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given the best editions of each author, without regard to cost, or whether or not the edition be still procurable. It is economy in the long run, as well as a luxury in the short, for those who can afford it, to procure in the outset not only the best editions, but the books well and thoroughly bound : for he who buys a choice library, like him who buys plate, spends not, but invests his money. Good books pay a liberal interest to their owner, and are an inheritance to his children.
I confess that I am an advocate of fine bindings. But bookbinding is so much a matter of taste and individual fancy, that little need be said here, for every one can gratify his own taste according to his means. There are few things, however, upon which the rich can display their wealth and taste to better advantage than upon their libraries. Binding admits of an infinite variety of design in ornaments, and whether cheap or dear may, in skilful hands, always be kept within the bounds of good taste. For public libraries, where chiefly the contents of the books are regarded, cheap, or what is technically called half binding in calf or morocco, is usually sufficient : but in private hands of the wealthy, where books are not only a library but articles of luxury and furniture, great pains should be taken to secure not only the best editions, but those adorned with a variety of choice and artistic bindings.
It was my intention in the outset, as I have said, not to exceed four thousand volumes, but little by little the list has increased to 5751 volumes. I have been considerably puzzled to know what titles to strike out in my next impression, being well
aware that what is trash to one person is by no means such to another: also that many books of more merit than those admitted have been omitted. You may not think it difficult to strike out twenty authors, and to add twenty better ones in their places, but let me relate to you a parable. I requested twenty men whose opinions on the Literary Exchange are as good as those of the Barings or the Rothchilds on the Royal, each to expunge twenty authors and to insert twenty others of better standing in their places, promising to exclude in my next impression any author who should receive more than five blackballs, and to add any one who should receive more than five votes. The result was, as may be supposed, not a single expulsion or addition. Now what is trash ?
I have purposely avoided giving prices, as at present, particularly with regard to exportation of new books from England to America, the prices are by no means fixed; the discount varying, according to circumstances, from twenty-five to seventy-five per cent. from the published prices, as indicated in the London Catalogue, and Lowe's British Catalogue, to which the reader is referred for prices of most of the books published in England within the last forty years. First class books, not new, owing chiefly to the greatly increased demand from the United States, have risen of late much in value, while second rate works were never cheaper. If, however, the American book collector import his library directly from London by his own order, as he may now do in any part of the United States, owing to the admirable facilities offered by the several international express agencies; and if he pay only
a single commission of ten per cent. on the net cost of book and binding, he will find that English books are not much, if any, dearer than the same class of copy-righted American works.
It is peculiarly gratifying to an American to see the activity displayed recently by his countrymen in the book marts of the Old World. A few years ago the veriest trash was deemed good enough for exportation to Jonathan, who was then proverbially not over particular either as to the edition or con. dition of his books, provided he had enough of them. Now, however, he buys more largely, more tastefully, and much more intelligently. You find him often the boldest bidder for bibliographical rarities, and see him mousing about and ransacking the shops and stalls of Europe. He is always ready and anxious to secure for his library those literary gems which are so wont to delight the heart and empty the pockets of the bibliophile. But liberal and extravagant as you find him abroad, if you follow him home and refer to his laws you will see that they are anything but liberal and encouraging to private libraries, and hence chiefly the reputed high prices of English Books in America.
The import duty into the United States upon all classes, old or new, of“ printed books, magazines, pamphlets, periodicals, and illustrated newspapers, bound or unbound, not otherwise provided for,” is ten per cent. on the cost or “market value” in the country whence exported, a duty much higher than that of any other civilized country. This “ not otherwise provided for” means that books imported for public libraries pay no duty, and that “ periodicals and other works in the course of
printing and republication in the United States " (I quote from the existing law, passed July 30, 1846) pay a duty of twenty per cent. ad valorem, which acts in fact as a premium of ten per cent. upon literary piracy. A law so unjust and absurd as this, one would think, need only be pointed out as an oversight, or clause interpolated by dishonourable means and overlooked, to be repealed, or at least to be liberally construed as in other cases; but one blushes to acknowledge that it is at present enforced as strictly at New York, though not at Boston, as if the American book-making resources required protection to develope them.
The present tariff of ten per cent. acts most strangely and unjustly upon early English literature, of which we are ever and everlastingly boasting as ours by inheritance. I have paid an import duty of seventy-five dollars upon a single volume of Shakespeare, the first folio edition of 1623, originally published at one pound, but now, by reason of its extreme rarity, worth £150. What is the “market value” of such a book, which almost never appears in the market ? Is it the published price of one pound, or this fictitious or fancy value of £150 ? I have paid twenty dollars duty on a small volume of Spenser's tracts, which cost me £40, though originally published probably for not more than ten shillings. On the first edition of Milton's Paradise Lost I have paid almost as much duty for a single volume as Milton received of Symons, his publisher, for the entire copyright. Yet we are always bragging of Shakespeare, Spenser, Bacon, Milton, and all other English authors published prior to the year 1776, as belonging as much
to us as to England! Then, Jonathan, if they be really ours, why tax them so enormously as foreign merchandize ?
Old books printed prior to the year 1802 enter England duty-free, and those printed since 1802 pay only fifteen shillings a hundred-weight, if they come from a country enjoying with Great Britain an international copyright, if not, they pay thirty shillings. Books should pay duty by weight or by volume, if at all; but in a country like ours, where intelligence and education are not only our proudest boast, but are the basis of our institutions, and where for the want of an international copyright law the best of our books (with a few exceptions) are pirated reprints without compensation of the authors of the mother-country, the least we could honourably do, one would think, with a clear conscience and a full treasury, would be to admit foreign books, especially those in our own language, free of duty.
Christian Reader, to you as an American and a man who acts wisely, deals justly, and votes intelligently, I submit these considerations, relying on you and the “ assembled wisdom of our nation" in the coming session of Congress, to see these matters placed in a shape more honourable to the “Model Republic,” being deliberately,
Yours to be commanded,
of Vermont. Morley's Hotel, Charing Cross,
London, Nov. 10, 1853.