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British Fiction, 1800–1829: A Database of Production, Circulation & Reception

Guide to Publishing Papers

The material included in the Publishing Papers section provides a unique behind-the-scenes perspective on the business of fiction publishing in the Romantic period. All stages of the production process are in evidence in these records: from the first tentative approach by author to publisher about a MS novel, to the acceptance (or, in some cases, rejection) of the novel, negotiations over payment, and the reporting of sales. Used in conjunction with other sections of the database, such as Anecdotal Records and Contemporary Reviews, Publishing Papers allows us to track the life of a novel from its inception to its contemporary reception by individual readers and published reviews.

The Records have been compiled from MS sources held in the archives of a number of early-nineteenth century publishing houses: Archibald Constable & Co; William Blackwood; Longman & Co; Oliver & Boyd; and John Murray II. In order to build up a full record of the production of fiction in the Romantic period, records also make use of material from 44 printed sources. In many cases, the use of both MS and printed sources makes visible the often delicate negotiations between authors and publishers, and provides a remarkable insight into the publishing process from the perspective of both writer and publisher. The information provided in this section ranges from letters between publishers and authors concerning all stages of the production process, ledger entries that track the sales of a particular novel over the course of a number of years, and advertising accounts that show which newspapers carried advertisements for a particular novel. In addition to information on first editions, records also provide details on any subsequent editions that appeared before 1830.

In all, Publishing Papers are included here for 441 novels, or nearly 20 per cent of the total number in the database. While in some cases a given novel only has a few records, in others—most notably with authors such as John Galt, Frances Burney D’Arblay, and Walter Scott—the number of records indicates the complexity of the publishing arrangements for a work. However, the extent of the entries has been in some degree determined by the availability of archival material. Authors such as Galt and Scott, who published with firms such as Blackwoods and Constable, for example, are well served here in part because of the richness of archival materials documenting the activities of these publishing houses.Click here to go to the top of the page.

Where anecdotal comments relating to the reception of a novel appear in publishers’ archives, these comments are normally given in Publishing Papers, rather than the Anecdotal Comments file. Database users interested in anecdotal material are encouraged to explore both the Anecdotal Records and the Publishing Papers.

Entries for Publishing Papers are organised as follows:

 x Correspondence, Journals and Memoirs relating to the production of the novel
 x Ledger Entries
 x Advertising Accounts

Not all records will have entries from each of these categories.

Correspondence, Journals and Memoirs: This category primarily includes letters to and from authors and publishers. Additionally, it includes journal entries and memoirs by authors commenting on the publishing of their works either at the time of publication or retrospectively. Also included are lists of stock on hand. Where accounts appear within a letter or accompanying a letter, these are given in the Correspondence section.

Ledger Entries: Ledger entries are available for Longman & Co, John Murray II, and Oliver & Boyd. A summary of production costs and sales figures for novels is given in the Publishing Papers entries, rather than a complete breakdown of costs (e.g. itemised costs of paper, printing, etc). There are three main types of ledgers: divide ledgers, impression books, and commission ledgers.

I. Divide Ledgers: Entries contain the following information, where available: impression numbers; production costs (incorporating paper and printing); advertising expenditure; copies sent to authors, reviewers, and other individuals and members of the booktrade; sales figures; payments to authors (either outright lump-sum payments for copyright, or the equal division of profits between author and publisher). ‘Misc’ production expenses include copies sent to Stationers’ Hall, commissions and duties on sales, cost of carriage, corrections, and labels.

II. Impression Books: (Only available for Longman & Co) Often provide the same information as the divide ledgers. Accounts normally appear only in the impression books in cases where the copyright for a work was purchased outright. Where both a divide ledger and an impression book entry are available, only the divide ledger entry is given, unless there are substantial differences and/or important additional information provided by the impression books. In cases where only the divide ledger is used, the impression book reference is given in the Notes field to the entry.

III. Commission Ledgers: (Only available for Longman & Co) Used in cases where Longman & Co shared costs of publishing a work or took a certain number of copies of a given work on a sale-or-return basis. For a gloss on commission publishing at this time, see Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford University Press, 1972; rpt. 1974), pp. 298–300.

Advertising Accounts: For advertising account entries, the date line gives the range of dates for the account, not the exact day of the advertisement(s). Entries are ordered in the first instance by the start date of the account, and then alphabetically by newspaper title or proprietor name. For advertising accounts and ledger entries, all monetary amounts are given in a standardised format in (British) pounds, shillings, and pence (for example: 1 pound, six shillings, seven pence is given as 1. 6. 7). In cases where amounts are given in Irish pounds, this is stated in the Notes field.

 © 2004 Project Director: Professor Peter Garside;
 Research Associates: Dr Jacqueline Belanger, Dr Sharon Ragaz;
 Database/Website Developer: Dr Anthony Mandal
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