August 18, 2011

Cooper: satisfied that more will sell

"From the present state of orders we are satisfied that more will sell," wrote the editors at Carey, Lea, and Blanchard on August 18, 1838. Though 250 copies of Homeward Bound were yet unsold, they assured its author James Fenimore Cooper that all was well, and even suggested it was time to stereotype the book (implying that it would continue to be printed in several future editions and, therefore, worth the cost of plates). Cooper would be charged the cost of stereotyping, deducted from his $1,000 payment.

Cooper responded a week later, "Your proposition about stereotyping I can not accept." Their original agreement, he reminded his publishers, was for $1,550; his counter-offer was $2,250 to purchase the rights to publish the book for the next three years. As always, Cooper also acerbically noted a small typo ("marine" instead of "mariner"), which he cheerlessly called "a damnable error."

But Carey, Lea, and Blanchard pressed Cooper — who was already hugely popular from works like The Last of the Mohicans — until he finally agreed to stereotyping the plates (at the cost of $200). The plates, however, were left in his ownership but the publishers could use them without charge for another two years. In payment, whatever number of copies they printed, Cooper would be paid outright 50 cents per copy. They also agreed to print Cooper's next book, Home as Found, with an impressive initial print run (via stereotype) of 4,000 copies. From Homeward Bound:

The manner in which this gentleman, whose temples were sprinkled with grey hairs, regarded the scene, denoted more of the thoughtfulness of experience, and of tastes improved by observation, than it is usual to meet amid the bustling and commonplace characters that compose the majority in almost every situation of life... The fair-haired, lovely, blue-eyed girl at his side, too, seemed a softened reflection of all his sentiments, intelligence, knowledge, tastes, and cultivation, united to the artlessness and simplicity that became her sex and years.

"We have seen nobler coasts, Eve," said the gentleman, pressing the arm that leaned on his own; "but, after all, England will always be fair to American eyes."

"More particularly so if those eyes first opened to the light in the eighteenth century, father."

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