Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: One Final Collectible

Textile before conservation

Wow! This is my 100th post! And what a great way to end 2013, with a most extraordinary acquisition. Pictured at right is a textile I purchased at auction this year. For a much higher resolution image, please see my website.

What is it? Well, that's really hard to say. It is a cotton textile approximately 23" by 22". The auction catalogue listed it as a "bandana" but that seems improbable. My conservator called it simply a domestic textile. Given its layout, a central medallion with explanatory text facing four directions, perhaps it was intended to be used as a covering for a whist table. Some of the stains seem as though someone placed a damp cup or glass on it.

Detail of central medallion
How was it made? It is a copper engraving on cotton. The technique was developed in Ireland in the 1750s and quickly brought to England. For a comparable example from France, see here. This gives us an early bound on the date of its manufacture.

"Garter" ace of spades
Can it be dated further? The image of the ace of spades at right shows "G III Rex" and a garter design, typical of English cards from the late 18th until the very early 19th century. I suspect that textile dates from the 1790s.

Textile ready for framing
How was it conserved?
My goals were to preserve the textile while being able to display it in a frame. The conservator cleaned of all surface dirt. We decided that any effort to remove stains would risk discoloration and loss of the lovely toning. The conservator mounted a sympathetic support cloth to a stretcher and gently sewed the textile onto the support. In doing so, she was able to eliminate the creases shown in the first image. The repair in the lower right was present when I bought the item. I have not yet framed and hung it, but when framed, the glass will offer UV protection and I'll hang it away from any natural light.

What is the connection to Hoyle? I haven't yet done a detailed transcription of the text to compare it with Hoyle's writing. Nonetheless, it is clear that the Laws of Whist on the border and the odds are taken from Hoyle.

Laws of whist after Hoyle
Bridge odds after Hoyle

I have more analysis to do on this lovely and rare survival. I'll post more as I learn more.

In the mean time, I may take a short break from blogging--I am working on some longer articles for print publication, and I find it difficult to work on both.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013: The Year in Collecting

As the year draws to a close, I thought I'd take a quick break from bibliography and book history to look at my year in collecting. I'm at the point where it is difficult to find good Hoyle material that I do not already have. I recently wrote to a friend that I'm happy if I can find a dozen new items a year. This year the number was eight, and it was so high only because I have started to collect more seriously into the early 19th century for reasons I discuss in the essay "Continuities and Disruptions."

The one new eighteenth century item was a copy of the Polite Gamester printed in Dublin for Peter Wilson in 1752. I discuss the book in "A Copyright Fight in Dublin," noting that there are two issues of the book, one with 38 pages on whist and the other with 46. It is clear that the extra four leaves were added later to compete against the Ewing Polite Gamester of the same year. I now own a copy of the earlier issue, one of only two recorded.

I have written much about Hoyle's Games Improved edited by Charles Jones and records of its publication in the Longman Archive. One of the many interesting features of these books is that occasionally excerpts of them would be issued separately. For example in 1800 a section on game cocks was issued as a separate title. I'll discuss another example on horse racing below.

A number of times the chapters on card games were issued as Hoyle's Games Improved and Selected as a Companion to the Card Table. I discussed an 1803 edition in "Late Hoyles, Early Slip Case." I managed to find an 1813 edition in fine condition, still in its slip case, on eBay, of all places. Interestingly, the 1813 Companion is excerpted from the 1814 Jones Hoyle, both of which were published on December 24, 1813.

I found some lovely early 19th century translations this year. I previously wrote about the first Dutch edition of 1790. I now have the second edition of 1810, pictured below. What is striking is the folding table setting out the scoring rules for the game of quadrille in letterpress.

1810 Amsterdam
1810 Amsterdam
Letterpress folding plate

I noted earlier that Hoyle was first translated into Portuguese, and showed the second and third editions of 1768 and 1784. Now that I am moving into the 18th century, I found copies of the fourth and fifth editions, dated 1818 and 1827 respectively. The text appears unchanged.

1827 Lisbon
1818 Lisbon

1824 Bath

The book pictured at left is unusual and interesting. It is a small book with a text block of 10.7 x 6.7 cms. My copy has two identical engraved title pages (the second certainly an accident) with the title Hoyle's Games. The Bath Edition. The engraving includes the Ace of Spades from a deck by Hunt and Sons as illustrated here.

