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The Reading Mania

Literacy rates increased during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Churches all over Europe set up schools in villages, carrying literacy to peasants and artisans.

In the eighteenth century, literacy rates were as high as 60 to 80 per cent, in some parts of Europe.

As the literacy rate increased and schools spread, people wanted books to read and printers increased their production.

Booksellers used Novel ways to sell their Books :-

  • Booksellers employed peddlers who roamed around villages, carrying little books for sale.
  • Calendars were printed with ballads and folktales.
  • In England, penny chapbooks were sold for a penny, so that even the poor could buy them.

Chap Books
  • In France, the ‘Bibliotheque Bleue’ books were sold. They were low-priced small books printed on poor quality paper, and bound in cheap blue covers.
  • Romantic stories were printed on four to six pages.
  • Stories about the past were also printed.
  • Books of various sizes were printed to serve different purposes and interests.

Bibliotheque Bleue book


Printed matter now combined information about current affairs with entertainment.

Newspapers and journals carried information about wars and trade, as well as news of developments in other places. Scientific discoveries and the thoughts of philosophers were printed .Ancient and medieval scientific texts were compiled and published, and maps and scientific diagrams were widely printed.

The works of Isaac Newton, the thoughts of Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau were also widely printed and read. These books influenced the common man immensely.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Thomas Paine

Isaac Newton

By the mid-eighteenth century, books were a means of spreading progress and enlightenment.

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