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  The relations between Author and Publisher in the Seventeenth Century Earnings of playwrights  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XIV. Book Production and Distribution, 1625–1800.

§ 8. Milton, Baxter.

As already stated, the usual practice was for an author to sell his book outright to the publisher; but an instance of a writer retaining some control over his work is afforded by the best-known copyright transaction of the seventeenth century—the agreement for the publication of Paradise Lost (1667) by which Samuel Simmons covenanted to pay Milton five pounds down, with a further payment of five pounds at the end of the sale of each of the first three impressions. A little later than this, Richard Baxter, in a vindication 8  concerning his “convenants and dealings with booksellers,” gives interesting glimpses of the publishing arrangements of his day. Baxter was evidently not a good man of business, and when he took his famous Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1649–50) to Thomas Underhill and Francis Tyton to publish, he made no agreement with them, but left the matter of profit “to their ingenuity.” For the first impression of the work—a corpulent quarto of nearly a thousand pages—they gave him ten pounds, “and ten pounds apiece, that is, twenty pounds for every after impression till 1665.” Then “Mr. Underhill dieth; his wife is poor: Mr. Tyton hath losses by the Fire, 1666”; and though a tenth edition was called for by 1669, Baxter got not a farthing for any further impression, but “was fain, out of my own purse, to buy all that I gave to any friend, or poor person, that asked it.” For other works, he had the “fifteenth book” (i. e., one fifteenth of the impression) for himself, with eighteen pence a ream on the rest of the impression. William Bates, author of The Harmony of the Divine Attributes (1674), must have been better at a bargain, for he managed to get over a hundred pounds for the first impression of that book, besides reserving to himself the arrangement for further editions.   14

Note 8Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696), App. p. 117. [ back ]

  The relations between Author and Publisher in the Seventeenth Century Earnings of playwrights  

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