The letterpress title page reads Hoyle's Card Games, Complete; with an Appendix Containing his Guide to the Turf. The work is dated 1824 and is printed for E. Barret whom I believe was in Bath, and sold by three London booksellers, Bumpus, Crawford, Clark. Interestingly Bumpus was to be on the imprint for the main line of Hoyles from 1826 to 1868. Perhaps he was getting his feet wet selling this Bath edition. 

It is the Guide to the Turf which I find most interesting. The phrasing of the title is interesting, suggesting that the Guide is Hoyle's, but of course he never wrote about horse racing. Instead, some racing material was added to the 1814 edition of Hoyle's Games Improved, edited by Charles Jones. Like the Companion to the Card Table I discuss above, the racing material was separately issued as A Guide to the Turf. And it is that material that appears in the Bath edition.

The book seems rare, with other copies only at the Bodleian and UNLV. Even rarer is the 1814 Guide to the Turf. The Longman Archives show that 2000 copies were printed, but only one copy survives, at the library of a veterinary school in Hanover Germany. The 1824 Bath edition was reprinted in Glasgow in 1827 in an identical small format, though apparently without the engraved title. The only surviving copy is part of the Carriere Collection of Poker and Hoyle at Lousiana State University.

In the essay "Bob Short's Short Rules for Short Memories", I discuss the difficulty of identify all the many chapbook editions of Hoyle edited by Robert Withy under the pseudonym Bob Short. That essay noted a New York edition of 1828. I managed to find a copy of it this year--it seems to be the first United States printing of Bob Short.

1828 New York (cover)
1828 New York (title)

 I've left out the most interesting 2013 acquisition and will save it for the next essay.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hoyle's Games Improved (1814): Who was the bookseller Gale?

My last essay, "The Hoyle Copyright in Hoyle's Lifetime (revisited)" resolved a mystery that had long bothered me about the ownership of the Hoyle copyright in the 1760s. This essay untangles a similar mystery a half-century later.

The longish imprint on Hoyle's Games Improved, revised and corrected by Charles Jones Esq. (1814) lists twelve booksellers:
  • W. Lowndes
  • Wilkie and Robinson
  • J. Walker
  • Scatcherd and Letterman
  • Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown
  • Lackington, Allen and Co.
  • W. Stewart
  • B. and R. Crosby
  • J. Richarson
  • J. Mawman
  • J. Asperne
  • R. Baldwin
The handwritten (and often obscure) business records of the Longman firm list shares of copyright ownership for the book. See for example this essay discussing the 1800 edition. The archives note a thirteenth bookseller, with a 1/24 share, who's name appears to be "Gale." Gale never appeared on the imprint of any edition of Hoyle's Games Improved, but it's hard to dispute contemporary business records which record ownership, the booksellers' most valuable assets. Further, shares of ownership determine shares of costs and division of printed books. Who was Gale? Where did his share come from? What happened to it?

While I can't establish how Gale came to acquire a share of the copyright, nor why he wasn't on the imprint, I have found records showing that not only did he own a share of Hoyle in 1814, he bought a second piece in 1817. Records also show what happened to those shares.

In the 19th century most of the booksellers trade sales were run by the auction house Hodgson and Co. The catalogues for these trade sales, often annotated with purchaser and purchase price, survive. [See One Hundred Years of Book Auctions. 1807-1907. Being a brief record of the firm of Hodgson and Co. London. 1908. pp19-20, available for download]. Copies of the Hodgson catalogues are available at the British Library, as described here (search for "Hodgson trade sales").

A Hodgson catalogue for May 2, 1817 shows Walker, a name from the 1814 imprint, selling a 1/72 share to a name that seems to read Gale & Co.

Researching Gale in the British Book Trade Index, and WorldCat, I found that Gale did business as Gale, Curtis, and Fenner from 1812-15, and as Gale and Fenner from 1815-1817. Fenner succeeded to the business in 1817, and was not terribly successful, becoming bankrupt in March 1819.

Hodgson auctioned Fenner's copyrights on August 10, 1819. There were two lots of the copyright of "Hoyle's Games by Jones", one for a 1/24 share (the share recorded in the Longman Archives) and the other for a 1/72 share (the May 1817 purchase).

It is unclear whether the lots sold at the August 1819 auction--there is no annotation showing a purchaser or purchase price. It is likely that Whittaker acquired the shares either at the auction or later--the Longman records show that he owned none of the copyright in 1814 and a large 11/36 share by 1820.

