Book Chapter




Squires C & Nash A (2019) Authorship. In: Nash A, Squires C & Willison IR (eds.) The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain Volume 7: The Twentieth Century and Beyond. Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, 7. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 99-145.

First paragraph: By 1914 the legal and financial structures of authorship had never been more secure. The emergence of the literary agent in the 1870s and the founding of the Society of Authors in 1883 (whose membership had grown to 2,500 by 1914) had helped regularise contracts and make relations with publishers more transparent. The 1911 Copyright Act – ‘the greatest single advance in the protection of authors’ rights since copyright was first established by law in 1709’ – had enhanced the value of literary property and provided new protection for performance and adaptation. There are ‘now more youths than ever eager to be writers’, reported the Times on 2 June 1913. Authorship came to be seen as a craft that could be learned. Books such as Charles Platt’s Authorship as a career (1926), R.A.H. Goodyear’s Money-making authorship (1927) and Michael Joseph’s series of help guides collected under Complete writing for profit (1930) instructed authors on literary techniques and the practical side of writing for a living. With a healthy periodical culture, an expanded market overseas (especially in America), and new openings in radio and film, the interwar years were productive for the versatile writer. After 1945, however, it became increasingly difficult for the market alone to sustain professional authorship. A 1953 handbook commissioned by the Society of Authors opened with cautionary words: ‘I do not advise any young man or woman to think of making a living by writing’. Amidst increasing disquiet about the financial plight of authorship, the extent and nature of state support for writers became a persistent topic of debate in the 1950s and 1960s, generating a shift in authors’ roles in the marketplace and in social attitudes towards authorship.

authorship; history of publishing

Title of seriesCambridge History of the Book in Britain
Number in series7
Publication date01/06/2019
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publisher URL…lume-7?format=HB
Place of publicationCambridge

People (1)


Professor Claire Squires

Professor Claire Squires

Professor in Publishing Studies, English Studies