Price Point

21. Price: 10-30s.

Similarly, most new multi-volume novels cost 10-15 shillings, but could cost as much as 30 shillings. Scott, the most popular novelist of the period, was always priced above the average; The Abbot (1820), shown here, sold for 21 shillings. The average labourer, then, would have to work for more than two weeks to purchase this three-volume historical novel; other novels by Scott were even more expensive, The Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818), for example, sold for 32 shillings. Circulating libraries made such works available by the volume, but the cost of membership and hire restricted access to the middle classes.

To conclude, it is useful to point out that Scott’s expensive novels were also available to downmarket readers in several formats. Besides downmarket collections as early as 1819, chapbook and stage adaptations followed each publication. It is an important point because it connects upmarket and downmarket reading, and indicates the multiplicity of a book market with a popular centre located at or near the price point of sixpence.

David Buchanan, University of Alberta, 2013