So, Gale DID own a share in 1814 despite the absence of his name on the imprint. He acquired more in 1817. His successor Fenner sold the shares, apparently in connection with his bankruptcy.

Another minor mystery if not solved, then certainly clarified.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Hoyle Copyright in Hoyle's Lifetime (revisited)

I thought I had said everything I had to say about the early ownership of the Hoyle copyright in an earlier essay "The Hoyle Copyright in Hoyle's Lifetime". There was always a little something that nagged me about the information there, and I have finally resolved the nit to my satisfaction.

The chart above, modified from the essay "A Database for the Hoyle Copyright," shows which booksellers owned shares of the copyright from 1745 to 1767. The data is based on imprints (which you can find pictured in the earlier essay) and transactions from the booksellers trade sales. What seemed odd to me was that Stanley Crowder is on the imprint for the "12th" and "14th" editions, but not the "13th". It is possible that he sold his interest in the Hoyle copyright and reinvested later, but that seems strained.

Let us look more closely at the three relevant trade sales: 
  • James Hodges lived until 1795, but left the book trade in roughly 1757. At least his name last shows up in imprints of books printed that year according to ESTC. His stock was sold in a trade sale on July 14, 1757. The surviving catalogue is titled in letterpress A Catalogue of Books in Quires, Being the stock of Mr James Hodges... I hadn't focused on the fact that the sale was for books only, and not copyrights. His inventory of 350 copies of Hoyle's Games went unsold.
  • At another trade sale on April 21, 1763, bookseller Henry Woodfall bought two lots of 1/6 shares in Hoyle, the first for £30, the second for £32 10s., making the full copyright worth £187 10s. The catalogue does not indicate the seller, either in letterpress or, as is often the case, in handwritten annotations. I had assumed that Crowder must have been the seller, as he appeared on the Hoyle imprint in 1760, but not in late 1763. 
  • Thomas Osborne left the trade in 1767, selling his stock and copyrights at a sale on July 28.  His 1/3 share of the Hoyle copyright was broken into four 1/12 shares. John Wilkie bought one for £21, Henry Woodfall one for £22, and Stanley Crowder two for £22 each. In all, Osborne's one-third share sold for £87, making the value of the copyright £261. 
I have now spent more time with the 1763 sale and have concluded that the copyrights offered there belonged to James Hodges. Most of the copyrights listed at the sale were never printed for Crowder and most of the books printed for Crowder in, say, 1762 do not appear at the sale. Most importantly, Crowder was a major purchaser at the sale. The sale must have been of copyrights belonging to Hodges, not Crowder, so that Hodges continued to own the Hoyle copyright until 1763. It also means that even though his name appeared on the imprint of the 1760 "12th" edition of Hoyle, Crowder did not own a share of the copyright.

What was the relationship between Hodges and Crowder that allowed Crowder to republish Hodges' books? It turns out that Crowder was apprenticed to Hodges, and freed in 1755. From 1757 Crowder carried on the business from Hodges' premises at the sign of the Looking Glass near London Bridge. This suggests some economic relationship between the two under which Crowder carried on the business even as Hodges continued to own the copyrights.

With Hoyle, we see a pattern of imprints supporting the view that for a short time Crowder published books owned by Hodges:
  • printed for three booksellers including Hodges in 1756 (ESTC T87520)
  • printed for three booksellers including Crowder, but not Hodges in 1760 (ESTC T88035)
  • Hodges share sold to Woodfall in April 1763
  • Woodfall appears on imprint instead of Crowder in December 1763 (ESTC N4079)
It takes some patience to find other examples. First, you must be able to identify the book in ESTC from the shorthand title given in the trade sale catalogue. Second, you have to find a copyright that actually sold at the trade sale. Third, the book must have been printed at least three times: once for Hodges, once for Crowder between 1757 and 1763, and a third time after the copyright sale. Finally, it is easiest to look at books where Hodges owned a large share of the copyright. Where the copyright traded in shares of 1/36 or 1/48, there can be so many names on the imprint that it is hard to track what's going on.

