, tens of thousands of maps, prints and photographs and extensive periodical and newspaper collections. In the 1980s it received about 35,000 enquiries a year and had a staff of three full-time employees. It was a time when the Manpower Services Commission was funding work creation projects. In Exeter a project with three staff was set up in 1977 to initiate the cataloguing of the collections. A project with up to twelve staff running from 1977 to 1978 indexed the Exeter Flying Post, a local newspaper, from 1763 to 1885. A third project that same year with three staff started listing and conserving the illustrations collection. At one point in 1977 I was managing more than twenty staff. A later project provided local studies resource packs for schools and branch libraries, including in 1987-88 a two-year project with a staff of up to twenty-three, involving the microfilming of source materials for conservation. Work was also undertaken on special collections of non-local material, including in 1985 a bilingual exhibition on the English view of Napoleon which appeared in France as part of Devon's twinning programme. A version of the catalogue has been archived on the web. About 2,000 pre-1800 printed items, including unique ephemera, were reported to the English Short Title Catalogue project at the British Library.

1987-2005: Devon Library Services: County Local Studies Librarian.
A restructuring of the library service took me away from the public into a more administrative post. This involved co-ordination of local studies library provision throughout Devon including policy formulation, participating in the Information Services Team, production of publicity and user guides, talks, staff training and displays. A monthly regional booklist and web newsletter was prepared which was used for book selection for eighty service points across the county and was cumulated into a union catalogue of titles in the county's main local studies collections. From 1985 to 2005 it was also used to produce the annual Devon bibliography. From 1997 a version of this d-Base database was mounted on the Internet together with 5,000 other web pages, edited and largely written as part of the County Local Studies Librarian's role. This web site was further extended during 2002-3 by the NOF-digitise project “Etched on Devon’s Memory” which digitised 3,500 topographical prints. The content management system adopted for this project was extended to the remainder of the local studies collections and the content was transferred in 2015 from Devon County Council to the South West Heritage Trust. Much attention was given to education, research and lifelong learning with talks to university, college and school groups and occasional broadcasts as well as attending conferences and advising organisations on setting up local resource centres. The local studies service was represented on the committees of local, regional and national bodies, such as the Local Studies Group, Newsplan South West Implementation Committee (chair 2002-2005), the Centre for South Western Historical Studies at the University of Exeter, the Devon and Cornwall Record Society and the Devon History Society. From April 1998, after local government restucturing split off Plymouth and Torbay as unitary authorities, the service formed part of the Lifelong Learning Division of the county's Education Arts and Libraries Directorate and sought to work cross-sectorally to improve networked access to the county's heritage collections. In 1999 I curated for Exeter Museums and nine other collections in Exeter a millennium exhibition with the title "From script to print to hypertext: two millennia of Devon's written heritage". This cross-sectoral and cross-domain project was runner-up in the Library Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the accompanying catalogue was commended for the Alan Ball Award. I initiated the discussions which led to the formation of the TSW Film and Television Archive in 1993.  In 1998 I was on the working group of the Baring-Gould Heritage Project to publish on microfilm Sabine Baring-Gould's manuscript collections of folksongs which are scattered in several collections in Devon and beyond. Work on cultural diversity included participation in the BBC Islam Season in 2001, and the “Dewey Decibel” project which formed part of Resource’s Diversity Festival in 2003.

My work also brought me into contact with more national activities in the field of local studies libarianship. I was a member of the Library Association (later CILIP) special interest groups for rare books and local studies from 1968 to 2005 and became a committee member of the CILIP Local Studies Group in 1982, serving as chair from 2000 to 2005. My work at a local and regional level led me onto the National Newsplan Panel from 2000 to 2005. My work with CILIP local studies group found me as CILIP observer on the Standing Conference on Museums and Archives over the same period and also as the representative for public libraries on the BRICMICS map librarians’ group. This last role included much discussion with Ordnance Survey on the archiving of the national digital map database in a form accessible to local studies libraries across the country. I also advised on a project run by Loughborough University in 1999-2000 for the British Library to investigate the legal deposit of local publications and served on the working group revising the Library Association's Guidelines for local studies provision in public libraries which were published in 2002.

Advised CILIP on legislation affecting electoral registers in 2002.
Winner: Dorothy McCulla Memorial Award for contribution to local studies librarianship 1997.
On advisory group for the NOF-Digitise Sense of the South West consortium 2002
On advisory group for the NOF-Digitise historical directories digitisation project based at Leicester 2002.

History of the book

[This section is in draft]
Course of thirty three-hour lectures for the B21 paper on historical bibliography in the former syllabus of the Library Association at West London College 1970-76.

Extensive research work on the history of the book, much of which has been published in the series Exeter working papers in book history, originally mounted on the internet as part of Devon's local studies website. The development of this website is described more fully below.

Co-operation with the English Short Title Catalogue project at the British Library, organising a seminar at Exeter in 1984.

Founder member and on the advisory committee of the British Book Trade Index Project to which data on 3,000 Devon and Cornwall personnel was contributed. In connection with BBTI organised a seminars on provincial book trades at Exeter in 1987 and 2002.

Consulted by the Bibliographical Society on plans to revise Plomer's series of biographical dictionaries of printers and booksellers.

Contributed 26 new and revised articles to  the New dictionary of national biography, chiefly on book trade personnel.

