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The Reading Mania

By the end of the eighteenth century, the literacy rate increased in European countries leading to increase in readers. Popular literary works appeared in print, booksellers employed peddlers targeting new audiences.

There were almanacs or ritual calendars, along with ballads and folktales. In England, penny Chapbooks were carried by petty peddlers known as chapmen, and sold for a penny. In France, the Biliotheque Blueue were low-priced small books printed on poor quality paper and bound in cheap blue covers.

The periodical press developed from the eighteenth century, dealt with current affairs and entertainment. Newspapers and journals carried information about wars and trade as well as the developments taking place in other areas.

Many books were compiled, e.g., scientific works of Newton, ancient and medieval scientific texts, writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Rousseau. Thus, the ideas about science, reason and rationality developed popular literature.

In the Tyrant World

Many believed that books could change the world, liberate the society from despotism and tyranny. Louise-Sebastian Mercier, a novelist of France declared that ‘the printing press is the most powerful engine of progress and public opinion is the force that will seep despotism away.’
Convinced of the power of print in destroying the despotism and bringing enlightenment, he proclaimed, ‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world! Tremble before the virtual writer!’

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