Here are two more examples. First Ken's A Manual of Prayers:
  • printed for three booksellers including Hodges in 1755 (ESTC T133227)
  • printed for four booksellers including Crowder, but not Hodges in 1761 (ESTC T133221)
  • Hodges copyright sold in 1763
  • printed for six booksellers not including Crowder in 1770 (ESTC T133220)
Second, Martin, Philosophia Britannica:
  • printed for three booksellers including Hodges in 1752 (ESTC N39108)
  • printed for six booksellers including Crowder, but not Hodges in 1759 (ESTC N12262)
  • Hodges share sold in 1763
  • Crowder off imprint in 1771 (ESTC T25345)
I will look for more information about the dealings between Hodges and Crowder. In the mean time, I have convinced myself that despite his appearnce on the imprint of the the "12th" edition, Crowder did not own a share of the Hoyle copyright until the "14th". That leaves my chart simpler and clearer as follows:

Interestingly, the imprint of the "14th" edition of Hoyle's Games published in December 1767, did not reflect the results of the Osborne sale of April. As I noted here, the imprint states the book is printed for Osborne, Woodfall, and Baldwin, but contemporary newspaper advertisements are correct::
Printed by assignment from T. Osborne, for H. Woodfall, R. Baldwin, and S. Crowder, in Patern-noster-row, and J Wilkie, No 71, in St. Paul's Church Yard.
These two examples of imprecise imprints show provide a caveat to my discussion in "Researching Copyright."

I am delighted to have eliminated a little nag that has bothered me for some time.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More from the database: another bad seller

In may last essay, I described the database I had built with many sources of information about the Hoyle copyright. In the past couple of weeks, I have been loading more newspaper advertisements into the database. Rerunning the reports I shared earlier, I have a new example of a Hoyle that remained in print for a long time. Well, sort of a Hoyle...

The book is Dew's Treatise on Billiards, published in 1779. There is not a word of Hoyle's in it, but it must be considered in a discussion of the publishing history of Hoyle. As I discuss in "The most important Hoyle after Hoyle", the 1779 Charles Jones book Hoyle's Game Improved, incorporated a number of other gaming works--William Payne's works on whist and draughts (checkers) and Dew's on billiards.

In "A Research Trip to Cleveland" there is a section on challenges for the Hoyle bibliographer. There I note books written by Hoyle that appear without attribution and books attributed to Hoyle that he or his publishers had nothing to do with. Dew's book represents a third case: it was printed at the same time as Hoyle's Games Improved from the same setting of type used for its appearance there. Perhaps you can imagine the printer saving the pages of type after printing HGI, changing the page numbers and adding a new title page for Dew. Because it is the same setting of type, the separate treatise is bibliographically part of the same edition of HGI, but is a separate issue. It is part of the same business venture and must be treated in a Hoyle bibliography.

As to their reception, HGI sold reasonably well, with the next edition appearing in 1786, seven years later. Dew's treatise was nowhere near as popular. It was never reprinted and advertisements can be found as late as 1794, staying in print for 15 years.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A database for the Hoyle copyright

I'll return shortly with the sequel to "What was the Hoyle Copyright Worth? (part one)." Perhaps this essay will make clear the reasons for the delay.

In "Researching Copyright" I discussed the many tools I used for learning who owned shares in the Hoyle copyright. They were the Stationers book of registry, imprints, publisher's records, bookseller trade sales, receipts, and newspaper advertisements. I have many examples of all of these for Hoyle, including more than 500 newspaper advertisements for 18th and 19th century Hoyles. I tend to have PDF files of the various sources reasonably well organized on my computer. To compile and analyze the data, I rely on dozens of Word documents and Excel files. As the data have become more numerous, it has been harder and harder to keep the Word and Excel files in sync.

I have been contemplating putting everything in a database for a long time and finally started a couple of days ago. I built a database to manage the copyright data: books, booksellers, imprints, advertisements, and more. For the technically minded, I built the database in sqlite3 and use python where extra processing is required. It took about 25 hours to get something useful and I'm pretty pleased with what I can do. Here are a few examples of questions I can now easily answer:

From the 1740s until the 1860s, many booksellers bought and sold pieces of the Hoyle copyright. Which booksellers held pieces for the longest time?

bookseller  from_date   to_date     years     
----------  ----------  ----------  ----------
Baldwin     1755-12-24  1835-05-27  80        
Longman     1800-05-15  1868-07-09  68        
Lowndes     1771-11-12  1821-01-02  50        
Wilkie      1767-12-12  1814-01-11  47        
Newbery     1771-11-12  1800-05-15  29        
Crowder     1757-12-22  1785-12-08  28        
Mawman      1800-05-15  1826-03-26  26        
Bladon      1771-11-12  1796-03-05  25        
Payne       1779-11-13  1804-05-12  25        
Scatcherd   1796-03-05  1821-01-02  25        
Stewart     1796-03-05  1820-02-18  24        
Osborne     1745-10-26  1767-12-12  22        
Law         1775-06-09  1796-03-05  21

The Baldwin firm comes out on top, ahead of Longman, Lowndes, and Wilkie.

