The Truth about Publishing (1926)

Found in RL2463_1 The Truth about Publishing (Allen & Unwin, London 1926) this flier/ order form for the book ‘to be published in September.’ Quite an early use of the word ‘blurb.’ The pamphlet ends with this tongue-in-cheek claim ‘…The Truth about Publishing is a long book but it is published at a low price. This happy combination is due to the fact that the publishers were able to dictate their own terms to the author.’ Our illustration shows a later version of the book illustrated with a portrait of Sir Stanley Unwin by Oskar Kokoschka. He is not to be confused with the great comedian Stanley Unwin  (‘deep joy.’)

A ‘Blurb’

Mr. Stanley Unwin is not tongue-tied, like the ghost of the elder Hamlet. No power on earth or in heaven can forbid him to tell the secrets of his publishing house. ‘The Truth About Publishing’ – how fascinating a theme! Cannot we see authors (whose name is legion, but who, in general, are parsimonious book-buyers) queuing up in Museum Street, burning with eagerness to have their should harrowed by these revelations? ‘Are our suspicions to be justified? Will it prove as bad as we thought?’ – thus we can imagine one Author saying to another while they await their turn.

Readers of ‘The Truth About Publishing’ will find it a fascinating book, of fit is written by one who is a master of his craft of book-publishing; has served his apprenticeship in the book-printing trade, as a publisher’s traveller, and as volunteer assistant to a German bookseller; and has the witty and humorous pen of a ready writer. A successful publisher, withal, eager, not only to inform, but also to criticise. Genially and shrewdly he criticises, not authors alone, but publishers and printers and papermakers and bookbinders and booksellers and book buyers (when there are any) as well. This criticism is always kindly, always helpful – always directed towards the cause he has most at heart, the production and distribution of good books. Incidentally, he makes a modest livelihood (not a fortune!) by the process? Agreed! That is why he is so well qualified to tell us all about it, and to convince his readers that the good publisher is an expert in whom, with due precautions, we may trust; not a necessary evil, but a necessary good.

On his title-page is a quotation from a famous publisher of an artier generation, with which this blurb may aptly close. (Yes, Mr. Stanley Unwin tells us all about blurbs, in his volume of cheerful indiscretions! – but he has not written this one himself). ‘It is by books that mind speaks to mind, by books the world’s intelligence grows; books are the tree of knowledge, which has grown into and twined its branches with those of the tree of life, and of their common fruit men eat and become as gods knowing good and evil.’

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