Creating Publishers' Trade List Annual, 1872-1874 Click to magnify

For a thorough history of 19th century U.S. book-trade bibliography, see: Adolf Growoll 1850-1909), Book-trade bibliography in the United States in the XIXth century: to which is added A catalogue of all the books printed in the United States, with the prices, and place where published, annexed. Published by the booksellers in Boston, January, 1804. New York: Printed for the Dibdin Club, 1898. This is available online. This small book also contains useful biographies of Orville A. Roorbach, Charles B. Norton, Charles Rudolph Rode, Obadiah Rich, Henry Stevens, Nicholas Trubner, James Kelly, Joseph Sabin, and Frederick Leypolt. Jay W. Beswick, The Work of Frederick Leypoldt, bibliographer and publisher (New York: R.R. Bowker, 1942, is a early and brief, but useful, biography of Leypoldt. (Online at HathiTrust).

Frederick Leypoldt (1835-1883), an emigrant from Germany, had accumulated extensive experience in U.S. publishing and bookselling by 1872. He had long harbored a dream to create a durable catalog of United States imprints to continue -- and much improve upon -- the work of Orville Roorbach and James Kelly. Sveral efforts to garner support for this endeavor had been unsuccessful.

In January 1872 Leypoldt created The Publishers' and Stationers' Weekly Trade Circular and promptly merged it with George W. Childs' The American Publishers' Circular and Literary Gazette. The latter title had started life in 1852 as Norton's Literary Gazette and Publishers' Circular. Childs', a Philadelphia publisher, had bought it in 1855, changed the title to The American Publishers' Circular and Literary Gazette, and in 1856 merged it with The Criterion (established 1855) whose editor, Charles R. Rode, edited the merged title until Childs himself took over supervision in 1863, changing the title once again to The American Literary Gazette and Publisher's Circular and publishing it until the end of 1871.

Despite its ever-changing title, the content from 1852 through 1872 remained much the same, primarily a journal of literary and trade notes with lists of recently published books designed for booksellers and carrying extensive advertising from publishers. Leypoldt's use of "Publishers' and Stationers..." acknowledged the increased attention many booksellers were giving non-book items -- not only papers but pens, ink holders, stereotype holders, and many other products that would attract book buyers and other customers. The early 1870s were tough financial times for the book trade.

Content of the Trade Circular changed only slightly when, with the January 18, 1873, issue (whole number 51) Leypoldt himself revised the title to "The Publishers' Weekly, [Formerly the Trade Circular.] With which is incorporated the American Literary Gazette and Publisher's Circular, Established in the year 1852. Official Organ of the Publishers' Board of Trade." PW gave him a new platform from which to urge a national catalog of imprints, though he initially stirred little enthusiasm.

By 1873, however, Leypoldt had become exquisitely sensitive to a related issue that plagued booksellers and publishers alike: the circulation of publishers' lists and catalogs. Publishers desperately wanted to get their lists and catalogs to booksellers; booksellers wanted them equally badly in order to satisfy customer needs. Most publishers maintained mailing lists of booksellers, of course, but none of them were either comprehensive or kept to date. Booksellers expended considerable time requesting catalogs from individual publishers. Taken as a whole, the trade annually spent substantial resources meeting this one small, common, need.

Early in 1873, then, Leypoldt saw an opportunity for The Publishers' Weekly (PW) to offer both booksellers and pubishers a noteworthy economy. PW itself made every effort to maintain comprehensive and up-to-date mailing lists: publishers provided the bulk of its content; booksellers were its principal subscribers. If publishers printed and sent multiple copies of their lists to PW and PW bound them up and "sold" the resulting volumes to booksellers for the cost of binding, giving one copy to contributing publishers, this would cut out much duplicated effort, and the reduced overall cost would be more or less evenly divided between publishers and booksellers. The scheme was much helped by the fact that nearly all bookesllers contracted with New York City periodical distribution jobbers who routinely made up and distributed packets to booksellers, including in them, as a courtesy, other items sent via the trade (e.g., books ordered directly from publishers).

In the April 26 PW issue (III:17, no. 67, page 415), Leypoldt outlined a plan:

Catalogues Wanted.
A correspondent at the South states clearly the need of full lists of books published and for sale in America, by titles and authors. There would be no need to call upon the publishers to be their own bibliographers, as he suggests, were there sufficient support among the trade to make such a catalogue pay expenses. Mr. Kelly proposed just such a condensation (at a moderate price) of the Roorbach-Kelly series, but found nowhere near sufficient encouragement to proceed, and our annual catalogue, answering the same need, was discontinued because the trade did not buy enough to pay for type-setting and printing. Since we have given up that catalogue we have received many expressions of regret.
We propose to do at least this: to revive the uniform trade catalogue, binding together in an octavo which we shall supply to booksellers at a merely nominal price, the full catalogues of all publishers who will furnish them. This is found very serviceable for ready reference, but it by no means takes the place of the alphabetical bibliography.
A prospectus will be issued shortly.

The following week he produced a more detailed version.

