Left: James Currie. Right: a portrait of Burns by Archibald Skirving, published in The Works of Robert Burns, by Blackie and Son, Glasgow, 1854.
Date : 31-05-1798
Correspondent : Cadell & DaviesCorrespondent Location : London
Recipient : James Currie Recipient Location : Liverpool
Subject : The publishers discuss the physical makeup of the edition and the suggested advantage to Burns’s family.

Dear Sir
      We should not have so long delayed answering your Favour of the 14th Instant, but that we had not an Opportunity of mentioning the Business sooner to Mr Cadell seen↑r↓ ↑in↓ whom and Mr Creech the Property of the already-published Poems of Burns still remains vested. Mr Cadell now authorises us to say that he shall be very ready to meet your Wishes as to the Insertion of those Poems in the proposed Edition, not doubting that such an Arrangement may be agreed upon as will be perfectly satisfactory to Mr Creech & himself. It, however, unfortunately happens that a new Edition of these Poems is just now compleated, pretty nearly in the same Form as the last, and we are fearful we cannot hope that this Edition will be all sold before the compleat one is published, or, at least, announced – in either of which Cases the remaining Copies will instantly become of little or no Value — Mr Cadell & Mr Creech will therefore naturally expect that one particular of the Arrangement should be the Purchase of such remaining Copies at an equitable Price.
      We strongly recommend the work being published in four 8↑vo↓ Vols rather than two quartos, and that the whole be published together in Preference to a Volume at a Time – It strikes us, too, that the most eligible Mode of treating for the Copyright of the new Works will be – that the Family be supplied with a certain Number of Copies, in Boards, ready for Delivery to the Subscribers free of all Expence, except the few unavoidable ones of Carriage, &c. By this Means it can be pretty nearly ascertained what Advantage the Family will derive from the Publication – and all the Risque will rest with the Bookseller – it might also be stipulated, in Order to give the Family every Chance of Advantage, that in Case the Supply of the Subscribers should require a greater Number of Copies that [?↑those were↓] agreed to be delivered gratis, then whatever further Number was required should be furnished at a certain Price. But all this, dear Sir, is merely a Suggestion for your and Mr Roscoe’s Consideration – should [ms torn] any other Mode have occurred to your Minds you will much oblige us by a Communication of it, and be assured that no improper Advantages shall be taken of the Confidence you do us the Favour to place in us — We will most readily take upon ourselves the Arrangement of the Business with Mr Cadell & Mr Creech, provided all other Matters are settled— And, with Regard to the Work ↑itself↓, we shall certainly not think it necessary to receive any other Opinion of it than that of the two Friends with whom we have now the Pleasure of conferring respecting it—

Notes :

Mr Creech: William Creech (1745-1815). Tutor to Lord Kilmaurs, later 14th Earl of Glencairn, who probably introduced him to Burns. Friend of Hugh Blair and Dugald Stewart and publisher of Beattie, Campbell, and Mackenzie. Burns wrote, 16 December 1786 to Robert Aiken, ‘I have found in Mr Creech, who is my agent forsooth, and Mr Smellie who is to be my printer, that honor and goodness of heart which I always expect in Mr Aiken’s friends’ (Letters, ed. Roy, I, 72). Enlarged edition of Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect appeared, 17 April 1787, with list of 1,300 subscribers. Burns sold the copyright to Creech, 23 April 1787, for 100 guineas, the sum suggested by Henry Mackenzie.In an unpublished fragment in the Lochryan MS, Burns described Creech as a ‘little, upright, pert, tart, tripping wight’.

Mr Roscoe: William Roscoe (1753-1831). Literary scholar, writer, historian, botanist and politician. A prominent member of the Unitarian community in Liverpool, Roscoe, like Dugald Stewart, was another early candidate for providing the life and edition of Burns prior to its undertaking by Currie.

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