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Steam-Powered KnowledgeWilliam Chambers and the Business of Publishing, 1820-1860$

Aileen Fyfe

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226276519

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226276540.001.0001

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New Formats for Information

New Formats for Information

(p.67) 5 New Formats for Information
Steam-Powered Knowledge
University of Chicago Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes new formats for information for W. & R. Chambers. One of the reasons for the early success of the Information for the People must be the almost-unique selling point of costing. The “Prefatory Information” for the Information for the People clarified that the important thing about the project was its inclusion of “human knowledge” at “a price beyond example moderate”—in other words, cheap instruction. The success of the Information for the People and Chambers's Journal offered W. & R. Chambers confidence in their ability to make a commercial system of supplying desirable instructive reading material at affordable prices to sufficiently large numbers of readers. The Chambers' People's Editions were almost alone in occupying a market niche for very cheap nonfiction. Their contributors did not stoop “to humour the weaknesses of their readers, or pamper any unhealthy appetite.”

Keywords:   costing, Chambers, Information for People, Chambers's Journal, People's Editions, affordable prices

Instructive Tracts

The title of W. & R. Chambers's first instructive serial—the Information for the People—tells us much about their sense of audience and mission. In 1834, the brothers acknowledged that many of the copies of their Journal were actually bought by those “in the middle and upper ranks,” but by implication, they were most pleased that it was also “diffused through the very humblest departments of society.”1 Although “the people” could mean the entire population, it more usually referred to the lower ranks of society—in particular, by the mid-nineteenth century, the working classes. However, as Chambers recognized, the group of people who did not have access to expensive schooling or publications was not limited to the artisans and industrious laborers that the SDUK focused on, but included significant numbers of “the middling sorts.” Robert Chambers would later call himself an “essayist of the middle classes,” and claimed to write for people like himself—for sons of weavers, for young booksellers and apprentices, and for clerks and teachers.2

By using the word “information,” Chambers also—and, I believe, deliberately—set themselves apart from the SDUK. Where the SDUK promoted knowledge, Chambers offered information. The first volume of Chambers's Journal had a regular column headed “Popular information on science,” and one of the categories in its index was “Articles of information.” It seems highly probable that this preference for “information” over “knowledge” was a careful strategy to distinguish Chambers publications from those of their main competitors, Knight and the SDUK. The SDUK had been founded six years before the launch (p.68) of Chambers's Journal and had been issuing the treatises of its Library of Useful Knowledge since 1828. Knowledge carried more overtones than information, partly because it tends to convey a sense of value, worth, and wisdom—in contrast with unprocessed, unbiased information—but also because, by the 1830s, it was already inextricably identified in the public mind with the “useful” knowledge offered by the SDUK—and perhaps also with the “Christian” knowledge promoted for over a century by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The word knowledge was firmly associated with charities whose moral mission was to improve the humbler classes. By opting for information, Chambers may have hoped to distance themselves from these organizations and present their publications as being both by and for the people.

One of the reasons for the early success of the Information for the People, as with the other Chambers publications, must be the almost-unique selling point of costing just 1½d. Few sorts of respectable print could be purchased so cheaply, with out-of-copyright reprinted books starting around 5s., newspapers costing at least 5d., and even the SDUK's Library of Useful Knowledge treatises costing 6d. Apart from the religious tracts given away by committed evangelicals, the cheapest forms of print were those sold by street vendors and itinerant hawkers: chapbooks with their traditional tales of “Jack the Giant Killer” and “Valentine and Orson,” sheets of songs and ballads, broadsides with lurid confessions of modern murderers, and pamphlets and newspapers purveying radical political agendas. This sort of literature could be bought for no more than a penny, and more usually just half a penny, but much of it was exactly the sort of misguided, sensational, and potentially corrupting reading material that educational philanthropists were trying to supersede.3

The “Prefatory Information” for the Information for the People was very short, but it made absolutely clear that the significant thing about the project was its inclusion of “human knowledge” at “a price beyond example moderate”—in other words, cheap instruction.4 When the Information was revised and reissued in 1842, a new preface made the point at greater length. The work would address the needs of the “large portion of the middle and the whole of the working classes,” who could not afford scholarly compendia such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Issuing knowledge in the form of “detached sheets,” without the usual features that constitute “dignity in the externals of books,” might not look good to some commentators, but the strategy was essential to convey knowledge “into regions where such knowledge would have never, but for this or similar undertakings, found its way.” The preface continued with a thundering critique of the British education system. The Information could, at best, reach only those who could read, and it (p.69) was “the great disgrace of our age” that “there are great multitudes who do not possess this accomplishment, and for whom, of course, popular encyclopaedias exist as much in vain as light does for the blind.”5

