The worst publisher of all time

Plagiarism, lying, fabricating quotes, repurposing old work as new, assuming false identities to promote themselves and tear down their rivals — is there no end to the mischief and malfeasance today’s authors get up to? Many would call modern-day publishers even worse, peddlers of thinly veiled smut and sensationalistic rubbish, derivative rip-offs and trashy celebrity bios. Are publishers not intent on (and ingenious at) ripping off any ink-stained wretch unfortunate enough to come under their thrall? Literary culture as we know it must surely be staggering into its final, degraded stage — am I right?Not so fast. I recently came into possession of a reprint of an old pamphlet, titled “An Author to be Lett,” written by the English poet Richard Savage in 1729; its contents serve as a reminder that it was ever thus. The work purports to be a prospectus discovered in a “leathern case, which had once been red, but was grown black with Grease” that had been “accidentally drop’d near the Mews Gate,” a London neighborhood known for its concentration of booksellers. The document’s alleged author, one Iscariot Hackney, was meant to stand for the entire scribal community known as Grub Street, a conglomeration of down-at-heel, mercenary writers serving the thriving periodical press as well as a booming book trade. A “hackney” was a horse (eventually a cab) that could be hired by the hour, and in time writers operating on the same principle would become commonly known as hacks.Continue Reading…

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The worst publisher of all time


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