Book Prices - Published Prices
( Originally Published 1898 )
IT was impossible for the scribe (however low his pay might be reduced) to compete with the printing-press, and we have good authority for saying that printed books could be obtained in the fifteenth century for one-fifth of what would have been the cost of the same books in manuscript. Mr. Putnam, in his interesting work on the history of bookselling, quotes from Bishop John of Aleria, who, writing to Pope Paul II. in 1467, said that it was possible to purchase in Rome for 20 gulden in gold works which a few years earlier would have cost not less than 1o0 gulden. Other books selling for 4 gulden would previously have cost 20. Mr. Putnam also quotes Madden, to the effect that iii 1470 a copy of the forty-eight line Bible, printed on parchment, could be bought in Paris for 2000 francs, while the cost of the same text a few years earlier in manuscript would have been 10,000 francs.
It is rather curious to find that the present custom of fixing a published price is comparatively modern, and that the system for which some of our present retail booksellers yearn that is, of buying from the publishers in bulk and retailing at their own price was formerly in common use. In the old catalogues of English books no prices are affixed to the various entries, and the custom of printing the prices of books was not general until the end of the seventeenth century. But after all the booksellers' latitude was not very great, for the law stepped in to limit the price of books.
We might naturally have supposed that the invention of printing would have made a complete break in the mode of selling books, but this was not so. Continuity was preserved, and the company to which the London trade belongs is not called after the printers, but after the older order of stationers. In a "Note of the State of the Company of Printers, Bookesellers, and Bookebynders comprehended under the name of Stacioners," dated '582, we are told that "in the tyme of King Henry the Eighte, there were but fewe Printers, and those of good credit and competent wealth, at whiche tyme and before there was an other sort of men that were writers, lymners of Bookes and diverse thinges for the Church and other uses, called Stacioners, which have, and partly to this daye do use to buy their bookes in grosse of the saide Printers, bynde them up, and sell them in their shops, whereby they well mayntayned their families."
It seems probable that the English booksellers before the introduction of printing experienced little interference in their business from foreign scribes, and therefore the bringing in of printed books from abroad was distasteful to them, What they particularly objected to was the importation of these books bound instead of in sheets.
By "an Act touching the Marchauntes of Italy" (I Ric. III. cap. 9) aliens were prohibited from importing certain goods into this country, but this Act was not to " extend to Importers of Books, or to any writer, limner, binder, or printer."
In Henry VIII,'s reign this importation was found intolerable, and "an Act for Printers and Binders of Books" was passed (25 Hen. VIII. cap. 15). It is stated in the preamble when the provision in the Act of Richard III. was made there were few hooks and few printers in England, but that at this time large numbers of printed books were brought into the country
Whereas, a great number of the King's subjects within this realm having " given themselves diligently to learn and exercise the said craft of Printing, that at this day there be within this realm a great number cunning and expert in the said science or craft of printing, as able to exercise the said craft in all points as any stranger, in any other realm or country, and furthermore where there be a great number of the King's subjects within this realm which [live] by the craft and mystery of binding of _books, . . . well expert in the same," yet " all this notwithstanding, there are divers persons that bring from [beyond] the sea great plenty of printed books not only in the Latin tongue, but also in our maternal English tongue some bound in boards, some in leather, and some in parchment, and them sell by retail, whereby many of the King's subjects, being binders of books, and having none other faculty wherewith to get their living, be destitute of work, and like to be undone, except some reformation herein be had."
Then follow some provisions respecting the sale of books at too high a price.
"And after the same enhancing and increasing of the said prices of the said books and binding shall be so found by the said twelve men or otherwise by the examination of the said lord chancellor, lord treasurer, and justices, or two of them ; that then the same lord chancellor, lord treasurer, and justices, or two of them at the least from time to time shall have a power and authority to reform and redress such enhancing of the prices of printed books by their discretions, and to limit prices as well of the books as for the binding of them ; and over that the offender or offenders thereof being convict by the examination of the same lord chancellor, lord treasurer, and justices, or two of them or otherwise, shall lose and forfeit for every book by them sold whereof the price shall be enhanced for the book or binding thereof; three shillings four pence."
By the first Copyright Act (8 Anne, cap. 21) any person thinking the published price of a hook unreasonable was to complain to the Archbishop of Canterbury or other great dignitaries.
It would have been enlightening if our lawmakers had told us what was in their opinion a reasonable price for a book, but they are silent on this point.
We have unfortunately no information as to the price for which Caxton sold his various books, but he bequeathed fifteen copies of his "Golden Legend" to the churchwardens of St. Margaret, Westminster, who succeeded in selling twelve of them between the years 1496 and 1500. For the first three copies they obtained six shillings and eightpence each, but then they had to reduce the price to five shillings and eightpence, at which price they sold the next seven copies. The last two copies only brought five shillings and sixpence and five shillings respectively, so that evidently there was a falling market.
Mr. Blades makes the following remarks on this point--
" The commercial results of Caxton's trade as a printer are unknown; but as the fees paid at his burial were far above the average, and as he evidently held a respectable position in his parish, we must conclude that his business was profitable. The preservation of the Cost Book of the Ripoli Press has already been noticed, and some extracts of interest translated therefrom. We may presume that Caxton also kept exact accounts of his trade receipts and expenditure, and if such were extant, the many doubts which now surround the operations of his printing-office would be definitely solved. We should then know the price at which he sold his books how many pence he asked for his small quarto 'quayers' of poetry, or his pocket editions of the ' Horae' and 'Psalter' how many shillings were required to purchase the thick folio volumes, such as 'Canterbury Tales,' ' King Arthur,' &c. That the price was not much dearer than that paid for good editions now we may infer from the rate at which fifteen copies of the 'Golden Legend' sold between 1496 and 1500. These realised an average price of 6s. 8d. each, or about 2, 13s. 4d. of modern money, a sum by no means too great for a large illustrated work. This, however, would depend on the number of copies considered necessary for an edition, which probably varied according to the nature of the work. . . . Some foreign printers issued as many as 275 or 300 copies of editions of the Classics, but it is not probable that Caxton ventured upon so large an impression, as the demand for his publications must have been much more restricted."1
It will be noticed that Mr. Blades is wrong in saying that the copies of the "Golden Legend" were sold at an average price of 6s. 8d., and it would probably be more correct to give the equivalent amount in modern money as L4 rather than £2, 13s. 4d., but this is perhaps more a matter of opinion,
Several old priced lists of books have come down to us, and the most interesting of these are the two printed and edited by Mr. F. Madan in the first series of the Collectanea of the Oxford Historical Society, and further annotated by the late Mr. Henry Bradshaw. The first of these is an inventory, with prices of books received in 1483 for sale by John Hunt, stationer of the University of Oxford, from Magister Peter Actor and Johannes de Aquisgrano, to whom he promises to restore the books or pay the price affixed in the list ; and the second is the Day-Book of John Dorne, bookseller in Oxford A.D. 1520. Mr. Bradshaw's valuable annotations (" A Half-Century of Notes ") were printed in fac-simile of his handwriting in 1886, and afterwards included in his " Collected Papers " (1889).
Dome's list is of great value, as showing what was the literature sold at a great university city at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and with the much-needed explanations of Messrs. Madan and Bradshaw, it forms an important addition to our knowledge, but there is not much in it that can be quoted here with advantage. Latin theology forms the bulk of the more important books sold, and next to that Latin classics. English books are few ; among the cheapest items, service-books and ballads, Christmas carols, and almanacs are common. A large proportion of the entries are marked in pence from one penny upwards, but some are in shillings, and the largest amount for one sale of several books was forty-eight shillings.
Bibliogrnphica (vol. i. p. 252) contains "Two References to the English Book-Trade circa r525." The first, which is from the " Interlude of the Four Elements," suggests that a large amount of the output of the English presses at the beginning of the sixteenth century was' made up of ephemeral publications
" Now so it is in our Englyshe tonge,
Some of lore or other matter, not worth a myte."
