The reading revolution  

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"A novel which sold well in the eighteenth century - and even the most successful book rarely sold more than a few thousand copies - did so within a fairly closed circle of readers, many of whom as writers also participated in deciding the prevailing criteria of literary excellence." -- The Myth of Superwoman (1990) by Resa L. Dudovitz, page 21

"By the mid-nineteenth century cheaper editions and improved access to reading material through subscriptions and in France, through reading rooms, pushed sales of a popular novel as high as 10,000 copies. Although critics continued to function as the arbiters of taste, the critical elite could no longer claim literature to be their exclusive property." -- The Myth of Superwoman (1990) by Resa L. Dudovitz, page 22

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Outside of theatre, which has existed since the dawn of man, reading has been our prime means of consuming fiction since the 1850s (primary education, availability of cheap paper) until the advent of sound film in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

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