Comprehensive history of the book in Devon from the earliest times to the end of 20th century published on the internet (see below).

Worked on the book trade in Lower Normandy for the Prosopographie des gens du livre project, Paris.

Extended and updated the Devon bibliography following austerity cuts to Devon Library Service in 2015.

Some talks and papers

Where published, details are in the list of publications below, including several given to the Book history conferences edited by Robin Myers and Michael Harris and published in the Publishing pathways series and the annual Seminars on the British book trade):

1983: LA Local Studies Group Post Conference Seminar, Torquay. Indexing in local studies. In connection with this a local studies thesaurus was developed, a draft is on the internet.
1991: LA UmbrelLA 1, Leeds. Conservation in local studies collections.
1992: Association of Private Libraries AGM, Exeter. Conservation.
1993: LA UmbrelLA 2, Manchester. Comparative local studies librarianship.
1994: Centre for South Western Historical Studies, University of Exeter, annual symposium. Thomas Flindell and his community of readers
1995: Hungarian LA Local Studies Group, Sopron. Co-operation in local studies provision in England.
1996: LA Medical Libraries Group conference. Cider and evidence-based healthcare in 18th century Devon.
1997: LA UmbrelLA 4, Manchester. Local studies libraries as rare book collections.
1997: Stiftung Weimarer Klassik. Kolloquium: Friedrich Justin Bertuch (1747-1822): Verleger, Schriftsteller und Unternehmer im klassischen Weimar. Bertuch and England.
2001: Map Users Group, Liverpool University. Map collection policies in public libraries
2002: Seminar on the British Book Trade. 20th, Exeter. Publication of printed images of Devon.
2012. Metropolitan Library of Bucharest, Fifth international symposium. The book, Romania, Europe, Mamaia. Sabine Baring-Gould and folk song collecting.
2013. Colloque sur la bibliothèque du chapitre de la cathédrale de Bayeux. Library of an 18th century bishop of Bayeux.
2015 Dictionnaires et répertoires des gens du livre en Europe et dans le monde: expériences et perspectives. Journée d’études internationale, 23 octobre 2015, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris. Booktrade biographical dictionaries in UK and Normandy.
Also: Day schools run by the Library Association or CILIP in the south west, in-house training, talks to local history societies etc.

Other activities
Compiled website on manhole covers world-wide at
Photographer for the blog series Maxted travels with Modestine since 2005.

This account of the long-term development of the Exeter working papers website has been prepared in response to expressions of interest from researchers in the field of digital resources for the humanities both in America and France. It is presented in the form of a chronological record of the main stages of development over a period of more than forty years.
1969-1973. A proposal was made to continue the Bibliographical Society’s series of book trade dictionaries from 1775 to 1800 as a thesis for converting a diploma in librarianship from the University of Sheffield into an MA. The data was gathered on cards and a start was made on the compilation of entries for London as a typescript.
1974-1976. The MA was granted on the basis of the presentation of a ten per cent sample (A-BOW) of biographical entries for London plus an analysis of the structure of the London book trades in the period 1775-1800. Work was continued on cards for the remaining 90% of the entries (BOY-Z).
1977. Publication of The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members. This contained 100% of the names gathered (about 4,000) with the omission of some ancillary trades. The data had been submitted in typescript but set by computer (with some errors in the character set specified). The tapes were subsequently lost.
1978. Much additional data had been gathered: on the London trade pre-1775 and post-1800 as well as the provincial trade. It was felt worth while to make this more widely available as soon as possible. To avoid delay it was decided to make use of self-publishing using photocopied typescripts. The ESTC project was then under way and advance copies were passed to the project as work progressed.
1980-1985. Publication of Working Papers 1-4 as photocopied typescripts, in the case of the Topographical guide address index microfiches were used, as the text was too lengthy to permit photocopying. In this period the British Book Trade index was proposed and the Exeter Working papers project has been closely involved with all stages of the BBTI.
1986. An Amstrad computer was acquired. While this was not a standard platform it was cheap, and it should be stressed that data management was undertaken without access to University or other research facilities or funding, so the principle has always been to keep digital data as simple as possible.
1987-1991. Publication of Working Papers 5-7 as word processed documents. The software used was Locoscript.
1989-1996. Publication of Working Papers 8-9 generated from databases. The software used was dBase III.
1997-2000. Data was converted from Amstrad to PC and the data in Working papers 1-4 was digitised, normally onto d-Base databases. It was possible to access an OCR file of The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members which had been produced for another researcher. This introduced its own additional errors.
2001. Data was transferred into HTML format and made available on Devon Library Services website at under the title Exeter working papers in British book trade history. Working papers 10 onwards have only been produced in digital format. Work has normally been undertaken directly onto the marked-up text files either using Notepad, or sometimes Word, to avoid contaminating data with unnecessary coding.
2006. Data was removed from the Devon Library Services website following retirement in 2005. A blogger account was opened in December 2005 and the bulk of the data was transferred between December 2006 and January 2007 onto
2007. Coverage was extended to France following work on the Prosopographie des gens du livre for Lower Normandy. The website was rebranded Exeter working papers in book history to reflect this change.
2012. Coverage was extended to other parts of Europe to support work on the French book trades.
2013. A data format was devised to work across web pages, word processed files and simple flat databases. It is intended to convert the diverse forms of records into this format which can then be more easily accessible to workers on other projects.

This page last updated 30 November 2019