A time in which social class and financial means often determined literacy creates interesting implications about the place of novel readers in consumer culture and the novel as a material object. I will be exploring the paratextual advertisements—specifically those advertisements that market goods other than books, marked as “Miscellaneous” in the 656 datafield of the XML files—included in 18th century novels published in Britain (given that the American publishing market does not pick up until the 19th century). What does being a consumer of novels mean for general consumerism? Do publishers transpose their assumptions about the audience into their advertising choices? I will be constructing a profile of the average 18th century reader to frame these questions.
Due to constraints within the END dataset that I will be using, a large-scale data analysis will not have high internal validity. It would not be feasible to draw any conclusions about the data, especially considering the small sample size. Instead, case studies will highlight the nuances within these advertising choices that are most salient to the questions am I trying to answer. Currently, I am building a foundation of secondary sources in order to construct a profile of the average 18th century reader and to dig more into the consumer culture of the time.