4.2.10: 1830 - 1910 - Financing, print-runs and prices

Although editions 'for the account of the author' did occur, nearly all books and periodicals were financed and brought onto the market at the risk of publisher-booksellers. A small percentage was pre-financed by means of subscriptions; publishers also addressed themselves to the king for a contribution, or published books 'for free' (as a premium). The net price of a book was determined by 1. fee, 2. typesetting, correction, illustration, printing and paper, 3. stitching or binding, 4. promotional costs for publicity, advertisement, prospectuses and the like and 5. operating costs. The greater part of the costs consisted initially of the costs price of paper. Illustrations (such as copper engravings) were generally expensive. Later in this period, the author's or translator's fee became a cost item of significance.

Thus the production costs in 1810 of the children's book by C.F.W. Jacobs, Alwin en Theodoor (134 pp.) were 323 guilders (about € 127.-) which included 70 guilders (about € 32.-) for typesetting and printing (21.7%), 44 guilders (about € 20.- ) for paper (13.6%), 122.60 guilders (about € 56.-) for engraving illustrations (37.9%) and 42,50 guilders guilders (about € 19.-) for the translator's fee (13.2%). In 1869 the total costs for De familie Guldenarm (195 pp.) by Agatha amounted to 381,62 guilders(about € 173.-), including for typesetting and printing 65.70 guilders (17.3%: i.e. 44.10 guilders (€ 20,-), for typesetting and 21.60 guilders (€ 10.-) for printing), paper 82 guilders (21.4%; about € 37.-) and author's fee 120 guilders (31.4%; about € 54.-).

The net price per copy also included the profit for the publisher. Net price and rebate (profit for the retail dealer) made up the sales price for the individual customer.

Depending on the nature of the work, print-runs were relatively low initially (500-1000), with the exception of so-called 'steady sellers' such as popular schoolbooks (2000-3000 per print-run), with a total number of copies as high as 10,000 or more. Scientific or scholarly works and most novels were generally not printed in large numbers (500-750), but when a work became popular or the publisher brought out a cheaper edition (for example in a series or in a smaller format), the number of copies could increase to a couple of thousand per impression.

In the second half of the century the number of titles produced increased, but the average print-run does not seem to increase drastically, apart from a few exceptions. This period showed a rise in the print-runs of republished titles intended for a less well-to-do and general public: Gedichten by De Schoolmeester/Gerrit van de Linde (7000), Werken by P.A. de Genestet (15,000). The number of copies printed of literary series showed a very irregular pattern, depending on target group and price, and varied from 600 (Polycolor) to 10,000 (50 cents edition), individual titles achieved even higher print-run numbers.

With regard to (daily and weekly) papers, the abolition of the newspaper stamp marks the economic liberation of the press from the heavy tax yoke, resulting not only in a strong increase in the number of newspapers, but also in a strong increase of print-runs. Between 1870 and 1892 the circulation of Het nieuws van den dag rose from 5220 to 37,000 copies. The financing gradually changed as well, from a private enterprise of individual publishers (for example the Arnhemsche courant) to newspapers financed through limited liability companies. At the end of 1885 as many as 23 newspapers were published by newspaper companies. The oldest was the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche courant which was founded in 1843 by H. Nijgh and converted into a limited liability company twelve months later.

author: B.P.M. Dongelmans

Financing, print-runs and prices


Definition: fastening the gatherings or loose leaves together by sowing, gluing or stapling and providing the whole with a cover of paper or very thin cardboard.


Definition: sewing the gatherings of a book into a text block using needle and thread., either mechanically or manually.