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The history of printing in York begins in the first decade of the 14th century –less than 35 years after William Caxton brought printing to Westminster (in 1476). In 1642, the King’s Printer worked out of St William’s college, beneath the majestic East Window. Throughout the 18th century, as in London, booksellers’ shops were busy social spaces, centres of literary and intellectual discussion and dissemination. The first two volumes of Laurence Stern’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy were printed in Stonegate; as well as the first newspaper, The York Mercury, in 1718. In the shadow of the Minster, booksellers and printers found profitable shops and work spaces in Minster’s Yard and Stonegate. Printing could be dangerous work that brought publishers and writers to the attention of anxious and litigious authorities. This walk will explore this particular history of the city, uncovering traces of York’s busy publishing industry.
The walk will end with an exhibition of early printed texts in York and a talk by two 18th-century specialists, Dr Adam Smith (York St John University and Sheffield) and Dr Kaley Kramer (York St John University).
Adam is a Visiting Lecturer at York St John and an Honorary Research Fellow and Teaching Assistant at the University of Sheffield. He recently completed a PhD on early 18th-century print culture. His current research is interested in political literature published in York at the end of the 18th century. He is making good use of the York Minster Archives to research the writings of Christopher Wyvill and the Yorkshire Association.
Kaley is a lecturer in 18th-century literature at York St John University. Originally from Canada, she moved to the UK to Leeds for her PhD. She has published work on a range of 18th-century writers and is currently researching Elizabeth Inchbald, a playwright, actress and novelist who lived in York in the 1770s. She is still astonished at her fortune in living and working in York.