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British Fiction, 1800–1829: A Database of Production, Circulation & Reception
Guide to Contextual Materials: Subscription Lists

Guide to Subscription Lists

The database includes in all seventy subscription lists, representing the sum total of such lists found in novels of the period during the hands-on examination of copies which underlies this project. This number far exceeds what is evident from previous guides to subscription literature, and indicates that the subscription method of publishing fiction—whereby subscribers vouchsafed for the purchase of copies prior to publication—remained a significant if diminishing feature of the period under view. Broken down into decades, 34 of the novels with lists belong to the 1800s (representing approximately 4.35% of total output), 25 to the 1810s (3.7%), and 11 to the 1820s (1.3%). Overall just over 3% of the novels in the database have been found to include subscription lists.

These lists are given in full, and normally relate to the copy of the work used to create the ‘main entry’ for that title in the database, invariably a first edition. In size the lists vary considerably: from the 727 subscribers (apparently mostly resident in Bath) listed in Ellen Rebecca Warner’s Herbert-Lodge (1808), vouching in all for no less than 886 copies, to Lieutenant Arnold’s The British Admiral, with the same year imprint, whose 24 patrons reportedly came to author’s aid while he was imprisoned for debt. Usually these lists are found as part of the preliminaries of each novel, though there are a few exceptions: the precise location and pagination run(s) will be found in the ‘Notes’ field of the main records. In transcribing the lists standardisation has been kept to an absolute minimum, and care has been taken to preserve such features as block lettering (used for instance to distinguish nobility from commoners), and the indenting of names (likewise sometimes an indicator of social status or gender).

Each list as given ends with a editorial ‘Summary’, supplying the total number of subscribers listed, broken down in turn by gender (‘unknown’ signifying cases where, as with subscription by a Book Club, this is not determinable), followed by a count of additional copies, and terminating with a grand total of copies subscribed. A fuller analysis of the lists, including (where ascertainable) locations and social groupings, will be found in the Checklist to:

x P. D. Garside, ‘Subscribing Fiction in Britain, 1780-1829’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text 11 (Dec 2003): <>.
 © 2004 Project Director: Professor Peter Garside;
 Research Associates: Dr Jacqueline Belanger, Dr Sharon Ragaz;
 Database/Website Developer: Dr Anthony Mandal
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