Only the SDUK's new project, the Penny Cyclopaedia, came close to competing with the Information for the People in market and price. The contrast between the two projects is highly revealing. Chambers announced that the Information would be a fifty-part work, issued fortnightly at 1½d., and completed in two years. Knight and the SDUK announced that the weekly parts of their Penny Cyclopaedia would eventually form an eight-volume alphabetical encyclopaedia. Early sales of the Penny Cyclopaedia were an impressive 55,000, whereas the Information could claim only 18,000 on average. But the big difference was that Chambers completed the Information on time, while the Penny Cyclopaedia project kept expanding despite declining sales. By the end of the 1830s, the Cyclopaedia was issuing four parts a week, in a desperate bid to reach the end of the alphabet. Subscribers were losing patience, and many could not afford 4d. a week. Sales were down to less than 20,000 a week when the Penny Cyclopaedia was finally completed in 1843. A contemporary noted that if the Penny Cyclopaedia had continued with its plan of weekly issues, it would have taken thirty-seven years to complete!6 The individual parts of the Penny Cyclopaedia were indeed slightly cheaper, but the Information for the People was completed in a reasonable timeframe, for a total cost to the reader of just over 6s., rather than almost £8!

While the Penny Cyclopaedia struggled toward completion in the late 1830s, the Information for the People was extending its initial modest success. No figures survive for the costs or profit of the original edition of the Information, but a comment in Chambers's Journal in 1845 implies that its cumulative sales may have reached around 45,000.7 Knight estimated that the Penny Cyclopaedia would have needed regular sales of 36,000 to break even.8 The Information surely broke even; and its ongoing sales inspired W. & R. Chambers to issue a second edition in 1842. Some articles needed updating, such as that on emigration to Canada and all those dealing with industry and machinery. They also decided to expand the series to cover a hundred topics. All told, Chambers spent just £362 on the extra literary and editorial labor (whereas Knight is believed to have spent around £40,000 on literary labor for the Penny Cyclopaedia project9). Between 1842 and 1845, Chambers printed 84,420 sets of the new edition, at a cost of £20, 900 (of which an incredible £15,000 was for the paper). Advertising cost £323, but by 1845 they had managed to sell 81, 500 sets. Their profit on this edition was already £9, 415, which, over the three years, matches the Journal's profits of about £3,000 a year.10 In contrast, most of Chambers's individual book titles made profits of just a few tens of pounds. The Information continued to be (p.70) printed—with further revisions in 1848 and 1856—until it was superseded by Chambers's Encyclopaedia.11

The first edition had promised simply to cover “those branches of human knowledge in which the greater part of the community are most interested,” but by the second edition, readers' presumed interests had been replaced with the concept of universal significance: the contents included everything necessary to make “an individual of those classes a well-informed man.”12 Subjects were now included because they were “important” rather than interesting.

The original Information for the People had a clear focus on informing readers about the rest of the world. The very first treatise was an “account of the earth, physical and political.” Five treatises discussed emigration (to the various Canadian colonies, the United States, New South Wales, and Van Dieman's Land). Others described Britain, the British Empire, the United States, the East and West Indies, and China, covering each region's geography, politics, history, industry/agriculture, and society. The obsession with assisting emigration was reflected in the Journal, whose very first issue had included extracts from a traveler's account of Canada and the United States, with the comment that information on emigration was typically provided at too high a price for those who needed it most.13 In addition to descriptive geography, the Information also dealt with natural sciences (the horse, astronomy, chemistry) and industry (printing, the steam engine). The only biography was of Benjamin Franklin, the American printer, inventor, and statesman.

The new edition of the Information was an opportunity for Chambers to rethink what sort of knowledge was required and how to arrange it. Where the original Information had resembled a miscellaneous magazine, with its constantly changing subject matter, the revised Information was organized like an encyclopaedia, with a classification of knowledge. The articles of descriptive geography were grouped together; so too were the articles on emigration, on natural history, on natural philosophy, on agriculture and country life. The new articles filled in some of the gaps in the historical and geographical treatment, but they also introduced a variety of new topics that might be deemed essential for the well-informed Briton: education, the banking system, the legal system, political economy, and civil government. For a little light relief, there were articles on singing, gymnastics, and such “in-door amusements” as chess and draughts.

The success of the Information compared with the Penny Cyclopaedia is another illustration of Chambers's ability to manage a project more effectively than Charles Knight, working with the SDUK and its contractors, was able to do. But the serial's success in general terms demonstrated that it had (p.71) found a gap in the market: that there was a large readership for cheap publications offering solid instruction, not simply fantastical tales. The only other significant users of the pamphlet format were disputants in religious and political controversies, who wrote pamphlets where later generations would write to the newspapers; and evangelical societies, which issued their message of salvation in religious tracts. During the 1840s, Chambers used the format of series of instructive tracts for several new projects, including the Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844) (see chapter 6) and the Miscellany of Useful and Entertaining Tracts (1844–47). They had such confidence in the market for such works that they planned the Miscellany with the incredible breakeven point of 52,000 copies.14

Steam-Printed Books

The success of the Information for the People and Chambers's Journal gave W. & R. Chambers confidence in their ability to make a commercial system of supplying desirable instructive reading material at affordable prices to sufficiently large numbers of readers. It also gave the firm money to invest in future projects, and they would soon become pioneers of yet another format for cheap information: the steam-printed books of the Educational Course and the People's Editions. One of the great advantages of the tract as a publishing format had been that it was so very short: it used a small amount of (expensive) paper, and its author could not expect a substantial payment for so little work. It thus avoided the problems that had beset earlier attempts to offer full-length books by eminent authors at just 5s. a volume.

By the late 1830s, Chambers would demonstrate that it was possible to sell entire books for under 2s. Three reasons explain why they succeeded where others had failed. First, they accepted that it was not possible to pay substantial sums of money to secure the copyright of a new and original work. Instead, they either commissioned short, new works from little-known authors or they selected works that were out of copyright and therefore could be reprinted for free. The period of copyright protection at this time was a maximum of twenty-eight years, so unprotected works were not necessarily ancient and could easily be packaged as “classics,” while foreign works were also unprotected by British copyright. Second, Chambers resolved to keep paper use to an absolute minimum by using a small typeface, closely printed lines, and double columns. They also used an inexpensive binding format. Yet these techniques were hardly unique to Chambers: provincial publisher-printers had been demonstrating for decades that closely printed editions of noncopyright works could turn a profit with a 5s. price tag. Chambers's originality lay in their third cost-cutting technique: the decision to (p.72) use their steam-printing machine. Although many believed that machines could not produce sufficiently good quality print for book work, anyone who was prepared to ignore elite expectations about what books ought to look like and to privilege cheapness over elegance would find no real reason why books could not be printed by steam.15

Chambers's first steam-printed book appears to have been their edition of the celebrated phrenologist George Combe's Constitution of Man (1828), which they printed in October 1835. The first three editions of Combe's work had been copublished by the Edinburgh firm of John Anderson and the London firm of Longman and sold at 6s., but when a charitable trust subsidized the price of the remaining copies, the boom in sales hinted at a much larger potential audience.16 Combe was a close friend of Robert Chambers, and this is presumably why W. & R. Chambers, who usually printed only their own publications, agreed to steam-print the fourth edition of Constitution on behalf of Anderson, Longman, and several other publishers.17

Although the third edition had already been stereotyped, Chambers had to make new plates for the new page format. Where the third edition had been 382 duodecimo pages, Chambers's compositors managed to fit the text into just 110 (slightly larger, octavo) pages. The steam-printed fourth edition of Constitution of Man was known as the “People's Edition,” and it sold for just 1s.6d. (even less than the subsidized copies). The first 2,000 copies were said to have sold out within ten days, and the stereotype plates were immediately put back into the machine to print another 5,000 copies, which also sold out quickly. Despite the cramped format, the response was incredible. Chambers printed five more impressions of 5,000 copies in the first half of 1836, and another 10,000 in November. The earlier editions of the book had sold just over 10,000 copies in seven years, whereas Chambers's edition had sold 42,000 copies in only two years.18 It was a wonderful proof both that books could be printed by steam and that large number of readers would enthusiastically welcome such books.

In November 1835, a month after printing the Constitution of Man, Chambers announced their Educational Course, a series of readers, textbooks, and teachers' manuals that they advertised as embodying the “most advanced views of Education, both as a Science and an Art” and supplying “a complete Elementary Education, Physical, Moral, and Intellectual.” The series was unusual for the range of disciplines it covered, including, at the more advanced levels, the natural sciences and modern languages. It was also unusual for being so affordable: its rudimentary volumes cost 6d. or 10d., while the most expensive volumes were only 4s. In their advertising, Chambers drew attention to the “considerable advantages” their firm possessed for producing a series of this sort, citing both their established reputation (p.73) as morally sound but apolitical purveyors of cheap information and “the means they command for the preparation and diffusion of Popular Literature.”19 This last was surely a reference to the firm's ability to use steam printing and stereotyping, as much as to their editorial experience in this market niche. One of the most successful of the early volumes of the series was the Introduction to the Sciences (1836), which had sold 12,000 copies by 1837 and 71,000 copies by 1843, all for a mere 9d. a copy.20

Like the Information for the People, the volumes of the Educational Course were newly written for the series, but costs for literary labor were kept low by using little-known authors (such as schoolteachers or the Chambers brothers themselves), reusing material from the Information, and keeping the works short. The very cheapest volumes were less than a hundred pages long, which also meant less expense on paper. The volumes appear to have been steam-printed and stereotyped from the start.

In 1837, Chambers extended their range of steam-printed books by launching a series of People's Editions of noncopyright nonfiction at prices between 1s.6d. and 2s.6d., depending on length. In theory, these volumes should have been more profitable since they involved lower costs for literary labor, but in the long run, the Educational Course found a more secure and steady market in the schoolbook sector. The People's Editions mixed classics with modern foreign works. Works by long-dead philosophers and theologians, such as John Locke and Francis Bacon, appeared alongside those by the more recently deceased William Paley. Modern works included François Guizot's History of Civilisation in Europe and Adolphe Quételet's Treatise on Man.

Locke, Bacon, and Paley were all common targets for reprinting, but including modern foreign works, which required translation, was more unusual. Several of these appeared in the series because William Chambers visited the Netherlands and Belgium in 1838 (his first foreign visit), drawn there by his curiosity about the education and social systems. In Brussels, he bought a copy of Alphonse de Lamartine's Travels in the East, which was translated and issued as a People's Edition in 1839.21 He also met George Combe's brother Andrew, who was physician to the King of the Belgians and who introduced him to Quételet. Quételet's Sur l'homme had been published in 1835, offering a statistical analysis of social and human phenomena. Chambers was sufficiently intrigued to have the work translated, and it appeared in the series in 1842.22

The economics of these steam-printed books are nicely illustrated by one of the early volumes, Paley's Natural Theology. Its early editions had appeared in the standard octavo format, with 548 pages of text in a relatively large typeface with plenty of white space on the page; its cost was 10s.6d. (p.74) When it came out of copyright in 1816, it was immediately issued by reprint publishers, who used smaller pages and smaller typefaces to reduce its price to between 5s. and 8s.In 1837, the Chambers's People's Edition took these techniques further and combined them with steam printing to produce a 100-page, double-columned edition selling at 1s.6d.23 The Chambers edition was stereotyped, so although the first print run was 3,164 copies, it was easy to print more. By the end of 1842, Chambers had sold 14,500 copies and made a profit of £268, equivalent to just over £53 a year. Once the early copies had paid off the costs of composition and stereotype plates for the project, the later copies needed only to cover the printing and paper costs, but since they were sold at the same price, all these extra sales generated proportionately more profit. Thus, in 1837–38, the Chambers firm was making£12.9s.9d.profit per 1,000 copies sold, but between 1842–47, that rose to£22.12s. per 1,000.24 Such figures demonstrate why it was not merely useful but profitable to have stereotype plates for fulfilling later demand.

By the late 1840s, a new confidence in the size of the market enabled competitors such as George Routledge (see chapter 10) to stretch their fixed costs over larger print runs, and thus to sell novels at a shilling without needing to economize so strictly on paper and typeface. These new volumes did not use double columns and were physically more attractive than the People's Editions; unsurprisingly, they damaged the series' sales. Nevertheless, from the late 1830s to the late 1840s, the Chambers People's Editions were, like the Information for the People, almost alone in occupying a market niche for very cheap nonfiction. That novelty made them very successful (and profitable for Chambers).

