Not Your Average Audience

So I’ve been spending a very decent amount of time with this physics textbook, which generally would hurt me to say out loud. Luckily I don’t have to read it.  Those intellectuals in the early 1800’s that did have to read it; however, were not so lucky.  The book was published as a textbook.  Therefore, it’s audience, were either students, scholars, or academic professionals.  That’s a pretty broad range, given that it is a science textbook and the spirit of science in the 1800’s was growing by the speed of light.  More specifically, the audience of this book were students, scholars, and academic professionals that attended Cambridge College, or were a part of the Royal Society.

We can see from this signature that we have record of at least one real life owner of the book.  The signature above says “Queens College Oxford, 1829.”  This was most likely a student that owned this book first.  For those kids who were studying physics at the same time Thomas Young was lecturing about physics, it makes sense that they would be the owners of the book.

However, it is also really possible that Young’s lectures were heavily read by other professional scientists of that time, specifically in the Royal Society.

The Royal Society began on November 20th of 1660.  It was founded by twelve men who sought to form a club that explored “Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall” learning.  For a bunch of geniuses they really didn’t know how to spell! Anyway, in the early 1700’s Isaac Newton became president of the Royal Society.  When he died in the 1720’s he left the society a legacy of flourishing.  However, around the time of Thomas Young’s publication, the Society was seeing a bit of a decline.  So, when Young was publishing and lecturing, he was most likely under the review of his colleagues at the Royal Society.  This could also reflect back on the physical appearance of the book.  Keeping in mind that the printer was in house for the Society, and the fact that Young was writing and lecturing catered toward those who cared (academics and society members) this most likely corresponds to the simplistic layout of the book.  There was no need to make it attractive, the people who were going to read it cared only for the knowledge inside.

Another interesting clue that could give us an idea of the audience is both where it was written and where it was published.  Young signs off his preface with the street where he was located and the date when he wrote it.  The date is March 30th, 1807.  The street was Welbeck street.  I am not totally positive if it was standard practice to catalogue the street one is on when writing, however, in this scenario it is significant.  Welbeck street is extremely old, and actually has a bit of a recored history.  It has always been known for having medical professionals.  I think it is no coincidence that Young included his street.  It shows us that the intended audience most likely understood the significance of Welbeck street- other professionals in the sciences.

 

While Young may have wrote the preface on Welbeck street, the book was sold elsewhere-  a place called St. Paul’s Churchyard.  From class, I learned that St. Paul’s Churchyard was actually the spot to be if you were a book seller.  Apparently it was quite a popular location for a book seller, so its not surprising that Young’s book was sold there even if it was a textbook. Although, at first glance, it does seem a little odd.  If the book was truly mean to be just for students, one would think it would be sold just at the university.  However, St. Paul’s Churchyard is actually located a far distance away from the university.  That fact changed my perspective a little bit.  If it was intended to be read by university students, then you would figure it would be sold at the intended university. The fact it is not makes me think that the publisher probably wanted others to read it as well, and possibly review it.

As we can see from above, the location of where it was published and sold is on the bottom of the title page.

 

 

Citations:

http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-30282?rskey=MXgB16&result=8

 

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Royal-Society