Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Problem with Publishers-

We put a very amusing Ben Franklin item up for auction on Ebay last night, which is worth quoting from. The booklet is titled "A Letter from Benjamin Franklin, Passy, April 21, 1785, to Benjamin Vaughan, containing some observations on the prodigal practices of publishers". It was published in Princeton by the Friends of the Princeton Library in 1949. This is a facsimile of Franklin’s famous letter denouncing the practices of English publishers, together with a line-by-line transcription, and introductory remarks by Carl Van Doren and Julien P. Boyd. Franklin begins by writing of the controversy over cheap Irish goods in the English marketplace, and eventually gets around to books-

"If Books can be had much cheaper from Ireland, (which I believe for I bought Blackstone there for 24s when it was sold in England at 4 Guineas) is not this an Advantage, not to English Booksellers indeed, but to English Readers and Learning? And of all the Complainants perhaps these Booksellers are least worthy of Consideration. The Catalogue you last sent me amazes me by the high Prices, (said to be the lowest) affix’d to every Article. And one can scarce see a new Book, without observing the excessive Artifices made use of to puff up a Paper of Verses into a Pamphlet, a Pamphlet into an Octavo Volume, and an Octavo into a Quarto, with Scab-boardings, white Lines, sparse Titles of Chapters, & exorbitant Margins, to such a degree, that the Selling of Paper seems now the Object, and Printing on it only a Pretence".

For more information click the "Our Ebay Auctions" link in the right-hand column.

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