This special issue of _Romantic Textualities_ focuses on a re-assessment and re-valuation of the publication and dissemination practices of William Lane’s London-based Minerva Press. Officially established in 1790, Minerva published an unprecedented number of new novels, many of them by women, in the last two decades of the century, and remained the leading publisher of popular novels throughout the Romantic period. Seen to cater to undiscriminating circulating library audiences, Minerva – and other presses like it – were understood by their critics to drive the period’s troubling surplus of cheap, imitative fictions whose impact on Romantic-era culture and literary production has long been overlooked or unfairly dismissed. In addition, Lane established the Minerva Library, which contributed in no small measure to the circulation of popular literature to an eager reading public.
This special issue seeks to re-appraise these fictions, particularly in the context of Lane’s revolutionary business model. Through such practices as advertising for new manuscripts, especially by debut female novelists, and selling texts wholesale as circulating library collections to shopkeepers across the nation and, indeed, the British Empire, Lane capitalized on an expanding and evolving literary marketplace while also helping to precipitate modern divisions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ literature (Blakey 1939; Clery 1999).