Prof James Raven, Magdalene



Biographical Information

James Raven grew up in Colchester. Essex and attended the Gilberd, now Comprehensive, School before studying at Clare College. He remembers that he didn’t know what a university was until a teacher suggested it might be somewhere to go in two years time. He completed his PhD at Clare before moving to North America and returning as a Fellow of Pembroke College.  He is currently a Fellow of Magdalene College, Director of the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust (research and CPBT publications on and Professor of Modern History at the University of Essex and Director of the Centre for Bibliographical History. He was formerly Reader in Social and Cultural History at the University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford and Munby Fellow in Bibliography at Cambridge.

James is a Fellow of the Linnean Society, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and a member of the Royal Literary Society and of the American Antiquarian Society. He has held various visiting appointments in the United States, France, Italy and Britain. His publications in bibliographical and book history studies, literary, social and cultural history and cultural studies were recognized with the award of a LittD from Cambridge in 2012.

For many years James Raven worked at senior level for several international and national educational charities, with particular interest in educational access and widening participation, including the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth of which he is Deputy Chairman (and Governor 2000-6 and 2011-). He serves as Chair of the Lindemann Trust for UK postdoctoral awards for scientific study in the US, and Director of the Mapping the Print Culture of London project. He is a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, and an occasional contributor to radio and television programmes.

James Raven gave the 2008 Karmiole Lecture in Los Angeles and in 2010 gave the 25th annual Panizzi lectures at the British Library, London, (named in honour of the great nineteenth-century architect of the British Museum) on London Booksites: Places of Printing and Publication before 1800’ with lectures on ‘Antient Shops and Conversible Men’, ‘Versatility and the Gloomy Stores of Literature’, and ‘Industry, Fashion, and Pettifogging Drivellers’. View the slides and listen to the podcasts on the British Library website. His address to launch the 'Electronic Enlightenment Project' at Oxford is available online.. In September 2016 he gave the J. R. de R. Jackson Lecture, University of Toronto.

Research Interests

Book history and comparative bibliography; the history, theory, and practice of literary criticism, the relationship between typography and language, modern print and script; the English novel since 1750 (gender, authorship anonymity, production, dissemination and reception); the history of reading, the history of translations of the novel in English

He has taught on the periods 1700-1830 and 1830-1945 and holds classes in bibliography and book history, the notion of print culture, and digital modelling of bibliographical history

As Director of the CPBT, James chairs regular informal after-dinner seminars at Magdalene on book history topics – for the current programme please see the News page of the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust website on All are very welcome to attend.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

Bibliographical and literary history since 1700, book history, translation studies, comparatve global typographical and bibiographical studies

Selected Publications

James Raven’s books include:

  • What is the History of the Book? (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018)
  • Publishing Business in Eighteenth-Century England (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2014)
  • Bookscape: Geographies of Printing and Publishing in London before 1800 [The Panizzi Lectures 2010] (London and Chicago: The British Library, 2014) 
  • (ed.), Books between Europe and the Americas: Transatlantic Literary Communities 1620-1860 (Houndmills Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), with Leslie Howsam
  • The Business of Books: Booksellers and the English Book Trade 1450-1850 (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) – awarded the De Long prize for 2008
  • (ed.) Lost Libraries: The Destruction of Book Collections since Antiquity (Houndmills Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)
  • London Booksellers and American Customers: Transatlantic Literary Community and the Charleston Library Society, 1748-1811 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2003)
  • The English Novel 1770-1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction Published in the British Isles 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), with Peter Garside and Rainer Schöwerling
  • (ed.) Free Print and Non-Commercial Publishing since 1700 (London and Vermont: Ashgate Press, 2000)
  • (ed.) with Helen Small and Naomi Tadmor, The Practice and Representation of Reading in England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996),
  • Judging New Wealth: Popular Publishing and Responses to Commerce in England, 1750-1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • British Fiction 1750-1770: A Chronological Checklist of Prose Fiction Printed in Britain and Ireland (London, New York and Toronto: Associated University Press, 1987).