Passing Through Vanity Fair: The Pilgrim’s Progress in the Marketplace

  • Natasha Simonova (University of Edinburgh)


Although it is usually approached as a religious text or a precursor of the novel, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress was also a bestseller of its time and thus a valuable literary property, making it an important landmark in the history of authorship. This paper examines the publication history of The Pilgrim’s Progress and its sequels (by Bunyan and others) from within the context of the Restoration book trade, focusing on their paratexts and the controversies of ownership that surrounded them Despite his initial apology for writing a work of fiction, Bunyan came to assert greater authority over it, motivated first by accusations of plagiarism and then by the publication of Thomas Sherman’s Second Part. A significant role in configuring Bunyan’s authorship was also played by his publisher, Nathaniel Ponder, who—working in his own interests as the ‘proprietor’ of The Pilgrim’s Progress—repeatedly defended Bunyan’s authorial canon from piracy and spurious texts, including the anonymous Third Part brought out after Bunyan’s death.

Keywords: authorship, john bunyan, the book trade in the seventeenthcentury, copyright, piracy

How to Cite:

Simonova, N., (2012) “Passing Through Vanity Fair: The Pilgrim’s Progress in the Marketplace”, Authorship 2(1). doi:

Download PDF
View PDF



Published on
18 Dec 2012
Peer Reviewed