Morals and Instruction

In their emphasis on really cheap publications providing useful knowledge to a readership hitherto ignored by mainstream publishers, W. & R. Chambers had a lot in common with religious publishing societies such as the Religious Tract Society. Although the brothers were certainly seeking personal profit rather than funds with which to spread the gospel, their choice of publishing specialism was driven by an idealistic desire to help people. The similarities are particularly apparent in the format of Chambers's instructive serials, such as the Information for the People. In publishing terms, the Information was an unusual sort of product, neither book nor magazine. Its closest cousin was probably the religious tract, hundreds of thousands of which were being distributed by city missionaries and scripture readers in Britain's industrial cities every year. The successors to the Information for the People admitted the similarity by using the term tract: the Miscellany of (p.75) Useful and Entertaining Tracts was launched in 1844 and the Repository of Instructive and Amusing Tracts in 1853.

Like the religious tract, each number was a short pamphlet on a single topic, written in clear and simple language, perhaps adorned with a striking illustration. Both sorts of tracts were produced in large numbers at low cost. The religious tracts were usually bought in bulk by philanthropic bodies and given to their ultimate readers for free, while Chambers's tracts were intended to be bought directly by their readers.25 Chambers and the tract publishing societies shared the desire to help people improve themselves and believed that printed matter had the power to do this. The key difference was how they defined improvement. For the Religious Tract Society, improvement was predicated on having a spiritual awakening and accepting Christ and his message of salvation. The Chambers firm was more concerned with helping readers get on in this life by expanding their general knowledge.

Like those of Charles Knight and the SDUK, Chambers's publications avoided controversial religion and politics, leaving evangelical Christian commentators in the difficult position of admiring their cheapness, solid worth, and reliable instruction, while regretting their lack of engagement with salvation. By the mid-1840s, the success of Chambers and the SDUK certainly seems to have inspired religious societies, notably the Religious Tract Society, to bring a Christian tone to cheap instructive literature by publishing on a wider range of topics than they had hitherto done.26 Yet although the evangelicals regularly labeled Chambers and the SDUK as “secular” publishers, Chambers were not totally averse to the inclusion of broad nondoctrinal Christianity. As we have seen, they issued Paley's Natural Theology as one of their first People's Editions, presumably assuming that its demonstration of the existence of God through an examination of the natural world would appeal across sectarian divides. This very book had divided the SDUK, when the society's founder, Henry Brougham, edited a new edition and the society declined to publish it to avoid contravening its ban on religion and politics.27

With no ties to a charitable society likely to take a conservative interpretation of its remit, William and Robert Chambers were free to make their own decisions on what to include in their publications. Little is known about the brothers' personal faith, but both were churchgoers, and William was reputed to be something of a stickler for morality (as some of the authors of the Journal's fiction discovered).28 They appear to have been happy to include nondoctrinal Christianity in their publications and to discuss religious topics, such as the history of the Bible or pagan beliefs. This was utterly insufficient to satisfy the evangelicals, who believed that a Christian tone ought to suffuse knowledge of every sort, but it meant that Chambers' publications (p.76) were not so lacking in religious tone as is sometimes supposed. For instance, the first edition of the Information for the People included articles on natural theology, moral philosophy, and the “duties of life” (which discussed relationships within the family and between neighbors, raising many moral issues). The second edition added a history of Christianity and the Bible, and an essay on “Mohammedan and pagan religions” (the latter term encompassed Hinduism and Buddhism, which were presented as mythological religions, in contrast to monotheistic Islam).

