PUBLISHER: John B. Alden, New York, 1879-1908

ABOUT: Operated as American Book Exchange (used books) at 55 Beekman Street from 1874; began publishing 1879 and sold cheap books ($.35 and $.50 apiece) direct to customers rather than to bookstores (which threatened retailers "until he demonstrated that it was not possible to sell books at less than the cost of production, and his bankruptcy followed," Tebbel). 1880 moved to 154 Nassau, employed 500 people producing 4,000 books a day. 1881 moved to 764 Broadway, went into receivership (see Tebbel analysis of production cost of one title) and formed the Useful Knowledge Publishing Company at 18 Vesey Street. Renamed Alden Publishing Company in 1883 and moved to 393 Pearl in 1884. (Played a role in the United States Book Company, 1890: cf Tebbel). 1893 began the Elziver Publishing Company, assigned for debt in 1894 to Frank Tracy. John B. Alden Publisher formed at 12 Vandewater in 1895, moved to 440 Pearl in 1897 and to corner of Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue in 1900. Changed name to Alden Brothers Publishers in 1905 and retired in 1908. (DLB 49).

For Raymond Howard Shove's brief history of Alden's activities, click here. This excerpt also contains an analysis of the cost of producing "cheap" books which leads to a strong suggestion that Alden (and perhaps other reprint publishers) were spending more in production than they could hope to realize by sales. See also Korey essay in Stern Mass Entertainment (research tools).

THE failure of the "Elzevir Co.," of which Mr. John B. Alden is a leading spirit, is recorded this week. A valuable chapter of trade history could be written of the bankruptcies of the suc­cessive and protean enterprises with which Mr. Worthington, Mr. Alden, and Mr. Lovell have been associated. [Publishers’ Weekly 46:1162, May 5, 1894].

As announced recently, the firm of John B. Alden & Co. made its annual failure. How many times this house has failed, only those who have kept a record know. John has the art of failing now, down to a science. One of the firm’s chief creditor’s, when asked recently said he did not expect a cent on the dollar. It is a singular fact that the reputation of this man is such that nothing can be said in vindication. When one considers the growth of socialism and the impatience of some to owerthrow the present competitive system, no wonder should exist, when men like Alden and [Richard] Worthington are taken into account. [The American Newsman 1894-06 p6].

FAILURE OF THE ELZEVIR COMPANY.. THE ELZEVIR COMPANY, booksellers, of 57 Rose Street, New York, and of Orange, N. J., made an assignment Wednesday, May 2, to Frank Tracy without preference. The officers are John B. Alden, president and treasurer, and Leonora Watts, secretary. Mr. Alden incor­porated the company under New Jersey laws in July, 1891, with a capital stock of $100,000, of which it was said that $17,050 was issued as full paid. The concern was regarded in the trade as virtually belonging to Mr. Alden. He has been in the book business for twenty years, and has assisted in the formation of several com­panies. The present company succeeded to a part of the business of the Alden Publishing Company. The attorneys for the company es­timate the liabilities at about S30,000. The as­sets nominally are considerably larger. [Publishers’ Weekly 46:1162, May 5, 1894].

For a long, highly complimentary, illustrated, cover page story in the October 1880 issue of Scientific American as well as a brief disparaging 1881 remark about Alden and the quality of his publications, click here.


1884 PTLA: "Meredith" included in the Library of Poetry, "neat cloth" for $.50.

1885 PTLA: "Meredith, including Lucile" in the Library of Poetry, set in Brevier type, plain cloth for $.60. "I also publish the same works, at prices 20 cts. a copy higher than above, in a very handsome cloth binding, with full gilt edges and ink and gold stamps, comparing favorably in the opinion of many persons of the best taste, with the "Red Line Editions" on account of the absence of the Red Line, and the less gaudy binding."

John B. Alden Meredith's Poetical Works John B. Alden Meredith�s Poetical Works Click to magnify

1888 PTLA: Lucile, a Novel in Verse, is included among the "latest issues" in the Elzevir Library, price postpaid, $.12.

1890 PTLA: Ideal Ed., cloth. $.30. 1892.

John B. Alden LUCILE John B. Alden LUCILE John B. Alden LUCILE John B. Alden LUCILE

John B. Alden LUCILE Click to magnify Click to magnify

John B. Alden LUCILE




Last revised: 4 February 2024