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Lawrence, and is, in its present state, a wretched caricature of that splendid chef d'æuvie.
The specimens of German Romance just published by Messrs. Whittaker, haye, we believe, been translated by Mr. Soane. They are ornamented with numerous characteristic designs, after Cruikshanks. Mr. Gillies is, we are told, on the eve of publishing a similar work. Of Mr. Roscoe's specimens of the German novelists, we have said a few words in our present number, and shall notice them more at length, along with the various works of the same class which have just been or are about to be published, in our next.
Ourindefatigable friend, Mr. Britton, is printing the eleventh and concluding number of his Chronological Illustrations of the Ecclesiastical Architecture. It will contain a history and description of the specimens, illustrated by eightysix different plates, and will embrace tabular lists of architects, of styles, dates, and a dictionary of terms.
An Italian chemist has discovered that the green colour contains the principle of the magnet, and that this colour suffices to render the steel needle magnetic. If this be really the case, we ought to select green for the future covers of our publication, as it may possibly add attraction even to a magnet.
Mr. Martin has just published his very splendid print of Belshazzar's Feast. It has been completed, not simply under his own superintendence, but by his own hand, and presents the most gorgeous specimen, not only of the painter, but of the class of engraving to which it belongs, we have ever met with. The person who obtained the picture, and who has since made about ten times the amount of its cost by its exhibition, had the meanness to endeavour to prevent Mr. Martin from engraving from the original and finished sketches, by altering the word paint in the agreement exchanged between them to print. The point was, however, given against him, and Mr. Martin will now, it is hoped, reap the full advantages of his arduous undertaking. The Destruction of Babylon would make an excellent companion print, and we trust the encouragement bestowed upon the present work, will induce the artist to bring it forward with all convenient expedition.
Among the many translations from the German novelists, that have recently issued from the press, we are surprised that nothing has been given us from Hoffman. In our preceding pages we have introduced a version of a singular sketch from this popular author, which forms in some measure a pendent for the strange but very admirable tale of Peter Schemihl,—it is the Lost Reflection.
The public subscription to indemnify Mr. Buckingham for the ruinous losses he has sustained by the arbitrary and unjustifiable caprice of the jacksin-office, of the East India Company, is we perceive augmenting very rapidly. We are glad of this, for although we by no means admire Mr. Buckingham's politics, it is certain that he has been most scandalously persecuted ; and we consider that he has therefore, as a man of high personal respectability and great talents, a strong claim on the sympathy of the public. We wonder if Mr. Croker and Mr. Bankes have re-imbursed Mr. Murray for the expenses incurred in consequence of their joint libel npon Mr. Buckingham in the Quarterly Review,
A young gentleman of Manchester, and a contributor to our pages is about to favour the world with a Romance entitled “Sir John Chiverton;" a pamphlet entitled “ Lays from Cockney-Land,” by the same author, has very recently been published. To read Mr. Ebers' announcement of Sir John, one would suppose
the author was a pocket Unknown, or as Mr. Colburn calls young DʻIsraeli, in his puffs of Vivian Grey,” a new Unknown.” The Aurora, a new annual publication which was to have made its appearance under the superintendence of the above candidate for literary honours, is postponed, sine die.
BOOKSELLERS AND AUTHORS. A GREAT deal has been said about booksellers and the book-trade during the last few months, and various causes have been assigned for the calamitous depression which has been experienced, for some time past, in that intellectual branch of business. Little light has, however, as yet been thrown upon the subject, and for this very sufficient reason; that few persons who are not booksellers, are in possession of the facts with which it is necessary to be acquainted, in order to arrive at any thing like a definite conclusion upon the subject; and those who are themselves practitioners of the craft, are more likely to devise apologies for the indiscretion of their brethren, than to discuss with fairness and impartiality tlre probable origin of their difficulties. The last number of the Monthly Magazine contains an ably written article on this subject, which is attributed to the popular pen of Mr. St. Leger; and which, as it is the only tolerable attempt to define the causes of the evil, that has met our observation, we shall take as the ground for a few remarks on the same interesting and certainly most important subject. The author of this paper has undoubtedly made out a strong prima facie case ; but he is in the situation of a barrister who is instructed to make a speech favourable to his clients from the variety of disjointed facts with which it
may be to their interest to acquaint him; and who works up, with no inconsiderable judgment, the information he finds in his brief, without being able to supply from the store-house of his own experience a single fact that can assist him in his argument. It not unfrequently happens, that the complexion of a case is as much altered by the suppressioveri, as it would have been by any palpable mis-statement. Now the writer under notice seems to have been placed in an extremely awkward predicament. He
