The following passage comes from the author's A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Great Britain, which is reviewed on this site. — George P. Landow

Illuminated initial T

he connections between author, publisher, bookseller and reader form perhaps one of the simplest, even most primitive, economic chains of events that carry a produer to its user. There are no primary essential external requirements here, such as land and fertilizer, factory and engine, coal and heat, disease and treatment, whose failure (or in the case of disease, presence) would damage the process of bringing the product to the consumer. It is a straightforward commercial transaction in which the author provides the words, the publisher makes the book or journal and sells it on to the bookseller, and the reader hands over the money to buy the product. Of course, a publisher requires a printing machine, but not any one machine in particular. A wet summer might damage crops, increase the price of a loaf and lead to social unrest, bur it will not have a direct effect on book prices. An author might suffer from consumption, as did Maria Callcott [and John Keats], but his or her absence from the scene would make no noticeable difference to the overall picture; there will always be another author, and books still sell posthumously. Authors, publishers and booksellers do not need casts of thousands. Much the same can be said about the link between artist, dealer and patron, in which there is rarely any true rationale in the pricing structure, except comparison. The process is an organism of minimal complexity, and the transaction may be essentially bluff or barter. [247/248]

The Economics of Authorship


Hamilton, James. A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Great Britain. London: Atlantic Books, 2014. [Review by George P. Landow]

Last modified 15 October 2014