Dark Skies

But the economy's slump, although serious, was not long lived. It, and Carey & Lea's fortunes, rebounded in the spring. By fall, Carey & Lea were ready for a good Christmas in 1835. Their production of novels had returned to its 1833 level. The big runs in the fall were two collections by Washington Irving (the Crayon Miscellany, subtitled "Containing Legends of the conquest of Spain," in a run of 5,000 and costing only $.12 each unbound, $.50 each bound and a new edition of 2,000 of Alhambra: A series of tales and sketches of the Moors and Spainards, and costing $.16 each pre-bound), and a novel by Robert Montgomery Bird (another previously successful author), Hawks of Hawk Hollow, costing $.48 each post-bound in a run of 3,000. Horse Shoe Robinson: A tale of the Tory ascendency by John Pendleton Kennedy, had an initial run of 1,500 of its third edition, but it did well, and they printed another 1,500 (and ultimately a second, third, and fourth edition, totaling in all 6,000). This caution may have been because of the high cost of the book, $.72 each. (24) The Irving books were the big sellers, as he was at the "peak of [his] literary career," (just before his drive for respectability would make him unmarketable, as he began writing more serious, less popular works). (25)

Although a return to normalcy was hoped for, dark skies lay before the firm and the country with a depression, which would be showing the signs of its severity by 1838. With the economic turmoil started, in part, by Jackson's second attack on the financial system, rough times lay ahead for the firm.

By 1838, Henry Carey was ready to quit. Not only had his outside interest in writing had long since eclipsed his interest in the firm, he had also been in the book business for more than thirty-six years. The combination of factors led to an announcement on October 1, 1838, dissolving the partnership of Henry Carey, Isaac Lea, and William Blanchard. Lea and Blanchard were, naturally, to resume business, but despite successes publishing Charles Dickens's first works in America, Poe, and others, the economics of book publishing had changed to the point that rich profits from fiction were over:

The system of cheap publications, arising from the extreme depression of business between 1839 and 1843, rendered general literature less attractive. It was impossible to sell a work of fiction except in paper, and large stocks of Cooper's novels, bound in cloth and utterly unsalable, had to be stripped of their covers and done up in paper to find a market. The house gradually withdrew from enterprises like these... (26)