Monday, August 26, 2013

So What Have I Learnt About Books and Publishers Today?

In any given day I could find myself handling hundreds of books: sorting, pricing, cataloguing, sending to the charity shop, and occasionally selling. It's not a bad life! I mention this because you might better imagine that it's not often I come across a new publisher but Elkin Matthews and Marrot Ltd is one such. Of course, anyone familiar with the 1890s in books will be familiar with Elkin Matthews: it was Matthews who worked with John Lane on some of the biggest authors of the period, including Oscar Wilde. But over time publishing partnerships divide, combine and dissolve and one has to assume that this imprint was just another manifestation of that process. What I liked in particular, however, on discovering this was the strange card bookmark sewn into the book I was looking at. It has the somewhat clumsy logo of the new firm along with a little advertising copy on the back suggesting that EM might also stand for "Exceptional Merit". Judging from the British Library catalogue, I fear that exceptional merit may not have taken them more than five years to exhaust.

What else have I learnt today? On the jacket one of the Knockout Thriller titles, A Scent of New Mown Hay by John Blackburn, published by Secker and Warburg in the 50s, we discover that any reader who feels that a book in the series has failed to meet its aims may write to the publisher and an address is given. "If the publisher feels that the reader has made a convincing case, he will present a free copy of any one book priced at 21s and below which the reader may care to choose from the Secker and Warburg list." Now, aren't you dying to know how many people wrote in? Me too.

And then, not so much a learning point, just a wonderful little scrap of ephemera. Many publishers included between the pages of their books, a postcard that could be mailed back to them, requesting a spot on their mailing list. I have a small collection of these now and this (below) is the first one I've found for Constable & Co., this one from 1925. 

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