The profitability of progressive theology publishing in late nineteenth-century Scotland as illustrated by the experience of T. & T. Clark of Edinburgh in the 1880s and 1890s
This study assesses the profitability of one particular Scottish theological publishing firm, T. & T. Clark, in the 1880s and 1890s. Its major concern is to investigate the tension which exists in any 'committed' publishing business between the profit motive, and the desire to further the cause espoused by the firm. Did considerations of profitability significantly influence the theological stance of material issued? Or, in the interests of furthering a theological position, was the profit motive kept in second place as far as was consistent with the continuance of the firm? Or, in reality, was there a complicated interplay between these two positions? After a general survey which charts the history of the firm and attempts to assess the partners' motivation, there follows a highly detailed examination of the relative profitability of the different types and forms of publication handled by the Clarks: series publishing, translations, works of transatlantic origin, reference works requiring major investment, and general theological works. There follows an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the firm's promotional strategy and distribution, and an examination of the profitability of the Clarks' operations as a whole for the four financial years beginning 1895-96. There are several appendices, one of which features a biographical study of Dr James Hastings, editor of the Dictionary of the Bible and the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. The conclusion is reached that there was indeed a complex interplay between motives spiritual and motives financial: the Clarks' decision to publish moderately 'advanced' theology was not primarily determined by financial considerations, but by their commitment to promulgating the truth as they saw it. This commitment was not opportunistic lip-service: they were frequently prepared to hazard investment on works of doubtful profitability because they considered them to be of theologi shed were in general modestly if not spectacularly profitable, and the future growth of the business was assured. Had you put it to one of the principals that his firm seemed to be a living denial of Christ's asseveration that one cannot serve both God and mammon, he would probably have retorted that he was serving God and God alone, and that any financial success which accrued was to be interpreted as being a reward for faithful service.