There are laypeople and also scholars who think that our book trade and publishing business is something essentially modern that only developed in the times of Gutenberg or Luther and Hutten; and indeed the Middle Ages, with their cumbersome parchment codices, knew nothing of publishing, and little developed the book trade. But our culture does not come from the Middle Ages, from classical antiquity. The Greeks and Romans, who anticipated so many other things for us, theater and concerts and public baths, plus the higher education system up to the university with its student associations and pubs, also all sports up to football games, the same Greeks and Romans already have the bookseller and known assorter,
Dictation. book prices. Did the author receive a fee?
However, typesetters and printing presses were unknown to the ancients. It was all handwritten. But if Caesar be Bellum Gallicum, Horace published his satires or Ovid published his “The Art of Loving”, 500 copies, perhaps double or triple that number, were put on the market. The piquant Ovid poem was devoured by the jaunty ladies, the Caesar work by the politicians, the Horace things by the aesthetes and pranksters. But how did you make so many copies? By dictation. A “dictator” may otherwise be something evil; in literature he was indispensable. The dictator spoke the text out loud; about a hundred scribes—active, clever workers—squatted in rows on the ground and copied. The hands flew; the pen never scratched; for writing was painting. The book scrolls then arrived in the shop, nicely equipped. The bookseller had every shelf and crate full of them. On the outside posts of his booth[p. 123] he nailed the latest to lure the street loafers, and he charged tremendously high prices. In those days, literature was a tremendous luxury. According to modern monetary values, a roll of 40 pages was about 16 marks. So if you wanted to buy the whole Livius, you had to pay over 1500 marks. The money was collected by the publisher or initially by the retailer; because the publishing articles were sent from Rome or Alexandria to all other cities and sold there by retailers.
And what did the author himself get? Was there really no fee paid, as was believed? Did writers live on air? Was the poet content to enthuse about the muses on Helicon, while the bookseller traded his often epoch-making verses prosperously? And above all the other writers – should Sallust, who was otherwise intent on his advantage, calmly and selflessly handed over his glorious “Jugurthine War” to the traders so that they could do their business with it? The thing would be too foolish; Something like that would be possible in fairy tales, but not among full-grown people in reality. The Romans usually insisted on rights and property, and so did the Greeks.
In fact: no matter how sparse our information about these things is and must be, the opposite can easily be proven  . The matter becomes clear when Seneca tells us: “We are speaking of the books of Cicero; the bookseller Dorus, however, calls them his property, and both are correct; they belong to one if he wrote them, to the other if he bought them.” So the bookseller paid in any case, in this case presumably to Cicero’s heirs; he bought; without that he could not dispose of the works, so he could not sell them either.
plays highly paid. Self-publishing of the rich authors.
And the author or his heirs therefore really had an advantage and profit. Let’s pay attention to the plays first. The popular solo dancer Paris dances in Rome; he puts in[p. 124]Dance to depict mythological scenes, such as King Pentheus being killed in a frenzy by his mother Agaue. The dancer needs music for this, also an accompanying choral song, and for this a text book is necessary; Statius supplied him with this libretto, and Paris paid Statius his libretti so generously that Statius made a name for himself with them and was also able to write epics that brought him nothing. About a hundred comedies were circulated by the old poet Plautus; some of them didn’t even come from himself. But it was said that Plautus wrote so much in order to become rich; for he sold his pieces and was intent on taking them; whether he liked the pieces afterwards or not was pretty much irrelevant to him. Theater was performed at the festivals of the gods; the civil servant, the aedile, who furnished the festival, each time he needed a newly written play, and he bought it from the poet. In other cases, the head of the drama troupe was also the buyer. Enormously high sums that the poets Terenz and Varius collected for their dramas are actually mentioned to us. There were no royalties on revivals ; that is clear from what has been said. The amount of the sums was all the more justified.
For the comedy thus sold no longer belonged to the poet. However, if a play like Miles gloriosus or Adelphen was to be sold as a drama or book after its success on the stage, the bookseller – let’s say the publisher properly – had to get the manuscript from the aedile or the theater director who now legally owned it , but not buy it from the poet who had surrendered his ownership.
