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Add professional booksellers, bookmen, and bookstore owners to this project. You can visit HistoryLink to find out which projects include your ancestors.

Bookselling is the commercial trading of books, the retail and distribution end of the publishing process. People who engage in bookselling are called booksellers or bookmen. The founding of libraries in 300 BC stimulated the energies of the Athenian booksellers. In Rome, toward the end of the republic, it became the fashion to have a library, and Roman booksellers carried on a flourishing trade.

The spread of Christianity naturally created a great demand for copies of the Gospels, other sacred books, and later on for missals and other devotional volumes for both church and private use. The modern system of bookselling dates from soon after the introduction of printing. In the course of the 16th and 17th centuries the Low Countries for a time became the chief centre of the bookselling world. Modern book selling has changed dramatically with the advent of the computer. With major websites such as Amazon, ebay, and other big book distributors all offering affiliate programs, book sales have now, more than ever, been put in the hands of the small business owner.

Greek and Roman booksellers

In the book of Jeremiah the prophet is represented as dictating to Baruch the scribe, who described the mode in which his book was written. These scribes were the earliest booksellers, and supplied copies as they were demanded. Aristotle possessed a somewhat extensive library, and Plato is recorded to have paid the large sum of one hundred minae for three small treatises of Philolaus the Pythagorean. When the Alexandrian library was founded about 300 BC, various expedients were used for the purpose of procuring books, and this appears to have stimulated the energies of the Athenian booksellers. In Rome, toward the end of the republic, it became the fashion to have a library as part of the household furniture. Roman booksellers carried on a flourishing trade. Their shops (taberna librarii) were chiefly in the Argiletum, and in the Vicus Sandalarius. On the door, or on the side posts, was a list of the books on sale; and Martial, who mentions this also, says that a copy of his First Book of Epigrams might be purchased for five denarii. In the time of Augustus the great booksellers were the Sosii. According to Justinian, a law was passed granting to the scribes the ownership of the material written; this may be the beginnings of the modern law of copyright.

Islamic bookshops

Abbasid Caliphate in the east and Caliphate of Córdoba in the west, encouraged the development of bookshops, copyists, and book dealers across the entire Muslim world, in Islāmic cities such as Damascus, Baghdad, and Córdoba. According to Encyclopædia Britannica:

Scholars and students spent many hours in these bookshop schools reading, examining, and studying available books or purchasing favourite selections for their private libraries. Book dealers traveled to famous bookstores in search of rare manuscripts for purchase and resale to collectors and scholars and thus contributed to the spread of learning. Many such manuscripts found their way to private libraries of famous Muslim scholars such as Avicenna, al-Ghazālī, and al-Fārābī, who in turn made their homes centres of scholarly pursuits for their favourite students.

Christianity

The spread of Christianity naturally created a great demand for copies of the Gospels, other sacred books, and later on for missals and other devotional volumes for both church and private use. Before the Reformation and the introduction of printing, scribes and stationers who sold books formed guilds. Some of these stationers had stations built against the walls of cathedrals. Besides the sworn stationers there were many booksellers in Oxford who were not sworn; for one of the statutes, passed in 1373, expressly states that, in consequence of their presence,

books of great value are sold and carried away from Oxford, the owners of them are cheated, and the sworn stationers are deprived of their lawful business. It was, therefore, enacted that no bookseller except two sworn stationers or their deputies, should sell any book being either his own property or that of another, exceeding half a mark in value, under a pain of imprisonment, or, if the offence was repeated, of forfeiting his trade within the university.

French Booksellers

In 1810 Napoleon created a system by which, a would-be bookseller had to apply for a license (brevet), and supply four references testifying to his morality, and four confirmations of his professional ability to perform the job. All references had to be certified by the local mayor. If the application was accepted, the bookseller would have to swear an oath of loyalty to the régime. The application process was conducted to ensure that the new bookstore was not a place that distributed rebellious publications. The brevet process continued until 1870.

Source: Wikipedia: Bookselling

Modern bookselling

The modern system of bookselling dates from soon after the introduction of printing. The earliest printers were also editors and booksellers; but being unable to sell every copy of the works they printed, they had agents at most of the seats of learning, such as Antony Koburger, who introduced the art of printing into Nuremberg in 1470.

The religious dissensions of the continent, and the Reformation in England under Henry VIII and Edward VI, created a great demand for books; but in England neither monarchs of the Tudor nor Stuart dynasties could easily tolerate a free press, and various efforts were made to curb it.

The first patent for the office of king's printer was granted to Thomas Berthelet by Henry VIII in 1529, but only such books as were first licensed were to be printed. At that time even the purchase or possession of an unlicensed book was a punishable offense. In 1556 the Company of Stationers was incorporated, and very extensive powers were granted in order that obnoxious books might be repressed. In the following reigns the Star Chamber exercised a rather effectual censorship; but, in spite of all precaution, such was the demand for books of a polemical nature, that many were printed abroad and surreptitiously introduced into England.

In the course of the 16th and 17th centuries the Low Countries for a time became the chief centre of the bookselling world, and many of the finest folios and quartos in our libraries bear the names of Jansen, Blauw or Plantin, with the imprint of Amsterdam, Utrecht, Leiden or Antwerp, while the Elzevirs besides other works produced their charming little pocket classics. The southern towns of Douai and Saint-Omer at the same time furnished polemical works in English.

Queen Elizabeth interfered little with books except when they emanated from Roman Catholics, or touched upon her royal prerogatives; and towards the end of her reign, and during that of her successor, James, bookselling flourished. So much had bookselling increased during the Protectorate that, in 1658, was published A Catalogue of the most Vendible Books in England by W. London. A bad time immediately followed. Although there were provincial booksellers the centre of the trade was St. Paul's Churchyard. When the Great Fire of London began in 1666 the booksellers put most of their stock in the vaults of the church, where it was destroyed. The Restoration also restored the office of Licenser of the Press, which continued until 1694.

In the first copyright statute, the Statute of Anne (1709), which specially relates to booksellers, it is enacted that, if any person shall think the published price of a book unreasonably high, he may make a complaint to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to certain other persons named, who shall examine his complaint, and if well founded reduce the price; and any bookseller charging more than the price so fixed shall be fined £5 for every copy sold. Apparently this enactment remained a dead letter.

Source: Wikipedia: Bookselling

Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers

The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers (until 1937 the Worshipful Company of Stationers) (usually known as the Stationers' Company) is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. The Stationers' Company was formed as an organisation in 1403; it received a Royal Charter in 1557. It held a monopoly over the publishing industry and was officially responsible for setting and enforcing regulations until the enactment of the Statute of Anne in 1710.

In 1403, the Corporation of London approved the formation of a Guild of Stationers. At this time, stationers were either text writers, lymners (illuminators), bookbinders or booksellers who worked at a fixed location (stationarius) beside the walls of St Paul's Cathedral. Booksellers sold manuscript books, or copies thereof produced by their respective firms for retail; they also sold writing materials. Illuminators illustrated and decorated manuscripts.

Printing gradually displaced manuscript production so that, by the time the Guild received a Royal Charter of Incorporation on 4 May 1557, it had in effect become a Printers' Guild. In 1559, it became the 47th in City Livery Company precedence.

Source: Wikipedia: Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers