BLTC Press Titles

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The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

A history of booksellers, the old and the new

by Henry Curwen



3J331IST0RY" has been aptly termed the few Sj " essence of innumerable biographies ;" and H this surely justifies us in the selection of our title ; but in inditing a volume to be issued in a cheap and popular form, it was manifestly impossible to trace the careers of all the eminent members, ancient and modern, of a Trade so widely extended ; had we, indeed, possessed all possible leisure for research, every available material, and a space thoroughly unlimited, it is most probable that the result would h^ve been distinguished chiefly for its bulk, tediousness, and monotony. It was resolved, therefore, in the first planning of the volume, to primarily trace the origin and growth of the Bookselling and Publishing Trades up to a comparatively modern period ; and then to select, for fuller treatment, the most typical English representatives of each one of the various branches into which a natural division of labour had subdivided the whole. And, by this plan, it is believed that, while some firms at present growing into eminence may have been omitted, or have received but scant acknowledgment,

no one Publisher or Bookseller, whose spirit and labours have as yet had time to justify a claim to a niche in the "h1story Of Booksellers," has been altogether passed over. In the course of our " HISTORY," too, we have been necessarily concerned with the manner of the " equipping and furnishing" of nearly every great work in our literature. So that, while on the one hand we have related the lives of a body of men singularly thrifty, able, industrious, and persevering—in some few cases singularly venturesome, liberal, and kindly-hearted—we have on the other, by our comparative view, tried to throw a fresh, at all events a concentrated, light upon the interesting story of literary struggle.

No work of the kind has ever previously been attempted, and this fact must be an apology for some, at least, of our shortcomings.

H. C.

November, 1873.


T ONG ages before the European invention of the art ofprinting, long even before the encroaching masses of Huns and Visigoths rolled the wave of civilization backward for a thousand years, the honourable trades, of which we aim to be in some degree the chroniclers, had their representatives and their patrons. Without going back to the libraries of Egypt—a subject fertile enough in the pages of mythical history—or to the manuscript-engrossers and sellers of Ancient Greece— though by their labours much of the world's best poetry, philosophy, and wit was garnered for a dozen centuries, like wheat ears in a mummy's tomb, to be scattered to the four winds of heaven, when the Mahometans seized upon Constantinople, thenceforth to fructify afresh, and, in connection with the art of printing, as if the old world and the new clasped hands upon promise of a better time, to be mainly instrumental in the " revival of letters"—it will be sufficient for our present purpose to know that there were in Rome, at the time of the Empire, many publishing firms, who, if they could not altogether rival the magnates of Albemarle Street and the " Row," issued books at least as good, and, paradoxical as it may seem, at least as cheaply as their modern brethren.

To the sauntering Roman of the Augustan age literature was an essential; never, probably, till quite modern times was education—the education, at all events, that suppliesa capabilityto readandwrite—so widely spread. The taste thus created was gratified in many ways. If the Romans had no Mudie, they possessed public libraries, thrown freely open to all. They had public recitations, at which unpublished and ambitious writers could find an audience ; over which, too, sometimes great emperors presided, while poets, with a worldwide reputation, read aloud their favourite verses. They had newspapers, the subject-matter of which was wonderfully like our own. The principal journal, entitled Acta Diurna, was compiled under the sanction of the government, and hung up in some place of frequent resort for the benefit of the multitude, and was probably copied for the private accommodation of the wealthy. All public events of importance were chronicled here; the reporters, termed actuarii, furnished abstracts of the proceedings in the law courts and at public assemblies; there was a list of births, deaths, and marriages; and we are informed that the one article of news in which the Acta Diurna particularly abounded was that of reports of trials for divorce. Juvenal tells us that the women were all agog for deluges, earthquakes, and other horrors, and that the wine-merchants and traders used to invent false news in order to affect their various markets. But, in addition to all these means for gratifying the Roman taste for reading, every respectable house possessed a library, and among the better classes the slave-readers {anagnostce) and the slave-transcribers (librarii) were almost as indispensable as cooks and scullions. At first we find that these slaves were employed in making copies of celebrated books for their masters ; but gradually the natural division of labour produced a separate class of publishers. Atticus, the Moxon of the period, and an author of similar calibre, saw an opening for his energies in the production of copies of favourite authors upon a large scale. He employed a number of slaves to copy from dictation simultaneously, and was thus able to multiply books as quickly as they were demanded. His success speedily finding imitators, among whom were Tryphon and Dorus, publishing became a recognized trade. The public they appealed to was not a small one. Martial, Ovid, and Propertius speak of their works as being known all the world over; that young and oW, women and girls, in Rome and in the provinces, in Britain and in Gaul, read their verses. " Every one," says Martial, " has me in his pocket, every oi\c has me in his hands."

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