The rapid growth in bookselling and publishing during the 18th century reflected the burgeoning material culture of the period, driven in large part by the wealth of the middling classes and their pursuit of cultured past-times. In the 1740s around 2,800 titles were published yearly rising to as many as 5,000 by the 1790s, consisting of a host of genres and formats: plays, political pamphlets, philosophical works, novels and travel narratives. Of these titles, more than 75 percent were published in London, which remained the home of British publishing throughout the following century. Printing, publishing and bookselling clustered around St Paul’s churchyard and Paternoster Row, though bookshops could be found in most retail areas.
Pictured here is the bookshop of Lackington, Allen and Company, which traded in Finsbury Square. The premises boasted a frontage 140 feet long and the shop is believed to have sold around 100,000 copies each year during the 1790s.