Every so often a book comes along that infuriates one not for the usual reason that it’s a bad book but because it’s a first-rate book marred for want of a ha’p’orth of tar.
Such a book is The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume VI, 1830–1914.
Ignoring, for the moment, its eligibility for the unsexiest title of the year, this is a volume whose contents publishing historians will regard as having near-Biblical authority.
The origins of CHBB6 are historically distant. Some thirty years ago there was a surge of excitement in the academic world about what was called ‘material bibliography’: publishing history. Books, it was suddenly realised, were not magicked up in the back room of Dillons or W H Smiths.