It’s still the same today: Theater things bring in the most money. Think of “Alt-Heidelberg” and the like. Even if only one operetta was a hit, composers and poets can leave their attic room and build a villa in the best area. On the other hand, who publishes Moltke’s or Mörike’s letters, who writes a book about ancient bookkeeping[p. 125]or even with his first lyrical attempts, is very modest in his expectations and demands. And so it was in antiquity. Nevertheless, a man like Cicero had quite a good income as a writer, not with his philosophical essays, the Tusculans, etc., but with his famous speeches, which were actually always an event for Rome and had the effect of pamphlets. It should be remembered that there were no newspapers then, which nowadays carry the speeches of Parliament to every house.
To get the point across, let Apollinaris Sidonius be used. This was one of the richest, most distinguished gentlemen in the Roman world of the 5th century AD, who for a time even had close connections with the imperial court. In his large body of servants or clients, the man also has his own bookseller, and this bookseller now has to help when Sidonius wants to publish his elegant writings; but he does not leave the business itself with the initial business expenses and the profit made afterwards to him, but he only pays him a fixed fee annually, and for this the employee has to take care of the distribution, which presupposes that he pays the profit to the master himself has to deliver; otherwise the fixed fee would have no meaning. This employee is therefore called a “salaried book seller” (mercennarius bibliopola ). Perhaps this man had his own stalls in different cities where he sold things; he could also give them to various others of his own kind, i. i. i.e. to retailers, send and pass on.
The publisher Atticus. joke literature. sales d. sublime seal works.
This procedure is self-publishing, and it is the procedure which all great and well-to-do gentlemen who occupied themselves with writing must have observed, e.g. B. the great legal scholar Ulpian, who was prefect of the guard in Rome and the most powerful man next to the emperor. The abundance of his legal writings, which found understanding only in professional circles, Ulpian himself could only have distributed in this way; no different but also Cicero. However, the matter fell to Cicero,[p. 126]working for a much larger circle of readers, soon found himself uncomfortable, and his excellent business friend Atticus, fortunately, came to his aid. The gentleman of money, Atticus, is the greatest ancient publisher we know. He kept a particularly large number of copyists and with their help published Greek and Roman authors in abundance, professionally and professionally equipped. We now see how Cicero sends him his new works, which are still warm and have hardly come out of the oven, and how then in the copies that Atticus makes, an error occasionally occurs and a number of scribes have to quickly turn up , before it’s too late to undo the damage from all specimens; because in the work, once it is out, nothing can be corrected:nescit vox missa reverti . As Atticus in 46 B.C. B.C. also sold Cicero’s speech pro ligario—everyone seemed to be fighting about it immediately—the author exclaims with delight: “You have sold my speech with such great success: henceforth you shall have the distribution of everything I write, ‘ From which it follows that Atticus by no means published all of Cicero’s things before the year mentioned. Above all, however, we see that Cicero is delighted with the sale; he personally benefited from it.
But we hear more. Nothing is bought more readily than joke literature, which the older generation lived out primarily in “satire”. Satire was the humorous feuilleton of the ancients. We now happen to hear expressly from the satirist Menipp that he has sold his sparkling writings with a large profit. As? is not said. It is enough for us to know that he, too, as the author, made a profit, and a good one at that.
But we also learn the same thing from the satirists, who only sang short poems and epigrams and stung like “wasps”. Once such a man is attacked with indignation because he earns too much money,[p. 127]and there it is said of him: “You sell your witty verses (iambs) like a merchant sells his oil; what services do you have for our common good that you make so much money with your scolding?” It is the same here: the writer has his good advantage.
A respected publishing house in the time of Emperor Augustus was the “Sosii Brothers”; they were the publishers of the odes of Horace, and this raises the important question that still remains: could such poets who wrote not for the stage but only for the reading public, and who thereby confined themselves to the sublime style , count on the same? could they make a living from their art? Things are indeed different here, and anyone who follows this up carefully will gain an interesting insight into the peculiar social conditions of antiquity; it would be a mistake to judge these conditions by ours.
The business of the Sosii brothers was exactly as we must expect from what I have just said; for of them we are told verbatim: “They acquired good works by buying, and then made great profit in selling them, making provisions from them.”
So they too “bought” the manuscripts before they sold them. That goes without saying. Nevertheless, the situation was extremely unfavorable for the poets, and in this respect we can still use our present for comparison. Because even today, anyone who writes an epic or even lyrical poems can be happy when they see their work printed at all; he might even pay a little extra and still cheer when he gets his hands on the first finished copy. So Seneca also says of the poets of sublime style: “They do not write for profit, but are content if they only reap thanks.” So they are modest from the outset; However, the question still arises as to what the “thanks” they are counting on consisted of.