The next is from the prologue to Robert Copland's "Seven Sorrows that Women have when theyr husbandes be deade," which consists of a conversation between Copland and a customer, "Quidam "
" Quidam. Hast thou a boke of the wydowe Edith,
Copland. How say ye by these, wyll ye bestowe a grote? Quidam. Ye syr so muche ? nay, that I shorowe my cote, A peny I trow is ynough on bokes,
It is not so soone goten, as this worlde lokes."
Much information respecting the prices of books is found in the churchwardens' accounts of the various parishes of the kingdom, and extracts from some of these have been printed in the Gentleman's Magazine and other places. Mr. Thorold Rogers also has given several instances in the various volumes of his great work on "Agriculture and Prices."
Archbishop Cranmer, in his "Articles to be inquired of . . . within the Diocese of Canterbury," A.D. 1548, asks "whether in every case they have provided one book of the whole Bible of the largest volume in English, and the Paraphrases of Erasmus, also in English, upon the Gospels, and set up the same in some convenient place in the church." In 1548 we find that the churchwardens of St. Margaret's, Westminster, paid five shillings for the half part of the Paraphrases of Erasmus, and in 1549 the churchwardens of Wigtoft, Lincolnshire, paid seven shillings for the same book. Archbishop Parker required jewel's " Defence of the Apology " to be placed in parish churches, and in 1570 the churchwardens of Leverton, Lincolnshire, paid four shillings for "half Mr. Juylle's booke, called the Appologie of Ingland,' " and fourpence for the carriage of the same.
From the churchwardens' accounts of the parish of Stratton, county Cornwall, we learn that in 1565 two shillings were "paid for newe songes for the church," and twopence " for a nother lyttell boke." In 1570 twelvepence was "paid to Nicholas Oliver of sent tives for a song of te deum," fourpence was paid "for mendyng of John Judes bybell which he lonyd to the churche when the other was to bynd," and six shillings " for a newe communion book and a psalter in the same." On the other side twelve-pence was received " for two peces of old bookes sold."
The churchwardens of Canterbury parish gave forty-one shillings for a church Bible in 1586, four shillings for a prayer-book in 1598, and three shillings and fourpence for a book of statutes in 1599.
Sir John Evans communicated to the Archaeologia 2 some most interesting extracts from the Private Account Book of Sir William More of Loseley, in Surrey, in the time of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, which contains an inventory of a collection of about one hundred and twenty volumes. This inventory gives us a vivid idea of the contents of a country gentleman's library in the sixteenth century. There are the best chronicles of the time, as Fabyan, Harding, &c., translations of the classics, and some in their original languages, statutes, new books of justices and other legal works, books of physic, dictionaries, &c., and each of the books is marked with a price. The most expensive books vs ; Statuts of Henry theight, xijs ; all the Statuts of Kyng Edward the VI., ijs ; all the Statuts of the Quene, ijs; Chausore, vs. There were four New Testaments, "one in ffrench," xxd, two "in Italion," respectively xxjd and ijs vjd, and one " in lattyn," xijd. The Legenda Aurea was priced iijs iiijd ; Tullye's Officys translated, viijd ; ij bokes conteyning Tully's Philosophy, ijs vjd ; Cezar's Commentary, xvjd; ij bokes of Machevale's works in Italion, iijs iiijd ; Hardyng's Cronycle, ijs vjd ; Utopea, viijd. Of low-priced books we find A lyttle cronicle, id; Lydgates' Proverbs, id; Alexander Barkley's Eclogs, id ; Skelton's Work, iiijd; and Triumph of Petrark, vjd.
In the clays before copyright acts authors and publishers often tried to safeguard their property by obtaining patents. These were sometimes for a particular book, as, for instance, Richard Field, printer, in February 1 592 was granted the sole licence to print " Orlando Furioso translated into English verse by John Harrington." More often, however, patents were granted to printers allowing them the sole privilege of printing certain classes of books. A licence "to imprint all manner of hooks concerning the common laws of this realm " was granted to Richard Tottell ; one for primers and hooks of private prayers to William Seres ; one to print all manner of songs of musick to Thomas Tallis and William Bird ; one for dictionaries generally to H. Binneman ; and one for almanacks and prognostications to James Roberts and Richard Watkins.' Gradually by purchase or inheritance nearly all the monopolies came into the possession of the Stationers' Company. Certain printers, how-ever, made a practice of pirating some of the most popular English privileged books. The Company resisted, and memorialised Lord Burghley in October 1582, with a complaint of the opposition met with in making their search in the printing-house of one "who printed all kinds of books at his pleasure."