A Trade List Annual.
Referring to the editorials of last week's issue, concerning the constant demand for Catalogues and Trade Lists, we beg to submit the following plan for the consideration of the Trade:
1. During the summer months, when most publishers are preparing their new Catalogues and Trade Lists for the Fall season, a call to be made on all publishers requesting them to strike off an extra number of copies for the purpose of distribution among the Trade through this office (size of paper, number of copies, and other details to be stated in special circular).
2. The collection of Catalogues and Trade Lists to be closed at a date to be fixed, say September first, then made up in sets, arranged alphabetically according to name of publisher, and each set bound up in one volume.
3. This volume to be supplied free of charge (except postage, when sent by mail) to every member of the trade, librarian, large book-buyer, etc., on application.
4. The application to be made early (date to be fixed). No person to claim more than one copy, and every applicant to apply under his own signature. If any bookseller can place advantageously a few extra copies in the hands of librarians or large book-buyers, their own written application is required.
These regulations are necessary, in order --
1. To decide in advance on the number of copies really needed. It would not be possible, later in the season, to gather again all the lists for a new supply.
2. To enable us to make an estimate of each publisher's share of expense in the enterprise, which, being co-operative, should cause as little cost as possible beyond a supply of the printed catalogues.
3. To insure the contributing publishers against any waste of material and unnecessary expenses.
4. To convince every publisher, by a bona fide subscription list, of the great advantage gained by being represented in the Annual.
A subscription book will at once be opened, and every name entered in the order of receipt. All letters referring to the enterprise will be filed separately for reference of publishers and manufacturers.
Mode of despatch must be stated in every application. Applicants who omit to state the mode of sending the book will be notified, on publication day, of the amount of postage to be remitted. As the volume probably will be a large 8vo, embracing some 700-800 or more pages, much expense can be saved by having it sent through the New York jobbing houses.
A full classified list of the publishers represented, in which their name will be placed under the headings of every special class of books they publish, will be expressly prepared for the Trade List Annual. This index will greatly facilitate research to those who have to fill orders for specialties, and be a useful guide for beginners.
We propose this plan to the subscribers of the Publishers' Weekly, and await their approval or their suggestions before going to further expense, and issuing a general prospectus addressed to every member of the trade, and every librarian and large book-buyer whose address we may be able to obtain.
Our subscribers are requested to express their opinion in this matter without delay, as the enterprise will depend on their decision. Any remarks concerning the Publishers' Weekly and suggestions for its improvement will, at the same time, be thankfully received and considered.
The Trade List Annual, together with the Publishers' Weekly, may, for the present, serve the practical purposes of booksellers and bookbuyers, although the editor hopes the time may not be far off when a systematic bibliographical record will be practically acknowledged to be indispensable in every bookstore.

The question was much discussed in Letters to the Editor -- by mid-May the proposed volume was titled The Uniform Trade List Annual and subscriptions were soliticited. The July "Education Number," carried an announcement (page 83) that the Annual would be priced at $.50 per copy and that subscriptions would cease on August 1st so that the number of catalogs required could be decided and publishers notified to print them.

In choosing "Uniform," Leypoldt had at least three things in mind. First, in 1868, a Philadelpia publisher, Howard Challen, had produced The Publishers' Uniform Trade List Directory in a format Leypoldt hoped to emulate. Second, he envisioned the catalogs as no-nonsense lists, descriptive but foregoing fancy font-work and eye-catching typographic variety as well as pre-publication blurbs, excerpts from reviews, and other advertising hype. Third, the catalogs were to be printed in "Royal Octavo," "-- the double-columned large octavo in which the Publishers' Weekly, the Harpers', Appletons', Lippincotts', and other catalogues are now issued." This uniform size permitted the binder a slight three-edge trim without cutting into content.

Fortunately for posterity the enterprise got underway so late in the year that for the first volume at least Leypoldt had to accept what publishers could submit, often already printed catalogs or recycled texts, filled with detail and design not strictly "descriptive," and collectively not at all "uniform," features that make PTLA the splendidly multi-faceted resouce it is today.

PW No. 86 (August 30) carried a brief statement that catalogs had been rolling in daily and that binding should be completed by the end of September. No. 90 (October 4) announced it ready: a volume containing the full trade lists of 144 American publishers comprising 1658 pages. Publishers had been asked to supply 2000 copies of their list or catalog, but shortages in some bundles made it possible to complete less than 1900 copies. A "List of Advance Subscribers, October 1873," four unnumbered pages inserted after page 334 and found uniquely in the Harvard copy, records 1645 copies distributed to subscribers (principally bookselllers) with 219 sent to contributors and advertisers, for a total of 1864 copies. Immediately there were widespread demands for more copies, added copies for those who had subscribed conservatively as well as first copies by those who had not subscribed at all; but of course none could be supplied.

There was a small bit of discussion in PW through October 1872 and then nothing unitl May 2, 1873 (V:18, No. 120, pages 427-428) when The Annual for 1874 was announced with a prospectus, repeated on May 9, price increased to $1.00. These noted that orders for over 1000 copies of the 1873 volume had been received after the deadline and advised prompt order for the 1874 volume. Two unnumbered sheets bound into the Harvard copy of VI:1 (January 3, 1874) and headed "Opinions and Endorsements of the Trade / Suggestions to Publishers" may have been issued and circulated at this time. The June 27 issue (No. 128) announced that to reduce the bulk of a singe volume the Annual would be divided, with the Publishers' Trade List Annual "freed from all miscellaneous matter that may interfere with prompt reference" while The Stationery Trade List Annual, separately, a few weeks later, would contain a "fuller" representation of the retailing Stationery and Fancy Goods Trades.

No. 144 (VI:15, October 17) bore notice that the Publishers' Uniform Trade List Annual was being delivered "as fast as the facilities for distributing so bulky a volume will permit." It weighed six pounds (versus five pounds in 1873), above 1800 pages, with 121 publishers contributing plus an additional "30 advertising publishers," the "Annual Reference List, January 1873, to July 1874," and the Educational Catalogue. The volume was in fact titled The Publishers' Trade List Annual -- and this title then persisted for 125 years!

For a PDF file with all the material related to the creaion of PTLA that appeared in Publishers' Weekly between April 1873 and December 1874, extracted in May 2015 from digital copies available at HathiTrust, click here.

Last revised: 14 June 2020