Horace. Dedication is transfer of ownership.
Horace never had more than ten little ones in his whole life[p. 128]Completed books that today together only make up a single, slender volume of around 250 printed pages. How could he have lived on that for thirty years (40-8 BC) if the Sosii brothers had actually paid him a small sum for each of the ten little books? The poet wrote the first five of his books for ten whole years, from 41-31 BC. BC; for each of them he should have received from the publisher an income sufficient for a full two years: which is unthinkable.
That’s how it is otherwise. The poets are the problem children of the muse; for talent tends to be poor. “You read my pretty products,” jokes poor Martial, “but my moneybag knows nothing about them” ( nescit sacculus ista meus ). A rich nabob and consular like Silius Italicus might at least get his boring epic about Scipio out to the public from his own resources with the help of self-publishing; the poor poet, on the other hand, proceeds by dedicating his work to a noble man . The noble placed the highest value on such a dedication; for to be praised by poets counted for more than all immortalization by inscriptions ; and so, in order to show his appreciation, he sets his ambition to secure the poet, in whose talent he believes, materially as well; he gives him carefree leisure; because only in such free leisure can something important be achieved. He then occasionally goes further and sets the poet himself his great tasks, as they correspond to the needs of the time  . As everyone knows, Mäcenas earned his immortal name through his client Horace.
But what was then the procedure for publishing the poems? what was Horace’s business relationship with his publisher? The answer is: he had no relationship with him at all; his wealthy patron stood up for him entirely.
Here it is necessary to deal with the nature of the “dedication”. Nowadays the dedication is nothing but an expression “most respectful[p. 129]worship”; the young man writes his love verses “of my beloved Klotilde”, the doctoral student presents his doctoral thesis, written in Latin, to his parents, who understand no Latin at all. What did Anton Springer get out of dedicating his book on medieval architecture to Herr Boisserée, what did Mommsen get out of dedicating his Roman history to his colleague Moritz Haupt? For this he certainly earned nothing more than a word of the warmest thanks, and the youth perhaps also received a little tenderness from his beloved. That’s all.
It is true that we learned this dedication from the ancients; but in antiquity it had a very different purpose, a different and highly practical meaning. There were two types of dedications. Old Cato addressed his teachings to his son; this often happened, and there the mere purpose of instruction is evident. Cato was a senator, consul, and censor in Rome and did not need to acquire patrons through his writings. But those who are among the economically weak turn to the greats of the stock exchange, to princely persons, to the kings and emperors themselves with their gift, and the “dedication” ( dedicare ) is then a gift ( donare) been in the truest sense of the word; it is expressly designated to us as a donation; i.e. H. it was a complete transfer of ownership, just like selling, and the recipient of the dedication is henceforth the owner of the original manuscript with all the consequences that entails, just as when one student today “dedicates” a walking stick or a nice beer glass to another ; he then no longer has any rights in the matter at all, and the recipient can do whatever he wants with it from then on.
The patrons take care of the publishing house. Care of the Roman Emperors.
The poet has thus surrendered all rights to his work, and if a bookseller now wanted to sell the work and publish it, he obviously had to buy it, but not from the poet, but from the noble man to whom it now belonged. The thing lies[p. 130]just as in the comedies of Plautus. This relieved the poet of all publishing worries; his work was withdrawn from him; but he counted on the “thanks” of his patron, who henceforth secured him financially and took care of him with annual support. This was called a salarium. He was fed like a tamed and captured nightingale. This explains the peculiar phenomenon that it is the recipient of the dedication who decides whether the work should go on sale at all or whether it should remain in the box (probably many works escaped our attention in this way); yes, it is he who orders improvements in the text and finally provides for a decent or pompous endowment. But the poet has thus created a sinecure for himself. So Horace sits in the country near Tivoli, leases the larger part of his estate, feeds his “olives, chicory and mallows” as a genuinely frugal Epicurean and carves his odes from the brittle, dark marble of the Latin language, only about one every month.
In this way poetry has flourished in Rome for almost a hundred years. Therefore, Martial says: As long as there is Mäcene, there is also Virgile! But then the protectors came in. The supply of verses became too great, and gradually people had heard enough of Orestes and Thyestes. Ever since the great lords lost their hunger for poetry, poetry itself has finally starved. In his seventh satire, Juvenal sings her croaking hymn to the grave. The poets were now starving by their oil lamp under the roof on the fifth floor, and it was only about two centuries later that poetry in the dear “Mosella” of Ausonius on our Moselle arose again to a modest aftergrowth.
