The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXIX. Book Publishers and Publishing

§ 12. Annuals

At the very end of this period the annuals began to appear. Through their profusion of illustrations they notably raised the standard of the publisher’s art all over the civilized world. The year 1843 was distinguished by the publication of Harper’s Pictorial Bible and the Verplanck Shakespeare, which, containing as they did over 2500 pictures, strikingly emphasized the development of wood engraving; while, says Major G. H. Putnam, “beginning with 1869 the art of printing with the best possible artistic effects large impressions of carefully made illustrations was developed in the United States to an extent that has never been equalled in any other country.”

This constant mechanical improvement had, of course, the inevitable effect of cheapening the price of books, especially when reinforced by conditions growing out of the lack of an international copyright law. Accordingly, a little while after it became clear that stereotyping was a success, there was a noticeable lessening in price. Before this period, though there were no heavy advertising bills as at present, books, because of the cost of mechanical production and of carrying charges, especially of overland transportation, were markedly higher than they are today, measured in terms of labour and its products. In fact, they may be said to have been anywhere from two to two and one half times more costly. The constant tendency towards less bulky volumes seems to have received its first impetus from the fact that at an early date books were charged for at circulating libraries according to size; but of course weight in the hand and improvement in paper and type have had most to do with it.