Titles are also linked to firms. A “firm” in our database is any book-trade business listed in the imprint or colophon of a title record, or any female operated book-trade business active between 1750 and 1830, as identified in our sources. The roles given for these businesses in our database are publisher, printer, and bookseller. Given the shifting definitions of the book trade roles during the period, we attach specific roles in each title record rather than in the firm records, as a means of recognizing that a firm listed in one imprint as a “bookseller” might also work as a “publisher” in relation to a different title record. If a firm played multiple roles in the publication of a given title (for example if a work was “printed by and for” a firm), we indicate that as well. Further, if multiple firms had a hand in publishing a title, we enter them separately. Separating out the imprint and colophon fields into separate entries within the firms field has been on the most time-consuming but also, we believe, valuable aspects of our data model. For a list of and description of all of the metadata about firms we include, see our documentation for Firms.

Firm records are initially created from information provided by imprints and colophons in our title records, which often include the location of operation alongside the firm name. The information available in imprints is not always consistent; however, full addresses, for example, are not always included. We supplement the imprint information by consulting the following sources:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 

The Exeter Working Papers

British Book Trade Index

The Scottish Book Trade Index

The London Book Trades, 1800-1850 [book]

A Dictionary of Members of the Dublin Book Trade, 1550-1800 [book]


These sources allow us to include full names for the partners in firms, provide specific street addresses and locations, and indicate the start and end date of operation for each firm. We check all sources for a firm and often use multiple sources to provide as much information as possible.

The street addresses and locations of these firm records must be clarified, as firms often moved. To account for this, we create new records for each address a firm occupied. A single firm, therefore, may have multiple entries—one per address—to indicate the years they were active at each specific location and thus provide accurate geographical information about the firms used or run by women. We do not, however, list multiple addresses active at the same time for a single firm; we prioritize the address that was active for a longer period of time (some locations were active for the firm’s entire operational period, while other locations were only active for a year or two during that period) or the address that was listed more frequently in the imprints in our database, suggesting that it was the more active location.

Our inclusion of female-run firms extends our database’s firm data beyond the information provided by imprints and colophons in our title records, and therefore has a somewhat different methodology: using our firm resources, we have gone through each bibliographic source listed above by hand to find firms run by women, even those that aren’t attached to or found in any of our title record imprints. As outlined above, these firms include publishers, printers, and booksellers. As we began adding women from our resources rather than imprints, however, we decided to include women listed as stationers, who were often also publishers and booksellers during the period. We have included them for the sake of being as thorough as possible in our inclusion of female-run firms.

These women occasionally have their own entry in these resources, with their full names and addresses and active years provided, but more often they are listed as the widow who took over the business after the death of their husband, and are hidden within the entries dedicated to the husband and listed only under the husband’s name. Once we have the widow’s name we can then search for it in our other resources, and attempt to find more information to populate the record. Having their names also allows us to search for texts specifically printed, published, or sold, by the female-run firms we have found, allowing us to expand our title records. Part of the ongoing work of the WPHP is to find all titles that these female firms produced. This aspect of feminist recovery will take longer to achieve than that of authorship, in part because female authorship is better known and studied, and in part because female authors are usually easier to find in existing sources than women active in the book trades. For each woman who operated a firm in our database, we also create a person record. Creating a person record for these women allows us to attach them as “people” in our title records, and include biographical information including their locations and dates of birth and death and a link to her or his VIAF record, when one exists. In this way, for women who contributed to the production of a book as a publisher, printer or bookseller, the title entry links both to them as persons and to them as firms.

To explore firms, click here: /firm/.

To search firms, click here: /firm/search.


Reese Irwin, Michelle Levy, Kate Moffat, Kandice Sharren