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Robert L. McLaughlin
Department of English
Illinois State University
Normal, Illinois 61790-4240

Oppositional Aesthetics/Oppositional Ideologies:
A Brief Cultural History of
Alternative Publishing in the U.S.

"I do not believe that any good book ever went unpublished."
Richard Snyder, Chairman, Paramount Publishing, Feb. 1994
(qtd. in Jones 64)

One positive side effect to the political and Christian right's Culture Wars and periodic attacks on the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts is that they make explicit what is usually repressed in our society: the triangular interrelation of ideology, art, and the production/distribution of art.  See what the griping of one Op-Ed columnist can reveal:"If welfare is going to be abolished for the poor, then it should certainly be abolished for the affluentand especially for the ungrateful and spoiled-brat affluent intelligentsia, who see their roles as insulting the public that pays them and trashing the society that protects their freedom" (Sowell).  The assumptions here are as common as they are stupid: artists have a duty to support the beliefs, values, and standards of the social status quo; those paying for the production of art have a right to control that art's purpose, meaning, and effects.  Variations of these assumptions in one form or another have been at work throughout the history of literary publishing in the United States.  Those of us in literary studies have tended to be less aware of all this than we should.  We have spent a great deal of time studying authors and a great deal of time theorizing about the reader, but we have generally ignored the cultural mechanisms by which texts move from authors to readers.  The publishing industry has always had economic and cultural agendas and a sense of its societal function generally at odds with those of serious authors.  The result is that, despite some notable exceptions, the commercial publishing industry has for over 200 years privileged profit over art and has served literature well only when it could do so while making money.

The purpose of this study is not to attack commercial publishers for pursuing profits.  As Ronald Sukenick says, "Why be scandalized when corporations behave like corporations?" (400).  Rather, the purpose is to examine in broad strokes the history of publishing in this country and to discover the consequences of the commercial publishers' pursuit of commerce over culture.  These consequences, I will argue, are threefold.  First, commercial publishers, in abrogating their cultural responsibilities, have simultaneously ignored or suppressed most of the major experimental literary movements and their authors of the last 250 years.  Second, there is a tradition in the U.S., as old as commercial publishing, of alternative publishing, created and maintained by individuals and groups who sought to redress the failures of the commercial publishing industry by making available the works of  avant-garde authors and supporting and promoting their movements.  Third, these alternative publishers, in pursuing their aesthetic missions, self-consciously critique the ideology through which commercial publishing functions.

Issues of commerce versus culture that recur throughout the history of publishing in this country are better understood when we realize that the origin of literary publishing was a business contract.  The publishing industry was born when, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, primarily in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, printers (who often also ran bookstores) began looking for a little extra business for themselves.  They would offer to print an author's book like any other job; after the printing was done, the author owned the copyright and also had  responsibility for carting the copies away and trying to sell them.  As one history explains:

Frequently, the writer who got no editorial help and probably would have spurned it if it had been offeredbought the paper to be used and was intimately involved with all stages of production, including printing, binding, distribution, and sales.  A bookseller-publisher such as Charles Wiley often concerned himself with a book's welfare only so long as his own funds were tied up in the project.  Once he had recovered his personal costs (andit was hopedrealized some profit as well), he might simply hand over the remaining copies to the author who was free to dispose of them as best he could.  In short, the publication of a book was viewed more or less as a printing job, with bookseller Wiley willing to provide some expertise and invest time, money, and effort into production and distribution . . . but only to a limited extent, with those limits decreed by his own financial involvement. (Wiley 19)

This arrangement became more complex when printers-booksellers realized that publishing books could sometimes be extremely profitable:1

[Washington] Irving and [James Fenimore] Cooper, the first professional writers, having discovered that they could make money by writing, financed their own publications and took all the profit, employing the publisher merely as a printer and wholesale distributor.  In effect, then, these and others were paying royalties to publishers, rather than the reverse. (Tebbel 1: 210)


Thus began a strange set of negotiations wherein publishers tried to gain for themselves a large share of the profits of a book with strong sales while protecting themselves from losses on a book with poor sales.  The result was the same basic royalty system we have today: the publisher pays for manufacturing the book and is responsible for distributing and selling it, and it pays the author a percentage of each sale.  With books that sell many copies, everyone makes money and everyone is happy.  With books that sell few copies, the publisher loses its investment and the author reaps no reward for his or her work.  In essence, authors can earn a living at writing only if they write popular books.  Unsurprisingly, nineteenth-century publishers offered these kinds of  deals only to those authors who were most likely to produce best-sellers, American authors like Cooper and Irving, and (if the publisher was scrupulous) to the most popular British authors.  Well past 1850 most American authors were expected to contribute to the cost of publication and to receive payments only after their books had made a profit (Madison 29) or, in some cases, to sell their copyright to the publisher for a one-time payment (Tebbel 1: 210).