The chief leader of these invaders of privilege was John Wolf, a freeman of the Fishmongers' Company. In 1583 the Stationers' Company drew up thirteen heads of the "insolent and contemptuous behaviour of John Wolf, printer, and his confederates," which they presented to the Privy Council. From this indictment it appears that when Wolf was "frendly persuaded to live in order and not print men's privileged copies," he answered that " he would print all their bakes if he lacked work," and added that "it was lawfull for all men to print all lawfull bookes, what commandement soever her Majestie gave to ye contrary." Wolf was no re-specter of persons, and his motto was, " I will live." Being admonished that he " being but one so meane a man should not presume to contrarie her Highnesse Governmente," "Tush," said he, " Luther was but one man, and reformed all the world for religion, and I am that man that must and will reforme the government in this trade!" The Queen appointed a Commission to inquire into the matter, but the Commissioners could make nothing of Wolf and his party. In the end the opposition was bought off ; and on 1st July 1583 Wolf was admitted a free-man of the Stationers' Company by redemption, paying the usual fees of 3S. 4d.'
Andrew Maunsell, a bookseller living in Lothbury, was the first to publish (1595) a catalogue of English books, and this book is a very satisfactory bit of bibliographical work. The compiler only published two parts, the first on theological books, and the second on scientific books. Maunsell proposed the publication of others on more popular branches of literature, but unfortunately he left his work in-complete. In his dedication to Queen Elizabeth he says,
"What great account (most gracious Soueraigne) hath beene made of godly bookes, may euidently appeare by the value set uppon the bookes of curious actes brought to the Apostles feete to be burnt. For if those bookes were valued to two thousand markes, of what estimation shall wee account the bookes whose author is God himselfe . . all the goods upon the earth cannot value them."
It is remarkable how difficult it must have been in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to obtain information respecting new books. There were no public libraries, and the booksellers, according to Maunsell, were not well acquainted with the titles of the books published, and he constantly refers to the scarceness of books issued only a few years before. He writes ;
"And seeing also many singular Bookes, not only of Diuinitie, but of other excellent Arts, after the first impression, so spent and gone, that they lie euen as it were buried in some few Studies. That men desirous of such kind of Bookes, cannot aske for that they neuer heard of, and the Bookeseller cannot shew that he bath not : I have thought good in my poor estate to undertake this most tiresome business, hoping the Lord will send a blessing on my labours taken in my vocation. Thinking it as necessarie for the Bookeseller (considering the number and nature of them) to haue a Catalogue of our English Bookes as the Apothecaire his Dispensatorium or the Schoolmaster his Dictionarie. By means of which my poore trauailes I will draw to your memories Bookes that you could not re-member and shew to the learind such Bookes as they would not thinke were in our owne tongues. . . ."
Besides dedicating his book to Queen Elizabeth, he addresses "the Companie of Stationers, and all other printers and booksellers," to whom he says
" I have in my vocation laboured to do somwhat : my purpose is to shew (in such sort as I can) what we have in print, in our own tongue, a thinge not regarded but of a few. For some soare so hie that they looke not so low, as on their owne countrie writers, and some regard not old Bookes, but aske what news? or new writers?"
To the reverend divines he says;
" The consideration whereof hath moved me (most unworthie and unable of many others) to undertake this trifeling yet most toylesome & troublesome busines, wherby the reader shall haue this help, and he may see at home in his Studie what Bookes are written and how many translated. And though it be imperfect as I know not what first Booke either of Dictionarie or Herball or such like was perfect at the first or second edition, yet he that helpeth me to put in one Booke that I have not scene, I hope I shall shew him ten that he never heard of either new or old."
The second part of Maunsell's catalogue was dedicated to Robert, Earl of Essex, and the scarceness of books not twenty or forty years old is again referred to in it--
"Seeing still many excellent Bookes written and printed in our owne tongue, and that many of them after twenty or fortie yeares Printing are so dispersed out of Bookesellers hands, that they are not onely scarce to be found but almost quite forgotten, I have thought it worth my poore labour, to take some paynes heerin though that the more learnd sort would not willingly imploy their labour in the same) to gather a Cathalogue in suche sort as I can of the Bookes printed in our tongue which I doe hope will be delight-some to all English men that be learnt or desirous of learning."
The next bibliography of new English books was William London's "Catalogue of the most vendible Books," 1658, to which two small supplements were published, bringing the list of publications down to 1660, R. Clavel was the next to publish a catalogue of new books, and the period covered by him was from 1666 to 1695. To none of these books are prices attached, but some of the books in Clavel's supplement are priced ; and in the monthly catalogue commenced by Bernard Lintott in May 1714, all the books are priced.
Bent's General Catalogue of Books, issued in 1786, contained the titles of books published since 1700, and this was succeeded by the London Catalogue, which appeared for several years. The British and English catalogues followed, and the latter is published annually.
In order to obtain some idea of the varying prices at which books have been published, it will be well to enumerate a few at different periods, arranged under, the different sizes of books.
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, gave seven shillings in 1621 for Bacon's work on Henry VII., and in 1624 13, 6s. 8d. for four volumes of "Purchas's Pilgrims." The published price of the first edition of Shakespeare's PIays is said to have been £1.
John Ogilby, who was one of the first projectors of grand illustrated books in large folio, found himself burthened with a heavy stock of expensive books which did not sell, so he hit upon the expedient of getting rid of them by means of a lottery, licensed by the Duke of York and the Assistants of the Corporation of the Royal Fishery. These books were an illustrated Bible, printed by John Field at Cambridge in 1660, two volumes folio ; the "Works of Virgil," translated by Ogilby, 1654; Homer's " I liads," translated by Ogilby, 1660 ; Homer's "Odysseys," 1665. Pope frequently spoke in later life of the great pleasure Ogilby's " Homer " gave him when a boy at school. " AEsop's Fables paraphrased by Ogilby," 1665; and Ogilby's " Entertainment of Charles II. in his Passage through the City of London to his Coronation," 1662—a splendid book, which is said to have proved of great service in succeeding coronations.
It is worthy of note that Samuel Pepys was a subscriber to the lottery, and obtained the " AEsop" and the "Coronation," which cost him £14 (Feb. 19, 1665-66).
Ogilby issued a Proposal for a second lottery, which was reprinted in the Gentleman's Magazine (1814, part i, pp. 646-48).1 This is valuable as containing the prices at which the books are valued, viz.
In 1689 St. John's College, Cambridge, gave £10, 15s. for David Loggan's Cantabrigia illustrata, 1688, but this probably included a present to the author ; for in 1690 Eton College paid L4. for Cantabrigia illustrata and Oxonia illustrata, 1675, two volumes together, so that we may suppose the published price of each to be £2.
The Rev. John Flavel's Works, in two volumes folio, was published in 1700 for forty shillings, which shows that the price of an illustrated volume in folio was still about £1.
Colin Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus, a handsome work containing a large number of fine architectural plates, was published at a very reasonable price. The first and second volumes, published in 1715 and 1717 respectively, were sold for four guineas on imperial paper, and three guineas on royal paper.
The price of Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, two volumes folio, was in 1755 four guineas in sheets, and £4, 15s. in boards.
Folios are so completely out of fashion now, except for gorgeously illustrated books, or for facsimiles of books and documents, that it is scarcely worth while to carry the inquiry to a later period.
The small quarto volumes of the seventeenth century were by no means high priced, and we learn that three shillings bought Milton's " Paradise Lost" when first published. The price of the early editions of the separate plays of the Elizabethan dramatists, which now are so much sought after, was sixpence. This we learn from the address prefixed to the early issue of "Troilus and Cressida," 1609, published before that play was acted--
" Amongst all these is none more witty than this ; and had I time, I would comment upon it, though I know it needs not for so much as will make you think your testern well bestowed, but for so much worth as even poor I know to be stuffed in it."
