Press Release: Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book

January 31, 2007
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jacket imageAs electronic books, on-demand printing, and other innovations proliferate, the role of the publisher in the world of books is deeply uncertain. What value do publishers add to an author’s work? In a world where authors are increasingly able to reach readers directly, is a publisher even necessary? Though these questions may seem new, Richard B. Sher demonstrates in The Enlightenment and the Book that they are as old as books themselves. Focusing on the explosion of intellectual activity in eighteenth-century Scotland that saw David Hume, Adam Smith, James Boswell, and others transform almost every field of learning, Sher demonstrates that key thinkers of the Enlightenment saw the book industry as crucial both for the dissemination of their ideas and for their dreams of fame and monetary gain. Similarly, Sher shows how publishers were involved in the project of bookmaking not only to make profits, but in order to advance human knowledge as well. The Enlightenment and the Book explores this tension between creativity and commerce—one that still exists in publishing today. Lavishly illustrated and elegantly conceived, it will be a must read for anyone interested in the history of the book or Enlightenment thought.
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