Thomas B. Mosher, The American Book Pirate–A Warning to English Booksellers

The Publishers’ Circular, London, January 23, 1909, pp. 113-114:

“Without Flourish of Trumpets”

In his advertisements of what he calls “Mosher Books” Mr. T. B. Mosher tells us that “For a dozen years the most artistic volumes at their price that have been issued in America have been published, not from New York or Boston, nor even in Philadelphia or Chicago, but in Portland, Maine. In that little city Thomas B. Mosher has been printing, without flourish of trumpets or wide advertising, volume after volume which in artistic excellence are not excelled by the issues of any publishing house in the World. Then, too, Mosher has reprinted only the Gems of literature that have been declared of the first water—Gems that are beyond objection Jewels of the World’s treasury of brilliant writing. We may also assert that the question of Gain has been secondary in Mosher’s calculations.”

Mosher modestly calculates “That’s so!”

“I think it demonstrable,” he says, “that work like This must of necessity be founded upon other than mere money values.”
Mr. Mosher is right. It is founded on brazen literary piracy.

“More deeply than ever,” he says, “I feel the responsibility of my individuality in bookmaking.”

Book-stealing would have been nearer the mark. His conscience must have tickled him when, after gratuitously Mosherising Mr. Andrew Lang’s writings, he quotes Mr. Lang’s “Ghosts in the Library,” beginning:—

“Suppose, when now the house is dumb,
When lights are out, and ashes fall,
Suppose their ancient owners come
To claim our spoils of shop and stall!”

It would be rather awkward for Mr. Mosher, certainly!

We ought to mention that Mosher announces that he sends his catalogue to “any place that can be reached by mail”; also, that he advertises it in this country. In fact, it was some remarks of Mr. Andrew Lang that led us to ask one or two other English authors if Mr. Mosher was selling their “Gems” and “Jewels” with their consent.

Mr. Andrew Lang on Mosher

Having had occasion to send Mr. Lang of copy of the P. C. with reference to some other matter, in his reply he says:—

“Thanks for the P. C., but I hoped you were studying Mosher in it. To me it seems unaccountable that decent British serials should publish his advertisements and that he should be allowed to sell in this country what he steals from me… The illegality and impudence are intolerable!”

In another letter Mr. Lang says that one of Mosher the Pirate’s copies of one of his (Mr. Lang’s) books had been innocently offered to him by an English bookseller. We say “innocently,” because it is illegal to sell these pirated editions anywhere in the United Kingdom or the Colonies.

As the Mosher books are principally by British writers, we wrote to a few of them, and give their replies.

Mr. George Meredith and Mosher

“Dear Sir,—In reply to yours, Mr. Mosher, of Portland, Maine, printed and issued a poem of mine without sending request and without payment. The book was well presented.”

We fancy Mr. Meredith is not aware how it was presented.

“The Modern Love, and Other Poems” in the Mosher pirated edition include, he has the insolence to say, the “simple and fresh work” of the author’s earlier years rather than “the contortions and grotesque affectations of his later style.” This is adding insult to injury in a style most brazen and Mosherish, quite on a par with his “In our (i.e., Mosher’s) opinion Andrew Lang’s ‘Helen of Troy’ will be found a very lasting production, second only to William Morris’s splendid version.”

Mr. Lang and other authors may be interested to know that Mosher’s “Limited Edition” of his books run to 925 copies, and “there is also a Japan vellum edition,” and that “delivery to any part of the world is guaranteed” by Mosher, who reserves the right to “put up” the price when he likes.

Mr. Maurice Hewlett and Mosher

Mr. Maurice Hewlett says: “Mosher stole from me in ’96, and he has gone on stealing since. Of course, he paid nothing, but with sublime impudence he once sent me a copy of his plunder!”

“Vernon Lee” and Mr. Mosher

“Vernon Lee” says: “Mr. Mosher has reprinted repeatedly from my works, and always without authorisation or payment. He did, indeed, send me a copy of an essay, but has not even done that for other books. Two or three years ago I had occasion to remonstrate with an Oxford bookseller for offering for sale (not secondhand) Mosher reprints of works by my friend the late Walter Pater.”

In some instances, where Mosher was probably not sure whether an American copyright existed or not, he has asked permission; but the fact remains, and, as we have already pointed out,

Booksellers and Private Book-buyers Should Note

that this Portland Pirate is offering and selling scores of editions which it is illegal to sell, or buy, or advertise for sale in any part of the British Empire. When a “Mosher” edition is offered, the only safe thing to do is to write to the English publisher of the work in question and ask if it is authorised.

Mosher’s editions include a dozen of R. L. Stevenson’s, as many of Swinburne’s, as many of Walter Pater’s, as many by William Morris, in addition to works by authors already mentioned and many other—more than two hundred.

Mr. Mosher is an Idealist. “Rest assured,” he says, “in Idealism there remains an abiding refuge which the Soul of Man has ever sought, that in Idealism alone we find justified and made perfect our faith in the incompleteness of the world as we see it, and in the ultimate completeness of the Divine Plan.

Mosher helping to complete the Divine Plan by pirating English copyrights is sublime! No wonder he feels “more deeply than ever the responsibility of my individuality in book-making, if such a phrase be permitted, and that on this short day of Frost and Sun if I have accomplished anything at all its worth issues out of the Ideal lying beyond Reality.” He adds: “To what conclusion would I therefore bring you?”

Well, the conclusion we have come to, anyway, is that our English authors get the “Frost” and Thomas B. Mosher basks in the golden “Sunshine,” raking in the shekels while he sells their sparkling “Gems” and “Jewels”—one of the latest being an edition of 1,225 copies of “The Hound of Heaven.” Doubtless The Publishers’ Association will help by calling the attention of their agents to Mr. Mosher and his works at Portland, Maine—not Portland, England—thought that well be right if

“He who takes what isn’t his’n
Always had to got to prison!”