The poets had a profitable time when their poems, handsomely printed in quarto volumes, were priced so high as two guineas. Sir Walter Scott made great sums by these editions which sold in large numbers, but no other poet was so fortunate as he was. Moore did well with his poems, and in his Diary (Dec. 23, 1818) he records an amusing instance of the practical appreciation of an admirer. He writes
"The young Bristol lady who enclosed me L3 after reading ' Lalla Rookh ' had very laudable ideas on the subject; and if every reader of 'Lalla Rookh' had done the same, I need never have written again."
Wordsworth's Excursion " was published in 1814, in a two guinea quarto volume, but it took six years to exhaust an edition of five hundred copies. Such are the inequalities in the rate of the remuneration of authors.
Rees's "Cyclopedia," which was published between 1802 and 1820 (in forty-five volumes and six volumes of plates), cost in all 185. The " Encyclopaedia Britannica," which has superseded it, is published at the small price of twenty-eight shillings per volume.
In the early part of this century, when it was the fashion to print standard works in quarto, they were very high priced, thus the first edition of " Pepys's Diary" was published in two volumes for six guineas. Now the quarto is almost as much out of date as the folio, and is confined to illustrated books.
The ordinary octavo volume was published at the beginning of the eighteenth century for five or six shillings. Thus Boyer's translation of "The ingenious and entertaining Memoirs of Count Gramont, who lived in the court of King Charles I I., and was afterwards Ambassador from the King of France to King James II.," 1714, was published at five shillings, and George Psalmanazar's " Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa" at six shillings. Since then the price for an octavo has gradually increased to seven shillings and six-pence, then to ten shillings and sixpence. In the latter half of the present century there has been a considerable advance to twelve shillings, to sixteen and eighteen shillings, and now fully illustrated books are often priced as high as one guinea a volume. Plays, trials, and pamphlets generally have averaged about one shilling apiece.
Walton's "Complete Angler," first published in 1653, was issued at one shilling and sixpence, as appears from the following contemporary advertisement, quoted by Hone in his " Every-Day Book"
"There is published a Booke of Eighteen-pence price, called 'The Compleat Angler ; or, The Contemplative Man's Recreation,' being a Discourse of Fish and Fishing. Not unworthy the perusall. Sold by Richard Marriot at S. Dunstan's Church-yard, Fleet Street."
In 1663 Pepys bought the first part of Butler's "Hudibras" for two shillings and sixpence, and sold it again for one shilling and sixpence. The Master of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, gave at the same time one shilling for the first part and the same sum for the second part, hut later on he gave half-a-crown for the latter.
"The Yorks of the celebrated Mons. de Molière, translated from the last edition printed at Paris, containing his life, all his comedies, interludes, &c., with a large account of his life and remarkable death, who, as he was acting the part of Death in one of his own plays, was taken ill and died a few hours after. . . ." This was printed in six volumes 12mo, "on a fine paper and Elzevir letter," and published by B. Lintott for fifteen shillings (or two shillings and sixpence a volume) in May 1714.
Torn D'Urfey sold his "Wit and Mirth ; or, Pills to purge Melancholy," at two shillings and sixpence a volume.
Duodecimos have now gone out of fashion, at least in name, as small books are mostly known as post octavos, foolscap octavos, &c. The price of these small handy volumes remains much the same, as the half-crown of the last century is the equivalent of our five or six shillings.
The greatest change in price has been made in poetry and novels, and six shillings has become a favourite price for both. The two guineas for the poem, and the guinea and a half for the three-volume novel, are become things of the past.
Although in the last century many books were published and sold which could not he sold at the present time, it is probable that some of these books paid the publisher but badly, and it was therefore found to be a wise precaution to publish certain books by subscription, and this plan was therefore frequently adopted.
Dr. Brian Walton's Polyglot Bible (six vols. folio, 1657, £10) is often said to be the first book printed by subscription in England ; but Minsheu's Dictionary, in eleven Ianguages, 1617, was certainly sold by the author to subscribers. The number of these subscribers was 174, among whom arc six—viz., Sir John Laurence, Dr. Aileworth, Mr. Paul Peart, Mr. Brigges, Sir Henry Spelman, and Mr. Booth who largely assisted the author with money to complete his great undertaking.