As well as dealing, occasionally, with explicitly religious topics, Chambers's publications took care to maintain a high moral tone.29 This was particularly apparent in the fiction and historical narratives carried in the Journal and in the later series of instructive tracts. The new generation of penny magazines of the 1840s would often be accused of glamorizing crime and vice in the cause of greater drama. The Chambers publications, however, were careful to report history accurately and unsensationally, and to ensure that fictional villains suffered appropriately. The brothers and their editorial assistants were not averse to editing their contributors' texts to suit their needs. In 1835, an editorial in the Journal noted that even contributions from “the most practised writers” regularly required “purification before we deem it fit for insertion.” Purification did not simply refer to “moral decency” but to a determination to exclude any references to “superstitions, savagery, and darker vices of the past.”30 Charles Knight shared this desire to replace superstition with modern rationality and wrote of the SDUK's success in sending “light into the strongholds of ignorance and superstition.”31 Regular contributors to the Journal quickly became familiar with Chambers's stance, and the novelist Catherine Crowe wrote in 1841 that “you may rely on it I shall never interfere with any alterations you have thought proper to make whether I approve of them or not.” She took the very practical view that “in writing for you … one works for money, & not for fame; & if you purchase my wares, I think you have a right to do what you please with them.”32 It seems unlikely that all contributors were so “amiable,” and by the early 1850s, even Crowe was chafing at “these new regulations” when Leitch Ritchie, the Journal editor, sent back one of her stories. Crowe nearly rebelled but eventually agreed to alter “whatever was likely to offend.”33

Chambers's advertisements clearly show the strong editorial line on good taste and impeccable morals. The Miscellany of Tracts was to go beyond being useful and instructive by bearing “on the cultivation of the feelings and understanding.” It was explicitly trying to engage with “important moral and social questions.”34 The Repository of Tracts was advertised as combining its “correct information and sound instruction” with “innocent entertainment.” Its contents would be “under the control of good taste, and free—as (p.77) far as possible—of controversial matter.”35 By making these explicit statements, Chambers tried to define their publications as “a higher kind of Literature” than that which could be “obtained through the cheap periodicals hitherto established.”36 And they were judged to have lived up to their claims. In 1847, for instance, poet Coventry Patmore reviewed a selection of cheap literature in the North British Review. He wished that the “moral tone” of all light fiction could be raised “up to the present mark of Chambers,” and commended the firm's histories for their high standard “of taste, and tone, and feeling.” Noting the high sales of Chambers's Miscellany, Patmore congratulated the firm on achieving that success “fairly” and “by merit.” In contrast to unnamed others, Chambers's contributors did not stoop “to humour the weaknesses of their readers, or pamper any unhealthy appetite.”37

By the late 1840s, W. & R. Chambers were well established as publishers of respectable, instructive cheap print. Their commercial success was a result of William Chambers's insistence on “systematic, almost mechanical precision” in the running of the firm, combined with the willingness to use the new processes of steam printing and stereotyping.38 The reduced unit costs that those processes offered—to publishers producing for the emerging mass market—made cheap print more profitable; but Chambers's innovation was to apply the new processes to genres increasingly far removed from the newspaper and magazine industry. The instructive tracts and People's Editions of the 1830s and early 1840s were incredibly remunerative for Chambers. The publishers of chapbooks and ballads also made money from cheap print in this period, but the striking thing about Chambers is the combination of new technologies with a commitment to instruction and high moral standards that brought them respect from the rest of the literary and book trade community.

For Chambers and Knight, and like-minded commentators, the success of these instructive works seemed to demonstrate a hitherto unfulfilled demand for respectable, instructive cheap print, and justified a great optimism about the prospects for popular education. The events of the later 1840s would disillusion them (see part 2), but until then, Chambers seemed able to make a success from whatever new form of instructive print they could dream up. Nevertheless, they faced several continuing challenges: getting their printed works to their prospective readers, not just in Britain but in the English-speaking world overseas; and, more generally, asserting as much control over all aspects of their business as possible. (p.78)

New Formats for Information

Figure 6. The port of Leith, in 1829, showing old and new forms of shipping. Detail from engraving by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. Reproduced by permission of Capital Collections, Edinburgh.


(1.) “Editorial,” CEJ, February 1, 1834, 2n.

(2.) Quoted in W. Chambers, Memoir of Robert Chambers, 217.

(3.) Neuburg, Popular Literature, 124, and chap. 4 more generally. See also James, Print and the People.

(4.) “Prefatory Information,” Information for the People (1835), [i].

(5.) Preface to Information for the People (2nd ed., 1842), 1:iii.

(6.) For Penny Cyclopaedia sales figures, see Knight, Struggles of a Book, 5. See also Knight, Passages of a Working Life, 2:201–3. Sales for Information are given in “Editorial,” CEJ, February 1, 1834, 1. For “37 years,” see “Charles Knight's English Cyclopaedia,” Times, October 12, 1854, 10, col. A.