Of course these were not individuals, but families or firms who held the copyright for the better part of a century. One can see the evolving names in imprints and advertisements:

from_date   to_date     first_name    last_name     suffix                             
----------  ----------  ------------  ------------  -----------------------------------
1757-01-01  1767-12-12  Richard       Baldwin                                          
1771-11-12  1813-12-24  R.            Baldwin                                          
1820-02-01  1826-03-26                Baldwin       Cradock, and Joy                   
1835-05-27  1835-05-27                Baldwin       and Cradock                        
1800-05-15  1803-08-03                Longman       and Rees                           
1808-05-24  1808-05-24                Longman       Hurst, Rees and Orme               
1813-12-24  1820-02-01                Longman       Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown        
1826-03-26  1826-03-26                Longman       Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Co.         
1835-05-27  1835-05-27                Longman       Rees, and Co.                      
1842-03-02  1842-03-02                Longman       Brown, & Co.                       
1847-03-03  1868-07-09                Longman       and Co.                            
1771-11-12  1779-11-13  T.            Lowndes                                          
1785-12-08  1820-02-01  W.            Lowndes                                          
1771-11-12  1779-11-13  J.            Wilkie                                           
1785-12-08  1796-03-05  G. and T.     Wilkie                                           
1800-05-15  1803-08-03  G.            Wilkie                                           
1808-05-24  1813-12-24                Wilkie        and Robinson                                

It would be possible to research the history of these booksellers in the British Book Trade Index to see if what I'm seeing for the Hoyles accurately reflects deaths, and successions.

I've written elsewhere about the 1774 case of Donaldson v. Beckett, eliminating the common law perpetual copyright in England. Who owned a share of the Hoyle copyright before that decision?

Booksellers with a share in the Hoyle copyright

For a number of reasons this report was hard to produce--it took some help with python. Note the disposition of Thomas Osborne's share with his death in 1767 and the proliferation of owners shortly thereafter. The report is even more interesting when it is extended in time, but that would be hard to display here.

Another question: Which book stayed in print the longest? I looked for books which were advertised the longest after publication date. The results are preliminary, as I've entered only a subset of advertisements in the database, but even the early results are interesting:

book                  publish_dt  advert_dt   years     
--------------------  ----------  ----------  ----------
1745 Laws of Whist    1745-10-26  1751-11-12  6         
1750 Osborne 10       1749-10-21  1755-12-24  6         
1761 Chess            1760-12-30  1766-01-08  6         
1761 Chances          1760-12-24  1764-01-18  4         
1800 Jones Direction  1800-05-15  1804-05-12  4         
Remarkably, most of the Hoyles were in print three years or less. The exceptions are worth more research and more discussion.

I identified The Laws of Whist and Directions for Breeding Game Cocks as poor sellers from another source, catalogues from bookseller trade sales. In the essay "The (missing) Laws of Whist Designed for Framing" I noted that the Osborne sale of 1767 offered 325 copies of the Laws more than twenty years after it was published. See the discussion below for further evidence of the slow sales of the Laws. Similarly in "Hoyle's Games Improved, Charles Jones (1800)" I noted there that Directions was a poor seller, with bookseller Wilkie's remaining stock going unsold at an 1814 bookseller's trade sale. It is comforting to note that trade sale catalogues and newspaper advertisements tell the same story.
[Aside: In my research I have focused on the trade sales primarily for sales of the Hoyle copyright, and have not searched exhaustively for the much more frequent sales of books unless copyrights were offered at the same sale. I'm only beginning to appreciate how much could be learned from this unimaginably time-consuming effort. That work would disclose more examples of poor sellers and could also help estimate print runs. For an example, consider the "eleventh" edition of Hoyle's Games. Six months after it was published, 350 copies were offered at the Hodges trade sale. As Hodges had owned a one-third share, the print run was likely 1250 or 1500 copies. See The Hoyle Copyright in Hoyle's lifetime."]
The database helps another way: in the essay on Hoyle's Games Improved, I speculated that the price for Directions might have been a shilling or two. In fact, advertisements shows it sold for sixpence, something that if I noticed before, I had not recorded on the right spreadsheet.

