[James Spedding, author and editor of Sir Francis Bacon.] Two long Autograph Letters Signed (both 'Jas Spedding') to the historian Charles Merivale, regarding 'the complaints of the buyer and reader against the publisher and bookseller'.

James Spedding (1808-1881), literary editor and biographer, noted for his edition of Sir Francis Bacon [Charles Merivale (1808-1893), historian, Dean of Ely]
Publication details: 
3 and 7 September 1866. Both from 60 Lincolns Inn Fields [London].
SKU: 22888

Both in good condition, lightly aged, with thin strip from mount adhering, and crease lines from folding. Two excellent long letters in Spedding's neat and close hand, full of content regarding the relationship between Victorian author, publisher and reader. The topic is Spedding's preparation for the publication of his pamphlet 'Publishers and Authors' (London: J. R. Smith, 1867). Both letters addressed to 'My dear Mervivale'. ONE: 3 September 1866. 4pp, 18mo. On a bifolium. A 'communication from America [...] about 3 months since', has put into his head an old paper of his, 'gathering dust in a drawer', regarding 'the complaints of the buyer and reader against the publisher and bookseller, for the many inconveniences to which they put him, without sufficient reason, by the conditions under which they supply him with the books he wants'. Speeding has been informed by 'Donne' that Merivale has 'studied and preserved your publishing accounts, in which case you may be able to supply me with a fact or two in illustration' for a second paper he is writing. He describes the history of the paper: 'About 4 years ago the contemplation of Longmans' proceedings suggested to me some remarks upon the subject of publishing generally - which I offered to Froude [i.e. J. A. Froude, as editor of Fraser's Magazine] under the title Proposals for a better understanding between book-publishers and book-buyers, by one who buys books to read. But he felt it his duty to shew it first to old Parker; [the Cambridge bookseller J. W. Parker] who interposed an emphatic veto. And Tom Hughes tried it afterwards with Macmillan, with no better success.' He proceeds to discuss 'the half-profits bargain (which I had understood to be the one usually offered here to untried authors)' and 'the Royalty system' ('which was new to me'). Having heard that the Fortnightly Review was 'not under domination of any publisher', he has sent his second paper to the editor G. H. Lewes (George Eliot's husband), who, 'though he agrees with me and wants the question to be agitated, does not feel justified in exposing other people's property to the damage which he thinks it would cause - through the hostility which it would certainly excite in the general body of publishers'. Spedding proposes to print the two papers himself, 'in a handsome little volume, fit to lie on a drawing-room table, and to circulate it as widely as I can, perhaps with the title Forbidden Questions - concerning Publishers, Authors, booksellers, purchasers, and readers.' He ends by discussing a suggestion from Lewes on how to strengthen his case. TWO: 8pp, 18mo. On two bifoliums. He begins by explaining that the time 'was never less convenient [...] for paying visits', as he is 'preparing for a migration'. He explains at length the problems he faces in this regard, with reference to his family, before turning to Merivale's accounts, and a discussion - with hypothetical examples - of 'the amount of profit which the publisher has a right to expect', again with relation to the 'royalty' and 'half-profit' systems. He does not express an opinion, his desire being to bring the matter 'into the light'. He cites a case in which 'the author had a right to be warned' and remarks: 'I gather from what you say that if you had known as much when you made your first bargaimn as you do now, you would have proceded differently.' He concludes in the hope that 'a few specimens would serve to put authors on their guard, and warn them to prefer a form of agreement which does not leave room for deception: which is manifestly practicable: and though it would leave with the richer party the divine right of having the best of the bargain, would nevertheless make the poorer less helpless and better aware of what he is about'.