This article begins with a literary and material analysis of two instances of post- and intra-publication censorship in Poems on Affairs of State, vol. 4 (1707), and The Foundling Hospital for Wit (1743, 1744). As well as illuminating the climate in which political materials were read and circulated, these interventions both turn one bibliographical item into something that looks like two, presenting problems for the way they are represented in the Digital Miscellanies Index (DMI) and other bibliographical databases. For, by certain blunt measures of “popularity,” in such databases it may appear that these works are twice as “popular” as they actually were. But the story is more complicated than that, as a closer attention to print-shop practice and the culture of bookselling reveals. The evidence gathered regarding these miscellanies and the methods used to censor them enables a wider critique of some dominant methodologies employed in assessing popularity in bibliographical study. Reissues are often discounted by bibliographers taking quantitative approaches to popularity, because they are not taken to be signs of expected demand, as new editions are. This article argues that, on the contrary, reissues can tell richer, more various, and more detailed stories about demand, making the history of certain bibliographical items more legible.
John McTague; Censorship, Reissues, and the Popularity of Political Miscellanies. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 January 2017; 41 (1): 96–115. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-3695954
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