Plus ca change

From a Glasgow bookseller writing to The Bookman in February 1895:

…some publishers are doing their utmost to ruin the trade by selling to the drapers, who buy large quantities at reduced prices

(The “drapers” were, of course, the large general retailers. By the 1890s, the term was about as exact as calling Sainsbury’s a grocers.)

That was not the only complaint that could have been lifted straight from last week’s Bookseller. This one from 1905 –

…[the Bookman] was quite relieved to note that recently published children’s books, though dangerously full of humour, were not so absurdly grotesque as in recent years.

Both quotes are from Booksellers and Bestsellers: British Book Sales as Documented by “The Bookman”, 1891-1906 (2001) [JSTOR], a study of the most popular books sold in Britain at the turn of the century. (There were no bestseller lists per se at the time – the bulk of the article was an attempt to retractively construct one based on returns from booksellers. It is sobering how many of them are completely forgotten…)

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