Re-printing: From the Paperback to Virago Modern Classics

4 February 2020, 12:00 - 14:00

Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT. NB Different time and day,

Reprinting in the Publishing Industry: Business Models, Value, and the (Re)Production of Knowledge

This seminar will contrast two moments in publishing history, to explore how cultural history and business history can both shed light on the politics and production of knowledge in twentieth-century Anglo-American contexts.
 

Speakers:
Peter Mandler (University of Cambridge)
D-M Withers (University of Sussex)
 

Convenor and Chair:
Lucy Delap (Reader in Modern British and Gender History, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge)
 

Respondent:
Sara Cain (College Lecturer and Director of Studies – English, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)

 

Lucy Delap has published widely on the histories of feminism, gender, labour and religion, and collaborates with a team on a Leverhulme-funded project, The Business of Women’s Words, on feminist publishing and enterprise in late twentieth-century Britain.

Peter Mandler
Reprinting as Co-Production: The Mass-Market Paperback in the U.S. and the U.K. c. 1930 to c. 1970.
This talk will survey the extraordinary rise of paperback reprints of hardcover non-fiction originals in the Anglophone world from the 1930s: reprints were the form in which most people read non-fiction in this period. The work of the reprinters – in deciding what to reprint, in what ways, and for whom – is considered here as a form of co-production in which the publishers and their readers contribute alongside the authors in creating and disseminating knowledge in the mid-20th century.  

D-M Withers
Cultural value, market reach: Virago Modern Classics and the ‘reprint ecology’ of the late 70s publishing industry
The green spines of Virago’s Modern Classics (VMC) illuminate the story of late-twentieth-century publishing history. The series converged with the cultural desire to reclaim women’s writing and history, stimulated by the feminist movements of the 1970s; in a business sense reprinting ‘forgotten titles’ by marginalized feminist writers helped transform a ‘considerably undercapitalized’ [1] company into a profitable success. Virago’s cultural impact and spread was, however, disproportionate to its capture of the book-buying public. To clearly demonstrate this point, I will discuss Virago’s position within the ‘reprint ecology’ of the late 1970s and early 80s, drawing on the re-publications of Vera Brittain’s Testaments of Youth, Experience and Friendship, published simultaneously by Virago in its Classics series and in mass-market paperback by Fontana amid the ‘explosion of the Vera Brittain industry.’ [2]

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[1] ‘Company statement’, Add MS 89178/1/8, The British Library.

[2] Carmen Callil to Paul Berry, 10 Feb 1981, Add MS 88904/1/194, The British Library.

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Open to all. No registration required.
An event organised by 'Re-' Interdisciplinary Network
Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk