A quantitative study of history in the english short-title catalogue (ESTC), 1470-1800

Leo Lahti, Niko Ilomäki, Mikko Tolonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article analyses publication trends in the field of history in early modern Britain and North America in 1470-1800, based on English Short-Title Catalogue (ESTC) data.2 Its major contribution is to demonstrate the potential of digitized library catalogues as an essential scholastic tool and part of reproducible research. We also introduce a novel way of quantitatively analysing a particular trend in book production, namely the publishing of works in the field of history. The study is also our first experimental analysis of paper consumption in early modern book production, and demonstrates in practice the importance of open-science principles for library and information science. Three main research questions are addressed: 1) who wrote history; 2) where history was published; and 3) how publishing changed over time in early modern Britain and North America. In terms of our main findings we demonstrate that the average book size of history publications decreased over time, and that the octavo-sized book was the rising star in the eighteenth century, which is a true indication of expanding audiences. The article also compares different aspects of the most popular writers on history, such as Edmund Burke and David Hume. Although focusing on history, these findings may reflect more widespread publishing trends in the early modern era. We show how some of the key questions in this field can be addressed through the quantitative analysis of large-scale bibliographic data collections.3

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-116
JournalLiber Quarterly : The journal of the association of European Research Libraries
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • History publishing
  • Short-title catalogue

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