merican and British tastes regarding the format in which fiction was published were somewhat different in the nineteenth century than they are today. Whereas the British lending libraries, the chief purchasers of fiction in the United Kingdom, preferred the durable and therefore expensive two- or three-volume novel (the so-called "triple-decker"), the colonial and especially the American markets (based upon the desires of individual as opposed to institutional consumers) desired cheap, single-volume editions, which were usually published well after their costly British counterparts, although the reverse (as with Henry James's Tragic Muse of 1891) occasionally occurred.
American editions did not differ from their British counterparts solely in terms of the copyright notice: paper, bindings, and type-setting were all different. American readers, for example, preferred a paper lighter than that which was commonly used in Great Britain, and expected trimmed edges. British bindings, especially those of blue cloth, tended to fade quickly in the more intense American sun, so that, for example, Macmillan's used protective wrappers for all books destined for the U. S. market after 1881. Finally, and most important, better-paid American printers produced a sharper-looking page with the up-to-date technology of electroplating while British printers were still using stereos, for which (because these required more time to prepare and more attention while in the press) British printers charged up to twice as much. The British and American folio sheets were not even the same size: the usual British crown octavo novel was printed on quad paper of 30 by 40 inches:
each sheet produced four signatures in eights with a page-size untrimmed of 7 1/2 by 5 inch. The corresponding paper-size in America was 'broad-twelves', 23 x 41 inches, yielding two duodecimo signatures of slightly larger dimensions before trimming: when trimmed the page-size was virtually the same as a British novel. (Nowell-Smith 79)
The margins in American editions, however, tended to be wider than those in British editions.
- Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century International Copyright Conventions
- Dickens's 1842 Reading Tour: Launching the Copyright Question in Tempestuous Seas
- Dickens's 1867-68 Reading Tour: Re-Opening the Copyright Question
- How Did Nineteenth-Century British and American Authors Get Paid?
Created 5 January 2001
Last modified 25 December 2023