"The Monthly Catalogue" of new books commenced by Bernard Lintott in May 1714 frequently contained lists of the books printed by subscription. In the number for January 1714—15 the terms of subscription to the worst edition of Chaucer's works ever published are announced
"Whereas John Urry, Student of Christ-Church, Oxon, has obtained from her late Majesty, Queen Anne, a Licence for Printing the Works of the celebrated Jeffrey Chaucer, corrected from all the printed editions, and from several rare and ancient MSS. not hitherto consulted : from the collating of which he has restored many single lines and added several Tales never yet printed, by which alterations, amendments, and additions, the work is in a manner be-come new. Thirty copper plates by the best gravers will be printed before each tale ; a more compleat Glossary and Table will be added at the end. A small number will be printed on Royal Paper at sos. per book, and those on the finest demy at 30S. Half to be paid in hand. Subscriptions are taken in by the Undertaker, Bernard Lintott between the Temple Gates, and by most Booksellers in London and the country. N. B.—A new Black Letter, accented, has been cast on purpose for this work, for the ease of the Reader."
Dryden made very good terms with Tonson for the publication of his translation of Virgil, but Pope was still more successful with the subscription to his translation of Homer's " Iliad." The subscription for six quarto volumes was fixed at six guineas, and 575 persons subscribed for 654 copies. The booksellers eagerly made their offers of publication, and the highest bidder was B. Lintott, who agreed to supply all the subscription copies at his own expense, and to pay £200 for every volume. Pope therefore received altogether -5320 without any deduction.
Lintott engaged not to print any quartos except for Pope, but he printed the quarto pages on small folio, and sold each volume for half-a-guinea. These being cut down by some dishonest traders, were sold as subscription copies.
Lintott was defrauded of his profit by the sale of a duodecimo edition, printed in Holland, which obliged him to print an edition in a similar form. Of Lintott's first duodecimo edition 2500 copies were quickly sold off. Five thousand further copies were at once printed.
Some of Hearne's antiquarian works were subscribed at ten shillings and sixpence per volume for small paper, and one guinea for large paper.
It seems to have been the practice for the subscriber to a hook-to pay down half the purchase-money on sending in his name, and the other half on publication.
Another expedient for the rapid sale of books was their issue in numbers. Smollett's "History of England" was published in sixpenny numbers, and had an immediate sale of 20,000 copies. This immense success is said to have been due to an artifice practised by the publisher. He sent down a packet of prospectuses carriage free (with half-a-crown enclosed) to every parish clerk in the kingdom, to be distributed by him through the pews of the church. This being generally carried out, a valuable advertisement was obtained, which resulted in an extensive demand for the work.
Books are published at an equal price, according to size, whether they are good or bad, but they find their level in the catalogues of the second-hand booksellers. The bad soon become waste-paper, or are marked down to very low prices, while the good books increase in price till they come in some cases to be marked more than the original published price.
Sometimes when books are printed in limited numbers the public will give more than the published price even before publication ; thus the large paper edition of the " Life of the Queen," by Mr. R. R. Holmes, was subscribed at L 8, and the right of receiving a copy when ready is said to have been sold for from .t 20 to f 25.
Publishers occasionally reduce the price of a book after publication, but this is seldom a successful operation. The selling-off of remainders has been the means of distributing books to the public at a low rate, and it will often be found that some of the scarcest and highest priced hooks in the present day are those which have been sold-off. These were good books, which sold too slowly, but which went off quickly when the price was low. When the stock is exhausted, and more are required, the price naturally goes up.
A most remarkable instance of this increase in price of a sold-off book is that of Edward Fitzgerald's wonderful version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the first edition of which was published by Quaritch in 1859. Though the number printed was few, nobody bought, and eight years afterwards the publisher, in disgust, threw the whole remainder into a box outside his door, and marked all these one penny each. It is said that Dante Rossetti found them there, and soon the remainder was exhausted. Now this penny book is worth six guineas.'
This was quite true when written a few months ago, but on the loth February 1898 a copy with the original wrappers was sold at Sotheby's salerooms for £21. It was bought by Mr. Quaritch, the original publisher.