Biographical and bibliographical information on the book trades
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09 October 2015

World Book Trade Historical Register. Introduction


This working paper is an attempt to gather together references to book trade personnel from all parts of the world and all periods encountered over more than forty years of research and investigation. After much consideration it has been decided to make it available as it is, even though many parts of the listing are very incomplete. Information is being added following contact by researchers and corrections and amplifications of files would be welcomed.


Coverage is international. Arrangement is as follows:

  • Continent. Represented by a single-letter code. E.g. E- Europe.
  • Country. Represented by a two-letter code. E.g. E-EN- England
  • Region. Where used, represented by a three-letter code. E. g. E-EN-DEV- Devon
  • Locality. Normally in the language of the country. E.g. E-IT-Venezia
  • Individual. Normally in the modern vernacular form. E.g. E-IT-Venezia. Manuzio, Aldo.
  • Dates of activity. Given within each locality where an individual or business was active. Normally taken from imprints or directories.
  • Field of activity. Normally in English. Order: Printer, bookseller, publisher, stationer.
  • Biographical details. Are variable in content and quantity. Include dates of birth and death here where known rather than in dates of activity section.
  • Sources: Are given wherever possible especially where no biographical details are given.


A book is defined as a published text document which transmits information or ideas. It can also include images which accompany such text and musical notation. The form of transmission can be manuscript, printed or digital. The extent can range from a broadsheet to a multi-volume work, newspaper or periodical. Excluded are sound recordings of speech or music, moving images, archival documentation as well as personal works not primarily intended for a wider audience.


Anyone involved in the dissemination of ideas or information. These can be

  • Commercial: printers, booksellers, publishers, stationers, scribes
  • Institutional: organisations, government bodies, monastic scriptoria which generate published material
  • Holding institutions: libraries, archives, museums with collections of publshed material
  • Secondary trades. Bookbinders, engravers, printsellers, music sellers.

  • Excluded trades. Paper trades (paper-makers, paper stainers, paper hangers), parchment makers, leather or parchment workers, pen and pencil makers etc. Where information on these has been gathered in the past they will be retained in separate sequences.


Covers all periods:

  • Manuscript. Includes ancient world, including some indication of monumental inscriptions, medieval world with scriptoria, scribes, stationarii.
  • Printed. Entries for book trade personnel recorded in imprints, trade directories, registers and records.
  • Digital. Brief general information on the spread of digital data. Fuller information on websites of Devon relevance.


The register is held as a series of topographically arranged plain text files with fields in each entry separated by HTML coding (see page on data format). This enables sections to be converted into databases for manipulation and, being open source, for the register to be a wiki site with entries being corrected or augmented and new entries added by email or an email attachment.


It cannot hope to be comprehensive. Coverage is strongest in areas which have been the basis of personal interest, work or research projects:

  • Exeter: 1500 to date. Main sources: trade directories, newspaper notices, bibliographies, ESTC, COPAC.
  • Devon: 1500-1860. Main sources: trade direcories, newspaper notices, bibliographies, ESTC, COPAC
  • London: 1750-1830. Main sources: Trade directories, Pendred, works of Nichols, Timperley and other book historians
  • English counties: 1710-1811. Main sources: Apprentice registers, bankruptcies, insurance policies, trade directories, Pendred.
  • Basse-Normandie 1701-1789. Main sources: National and local archives, bibliographies and union catalogues. Works of Lepreux.
  • Europe: 1781. Main sources: Perrin, Leipzig fair catalogues, works of Cotton, Clair and Mellot.
  • World: 1450-1850. Earliest printing in many localities world-wide. Sources: works of Cotton, Timperley, Mellot and Clair.

This page last updated 3 August 2015