The appearance of the "10th" edition of Hoyle's Games on the list does not tell the full story. In fact the "10th edition" is a reissue of the "8th" edition dating back to 1748. See "Reissues of Mr. Hoyle's Treatises (1748-1755)." I have not yet done the work to connect multiple issues when they are the same edition (and indeed, it can be difficult to tell which issue is being advertised). I've often wondered whether Osborne overestimated the demand when he had the "8th" edition printed, or whether there was standing type and multiple impressions were made.

Interestingly, Chess and Doctrine of Chances do not appear to have been great sellers. For more on the latter, see this essay.

A last example: What books were advertised at more than one price? Here, I would expect to find situations where the booksellers were forced to lower prices.

book                  CNT                 
--------------------  -----
1745 Laws of Whist    2                   
1751 Laws of Brag     2                   
1757 Osborne 11       2                   

Three books where advertised at multiple prices. Checking the specific advertisements, I find:

date        paper                 book                  s.   d.
----------  --------------------  --------------------  ---  ---
1745-10-26  London Evening Post   1745 Laws of Whist    1    0      
1746-01-14  London Evening Post   1745 Laws of Whist    1    0      
1747-11-07  London Evening Post   1745 Laws of Whist    1    0      
1748-03-05  Whitehall Evening Pos 1745 Laws of Whist    0    6      
1748-04-30  London Evening Post   1745 Laws of Whist    0    6      
1751-11-12  London Evening Post   1745 Laws of Whist    0    6      
1751-01-22  General Advertiser    1751 Laws of Brag     2    6      
1751-01-25  General Advertiser    1751 Laws of Brag     2    6      
1751-02-28  Whitehall Evening Pos 1751 Laws of Brag     1    0      
1756-12-21  London Evening Post   1757 Osborne 11       3    0      
1757-06-10  Public Advertiser     1757 Osborne 11       3    0      
1757-12-22  Public Advertiser     1757 Osborne 11       3    6      
1757-12-24  Public Advertiser     1757 Osborne 11       3    0      
1757-12-27  Public Advertiser     1757 Osborne 11       3    0      
1760-01-03  Public Advertiser     1757 Osborne 11       3    0         

As I observed earlier, the Laws of Whist did not sell well, and Osborne lowered the price from a shilling to sixpence in 1748. Jolliffe had the same problem with the Laws of Brag, lowering the price from two shillings sixpence to a shilling almost immediately. Brag itself likely had the same problems, but I only have inferential evidence of its price. As far as the "eleventh" edition of Hoyle's Games, apparently the printer made an error in setting the December 22 advertisement.

I have a lot more data entry to do, primarily advertisements and trade sale data. Once I do that, I'll be ready to do a better job of  part 2 of "What was the Hoyle copyright worth?"

Well, I'm enjoying my new toy. What other questions should I be asking?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What was the Hoyle copyright worth? (part 1)

Readers of this blog know that I am obsessed with the Hoyle copyright. I see Hoyle as a brand, rather than an author; a business endeavor, rather than literature (see "Continuities and Disruptions"). Understanding who owned the copyright (see "Researching Copyright"), what it was worth, and how it was exploited is, I believe, the key to understand the Hoyle canon.

One way to assess the value of the copyright is look at what booksellers actually paid for it. For example see "The Hoyle Copyright in Hoyle's Lifetime" where we see transactions for shares of the Hoyle copyright implying a value of £187 10s. in 1763 and £261 in 1767.

But how might a bookseller decide how much to pay for a copyright? In this post I am going to present a simplified model for valuing the Hoyle copyright. If the results seem reasonable, I will do the extra work of removing the simplifications.

Timing of Valuation

The model will value the copyright only at the book is about to be reprinted, the time time when it is most valuable. Booksellers make money from the copyright by printing new books for the cost of printing, paper, advertising, etc., and selling the books to retail booksellers (and perhaps wholesale booksellers as well; see the discussion below). When a book has just printed, the opportunity to produce new books and thus to make money from copyright ownership must wait until it goes out of print, reducing the value of the copyright. See the discussion in Belanger, Booksellers' Sales of Copyright: Aspects of the London Book Trade 1718-1768. Ph. D. Dissertation. Columbia University. 1970 at pages 105-8. When we compare the model's prediction of copyright value with actual sales, we will have to note the timing of the sales with respect to reprinting.


