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from whence such articles or extracts have been derived, which, whether from having borrowed too much or too little from the Monthly Magazine, or the works of its writers does not appear, are denounced in terms of the most bitter and unmeasured invective in its pages.
We remember some years ago being told an anecdote of one of the irritable race of authors, who having had his work rather harshly criticised in the Monthly Review, brought an action against its proprietors for piracy; meaning, of course, to refer to the few and scanty excerpts they had indulged in from his volume. If the reviewer had been copious in his quotations, and laudatory in his remarks, he would have been allowed perfect impunity in his plunder. This is precisely the spirit in which disappointed publishers and authors charge such periodicals as the Literary Gazette with piracies injurious to their interests. The plain truth is, and we appeal to the editors of weekly literary journals for the correctness of our assertion, that authors as well as booksellers are oftener angry with the periodical or newspaper editor for not taking enough, than for taking too much. For our own parts we could, if necessary, produce many epistolary groans reproaching us for not having allowed the public a sufficient opportunity of forming their own judgment of the style and talents of an author we have taken occasion to notice ; that such complaints are common is notorious; yet we find at page sixty-six, of the last Monthly Magazine, a most violent philippic against the “ literary news-writers, who come out every Saturday, and one of them with reprints of very popular and celebrated works,” the author of which expresses strong objections to “ cutting pieces out of other men's books.' The writer of the article on the book trade, too, in the above-named publication almost writes himself into hysterics on the same subject; and marvels much that Messrs. Longman, Murray, Colburn, Whittaker and Co., do not put a stop at once to all gradations of literary piracy. The proprietors of the Monthly and New Monthly Magazines would, if they came to such a determination, certainly be gainers in one respect; for it would then no longer be necessary for them to distribute the great number of gratuitous copies of their journal, which they are in the habit of circulating from month to month among the literary news-writers and newspaper editors in town and country, in order that they may undergo the system of piracy and pillage so severely deprecated. Every person who has had the least experience in the bookselling craft must admit that authors and publishers, whether of books or periodicals, are in general extremely anxious to see extracts from their works (if the source be avowed) as frequently as possible; and the more copious the more agreeable. If the article be good for any thing, its citation will operate more beneficially for the work than half a dozen advertisements; and if it be as dull as a large proportion of the papers which come under our observation from month to month, in what are self-styled the “ higher periodicals,” there need be little fear that it will be appropriated; for, like the sheet anchor of a man-of-war, its weight will afford it abundant protection against the marauder. So far from the privilege enjoyed by “ literary news-writers” being a nuisance or a burthen to booksellers, we may add before we take leave of the subject, that we have ourselves received extracts from a London periodical of the
“ higher order," with separately printed articles, and an earnest request from the proprietor himself that we would publish them, although these extracts would have occupied from four to five columns of a newspaper, and upwards of a dozen of those of the Literary Gazette ! It is absurd enough to find this identical class of persons attributing the depression of their own trade, in some degree, to the good-nature of“ newswriters,” who have provoked the epithets of “ pillagers” and “ pirates” by complying with their feverish requests. So much for the assumed causes of this much-talked-of depression among booksellers, and now for the real ones. They are according to our belief as follow :
1. Over-trading in their own particular branch of business—that is to say, over-printing themselves, and over-paying a limited number of
very distinguished writers,” for the honour of being allowed to publish for them.
2. A sensible diminution in the public demand for new books during the last twelve months ; arising partly from the great depression, and even distress that has weighed upon the middle orders (composing, by far, the most numerous class of book buyers); a depression which has rendered retrenchment in all kinds of what may be termed superfluous expenditure indispensable ; and partly out of the exorbitant prices which the booksellers have found it requisite to put upon the works of “great” and small “Unknowns,” in order to reimburse themselves for the cost of their copyrights.
It has been the boast of the bookselling trade for some time past that there never was a period when authors were more liberally remunerated for their writings than they are now, or at least than they were before the commencement of the recent difficulties. This boast has not been wholly without foundation ; but whilst half a dozen writers of fiction and poetry have been vastly overpaid for the copyrights of their productions, a great number of authors, whose works have shed a lustre on the literature of the age, and whose names have been for years on every body's tongue, have scarcely realized sufficient to find them in snuff, because they have, unhappily, been deficient in that experience which is indispensably necessary in order to enable an author to treat with a bookseller with the commonest justice to his own interests. These persons, some of them living at considerable distances from the metropolis, go on printing and publishing from year to year upon the half-and-half system, under the supposition that the almost entire profits of their books are absorbed by the various incidental expenses attendant on their publication. They know nothing to the contrary—how should they? The litterateurs who are in more direct communication with booksellers, manage these things better; and the extravagant prices which some of them contrive to extort for their productions, often drive their victim to a sort of conventional injustice towards those whom they may have it in their power to cajole with impunity. We complain, however, less of the trade itself, for we are acquainted with numerous instances of bookselling liberality reflecting the highest credit on the parties, than of those practices of the body which custom has sanctified; if custom can sanctify any thing which is illiberal and unjust.
