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

  • Natasha Simonova University of Edinburgh
Keywords: authorship, john bunyan, the book trade in the seventeenthcentury, copyright, piracy


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.

Author Biography

Natasha Simonova, University of Edinburgh
Natasha Simonova is currently a third-year PhD student at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK), completing a dissertation on literary property and the development of Early Modern prose fiction continuations, from the publication of Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia to the works of Samuel Richardson. She also teaches on the undergraduate English Literature course and works as a Research Assistant for the New Edinburgh Edition of Robert Louis Stevenson.
How to Cite
Simonova, N. (2012). Passing Through Vanity Fair: The Pilgrim’s Progress in the Marketplace. Authorship, 2(1).