Book Chapter

Embroidery to Enterprise: The Role of Women in the Book Trade of Early Modern Scotland



Mann A (1999) Embroidery to Enterprise: The Role of Women in the Book Trade of Early Modern Scotland. In: Ewan E & Meikle M (eds.) Women in Scotland: 1100-1750. East Linton: Tuckwell Press, pp. 136-151.

The usual perception of women in the society of early modern Scotland encompasses the roles of wife and mother, ignoring responsibilities in wider economic and social development. To these `traditional', dual familial roles we might add that of responsible widowhood. Thus the fate of the domestic and commercial estate of the husband must be managed to secure the future for offspring, to sustain the widow on her own account, and even to offer the prospect of a second marriage which might benefit surviving assets and relatives. For all commercial trades in the early modern period, from apothecaries to tenant farmers, we find this culture of inheritance — booksellers, bookbinders and printers were no different. In these commercial areas there is much evidence of independent decision making by wives and widows. It is ironic, therefore, that in order to test the hypothesis of the significance of women in the book trade the historian is forced to turn to family records, and in particular to the details of marriages, wills and testaments. A combination of male oriented contemporary record keeping, and similarly tainted modern historiography, makes it virtually impossible to shake off the effects of the ascendancy of male gender.

women; book trade; printing; family networks

Publication date31/12/1999
PublisherTuckwell Press
Publisher URL
Place of publicationEast Linton

People (1)


Dr Alastair Mann
Dr Alastair Mann

Senior Lecturer, History