Monday, 4 April 2011

On Publishers

From a letter written on February 14th, 1634, from one antiquarian (the English Sir Henry Spelman) to another (the Danish Ole Worm):

"As for the second part of the Archæologia [Glossary], which the Danish ambassador Rosencrantz drove to my house to inquire about, it cleaves to the shelves, a prey to the moths and worms, and I have not bestowed so much as a thought or an effort on the printing of it. The fact is, our printers and booksellers are a bad lot. Through their devices the first part, which was printed at my own expense, has been a wreck and a failure, as far as I am concerned."

"From the above letter," comments the author in whose book I read this, writing in 1880, "we see that the booksellers of the days when Charles the First was king enjoyed quite as evil a report among authors as they do now."

Worm sympathised with Spelman, and replied: "In Belgium I have no doubt you will meet with more willing publishers than in England, where they seem to be pretty nearly as slow-paced as here in Denmark, and fonder of books that are likely to be popular and profitable to themselves than of what is rare and useful".

A perennial problem.

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