Book Circulation and Reader Responses in Colonial India

David Finkelstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


In 1990 in a small bookstore in Stirling, Scotland, I came across an 1880 third edition, one volume reprint of Philip Meadows Taylor’s ‘Indian mutiny’ novel, Seeta. The novel, originally published in three volumes by Henry S. King in 1873, had become a staunch and profitable back catalogue seller for King’s successors C. Kegan Paul and Co., reprinted in at least ten editions in their standard and Colonial Series between 1880 and 1900. This particular 1880 version, tattered and worn from years of handling, still bore traces of its first owner and evidence suggesting a grand return voyage from London to India and then to Brighton. How it ended up over one hundred years later in Scotland is unknown: perhaps it was as a result of lively trades and sales between readers and various second hand book dealers, or perhaps a wandering victim of country house sales and book stall purchases. What was striking about this volume, though, was physical evidence of its first owner viscerally and actively engaged with the themes of the novel — pages and illustrations had been ripped out, notes scribbled in the margins, newspaper clippings pasted into the front and back covers. The marginalia in this volume offers tantalising glimpses into generally undocumented aspects of the nineteenth-century Indian book trade and of the colonial reader.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBooks Without Borders, Volume 2
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives from South Asia
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780230289130
ISBN (Print)9781349302901
Publication statusPublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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