Working Families and the Children’s Book Trade

  • Michelle Levy
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


To be a child in Britain in the first decade of the nineteenth century was to be inundated by print culture and, for children of all but the most affluent families, enticed by costly books promising upward mobility. One consequence of the boom that has received less attention is how it urged many children and their families to enter the print marketplace not merely as consumers, but as producers and sellers. This chapter focuses on the literary productions and family businesses of the Taylors and Godwins, both of whom were involved in all stages of book production and dissemination, led into the children’s book trade by the promise of reward and dependent on it for their economic survival. William Godwin and his second wife Mary Jane commenced trade in 1805 as children’s book authors, editors, publishers, and booksellers, printing titles by themselves and other family authors (including Charles and Mary Lamb) under the “M.J. Godwin and Co.” imprint, and selling their books in the shop below the apartments where they lived for the next twenty years. The Taylors (the more famous sisters, Jane and Ann, their brothers, Isaac Jr. and Jefferys, and their parents, Mrs. Ann Taylor and the Rev. Isaac Taylor, Sr.) began as commercial engravers in the 1790s, with the entire family gradually transitioning to print authorship in the first decade of the new century. They became among the most prolific family authors, whose total output over the course of several decades was a staggering seventy-three titles.


Special Collection Economic Survival Female Authorship Book Production Bible Story 
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© Michelle Levy 2008

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  • Michelle Levy

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