Another way for publishers to lower their costs and increase their potential profits was to avoid paying royalties.  Many publishers brought out editions of older"classics," like the plays of Shakespeare or the poetry of Chaucer, with the reasoning that financial arrangements with living authors were too costly and bothersome.  More significant, most American publishers flourished through the practice of literary piracy.  In the nineteenth century the U.S. did not have an international copyright law.  Thus American authors' books were unprotected in other countries, and American publishers were free to publish books from other countries, especially books by popular British authors, without paying their authors or publishers.  It is no exaggeration to say that piracy turned American publishing into an industry.  Publishers competed to be the first to obtain the advance sheets of the latest novel by Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, or other popular writers, and the first to get it into print.  Their objective was to distribute the novels as widely as possible and to sell as many copies as they could in the first few days after publication, because inevitably other American publishers would bring out competing editions pirated from the first.  Some publishers, Wiley and Putnam and Ticknor and Fields, for example, made at least token payments to the British authors whose books they printed, but most were far less scrupulous.  By 1830, Harper & Brothers, the most merciless literary pirate, had become the largest publisher in America (Madison 22).

The two piracy wars of the nineteenth century made significant impacts on the relationships between publishers and authors.  The 1840s piracy war began when weekly newsprint tabloids, most notably Brother Jonathan and New World, pirated the serialized versions of British novels, sending them through the mail at a low newspaper rate.  When the serial was finished, they would publish the complete novel, unbound and on cheap paper.  The established publishers responded with lower prices for their novels and increased competition to be the first to bring out popular British novels.  Indeed, the competition became so intense that"Publishers sent swift boats out to meet the ships bringing the latest novels from overseas and had books printed on board" (Coser, Kadushin, and Powell 20).  So many versions of the same book on the market ensured that no publisher made a profit, and the established publishers were better prepared to suffer losses than the tabloids.  The tabloids finally went under and the first piracy war ended in 1845 when the U.S. Post Office ruled that the tabloids could no longer be mailed at the newspaper rate (Madison 25).  But as a result of the war, the established publishers agreed on an informal cartel arrangement, called courtesy of the trade, to limit competition.  Courtesy of the trade had three main rules: the first publisher to announce an agreement with a British author or publisher for the advance sheets of a book would have exclusive rights to publish that book in the U.S.; publishers had first claim to new books by British and American authors they had previously published; and, since many publishers had their own literary magazines (Harper's Monthly, Atlantic Monthly, Scribner's Monthly, etc.) the publisher contracting to publish a book had first refusal on its magazine publication (One Hundred and Fifty Years 38; Madison 26; Sheehan 43).  Courtesy of the trade was generally good for publishers, who now stood a better chance to make money with their"authorized" edition of a popular book and who were now spared potentially costly bidding wars for books and authors.  It was also generally good for British authors, who now stood a better chance of being paid for the American publication of their books.  It was less beneficial for American authors, who, lacking an international copyright law, were still unprotected in Great Britain and who were still potentially less profitable for publishers than popular British authors.2


The second piracy war erupted in the 1870s when some upstart publishers, most famously John W. Lovell and George P. Munro, adapted the dime-novel manufacturing practicesprinting large numbers of books cheaply on wood-pulp paper to popular literary works not protected by copyright.  These new publishers argued that courtesy of the trade was created to maintain the publishing-industry status quo; the large houses, having established themselves by piracy, now disclaimed it to discourage competition.  The established publishers responded as they had 30 years earlier: they flooded the market with their own editions, driving down prices and eliminating profits for anyone.  By 1893 the last of these new publishers was bankrupt (Madison 55-56).  Also hurt, as usual, were American authors whose higher priced, copyright-protected books could not compete with the cheap reprints (Madison 52-53).  This second piracy war resulted in the majority of U.S. publishers finally admitting the necessity of an international copyright law, something American authors had sought for years.  The powerful Harper & Brothers, naturally, opposed such a law, arguing with blatant hypocrisy that"it would add to the price of books, and thus interfere with the education of the people" (qtd. in Madison 58).  They agreed to support the proposed law only after it had been amended with the so-called manufacturing clause: a foreign author's work would be protected in the U.S. only if it were published and manufactured in the U.S. within three months of its original publication (Madison 58).  Thus in 1891, when Congress passed an international copyright law protecting the  work of foreign authors whose countries extended protection to American authors, many argued that the manufacturing clause in fact made it a law protecting publishers.

Throughout the nineteenth century, then, American publishing practices were clearly driven by economic circumstances.  This is not to say that no publisher ever published a book for any reason beyond profit; indeed, some publishers were eccentric enough or enough aware of their social responsibility as cultural gatekeepers to ensure that some books were published for the sake of their quality, not their profitability.  For example, John Wiley, suspicious of the money-losing potential of serious literature, in the latter half of the century published little but"scientific textbooks and works on practical subjects" yet published the works of John Ruskin for over 40 years (Wiley 70-80).  Still, one historian's evaluation of publisher Frank H. Dodd could well be applied to most others: "At least in theory he maintained that a publisher should bring out some books each year for the prestige of his house.  If he did not often act on this belief, he never leaned over in the direction of issuing questionable books for profit's sake" (Madison 88-89).

On the bright side, these publishing practices made available a great deal of serious literature and thus developed large audiences of readers.  On the less bright side, significantly less American literature than British literature was made available.  As we have seen, for many reasons, books by American authors were less likely to bring profit to their publishers, and so American authors had fewer opportunities and their work received less attention.3  The desire among some authors and intellectuals to promote American literature and American culture against the reams of literature by British authors became the first alternative publishing movement.

This movement is not typical of other, later movements in that it is a movement of authors more than of publishers.  But it does serve as a model for subsequent alternative publishing movements in that it was a self-conscious rebellion based in intertwined aesthetic and economic concerns.  Throughout much of the nineteenth century, the American intelligentsia wrestled with the problem of what it means to be American, of what was unique about the American identity.  Many, especially the literary circles that centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord and around Evert and George Duyckinck in New York, argued that the American identity had to be forged through American art.  Thus American art should not be based on or have ties to European models.  Rather, America needed to discover, nourish, and develop new, uniquely American aesthetics, forms, themes, and ideas.  As Herman Melville wrote in"Hawthorne and His Mosses,""It is for the nation's sake, and not for her authors' sake, that I would have America be heedful of the increasing greatness among her writers. . . .  Let us away with this leaven of literary flunkeyism toward England" (qtd. in Matthiessen 191).  And this last, of course, was the problem.  As we have seen, everything about the economics of American publishing until the end of the nineteenth century discouraged the publication, promotion, and distribution of American literature and encouraged the publication, promotion, and distribution of British literature, which thereby dominated the cultural scene.  Thus began a pattern of alternative publishing, in this case, self-publishing, arising out of a desire to pursue an aesthetic agenda at odds with that of the major American commercial publishers and to protest the economic circumstances under which the commercial publishers operated.  Looking back, we can easily see the significance of this rebellion; one historian sums up,"most of the nineteenth-century writers whom we now think of as important to the development of American literature published their own works" (Denison 193).  We can distinguish between the writers in the early part of the century, writers like Irving, Cooper, Hawthorne, and Poe, who were self-published at a time when almost all authors were self-published in the sense that they paid the costs of publication, and writers later in the century who were self-published because of lack of support from or in protest against the commercial publishing industry.  Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Henry David Thoreau's Walden, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, all of the work of the last half of Herman Melville's career, and Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, among other books, books that were seminal in defining the ideas of American art and the American character, were self-published.4


This self-publishing movement reveals that while commercial publishers' aesthetic decisions about what literary texts to publish tend to be dictated by economic circumstances, they also contain cultural and moral judgments that imply basic ideological positions.  Until after the turn of the century, most American publishers were located in the Northeast and were run by white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant men from fairly privileged economic backgrounds.  They thus ran their businesses from a homogeneous worldview: they generally agreed on matters of morality, familiarity, and appropriateness in the books they published; and when they were"overcautious about bringing out books of a controversial nature" (Madison 45), they agreed on the nature of the controversial.  Consequently, many books and authors were rejected due to interwoven economic and worldview considerations.  The second Charles Scribner refused"to publish anything implying moral or religious dissidence" (Madison 94).  On such grounds he rejected books by Gertrude Atherton, Hamlin Garland, Harold Frederic, Stephen Crane, and George Moore.  John Wiley published his minister's sermons but"was distressed by Melville's portrayal of Christian missionaries in Polynesia and in 1846 refused to publish Omoo" (Wiley 50).  There seems to have been a pattern of publishers being suspicious of any books that in form or content veered too far outside the bounds of their worldviews.  Authors who experimented aesthetically or challenged the social status quo were judged immoral, radical, or economically unsound and so were rejected.  As a result an atmosphere developed in which ground-breaking work was ignored and, as historian William Charvat argues, publishers encouraged"writers to cater to [the public] taste, and to behave like the producers of a commodity" (qtd. in Madison 45).

In response to these concerns a second alternative publishing movement developed in the 1890s.  Sometimes called the fine presses, sometimes called the revival of printing, this movement's twofold purpose was to make available the kinds of ground-breaking and controversial authors the commercial publishing industry was rejecting and to return the book itself to the status of artwork.  Unlike the self-publishing movement earlier in the century, this was a movement of publishers who shared the same aesthetic ideals: Copeland and Day, Lamson, Wolffe & Co., and Small, Maynard & Co. of Boston; Stone and Kimball (later Herbert S. Stone & Co.) and Way and Williams of Chicago; and R. H. Russell of New York.  These were the first of what I would call noncommercial American publishers.  While they were commercial in that they operated as businesses, much like their larger competitors, they were noncommercial in their philosophies in that they were dedicated to publishing superior literature in a superior manner because the books deserved to be published and readers deserved to have the chance to read them, not because they sought a profit.  Of  Stone and Kimball, historian John Tebbel writes,"There were richer and more long-lived publishing house in Chicago . . . but none so unusual or so distinguished for the sheer quality of its list" (2: 430).  And he writes that Copeland and Day demonstrated"how bookmen whose minds were not on the countinghouse and who could not hope for commercial success nevertheless were able to make a lasting impression on American cultural life" (2: 402).

These presses provided a home for books from the European avant-garde, especially the British Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic movements, and the harsher edges of the European and American realism movements.  Among their European authors were Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Max Beerbohm, Maurice Maeterlinck, H. G. Wells, Paul Verlaine, George Bernard Shaw, George Moore, and W. B. Yeats.  They also published two of the more controversial American books of the time, Hamlin Garland's Main-Travelled Roads and Harold Frederic's The Damnation of Theron Ware, after both had been repeatedly rejected by commercial publishers.  These presses also self-consciously rejected the commercial-publishing notion of book as commercial product.  Again influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, they celebrated the book as work of art, emphasizing its design, quality of paper, and binding:"They were men who loved the physical appearance of books and knew how to apply the decorative arts to their uses" (Tebbel 2: 403).  Unfortunately, as if testifying to the hostility of the commercial marketplace to such aesthetic and cultural idealism, none of these presses survived into the twentieth century. 


The economic forces affecting the publication of serious literature in the first half of the twentieth century were much like those in the nineteenth century, only more intense.  The need to sell more numbers of books to make money and the concomitant need to develop new markets for books, combined with the established publishers' constricted worldview, a constriction enhanced by censorship scares, left less and less room on the publishing scene for serious literature, especially serious literature by unestablished authors, aesthetically experimental literature, or socially radical literature.  As the costs of producing books steadily grew over time, so did the number of copies of each book that needed to be sold in order for the publisher to make a profit.  In the 1880s the break-even point was approximately 1,000 copies.  By 1914, it was 1,500 copies.  By 1940 it was 2,500 copies.  Immediately after World War II, when costs soared, it was 4,000 to 8,000 copies.  And by 1952, publishers needed to sell between 5,000 and 10,000 copies of a book before they could hope to make a profit on it (Sheehan 29; One Hundred and Fifty Years 105-06).  As a result, publishers felt more and more pressure to bring out best-sellers and had less and less reason to support the well-written but potentially unpopular book.  As Alfred McIntyre said of his firm, Little, Brown,"We thrive on best-sellers and languish without them" (One Hundred and Fifty Years 98).  The established publishers pursued a variety of strategies to increase the reading audience and to create new markets for their books.  Bobbs-Merrill of Indianapolis had some success with newspaper advertising (Madison 259).  Edward Bernays of Horace Liveright was a master of the public-relations stunt.  Nelson Doubleday stressed selling older books and periodicals at a discount over selling newer, more expensive books.  Simon and Schuster supported its serious books with books designed to be best-sellers: crossword puzzle books, the Ripley's Believe It or Not series, and commissioned nonfiction books promising"an easy shortcut to knowledge and sophistication" (Madison 349).  The Book-of-the-Month Club and its progeny brought attention to books and delivered them to parts of the country where bookstores were scarce.  All of these initiatives helped to increase the numbers of books sold, but Alfred McIntyre's opinion of the book clubs seems to apply to all the rest: they "served to favor the popular books at the expense of all other publications" (Madison 250).

Despite a number of new publishers being established, the industry was still dominated by the old Northeast firms, which tended to be family owned and dominated by one or two strong personalities.  And these personalities, like the second Charles Scribner, tended to be aristocrats"who exemplified the sound ethics as well as the solid prejudices of Victorian Americans" (Madison 196).  Many publishers still had nineteenth-century sensibilities about culture; their values and standards left them not only unable to appreciate but also fundamentally offended by serious works of literature being produced by authors from the new movements of realism and naturalism.  Encountering books by authors like Theodore Dreiser, Stephen Crane, D. H. Lawrence, and John Dos Passos, books with bold social criticism and (for the time) explicit sex and language, many of the cultural gatekeepers chose to keep the gate firmly shut.  The story of the publication of Dreiser's Sister Carrie is a typical example.  In 1900 Frank Norris, working as a reader for Doubleday, Page and Co., enthusiastically recommended the novel, and in F. N. Doubleday's absence the firm's editors orally agreed to publish it.  On his return to New York, Doubleday read the manuscript and was shocked by its content; he told Dreiser,"I don't like it; it's an immoral book."  Dreiser insisted that the house abide by its agreement.  So after demanding a number of revisions and deletions of questionable material, Doubleday produced only 1,000 copies and refused to supply any advertising.  The novel was not even listed in the firm's catalog for that season.  As a result, Sister Carrie was not widely or favorably reviewed, and only 456 copies were sold.  Seven years later, B. W. Dodge reissued the novel more successfully (Lingeman 282-95, 413-17).  Sister Carrie as Dreiser wrote it did not appear in bookstores until 1981 when the University of Pennsylvania Press published the original version.


The established publishers' squeamishness in the face of this new literature was enhanced in the 1920s by outside social pressure.  Two organizations dedicated to protecting society's moral sensibilities gained great power over what books publishers dared to bring out.  The Watch and Ward Society of Boston guarded against books that in their judgment violated the Massachusetts obscenity laws.  When it found them, it warned local booksellers, who, fearing prosecution, did not order the books (One Hundred and Fifty Years 80).  In New York John Sumner, the Secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, similarly intimidated publishers by bringing prosecution against books he found obscene and indecent (Gilmer 13).  In 1923, with Sumner's backing, Judge John Ford ("who had caught his daughter reading a borrowed copy of Women in Love" [Madison 333]) introduced the Clean Books Bill in the New York State legislature: "This bill required that a book be declared obscene if any part of it was considered obscene; that the statute on the nature of indecency be clarified; and that a not a judge but a jury was to pass on indecency" (Madison 333).  The National Association of Book Publishers, cowed by Sumner and his threats, not only did not oppose the bill but passed a resolution that"the publishers Association deplores the growing tendency on the part of some publishers unduly to exploit books of a salacious character for purely pecuniary gain" (qtd. in Madison 302).

It was in this atmosphere of increasing economic pressure, limited aesthetic and social visions, and holier-than-thou bullying that a third alternative publishing movement developed, this one a movement of subversive, younger commercial publishers.  These younger publishers, including Horace Liveright, B. W. Huebsch, Alfred Knopf, and Alfred Harcourt, possessed personal visions that recognized the worth and importance of realist, naturalist, and experimental fiction at this time when economic and censorious pressures were inimical to its publication.  Not coincidentally, as some historians have noted, several of these men were Jewish and, having been rejected by the traditionally Anglo-Saxon established publishers, were more or less forced to follow their visions to their own publishing firms:

they established their own houses which lacked any allegiance to the entrenched Anglo-American literary heritage, that foundation of respectable conservatism which had proved so profitable for their older rivals.  In most cases . . . , they looked with sympathy on the ferment in thought and writing which was now brewing both in the United States and abroad.  In the first place, they had nothing to lose; they had neither the contacts nor the contracts with established writers.  In the second, protest and rebellion appealed to these neophytes and if it was good writing, so much the better.  Finally, the Jewish publishers were aware that the intellectual needs of the masses of non-Anglo-Saxons were not being met by the publishing policy of the old-line houses.  They were, therefore, eager to reestablish contact with the Continent. (Gilmer 8-9)

