Book piracy and Adventures Among the Indians

One of my favorite covers out of the books I own is W.H.G. Kingston’s Adventures Among the Indians.

Adventures Among the Indians

The elaborate design of flowers, leaves, scrolled ribbons, and the sun in the upper right complement the burgundy and black colors.  I think my favorite part is the quote: ‘May blessings be upon the head of Cadmus, the Phoenicians, or whoever it was that invented books.’ Thomas Carlyle

In the lower right corner, a set of elaborate intertwining letters indicate the publisher. The publisher is also written out on the spine, but I think it’s extremely interesting how they incorporated it onto the cover, something I definitely haven’t seen before:


Alexander Belford and James Clarke established Belford, Clark, and Co in 1875.  Belford, a Canadian orphan, began publishing pirated works at the age of 13.  He met up with Clarke, and together, they altered the normal way of selling books to the public, in order to make a larger profit.  They utilized ruthless techniques: If a book dealer refused to carry their titles, they would set up a strict consignment in the shop next door, regardless of the type of shop (one example used was in a hardware store.)  Additionally, in areas where there wasn’t enough support for a regular bookshop, they opened temporary stores in order to get rid of back stock.  They advertised a certain price, raising it every so often, and then advertising that the price would go up in ‘x’ amount of days.  They printed a cheaper, americanized version of the Encyclopedia Britannica, making it readily available to lower classes.  Belford and Clarke continued to pirate books, publishing and selling them for a fraction of the cost.

Regardless of the piracy and selling techniques, Belford and Clarke knew how to make a beautiful book.  Even the endpapers have a beautiful design.

Endpaper detail

Endpaper detail

The book is also illustrated with woodcuts, most of them smaller.  Below is the frontispiece to the edition, which is much larger than any of the others in the book.


William Kingston (1814-1880), author of this and over 100 other books, wrote adventure stories mainly for boys.  Kingston was born in England in 1814, but his family traveled back and forth to Oporto, Portugal, as his father was a wine merchant. Kingston joined his father’s business, but his love for writing won.  His first story was published in 1844.

Further Reading:

FCIT. “W.H.G. Kingston author page.” Lit2Go ETC. Web. 2 September 2013

Huttner, Sydney F. ‘Belford, Clarke, and Co.’ The Lucille Project. 2010. Web. 2 September 2013


1 Comment

Filed under 1880s, Books

One response to “Book piracy and Adventures Among the Indians

  1. Zed

    I hope you find some u yet eating books you can use in future updates.

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