Peeking into book biographies with Blackie publishing contracts

This blog post was written for University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections as part of my Information Management & Preservation MSc work placement.

Books have their own biographies and the traces of their ‘lives’ can be found in records such as those of Blackie & Son Ltd, a Glasgow publishing company founded in 1809. 

I was lucky enough to get an insight when I went on a student placement to the University of Glasgow Archives & Special Collections to work on just a few of the papers from the Blackie archive

I catalogued a bundle of around 80 contracts between authors and the company from 1925 to the early 1950s, so through the period of the Second World War. 

This is an early stage in a book’s life; a few are cancelled and get no further, but most make it through the development process to be published. Though, on checking in the British Library catalogue, they sometimes end up appearing with a different title. 

Mostly the folders contain the sort of administrative information you’d expect: agreements on the date of delivery of a manuscript, the content of the book, how many copies were to be printed, the sale rights, the percentage of royalties that the author would receive and so on. But there are also some letters and memos that add a little more colour to each book’s biography. 

So what stood out from my small bundle? 

Read the full blog on University of Glasgow Library website

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