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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 accasionally, 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
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 pay 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
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 our readers, as we proceed. To enable us to do this, and