This paper will seek to address the opportunities and challenges represented by the digitisation of quantitative records related to the Irish Book Trade in the Long Eighteenth Century. While the industrial printing methods of the nineteenth century increased the rate of book publication exponentially, a relatively comprehensive and representative record of the literature of the eighteenth century survives. Scholars of the period are ably served by digital resources such as Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) and the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC), but what research questions can be addressed by considering the totality of these resources as the object of study, rather than as reference works? Two major possibilities come into focus: large scale quantitative bibliographical analysis, and the linking of data across disparate digital book trade records. Both offer opportunities for longue durée and transnational analysis of the book trades of the Long Eighteenth Century.
This paper assesses the current state of large-scale digital bibliography, and the affordances for the field represented by linked open data and ontology technologies. I will consider, in particular, how this situation can benefit the study of the Irish book trade in the period, and how Irish-focused resources—some digitised (Loebers’ Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900), some not (Pollard’s Dictionary of Members of the Dublin Book Trade, 1550-1800)—can contribute to the developing international focus on large-scale digital book history.