In bringing out the books that the established houses rejected out of fiscal caution, shock, or fear, these newer publishers made available some of the most important literature of the time.  B. W. Huebsch, who said"I was always more likely to succumb to the persuasion of authors who wanted to make the world over than to those who celebrated the world as it is" (qtd. in Madison 297), began publishing books in 1902 as a one-person operation and eventually brought out books by James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Sherwood Anderson, and, after joining Harold Guinzburg and George Oppenheimer to form the Viking Press, James Weldon Johnson, Arnold Zweig, Carl van Doren, Dorothy Parker, and Erskine Caldwell.  In 1939, after Pascal Covici joined them as a senior editor, Viking published The Grapes of Wrath.  Alfred A. Knopf left Doubleday and with his wife established his own house in 1915.  Knopf, who took special pride in the quality of his books' manufacture, began by publishing translations of Russian literature and eventually established a list of such authors as Carl Van Vechten, Max Eastman, Joseph Hergesheimer, Ezra Pound, H. L. Mencken, and Willa Cather.  Although he lost some authors because of his fear of John Sumner and the censors, by 1926,"the Borzoi imprint had become synonymous with literary distinction while yielding him a comfortable profit, so that he was more than ever ready to lose money, if necessary, on certain authors he admired" (Madison 326).  Horace Liveright in 1917 provided the capital for Albert and Charles Boni's idea for the Modern Library series, but after the Bonis left the firm one year later, he devoted himself to publishing authors attacked for their frank views on society and sex or for their experimental artistic forms: John Reed, Eugene O'Neill, Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Atherton, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and Djuna Barnes.  Unlike Knopf, he was unintimidated by the threat of obscenity prosecution and successfully defended several of his books in court.  Alfred Harcourt, who founded Harcourt, Brace and Howe in 1919 and published Sinclair Lewis and Carl Sandburg, could have been representing all the others when he wrote, "The contemporary scene interested me intensely, and I wanted to publish the books that reflected it.  I wanted to give a hearing to the writers who were writing as individuals with a fresh point of view, not merely following a literary tradition of the past" (qtd. in Madison 339-40).


1 Donald Sheehan explains,"Publishing became profitable only when the non-recurring cost of the composition of the type and the making of the plates could be spread over a large number of copies" (28-29).  He estimates that early in the nineteenth century a publisher needed to sell 1,000 copies of a book before it would break even.  By 1885, a 400-page book would have to sell 3,000 copies to show a modest profit (Sheehan 30). BACK

2  However, we should note that courtesy of the trade was not always honored as strictly as it might have been, especially by the larger, more powerful publishers: as Fletcher Harper said to conclude a conflict with G. P. Putnam,"Mr. Putnam, courtesy is courtesy and business is business" (qtd. in Madison 19).  As late as 1889, Harper & Brothers were up to their old tricks, pirating an edition of Kipling's short stories while turning down his Plain Tales from the Hills; London's the Athanaeum editorialized,"When an author is unknown to fame, they, it would seem, content themselves with insulting him; when he is celebrated, they insult and rob him" (qtd. in Madison 68). BACK

3  Indeed, because they had to pay American authors royalties, publishers sold American-authored books to bookstores at higher prices (with less potential profit to the bookstores) than pirated books.  Thus booksellers were often reluctant to stock or promote American authors' books (Tebbel 1: 210). BACK

4  This is not to suggest that American authors were never published by commercial publishers or that these self-published authors did not also sometimes desire to be published by commercial houses.  Some publishers, most notably Ticknor and Fields and Scribner's sought out and encouraged American authors within the economic constraints described above.  But, significantly, other publishers committed to American literature, publishers such as Roberts Brothers and James R. Osgood, went bankrupt. BACK


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