(7.) CEJ gave the cumulated sales of Information as 130,000 in 1845. The firm's publication ledgers reveal that the 1842 (2nd) edition had sold almost 85,000 copies by that time. See “Address to Readers,” CEJ, January 4, 1845, 1; and WRC 274 (Publ. Ledger 1842–45), fols. 261–62.

(8.) Knight, Struggles of a Book, 6.

(9.) Gray, Charles Knight, 54–55.

(10.) Detailed cost and income figures for the later editions of Information survive in the firm's publication ledgers. The costs for 1842–45 are in WRC 274, fols. 261–62; they are carried over to WRC 275, fols. 6–7, where the line for 1845 includes the 1842–45 totals. Journal profits are given in WRC 275, fols. 4–5. The average annual profit from 1844–47 was £3,419.

(11.) On the Encyclopaedia, see Cooney, “Chambers's Encyclopaedia.”

(12.) Compare Information (1835), [i], with Information (2nd ed., 1842), 1:iii.

(13.) “Emigration,” CEJ, February 4, 1832, 2. See also Scholnick, “Intersecting Empires.”

(14.) Profit margins for the Miscellany were calculated in WRC 415 (Estimated profits on books), fol. 1.

(15.) On the quality of machine work, see Savage, Dictionary of Printing, 465–67.

(16.) The publishing history of Constitution is reconstructed in van Wyhe, Phrenology, app. C.

(17.) Constitution does not appear in the W. & R. Chambers publications ledgers, though there is no doubt that they printed it (it is occasionally mentioned in correspondence between Robert Chambers and Combe). My examination of the entries in the Longman archives regarding Constitution suggests that Combe published at his own risk (thus taking all profits), using his publishers only as agents. Thus, it would have been his decision to ask Chambers to print a cheap edition.

(18.) van Wyhe, Phrenology, 217–20.

(19.) “Chambers's Educational Course,” CEJ, November 14, 1835, 336. On this series, see Cooney, “Publishers for the People,” chap. 4.

(20.) For 1837, see advertisement for the series in Literary Gazette, September 2, 1837, 567. Sales to 1843 for the best sellers in the series are given in Cooney, “Publishers for the People,” 207.

(21.) The Lamartine volume is mentioned in “Entertainments by Employers to Their Workmen,” CEJ, July 13, 1839, 200.

(22.) On the meeting with Quételet, see W. Chambers, Long and Busy Life, 49.

(23.) On the publishing history of Paley's Natural Theology, see Fyfe, “Publishing and the Classics.”

(24.) Costs, print runs, sales figures, and profits are taken from WRC 274 (Publ. Ledger 1842–45 [sic]), fols. 351–54. The calculations of profit are my own.

(25.) The Religious Tract Society sold its tracts at 1s.2d., 2s.4d., or 4s.8d. per hundred, depending on length. See the listings in “RTS Publications,” RTS archives, item 39.

(26.) Fyfe, Science and Salvation.

(27.) See Brougham, preface to Discourse.

(28.) On Robert's faith, see Secord, Victorian Sensation, 84–85. William's diary from his North American tour records church attendance on Sundays (see WRC 35).

(29.) See Cooney, “Publishers for the People,” chap. 2, § 1.

(30.) “Editorial,” CEJ, January 31, 1835, 1.

(31.) Knight, Old Printer, 242.

(32.) Crowe to Chambers, September 3, [1841?], in WRC 120 (Corresp. A-G).

(33.) Crowe to Ritchie, [n.d.], in WRC 120 (Corresp. A-G). Ritchie worked for Chambers from 1847 to c. 1858. The letter seems to date from the time when he took on the editorship, in the 1850s.

(34.) This phrasing comes from the “advertisement” inserted at the front of the American edition of Miscellany (Boston: Gould, Kendall & Lincoln, n.d.), i.

(35.) Chambers's advertisement, Publishers' Circular, October 15, 1852, 360.

(36.) Chambers's advertisement, Publishers' Circular, January 1, 1850, 13.

(37.) [Coventry Patmore], “Popular Serial Literature,” North British Review, May 1847, 124.

(38.) On William's “precision,” see W. Chambers, Memoir of William and Robert Chambers, 380.