We shall explain what we mean (we hope) to the perfect satisfaction of o’r readers, as we proceed. To enable us to do this, and to avoid an invidious reference to any living author or bookseller, we must suppose a case. A man of respectable connexions, and considerable capital, wishes to “ devote himself" (as the advertisements have it)
“ to the publication of works of the first importance.” An opportunity is afforded him of making the acquaintance of some highly popular writer,-a sort of incipient Unknown if the reader pleases. The great author is, to be sure, at present engaged with a bookseller, but promises our publishing aspirant the refusal of his next novel or poem. The eclat attendant upon doing business for so distinguished a writer, leads of course to the acceptance of the book ; and if it covers the positive cost of copyright, paper, and print, the ambitious bibliopole considers that he has achieved a bargain; never dreaming that if he gains nothing by its publication, after having to wait eighteen months for its proceeds, he must lose the interest of his own capital, his own time, a portion of his house rent, and the services of his establishment; or, at least, contrive to afford whatever he may consider their value, for a mere empty honour, and a bushel of golden anticipations. He places, it is true, something to the account of the connexion which the sanction of his great author's name and influence may draw around him. We have known instances, however, in which a successful author has endeavoured to repay his own personal obligations to a fry of inferior scribblers, by palming them off upon his compliant bookseller ; who is of course too civil to question the sincerity of recommendations coming from so popular a quarter, and who prints editions proportioned in extent to his reliance on the sagacity and good faith of his adviser. Before these swans turn out to be geese, he has embarked all his disposable capital in his business. This is of small importance : the low rate of interest on funded property having occasioned a glut in the money-market, he is offered discounts to almost any amount, by half a dozen bankers in the metropolis; and as he has little difficulty in thus obtaining money, he parts with it on the same easy terms. Sud. denly a panic, affecting alike all descriptions of tradesmen, closes his accustomed resources against him ; the game is up; and it is not until he finds that he is on the verge of bankruptcy, that he discovers he has been too liberal by half to very distinguished authors; and that it is better to gain two or three hundred pounds by a second-rate poet or novelist, than be duped out of as many thousands by an author of a higher grade, Then follows reflection, remorse, and retrenchment; and the
poor devils of authors who give him one half the profits of their works for the honour of his countenance, are ground almost to dust, to stop a gap in the frightful deficiency which soon presents itself. come alone, and to add to his confusion, the price which he is obliged in justice to himself, to put upon his books, and the great scarcity of money among book-buyers in general, preclude his selling half the number of copies he has been accustomed to sell, although his Apollo has gradually increased his price for his copyrights, and he the quantity of books printed) in the full confidence that his works will advance in popularity in the same ratio. To make confusion more confounded, our bookseller goes to a trade-sale, and, after a tolerable dinner, and a few glasses of bad wine, is so satisfied that matters are going on swimmingly with him, and that he shall soon run the great house in Albemarle Street hard,”
that he cannot resist the temptations offered him by the persuasive Mr. Saunders, and accordingly buys remainders of books he does not want and never will, and thrice as many copies of current gaieties and gravities as he is ever likely to sell. For these purchases he gives bills payable at twelve and eighteen months; and, long before they become due, the identical rubbish which has been thus foisted upon him, is to be bought thirty or forty per cent. below the rate he is to pay for it. What is his next resource? To enable him to meet his acceptances, he sacrifices the valuable portion of his stock, (for in times of scarcity the ephemeral part of it will fetch nothing, or next to nothing), by forcing its sale in all directions; and the natural consequence of this step is an immediate depreciation of his property, which is ticketed in cheap shops all over the country, at from twenty to thirty per cent. less than he affects to charge the London trade for it. When he next produces a splendid and expensive work, people hesitate to purchase it, because they feel satisfied it will in due time share the fate of its predecessors, and decrease proportionably in price. This has been so notoriously the case with subscription books, that John Bull