Letters of Marx and Engels, 1846
Source: MECW Volume 38 p. 48
Written: 1 August 1846;
First published: in Marx and Engels, Works, First Russian Edition, 1934.
Your letter in which you expressed your doubts about publication was answered by return. As to your query about its ‘scientific character’, I replied that the book is scientific, but not scientific as understood by the Prussian government, etc. If you would cast your mind back to your first letter, you then wrote in considerable anxiety because you had been cautioned by the Prussians and were then under investigation by the police. I at once wrote to you, saying that I would look around for another publisher.
I received yet another letter from you in which, on the one hand, you cancelled publication and, on the other, agreed that the advance be repaid in the form of a draft on the new publisher, whoever it might be.
If you received no further answer to this, it was because I believed I should very shortly be able to give you a positive answer, i.e. notification of another publisher. How this came to be delayed, you will presently hear. That I accepted as a matter of course your proposal about the repayment of the advance will be evident to you from the fact that, at the only place where I took steps to secure publication, I stipulated at the same time that the 1,500 fr. were to be repaid to you on acceptance of the manuscript. The proof of this can be produced at any time. Engels and Hess, by the by, are witnesses.
On the other hand you will recall that in Paris, as in the written contract, nothing was agreed about how revolutionary the form of the work was to be, and that, on the contrary, I even believed it necessary at the time to bring out both volumes simultaneously, because the publication of the first volume would entail the banning or confiscation of the second. Heinrich Bürgers from Cologne was present and can vouch for this. Legally speaking you were not therefore entitled to lay down new conditions or to refuse to publish as I, for my part, am not bound, from the legal viewpoint, either to repay the advance or to accede to your new proposals, or to modify my work. It hardly needs saying that I could not for a moment consider adopting a legal attitude towards you, more especially since you, for your part, were not contractually obliged to pay me an advance, which I was bound to regard, and did regard, purely as a friendly gesture. Though, hitherto, I have often and unhesitatingly released publishers (e.g. Wigand and Fröbel in the matter of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, and other publishing houses, as you will presently hear) from their contractual and legally enforceable obligations, despite great financial loss, it has never occurred to me to deprive any publisher of a single penny, even when I could legally do so. Why I should have made an exception precisely in the case of yourself, who had done me a particular favour, I utterly fail to understand.
Now as to the delay in replying:
Several capitalists in Germany had agreed to publish a number of writings by myself, Engels and Hess.  In this case there wag even a prospect of a really extensive series that would be totally immune from the attentions of the police. Moreover, publication of my Kritik der Ökonomie, etc., had been virtually assured through a friend of these gentlemen. [Joseph Weydemeyer] This same friend remained in Brussels until May so as to convey safely across the border the manuscript of the first volume of the publication brought out under my editorship and with the cooperation of Engels, etc. From Germany he was to write to me, letting me know definitely whether or not the Nationalökonomie had been accepted. Such news as I got was indeterminate and a short while ago, after the greater part of the manuscript of the second volume of that publication had been dispatched to Germany, these gentlemen finally wrote informing me that the whole business had come to nothing, their capital being employed elsewhere. Hence the delay in giving you a definite reply. When everything had been settled, I arranged with Mr Pirscher of Darmstadt, who was staying here, to convey a letter to you from me.
Because publication had been agreed upon with the German capitalists, I had discontinued work on the Ökonomie. For it seemed to me very important to precede my positive development with a polemical piece against German philosophy and German socialism up till the present. This is necessary in order to prepare the public for the viewpoint adopted in my Economy, which is diametrically opposed to German scholarship past and present. It is, by the way, the same polemical piece I had already mentioned in one of my letters to you as having to be completed before the publication of the Ökonomie.
So much for that.
My answer to your latest letter is as follows:
I. In the event of your not publishing the work, I herewith declare it to be understood that you will recover the advance in the manner you have stipulated.
But it must be equally understood that, should I receive from another publisher a fee less than that agreed on with you, you will share the loss with me, since it was because of you, not me, that recourse had to be had to another publisher.
II. There is a prospect of publication for my book. The day before yesterday I received a letter from Germany [Hess’ letter to Marx of 28 July 1846] in which I was advised of the intention to start a joint-stock company for the publication of communist works, which will be happy to make its début with my book. However, I regard the thing as still so uncertain that I shall, if necessary, address myself to other publishers.
III. Since the all but completed manuscript of the first volume of my book has been lying idle for so long, I shall not have it published without revising it yet again, both as regards matter and style. It goes without saying that a writer who works continuously cannot, at the end of 6 months, publish word for word what he wrote 6 months earlier.
There is the further point that the Physiokraten in 2 folio volumes did not come out until the end of July and will not be arriving here for several days yet, although their publication was announced while I was still in Paris. Full account must now be taken of these.
So much of the book will now be rewritten that it could appear even under your imprint. After approval of the manuscript you would, moreover, be at liberty to bring it out under a foreign imprint.
IV. As to dates: because of my very impaired state of health, I am having to take salt-water baths at Ostend during August; moreover I shall be busy editing the 2 volumes of the above-mentioned publication. Hence nothing much can be done during August.
The revised version of the first volume will be ready for publication at the end of November. The 2nd volume, of a more historical nature, will be able to follow soon after it.
V. I have already told you in an earlier letter that, partly because of the fresh material collected in England, and partly because of the requirements that have come to light as work proceeded, the manuscript will exceed the agreed number of sheets by more than 20 printed sheets. Since the contract had already been concluded, I had made up my mind, as you will recall from an earlier letter, to be content with the agreed fee, although the number of sheets had been increased by about 1/3. It would have spoiled the book had I brought out the fresh material separately. Not for a moment would I object to bearing a commercial loss in the interests of the work. Nor would I wish either to break the contract or to impair the effect of the book itself.
But since your earlier letter indicated that the resumption of the contract is a matter for me to decide, I feel compelled to include a new condition whereby the printed sheets over and above the agreed number are paid for on the same scale. This request seems to me all the more just as I shall in any case make very little out of the work because of my trip to England and my stay there undertaken solely on its account, and because of the large amount of very expensive literature I had to purchase.
Finally, if it can be done on some kind of reasonable terms, I would like the work to appear under your imprint, since you have always adopted such a liberal and friendly attitude towards me.
If need be, I could produce numerous letters I have received from Germany and France as proof that this work is most eagerly awaited by the public.
I beg you to reply by return to the following address: ŕ Mr Lannoy. An Bois Sauvage, Plaine Ste Gudule, N. 19, Bruxelles.