The services of the Roman emperors to science have not yet been appreciated enough. I’m not talking about the many schoolbooks that are nicely written in a way that is easy to understand; they needed no higher care to spread them; because they could count on good sales from the outset. The teachers drove with their textbooks regularly[p. 131]Trade; the pupils had to buy them, and so occasionally the author of such a book finds himself compelled to affirm that he is not writing it “for the sake of profit”. So such books were “lucrative”. On the other hand, the scholars often found it difficult to come to light with their strictly scientific works, which were usually very extensive. Today our publishers are honored when they actually print and publish works of such heavy caliber; they often make a glorious sacrifice. In those times, however, the emperors themselves often helped; for this the court office was “for learned things” ( a studiis) there. All I can think of is Emperor Marcus Aurelius, whose contemporary, the philologist Herodian, wrote an epoch-making work on Greek syllable stress and accent writing that filled 21 scrolls. He dedicated the roles to Marcus Aurelius, and we now know what that meant; the emperor, who accepted the dedication, caused its “edition”, its reproduction and distribution, just as soon afterwards Mark Aurel’s son, the emperor Commodus, took over the care of the learned encyclopedia of Pollux. In both cases, of course, it was of little use; the works were too overloaded with material; the learned thicket seemed too impenetrable; excerpts were made of it, and only these excerpts are with us today, but they are still a rich source of instruction for us.
The emperors were the actual owners of the public libraries of Rome, the librarians were their employees, and one could be sure that they had good copies deposited in the cupboards of these great imperial libraries themselves, which were open to everyone’s use, and that was that most important. Vespasian and Titus conquered Jerusalem; the Jew Josephus witnessed the catastrophe as a freedom fighter; but he was captured by the Romans and now paid homage to the emperors, who honored him for his lack of spirit, gave him freedom, paid his salary, yes, in Rome the imperial wage[p. 132]let the palace live. It is understandable that Josephus, when he was writing his history of the Jews, won the interest of these two emperors, which also proved to be the best. We are happy to be reading the books of Josephus today.
Social position of the poor author.
What I have discussed here throws a glaring spotlight on social conditions. It’s about the genius without money. The penniless writer, how different he was in society then than he is today! It was the time of the Maecenas. The poet, to be sure, basically lived a most comfortable life; he need not be very productive; no one forced, no one rushed him. But all his life he was dependent on the favor and mood of the big ones. Today, fortunately, we no longer know anything about patrons or clients; our writing is free, and each author chooses his own publisher. Certainly. But one will perhaps notice that our relationships with the bookseller have lately developed more and more analogously to those of antiquity. Our large modern publishing houses are growing in power and in many cases are already the patrons of contemporary literary life; they create authors, favor them and set them their tasks and, above all, like the patron saints of antiquity, have the decision in their hands that may prevent the publication of a work for a long time or forever. Then there is the money point. There’s probably enough grumbling today; it would not be desirable if we had to long for the conditions of the times of Augustus and Nero. which may prevent the publication of a work for a long time or forever. Then there is the money point. There’s probably enough grumbling today; it would not be desirable if we had to long for the conditions of the times of Augustus and Nero. which may prevent the publication of a work for a long time or forever. Then there is the money point. There’s probably enough grumbling today; it would not be desirable if we had to long for the conditions of the times of Augustus and Nero.
In antiquity, however, it was difficult for publishers to attain great wealth. The Atticus with his giant publishing house that I was talking about was obviously an idealist, but he was also a big capitalist and could take the risk. Why was the publishing profession not very productive? No sooner had they released a work than the public pounced on it ruthlessly. There was no legal protection; who does not buy[p. 133]wanted to make a copy with his own hands, and the sale of books was thus faced with the most sensitive, even quite unheard-of, competition. It was a plunder, much worse than the reprinting that so grossly damaged publishers in our eighteenth century. You borrowed a bookseller’s copy from your first good friend and copied it at will. That was cheap; it just took some time and paper; but mostly bad paper was used, the back of old files and the like; we have received many samples of it. This happened thousands of times and constantly, and this “private copy” — especially in the world that had become Christian — ultimately almost killed the publishing houses and book trade of antiquity. It finally achieved victory in the offices of the monasteries. As a matter of principle, the monks did not buy from the bookseller. It was therefore impossible for a book, no matter how excellent, to have many “editions” in antiquity.