Admit it—you walk into a bookshop and time stands still. I can spend hours that feel like minutes wandering the stacks, finding treasures I never knew existed. The History of England by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens (a book I’ll discuss at a later date), The Lore of Ships, and The American Country House. If you are truly fortunate, you may meet a bookseller who understands your tastes and your reading history and so can recommend your next great read. But in nineteenth century England, booksellers might have a different job indeed.
Take this passage from A Book of English Trades: Being a Library of the Useful Arts, originally published in three volumes between 1804 and 1805:
“The Bookseller of the present day is a person of considerable importance in the republic of letters, more especially if he combines those particular branches of the trade denominated Proprietor and Publisher: for it is to such men our men of genius take their productions for sale: and the success of works of genius very frequently depends upon their spirit, probity, and patronage.”
[Stops for a moment. Basks in the thought of being a creator of “works of genius.”]
Now, the writer knew whereof he spoke. His book was printed for Tabart and Co., of 157 New Bond Street, London, and sold among the school and juvenile books. Without Tabart’s patronage, the book might never have reached a reading public. And I admit that I find it interesting that a book to help children know whether they wanted to be such things as a brick-maker or a cooper would sell so well (it was in its 7th printing by 1818) on a street reported to cater to the aristocracy.
The description about being a bookseller goes on to talk about how the trade also sees to the creation of encyclopedias.
“These bulky and valuable volumes . . . would never have made their appearance had not a Bookseller, or a combination of Booksellers, entered upon the speculation of employing men of science and learning in the various departments of these works and embarking large capitals in the undertaking.”
I am intrigued as to how these booksellers a) identified the men of science and learning, and b) convinced them to write for the encyclopedia.
[Stops for a moment, creative wheels turning, as she considers the matter.]
Today, of course, actual stores selling books are harder to find in America, and none that I know of commission the creation of encyclopedias. On the other hand, we have online a wealth of ways to purchase and develop books.
For example, Google Plus has an option to rent a book for a short time. In fact, three of my Love Inspired Historicals, Would-Be Wilderness Wife, Frontier Engagement, and Instant Frontier Family, are on sale through February 2, 2017, for only 99 cents each for a 24-hour period.
How fast can you read? J