Wednesday 2 March 2011

Back Up

Victorian novelists had problems backing up their work. Well, frankly, they couldn't ... here's an innovative solution which - I may be wrong - I don't think was ever realised ...

Ye Leadnenhalle Press, E.C.

The fire by which an enormous stock of books in the warehouse of a prominent London publisher was recently destroyed has naturally given rise to a good deal of discussion in connexion with an old but admitted grievance - the difficulty, or rather impossibility, of insuring authors' manuscripts. To cite instances which must be familiar to most of your readers, where, by no fault of their own, authors have found the labour of years reduced to ashes and themselves to despair, would be wasting valuable space. From the author's point of view, his manuscript has a distinct monetary value, and ought, he thinks, to be as readily insurable as pictures or plate. From the insurance companies' point of view, however, a manuscript may be valuable, but they argue that there can be no positive proof that it is, and their representatives shrewdly suspect that were they to accept such risks a few poubnds weight of spoilt paper from thge butterman's could and would be made to represent the brain-work of a budding Carlyle or an immature Darwin. While beset with difficulties, the subject, now that everybody writes books, is one of growing importance, and it is, I think, to the interest of established insurance companies to propose conditions and restrictions under which they will be prepared to insure an author's manuscript until the book is published or duplicate proofs have been received from the printer.

The Athenaeum, 1883


  1. Another instance of how things are taken for granted these days.

    I was thinking only the other day, also, about how books & novels were written by hand! It makes the prolificness of someone like Dickens seem all the more incredible when you imagine him bent over his desk with his pen.

    Probably explains why he dashed back into the wrecked train at Staplehurst to retrieve the manuscript of 'Our Mutual Friend'

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