Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/427

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413
EDITOR'S TABLE.

if I bring out an edition often thousand, I, in the first place, risk the whole prime cost of that edition on the accuracy of my judgment of the public taste. To those who have had experience of the uncertainty of such judgments this will probably seem enough. But the new scheme proposes that I shall add to this risk the deposit, with the author or his representatives, of a sum equal to a thousand times the selling price of a single copy, with the prospect of a possible lawsuit against a man who is usually not rich, an indefinite time afterward, to get back the value of stamps for unsold copies in case I have made a mistake. And, for all this additional trouble, risk, and tying up of capital, I get absolutely nothing. It is open to my rival in the next street to write for the necessary stamps and undersell me whenever he pleases. For the publisher, therefore, the state of things would remain exactly as it is now — a condition of internecine warfare, in which only those houses can afford to pay copyright who are wealthy enough to break down any one who trenches on their ground. The relation of authors to publishers in America at present is exactly that of the traveling merchants to the barons of the middle ages. Put yourself in the hands of any one of them who was strong enough, and he protected you against all the rest; otherwise, you were every man's prey. I do not see how the projected scheme will alter this state of things. It is further to be considered that the new proposal leaves the author absolutely at the mercy of anybody who applies for stamps. The publisher may turn out an ill-printed, ill-corrected version (perhaps improved and amended to suit the taste of the transatlantic people), and the author has no remedy .

In the case of illustrated works the wrong may be still more gross. I speak with some knowledge of the cost and trouble of preparing illustrated scientific books. The author may spend months or years in dissecting and preparing the requisite objects and in making or superintending the execution, in the first place, of drawings from them, and, in the second place, of the engravings made from these drawings. It rarely happens that he obtains more than the most bare and scanty remuneration for the labor thus spent, which often is as great as that of writing his book. The work being published in England, an American publisher writes for stamps for an edition, say a third or a fourth of the price per copy of the English one. It is perfectly easy for him to do so; the paper and the mere type-setting after a printed book do not come to much, and the illustrations, which have cost the producer so much trouble, can be reproduced at a fraction of the cost of the originals. If they are course and clumsy, with references half wrong, what matter? The discredit is put down to the author's account. In conclusion, I am of opinion that this proposal for "protected copyright with free-trade competition" is false in principle, and, so far as English authors and transatlantic publishers are concerned, would be futile in practice. If adopted, it will merely come to the issue of letters of marque to people who are now frankly pirates. The French valet said to the master who offered him so much a year if he would leave off the pickings and stealings, "Monsieur, je préfère de vous voler." I may paraphrase the candid valet's confession, and declare that if I am to be robbed I prefer to be robbed openly.

If the transatlantic reader admits, as he professes to do, that an English author has rights of property in the book which he has written, he seems to me bound further to admit that the author may at least appoint an agent in the reader's own country with the exclusive right to make and sell the book under such conditions as that agent, knowing the wants and condition of the community, may think prudent and reasonable. If my transatlantic friend calls that proposal "undisguised monoply," I call any which offers less to the author more or less disguised piracy.




LITERARY NOTICES.

Our Heredity from God: Consisting of Lectures on Evolution. By E. P. Powell. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 416. Price, $1.75.

The author of this book is pastor, we presume, of a society in Utica, who, having been born and bred in Calvinism, experienced a shock, as he phrases it, "in the face of its dire failure to explain the universe, to apologize for God, or to save mankind." Having lost faith in authoritative revelation, he sought in the study of evolution deliverance from the chaotic condition in which his mind was left. The outcome of his struggles and the purpose of his book are expressed in his declarations that "earnest and honest men can not too soon comprehend that our only salvation is in that evolution which has led from the primordial cell to Jesus and Plato, and has lifted life from the hunger for protoplasm to the hunger for righteousness. No religion but that