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Cleone: A Tragedy

Cleone : A Tragedy as it is Acted at the Theatre Royal in Covent-Garden Cleone : A Tragedy as it is Acted at the Theatre Royal in Covent-Garden

Robert Dodsley (1703-1764).
Cleone: A Tragedy... (bound with other titles) London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley, 1758.
(RARE) PR 3548 .M2 A67 1757

Alone and with his brother James, Robert Dodsley became the publisher of such notable 18th-century authors as Alexander Pope. Publishers in the 1700s increasingly established relationships and contracts with authors. This represented a change in the 18th century, which saw writing become more professionalized.

Dodsley’s dedication to “the right honorable Philip Dormer Stanhope, earl of Chesterfield,” is typical of those from the mid-18th and previous centuries. Until the mid-1700s, it was considered “bad manners” to write for profit, so few authors would accept (or admit accepting) fees from publishers. Instead, their works were funded by wealthy private patrons - who would, in return, be generously flattered in long dedications. After the Copyright Act of 1709, which recognized authors’ work as a valuable commodity and allowed them to profit from selling their copyrights to the highest-bidding publisher, writers were no longer so dependent on the patronage system. And, in time, writing for profit in this manner became acceptable - and the long, flattering dedications were replaced by simpler, more heartfelt ones.

Many individuals such as Dodsley were involved in either all or many aspects of the book trade as writers, printers, publishers and booksellers. The book trade of the 18th century was far less specialized than it is today, though the division of labor did increase somewhat between the beginning of the century and the 1820s.