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 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.


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Apologia pro vita mea

This account of the 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. 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.

Copyright © Ian Maxted 2014
This page last updated 14 April 2014