appears to have been furnished with materials for an apology for the present state of the bookselling trade, by the parties directly interested in the decision at which the public may ultimately arrive. From a very pardonable ignorance of the mysteries of the craft, he has been unable to perceive the colouring which has been given to the facts on which he expatiates; and has consequently derived from them such inferences as may invariably be expected from incorrect premises. We shall detail his gratuitous assumptions and his bona fide facts seriatim; and having corrected the former, examine the conclusions he draws from the latter. He contends that, next to bankers, booksellers and the various branches of the trade of books, have suffered more during the late difficulties than any other description of persons. This is by no means correct; witness the silk, cotton, worsted, and various other important branches of trade, which seem to have been involved in the same appalling and almost irremediable ruin; and which have been reduced to one common fate by the partial operation of the same overwhelming causes-over-speculation, and over-production in their respective lines of business. As to the stock of the parties engaged in these several classes of manufactures, it is all of it liable to burthensome duties on the materials of which it is composed, which render its accumulation to any disproportionate extent as ruinous to the one as to
the other. The bookseller pays an oppressive duty upon all the paper he purchases, and is of course compelled to keep a large stock, the weight of which is materially increased by this addition to the cost at which it is produced; but are not the branches of trade we have just enumerated, and many others which will readily suggest themselves to the reader, liable to imposts upon their raw material equally, and even occasionally, still more burthensome ? Beside, it is the paper-maker who has the best excuse for complaining of the heavy duty upon the commodity he manufactures, because he is constrained to keep by him a stock sufficient to answer the large and sudden demands of the wholesale bookseller. If the latter be to be allowed to account for his defalcations by the exorbitance of the duty upon paper, and the expenses of authorship, how is it that the publishers of newspapers contrive to keep upon their legs, with a tax of threepence-half-penny on a sheet, containing in quantity nearly a modern octavo volume, which they must sell for sixpence ; affording the expenses of printing, paper, and author or compilership out of the remaining twopence-half-penny; such journals paying a further duty of three shillings and sixpence upon every advertisement, however short, and (as in the case of provincial newspapers), allowing from six to twelve months' credit. It would be far more easy to assign plausible excuses for the failure of such a person, who has to pay on the spot for printing, stamps, and advertisement duty, four-fifths of the sum at which his journal is sold, than for the bankruptcy of a bookseller, who is not liable to these overwhelming contingencies. His case would indeed be a pitiable one, if it did not admit of more convincing arguments in its favour than those we are about to discuss.
The causes assigned by the author of the article in the Monthly Magazine for the late embarrassments in the bookselling trade, are: First, the imprudence of booksellers in having entered into large speculations foreign to their business; such as the purchase of hops, land, houses, &c. Secondly, the system of credit which is carried on among them. Thirdly, and more especially, the peculiar burthens which press upon booksellers as a body: viz. burthens arising from duties, and burthens arising from certain provisions of the copy-right act. These burthens are subdivided by our contemporary into the duties on paper and advertisements; the delivery of eleven gratuitous copies to public institutions ; the extent of capital required to be embarked ; and some other minor evils originating in these very fruitful sources of complaint. As for the first of the causes above specified, the imprudence of one or two booksellers, (for this species of imprudence has not extended further), in entering into speculations out of their ordinary course of trade, it is entitled to very little consideration. The failures which have lately taken place, have been but little accelerated by speculations either in hops or houses: it is only in conjunction with other instances of over-trading that they can be dwelt upon for a moment. Booksellers who have limited their speculations entirely to their own business, have had their difficulties as well as their neighbours, and from the operation of precisely the same
The inconvenience resulting to particular individuals from extra-literary speculations, ought not, moreover, to be viewed as acts and deeds of the trade at large. As for imprudence, there was no more imprudence in Messrs. A. and B. buying hops if they expected to turn them to profitable account, than in Messrs.-C., D. and E. cumbering their warehouses with unsaleable stock, and losing in all probability a similar sum, with a similar view. The sin of over-trading is precisely the same whether it be in hops, houses, or spoiled paper. With regard to the system of credit, it is not so injurious to the bookseller as the persons with whom he does business. A bookseller is not required to give half as much credit as a fashionable tailor, and yet we never heard this reason assigned for the bankruptcy of the latter.
The printer and paper maker take long bills no doubt; but they first make them or this would not be necessary.
