A Novel Affair

Number of Epistolary Novels Over Time

A black bar graph depicts the number of epistolary novels per period of time. The periods are on the x-axis and are as follows: ancient, 1400-1500, 1500-1600, 1600-1700, 1700-1800, 1800-1900, 1900-2000, post-2000. The y-axis indicates the number of novels and markers range from 0 to 60. The bars by period, in order for largest to smallest, are as follows: post-2000 (52 novels), 1900-2000, 1700-1800, 1800-1900, ancient, 1600-1700, and tied 1400-1500 and 1500-1600 (1 novel each).
Number of Novels by Period

The number of epistolary novels published post-2000 is dramatically larger than the number any other era. The data used in this section comes from the compiled list of epistolary novels.  However, this should by no means be regarded as the extent of all epistolary novels. While it is researched and designed to be a comprehensive compilation, it likely does not include all epistolary novels ever published. Regardless, it includes a significant number of these novels which allow reasonable analysis and significant points to be distilled. The collected data produced a spectrum of 138 works spanning from ancient texts of Hellenic Greece to publications from 2015.1 Of the 138 epistolary works this research examined, there were 52 epistolary novels published between 2000 and 2015 alone. Meanwhile, all of the other time periods possess less than 45 publications for their respective century, making the number of epistolary novels published post-2000 remarkable. At the current rate of publication, the century from 2000-2100 would contain approximately 346 epistolary publications. This would compare to the much lower numbers in previous centuries, with 43 epistolary novels published between 1900-2000, 13 between 1800-1900, and 16 between 1700-1800.

However, it is important to recognize that there is potential for some distortion of the numbers due to two principal factors. First, in the present century, there are more books being published than previously as a result of technological advances and increased global literacy rates.2 As such, the 52 epistolary novels published between 2000 and 2015 could appear dramatically larger, but actually, compared to the total number of books published, is proportionally similar. However, investigating this proportional increase is difficult considering the international nature of the list. Second, there is less access to publication records as time goes back. Therefore, the large number could be attributed in part to the relative ease of finding recent publications, as compared to the difficulty of locating many past publications.