Thomas B. Mosher was known as a literary pirate, and it is indeed true that he pirated many an English author’s works, as did other American publishers of the day. Mosher’s point was that he had a perfect legal right to texts which were not protected under the International Copyright Law and not registered in Washington. He felt especially justified if the British author and/or publisher either neglected the text or printed it in such a limited number that made it practically unavailable to a wider public. He called such texts, those “introuvables.” It should be noted, however, that even if he had clear legal right to publish without an author’s consent, he often at least asked for permission in exchange for a token payment, but sometimes just sent the Mosher version of the author’s book along with his payment. Mosher sent Andrew Lang such an honorarium for his translation of Aucassin & Nicolete which sparked a vitriolic refusal from Lang.
Until now, there has never been any account of which authors received payments from Mosher, and which did not. Many writers on Mosher have assumed that he pirated just about everything, and only occasionally made some sort of payment. Some researchers (Van Trump & Ziegler, and Huntress) tried, in vain, to examine the account books said to be in the possession of The Williams Book Store of Boston, MA. They apparently did not realize that the account books were, in fact, never transferred to The Williams Book Store. According to a letter from Flora Lamb (now in the Bishop collection), the account books were sent to Mrs. Mosher’s home, and the remaining Mosher book stock was transferred to Boston. So the reason why many past researchers were unsuccessful in their exhortations was because the account books were never in Boston in the first place. Only one person, professor Nicholas A. Salerno of Arizona State University, reported that he had at least seen them once, but he apparently has no information from them, and their current whereabouts is unknown.
To help compensate for the lack of direct examination of the account books, a recently uncovered letter from Flora MacDonald Lamb to Biddeford, Maine historian, Dane Yorke (in the Bishop Collection), discloses some of this valuable information. Yorke was writing a biography of T. B. Mosher in the 1940’s (unpublished), and he worked closely with Flora Lamb, Mosher’s long-time assistant, who supplied him with first-hand information including the exact payments made to some authors. In a two-page letter dated Nov. 17, 1941 (on Thomas B. Mosher stationery), Flora Lamb reveals:
|Homeward: Songs||Royalty on 450 copies. Sale price $1.50 at 10% royalty. No royalty was paid on the 25 Vellum copies.||$ 67.50|
|Fiona Macleod.||Paid outright for use of:
By Sundown Shores
Silence of Amor (1st Edn.)
Deirdre and the Sons of Usna
|Isle of Dreams||49.26|
|The Hour of Beauty||50.00|
|The House of Usna||50.00|
|The Immortal Hour||50.00|
|Nature Thoughts (Mrs. Sharp)||50.00|
|From the Hills of Dream
Paid for copyright in this
|Garnett, Richard.||De Flagello Myrteo
Paid Elkins Matthews for use
|Bottomley, Gordon.||A Vision of Giorgione
” Riding to Lithend
|McCurdy, Edward.||Roses of Paestum||50.00|
|Hort, Gertrude||To-Morrow’s Road||25.00|
|Russell, Bertrand||A Free Man’s Worship
Preface and right to reprint
|Henry Copley Green.||The Children’s Crusade
Paid for the translation
|Lyttelton, Lucy.||Lyrical Poems||25.00|
|Hard, William||Paid for the right to reprint
the Tribute to T. Roosevelt
|Cheney, John Vance.||The Time of Roses
Paid 10% royalty on the sale price of 75 c
|Reese, Lizette Woodworth.||Paid her 10% royalty
on all her books.
|Allen, James Lane.||The Last Christmas Tree||10% royalty.|
|Jones, Thomas S.||Paid him 10% on the following books
at the sale price. All royalties were paid that way.
The Voice in the Silence
The Sonnets of the Saints
The Sonnets of the Cross
Sonnets and Quatrains
The other books by Mr. Jones we bought of him what we sold.
|Thomas, Edith.||The Flower from the Ashes.||Paid her 10% royalty.|
|Bradley, William Aspinwall.||Garlands and Wayfarings.||Paid him 10% royalty.|
|Scollard, Clinton.||Paid him 10% royalty.||Lyrics from a Library.|
|Upson, Arthur.||Paid Ruth Phelps $25.00 for the right to
reprint his Sonnets.
I note that he paid Miss Lenalie $90.00 to make the
translation of “Mimes” and $50.00 for the translation of “R.L.S.”
When I come to go over my cost books I found that
there were quite a lot which he paid outright for the use of
and then some on which royalty was paid. Not too bad for a
man who was called a “pirate.”
I won’t try to write any more as I still have a lot
to do. Rather funny how much accumulates in a few days.
Just had an order from a lawyer down in Bay City, Texas.
In fact he has been a good customer for many years. I think
he buys a lot also to give away, as he buys a number of copies
of the same book.
Yours very truly,