If people charge an exorbitant per centage for credit, they have no right to grumble at its length. The credit of booksellers, like that of other classes of tradesmen, has been of course sensibly affected by the late panic; but we are not prepared to admit that they have suffered more than any other description of persons. With regard to the duties paid on paper and advertisements, burthens of this description are, as we have already explained, not confined to the bookselling trade. They are disagreeable enough, of course; but as it respects advertising, it is like the tax formerly imposed on income: the most successful trader, is precisely the man who is called upon to pay the largest amount. Who advertises more liberally than Mr. Colburn? Yet it is not pretended that he has injured himself by the sum he must thus necessarily have expended in duties. If a bookseller advertises largely, we may infer that he is either engaged in an extensive and lucrative line of business, or that he prints all that is offered to him, and puffs with as little discretion as he publishes. Again, nine-tenths of the advertisements circulated by booksellers are paid for, and most liberally too, by authors. If Messrs. Longman or Colburn charge their friends for the brief announcements they insert in the lists which are stitched into periodical works, (at from seven shillings to half a guinea a paragraph), the surplus profit (as these lists only pay duty as one advertisement), will assist them in bearing one at least of the burthens imposed on them by government. In 1817–18, Messrs. Longman and Co. paid nearly five thousand pounds ; and in 1824–5, Messrs. Whittaker paid nearly six thousand pounds for advertisements. Of these sums a very large proportion would have been for commission books, for which the parties were reimbursed immediately. The loss incurred by advertising unsaleable productions, will have been more than covered by the profits of expenses which it is the practice to charge to authors, whether incurred or not. If booksellers choose to pay thrice the sums for editorial puffs of their works which they need
for simple and legitimate advertisements, in the hope of gulling the public, they must take the risk of loss upon themselves, as in all other instances of problematical success. There is no necessity for them to incur such expenses, consequently they can be said to form no part of the burthens peculiar to the trade as a body. Again, if they overprint themselves, which they often do, it is always in the expectation of making a large and unwarrantable profit; and if they lose by this sort of overtrading, they are in no worse a situation than people who manufacture in one year twice as many goods as they find they can dispose of. If an author turns up trump, the bookseller makes probably cent. per cent. by him; and if war, or any other equally “ desirable contingency” occurs to increase the demand for silk, cotton, or worsted goods, the manufacturer reaps a splendid harvest by his speculation; and both are then termed liberal and enterprising men. Over-trading, like treason, never prospers; for if it succeed, it is sure to be called by some more flattering appellation.
The author of the article already referred to, mentions among the burthens peculiar to booksellers as a body, the compulsory delivery of eleven copies at Stationers' Hall, under one of the provisions of the Copy-right Act; but surely this grievance affects authors to the full as much, if not more than their publishers. If the bibliopole prints the book on commission, or if it be a half-and-half concern, he commonly places these copies to the debit of the author or the book. Beside, except in splendidly illustrated works, although very disagreeable, this extortion interferes but little with the profits of the bookseller; for the eleven copies can always be furnished from those surplus books which printers invariably deliver without additional charge over and above the number specified as printed, and in the proceeds of which authors are never allowed to participate ; to say nothing of every twenty-fifth book in an edition, although a tithe of the number thus claimed are not in like manner allowed by them to their brethren in the trade, because few houses will take twenty-four copies of an unknown book for the sake of securing this advantage. We are, however, far from being satisfied with the requisition of eleven copies of every book printed for public institutions, one half of which are suffered to rot unnoticed in their cellars; but we cannot admit that it is a burthen of much magnitude; and if it were, like those already enumerated, it has existed since the birth of the trade, and has not prevented many discreet bibliopoles from realizing large fortunes.
But there is another collateral burthen peculiar to the trade as a body, on which the writer in the Monthly Magazine appears to lay consider. able stress; and that is the system of “ piracy” which has lately been set on foot, and “ which is now carried to an unparalleled extent by weekly publications." There are two classes of these ephemeral periodicals, one of which appropriate to themselves any thing and every thing which may fall in their way, without the shadow of a reference to the original sources of their plunder. But the persons who come under this denomination of thieves are usually low pettifogging adventurers, whose wares are purchased only by the poorer orders of societyreaders who could under no circumstances afford to pay the exorbitant price demanded for most modern magazines. The system, therefore, although flagrantly unjust and dishonest, cannot interfere in the slightest degree with the sale of any leading periodical. We, however, unite with our contemporary most cordially in wishing to see these knaves put down by the strong hand of the law. Nothing would be easier than to effect this, did the trade consider the matter of sufficient importance to call for their interference. There are other publications, such as “ The Mirror,” and various weekly periodicals of a higher class, such as the Literary Gazette, the Literary Chronicle, the News of Literature, and the London and provincial newspapers, which are in the habit of reprinting either copious extracts from new works, or lighter articles from the magazines; always acknowledging the source