now distrusts prospectuses of all works published upon this principle ; and prefers awaiting their completion before he attempts to possess himself of them. That the case to which we are alluding is by no means uncommon, may be inferred from the fact, that the Delphin Classics, now publishing by Valpy, which held out such extraordinary inducements to subscribers in their prospectuses, are now (although far from being completed) to be purchased for less than half their subscription price. The Thesaurus of Stephens is also in precisely the same predicament; and to adduce a specimen from another class of books, that admirable and most laborious compilation, Watt’s Bibliographia Britannica, circulated at eleven guineas, may now be obtained at from five to six. Nor is the evil limited to works of reference alone. Works of imagination, scarcely dry from the press, are sacrificed on the same imprudent principle ; the author's reputation destroyed; his probabilities of future success diminished; and all because the bookseller chooses to trade very much beyond his capital, and to print on the average, impressions twice as large as the probable demand may warrant. We say nothing of the quantity of bad debts to which the extension of his transactions must of necessity render him liable; nor of his endeavouring to enlarge his means by risking money at a time when he wants a great deal more than he can possibly command. Yet such has been precisely the situation of several wholesale booksellers--men of generous spirit and honourable intentions—who, in consequence of the sensible diminution in the demand for new works, and their having forced the sale of their books so as to have completely inundated the country with them from Auld Reekie to the Land's End, have for some months past scarcely been able to make a single sale worth mentioning. When they find themselves unable to weather the storm, almost the only persons with whom they stand connected, by whom they have been realizing a steady and liberal profit, are such authors as publish with them on commission, or what is commonly called a mutual division of profits. These unlucky dogs, who have already been the victims of every advantage which the custom of the trade allows, (and sometimes a little more), to make amends for the loss which more distinguished litterateurs have occasioned, are finally made the auto da fés of the body. To shew that if booksellers would abstain from mad and reckless speculations, for the sake of seeing a great name above their own in their title pages, they have as fair opportunities of making money as other tradesmen, we will explain to our readers what portion of the real profits of a small volume, consisting of 224 pages, fall, according to the customs of the trade, to the author, and what to the bookseller; contrasting the gain of the former with what he might realize by publishing the work with the same parties merely on commission.
Gregory Goosequill, Esq.
£. S. d. To printing 750 copies of “ A Voyage to the Moon,” 14 sheets, at 31. 3s.
44 2 To corrections, carriage of proofs, postages, &c.
10 0 To paper for ditto, at 11. 12s. per ream, 21 reams
33 12 0 To advertising in various periodical publications, newspapers, and Messrs. F. Q. O. D. and Co.'s printed lists
50 0 0 To 11 copies to Stationers' Hall, at 5s. boards
2 15 0 To 25 copies (not as 24) to various magazines and reviews, at 5s. boards 6 5 0 To 83 copies on hand, bds. as 79
19 15 0
By sale of 750 copies, as 711, at 4s. 8d, sheets
166 11 0 Balance of profit on “ A Voyage to the Moon"
0 2 0 Half (viz. one shilling) to Mr. Goosequill's credit. In detailing the above items, we are far from insinuating that there is any charge among them which would be considered by the trade either unwarranted or unjust ; we give them simply as evidence of what is considered fair and legitimate profit of a bookseller, when compared with those of the book-maker, upon this principle of publication. If the author takes upon himself the expense of printing his work, and can either afford cash on the nail, or at six months, he will have no difficulty in getting it done upon the following terms :
£. S. d. To Messrs. Cannon, English, and Co., for printing 14 sheets, post 8vo. at 21. per sheet
28 0 Corrections and incidental expenses
5 0 0 To Messrs. Demy and Post, for 21 reams of paper, at 1l. 6s. per ream 27 6 0 25 copies as 24, to various Magazines, Reviews, &c., at 5s. boards
6 0 0 11 ditto to Stationers' Hall, at 5s, boards
2 15 0 Advertising in various periodicals, (not including Messrs. F. Q. O. D. and Co.'s printed lists).
21 0 To 79 copies on hand, boards
19 15 0
£109 16 0 Bookseller's commission, over and above what is called sale price, viz. 4s. 8d. each, 10 per cent.
10 10 0
£120 6 0 Balance of profit to Mr. Goosequill
46 5 0 No great things to be sure; but still better than one shilling, and, very fair, considering that no author ever receives for a seven shilling