The Longman Archives give us detailed information about print runs and expenses for the Charles Jones edition of Hoyle's Games Improved and the G. H. edition of Hoyle's Games Improved and Enlarged from 1796 to 1868. I am going to use the Longman data from 1796 to 1826 because the data are more consistent year-to-year, letting me work with averages without distorting things greatly.

Printing of the Jones Hoyle. Data from the Longman archives.
The data show that the Jones Hoyle was reprinted every five years with production expenses averaging £304 and retail sales £1082.
Aside: There are some details I'm overlooking. For example the publishers would often issue sections of the book separately. See for example "Hoyle's Games Improved, Charles Jones (1800)" where I note that the publishers excerpted the treatise on game cocks and issued 500 copies. That would account for a small portion of the expenses (500 of 42,500 sheets) and bring in small additional revenue (although it was a very poor seller, with perhaps half the stock unsold fifteen years later). Similarly, portions of the book were issued separately with each edition from 1803 to 1820. It would be possible to extend the model to account for these separate issues which were governed by the same copyright.

The model values the copyright at two points in time, five years apart. These are both times when the book is about to be reprinted, so we won't have the timing problem discussed above. The major assumption of my model is this: the value of the copyright is the same at the beginning and end of the five-year period. This assumption would be silly for a typical book where the sales are uncertain. If the book sold well, the value of the copyright would increase; if it sold poorly, the value would decrease, perhaps to zero. Hoyle is an unusual case, a perenniel best-seller, where the booksellers could count on selling an entire print run of 3000 or 4000 books every five years.It seems reasonable that with unchanged prospects for the book, the value of the copyright would be unchanged as well. Perhaps the same model would apply to other best sellers such as bibles, almanacs, and school books.

A lesser assumption is that the bookseller will sell 1/5 of the books at the end of each of the five years. This is unrealistic because the book would likely sell best when it was newly published, with diminishing sales over time. Second it defers each year's sales to the end of the year--a monthly model with decaying sales would be more realistic.

Finally, I am ignoring the generous credit terms that prevailed at the time. Publishers would not pay printers immediately--six months credit was not uncommon. Similarly, publishers extended generous credit to the wholesale and retail booksellers.

The Model

The model assumes the following cash flows:
  • At the end of year 0, the bookseller purchases the whole copyright. 
  • At the end of year 0, the bookseller pays for a print run (£304)
  • At the end of each year 1 through 5, the bookseller sells 1/5 of the books at some percentage of the retail price of £1082 (see discussion below).
  • At the end of year 5 the bookseller sells the copyright for amount originally paid. 
In the model I will vary two items. First is the discount rate. In a cash flow model, future cash flows must be discounted to a present value. I've looked for historic interest rates in England in the early 19th century and they seemed to cluster around 4 or 5%. I'll look at discount rates from 3 to 6%

Second, it is not appropriate to credit the copyright owner with the full retail price of the book. Some of that profit is attributable to retail bookselling rather than publishing. Indeed there was a third role of wholesale bookselling that existed at the time. There would be separate prices from the publisher to wholesaler, wholesaler to retailer, and retailer to the public. Even where a bookseller played all three roles, we must determine a publisher's price to determine how much revenue is attributable to publishing rather than distribution.

From my reading in the early 19th century book trade, it appears that the wholesale price is about 60-75% of retail. See for example James J. Barnes, Free Trade in Books. A Study of the London Book Trade since 1800. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1964. p22. I haven't seen discussion of a publisher's price, but there is evidence that for Hoyle, it was 40% of retail. When Hoyle was reprinted in 1803, 72 copies remained unsold from the 1800 edition of 3000 copies. The copyright owners include the value of those unsold books as an expense against printing the 1803 edition at 2s. per copy. The retail price was 5s., providing evidence of a publisher's price of 40% of retail. (from the Longman Archive). For the model, I'll look at the publisher's price varying from 40 to 60%.

The Model's Output

Given a discount rate, and a publisher's price, and given that the value of the copyright is the same in the end of year 0 and year 5, you can uniquely solve for the value of the copyright.

Value of Copyright
You can see that the model is not terribly sensitive to the discount rate, but is hugely sensitive to what percent of the retail book price is ascribed to the copyright owner versus the distributors. 

I plan to share the model with friends in finance and with book historians. Next essay, I'll share their feedback and compare the modeled value of the copyright with what booksellers actually paid. More soon!