Students of book history will not need to be reminded that most of what was published in the early modern transatlantic world was not novels, or even literature designed for entertainment, or even literature. More nonbook ephemera were printed than books, and novels were a vanishingly small portion of the book market. Jordan Alexander Stein is a student of book history, and When Novels Were Books is well versed in these facts. What remains to be explained is why the novel retains an outsized importance when we tell the cultural history of the book, why, even though there were only a handful of them relative to all the stuff in print, even though they “spark no boom in the Anglophone publishing industry,” novels loom so large in histories of reading and of print (139). When Novels Were Books, compact and erudite, aims directly at this mismatch, addressing it from...

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