Wednesday, October 23, 2013

117: A Vale Press publisher's contract

Most texts that were issued by private press publishers during the 1890s and 1900s were written long ago and needed no copyright protection, but in a few cases contracts were drawn up. For Michael Field's The World at Auction a draft for the publisher's agreement is dated January 7, 1897. It is kept in the Bodleian Library (Bodleian Library, MS.Eng. letters d. 121, fol. 26).

The book was announced in 1898; there were to be 210 copies, of which 200 copies on paper and ten on vellum. The price was to be fifteen shillings net. for a paper copy. A letter of appreciation by the poets, Katherine Bradley and Emma Cooper, who adopted the name Michael Field as their joint pseudonym, was written on 24 May 1898. The British Library copy is date-stamped on 22 August 1898.

Michael Field, The World at Auction (1898), page lxxxiv-lxxxv
The draft for the agreement, in black ink, is on Hacon and Ricketts's writing paper with the address No. 52 Warwick Street, Near Piccadilly Circus: 'Memorandum of agreement between Messrs. Hacon & Ricketts Publishers of 52 Warwick St London, W., & Michael Field [crossed out is: 'the misses Bradley' and underneath is written ' M.F.'] at the Durdans Reigate, writing as Michael Field'. There were four stipulations:

'Hacon & Ricketts shall be the first publishers of "The World at Auction" of which "Michael" Field is the author & shall hold the copyright of that book for one year from the date of such publication & shall offer for sale an edition of the book not exceeding two hundred copies'.

'In consideration of this Hacon & Ricketts shall pay "Michael Field" the sum of Five Pounds on the day of the publication of "The World at Auction", & after one hundred copies of the work have been sold by them in the ordinary course of Trade, they shall pay a royalty of 20 per cent on the published of all remaining copies sold by them before the day of the republication of the play by "Michael Field" as provided for by clause iii. Hacon & Ricketts shall render accounts half yearly in January & July.'

'At the expiration of one year from the day of first publication "Michael Field" shall be free to republish "The World at Auction" as the second number of a Trilogy & shall acquire the right of publication as such, together with all acting rights, and all profits arising from such rights.'

'Such republication & transfer of rights shall not interfere in any way with the right of Hacon & Ricketts to continue to offer for sale any copies of their edition that may remain unsold at the time of such republication.' 

The Vale Press publication of The World at Auction was not reprinted by another firm. C.J. Holmes, who acted as manager to the firm of Hacon & Ricketts, wrote to the authors on 21 June 1898 that the book had been sent out the day before, 'so that June 20th may be taken as the date of its formal publication'.

Holmes send them 'the twelve prospectus as you request, also three presentation copies making four with the one we previously sent. This was the number which you had of "Fair Rosamund" so I suppose it is right.' 

The agreement did not mention the number of presentation copies that the authors should receive. The £5 (mentioned in the second part of the agreement) was enclosed by Holmes in the form of a cheque', and as he was busy these warm days of June, he added 'In haste (+ HEAT)'.

Michael Field, The World at Auction (1898), page  v with decorations by Charles Ricketts