Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chapter 20 - Manhood of Humanity - Part 2 - E.P. Dutton

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Mid-morning on January 4, the phone rang in their apartment. The doorman of their building had called up to tell them, “E. P. Dutton…is here to see you.” E. P. Dutton! (2) Alfred and Mira got excited: “We didn’t want E. P. Dutton to wait, so we told him to send him up. We tidied ourselves up the best we could in one minute and here comes, not E. P. Dutton at all [by this time a nearly 90-year-old man] but a bell-boy from E. P. Dutton [Publishing Company] to deliver a letter…[from Dutton’s Vice-President, John Macrae.]”(3) Macrae’s letter, dated that day and addressed to “Count Korzybski,” read:
Dear Sir, I have to-day received a letter from my friend, Burges Johnson of Vassar College, bringing to my attention a manuscript which you have lately completed on HUMAN ENGINEERING, and I can tell you at once that I am tremendously interested in this manuscript and I should like to have it for consideration at the very earliest possible. I can further say that I think there is no doubt whatever from what I hear of your manuscript, that I should like to publish the book for you. The information of the existence of your manuscript has just this moment come to my attention, and I am sending you this letter by special messenger... 
I should prefer, if agreeable to you, to make an appointment to meet you here at my offices almost any time, at your convenience. If practical and agreeable to you, you could, on receipt of this note, call me over the telephone, Plaza 7400, and we could then make an appointment at once which would be agreeable to your engagements. 
Looking forward with great pleasure to meeting you and with the full expectation of having the privilege of publishing your book, I am [signature]...(4)

Alfred, a ‘virgin’ author, was getting a personal invitation to see the head of this major publishing house as soon as possible, and a virtual guarantee from him to publish the book—unheard of! What could possibly account for such luck? As the Korzybskis later learned from Macrae himself, Macrae had had a dream in which his recently deceased wife visited him. She told him, “There is a foreign man here in New York who is writing an epoch-making book on time.”(5) When he heard from Johnson about Korzybski and his book, he recalled the dream and sent the letter at once.

Mira telephoned Macrae and made an appointment for her and Alfred to see him at 3:00 that afternoon. They dressed in their finest clothes and made their way from their Greenwich Village apartment to the E. P. Dutton & Company Building on 681 Fifth Avenue in mid-town Manhattan. Macrae escorted them into his office, pulling out his silk handkerchief and wiping the seats of the mahogany chairs for “the Count and Countess.” Alfred felt himself unable to speak and left the talking and negotiating to Mira. When they left the office a little while later, they had a book deal.

Alfred assigned ownership of the book to Mira so she would receive the royalties in case of his death. The arrangement with Dutton stipulated that for the first 5000 books sold, the Korzybskis would receive 10% of the retail price for each book (30¢—based on the eventual sales price of $3.00). After that, the royalty would increase to 15%. It seemed unlikely they would become rich from book sales, but they potentially could get a nice chunk of money (30¢ times 5000 amounts to $1500 in 1921 dollars, which had the equivalent buying power of $18,000 in 2009.) (6)  

Macrae wanted a completed manuscript as soon as possible. For the next few months Alfred and Mira scrambled. Until they handed over the completed work, the book title changed two more times (to Humanity’s Manhood and then finally to Manhood of Humanity: The Science and Art of Human Engineering). Alfred finished reorganizing the text (including added historical footnotes from James Harvey Robinson’s An Outline of the History of the Western European Mind); completed the three appendices to which he shifted the more technical material and side arguments; and wrote for and received permissions for all material quoted from other authors (as required by Macrae and Dutton). Alfred, more or less done with writing at the end of February, gave the manuscript to Keyser, who had agreed to copyedit it. Keyser sweated over Alfred’s Polish-flavored English for another month. Alfred later claimed the book’s literary style mainly belonged to Keyser. Finally on March 23, Mira delivered the completed manuscript to Dutton and signed the formal book contract. Alfred joked about it but he was obviously feeling nervous. In a letter to Burges Johnson, he wrote,
Finally finished the M.S., Mira and myself – Buddah help the book writers; their wifes [sic], say I. It fortunately was edited by Doctor Keyser from Columbia, the world famous mathematical philosopher, and my M.S. (read it My Suicide) delivered to Dutton. (7)

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
2. E. P. (Edward Payson) Dutton had opened a bookstore in Boston in the mid-19th century. He soon expanded his bookstore business to New York City, where he also began a publishing firm which specialized in religious books for the Episcopalian Church. In 1885, John Macrae started his career there as an office boy. By 1901, when E.P. Dutton & Company was incorporated, Macrae had become Vice-President and subsequently helped the company acquire the famous “Everyman’s Library” and American publishing rights to British authors like W. H. Hudson, G. K. Chesterton, and A. A. Milne. By 1920, Dutton had become a major New York publishing house with Macrae running it. (He would become company president in 1923 and owner, with his two sons, of the publishing wing, when it separated from the bookstore business in 1928.) “About Us – Dutton – Penguin Group (USA)”. (accessed on 8/22/2006).

3. Korzybski 1947, p. 218. 

4. John Macrae to AK, 1/4/1921. AKDA 6.606. 

5. Korzybski 1947, p. 219. 

6. Samuel H. Williamson, “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present”. MeasuringWorth, April 2010. (accessed 10/29/2010). 

7. AK to Burges Johnson, 3/23/1921. AKDA 5.354. 

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