Managing Supply and Inciting Demand: Advertising Innovations and the Book Trade in Eighteenth-Century America

Saturday, January 9, 2010: 9:00 AM
Manchester Ballroom H (Hyatt)
Carl Robert Keyes , Assumption College, Worcester, MA
American printers and booksellers played a vital role in the development of eighteenth-century advertising.  As the custodians of the techniques necessary to improve the design of advertising, their occupations suited them especially well to be innovators.  As they constructed complex sales networks to extend markets for their own products, they developed several types of advertising used predominantly by members of the book trade.

In addition, other advertisements flowed through these networks, allowing printers and booksellers to promote their goods among an enlarged segment of the reading public.  Created to improve communication with one another and to distribute products, extensive regional and inter-regional networks played an important role in distributing advertising to the widest possible audience.  As a result, print shops and bookstores could serve clienteles that extended well beyond local residents.

Printers created two types of networks.  In the first, an entrepreneur in an urban center was at the hub of a regional network that featured systematic, long-term correspondence and flows of goods, facilitating the exchange of advice, information, and credit.  Such networks were founded on patronage relations between distant junior members and the network’s founder.  The second type of network was more diffuse; members formed loose, but geographically extensive regional networks for exchanging catalogues, circular letters, subscription lists, and other printed announcements.

As printers and booksellers swapped information with one another, they developed a variety of devices to publicize their offerings to their colleagues.  The initial impetus for the development of what amounted to internal advertising was to make communication about supply and demand in various locations more efficient, but these devices were also adapted for use as advertising to the general public.  As they developed and funneled new advertising media through their networks, members of the book trade were central actors in the development of eighteenth-century advertising.

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