Letters of George Borrow to Bible Society by George Borrow - HTML preview

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Letter 10: 15th April, 1834

To the Rev. J. Jowett
(ENDORSED: recd, May 16th, 1834) GALERNOY ULITZA, ST. PETERSBURG, 15TH APRIL (old style) 1834.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, - Upon the receipt of your letter of the [21st] ult. [date omitted], I lost no time in endeavouring to obtain the necessary information upon the points to which you directed my attention; and I have some hope that what I am about to communicate will not be altogether unsatisfactory; but I must first of all state that it was not acquired in a day, and that I have been obliged to go to many people and many places, which will account for my not having sooner returned an answer.

First, respecting the most important point, the expense of printing the New Testament in Mandchou. I was quite terrified at the enormous sums which some of the printers to whom I made application required for the work. At length our friend Dr. Schmidt recommended me to the University Press, and I having spoken to the directors of the establishment, they sent me in the course of a week an estimate which neither Dr. Schmidt nor myself considered to be unreasonable, and of this estimate I here subjoin a translation:

To Mr. Borrow.

'After much consultation with the compositor, I have come to the following result concerning the Mandchou business about which you consulted me. If the work be printed on as thin paper as that of the original, it can only be printed on one side. Now supposing that the size is to be folio like that of the original, two sides will make a sheet, and the price of composition will be 26 roubles, 20 copecks that is to say; 12R. to the compositor, wages 2R. 50c., percentage to the printing office 11R. 60c., making 26R. 20c. The printing of 1000 on one side 2R. 50c., percentage 2R., making 4R. 50c. Thus for composition and printing 30R. 60c. for 1000; for 2000, 35R. 10c.; for 3000, 39R. 60c. -

Your very obedient servant, KORLER.'

In the meantime I had become acquainted with two German printers, Schultz and Beneze, who being young men and just entered into business are very eager to obtain the printing of a work of such importance, which they hope will serve to bring them into notice, as well as being advantageous to them in a pecuniary view. The difference, as to the expense of printing, in the estimate made by these gentlemen and that of the University Press, will doubtless as much surprise you, as it did me. Here it follows:

'In respect to the printing of the New Testament in the Manchou language, the undersigned oblige themselves to undertake the printing of the said work. In the first place, as the Bible Society, and in particular their agent Mr. Borrow, think fit to furnish the printers with the necessary types and paper, the undersigned offer to supply the sheet consisting of four pages with composition, clean and black printing, at the rate of 25 roubles, paper currency, for a thousand copies; for two thousand copies, five additional roubles assignats, so that the same sheet, only by a greater edition, amounts to 30 roubles assignats; thirdly, for 3000 copies in the above proportion, 35 roubles. Fourthly, we promise during the interval of a certain period to supply at the rate of three sheets per week.


You will perceive that the amount of this estimate is less, by more than one-half, than the amount of the other. Schultz and Beneze's sheet consists of four sides, and they charge less for it than the printers of the University charge for theirs which consists only of two. I should therefore think that upon this ground they are entitled to the preference, were there nothing else to recommend them, which, in my humble opinion, there is; for being young beginners, and not having very much to do, they are more likely to push the work forward, than a firm overwhelmed with business, from whom, whatever might be promised, a sheet per week is the utmost to be expected, by which much valuable time must be lost. Dr. Schmidt is acquainted with Messrs. S. & B., and highly approves of their being employed.

Secondly, concerning paper, with which the printer has no concern. I can as yet say little for certain upon this matter, which has been the occasion of no little trouble and expense; for I have been obliged to take no less than three journeys to Peterhof, a town about 30 VERSTS distant, where stands the paper rnanufactory, for there is no such paper as we want in the Russian capital. In this manufactory they have about 50 STOPES or reams (we should require ten times that quantity for only 1000 copies) of the very paper, I believe, on which the Mandchou Gospel of St. Matthew was printed, and some of the workmen said that they could make as much more as should be required. Concerning the price of this paper, I could obtain no positive information, for the director and first and second clerks were invariably absent, and the place abandoned to ignorant understrappers (according to the custom of Russia). And notwithstanding I found out the director in Petersburg, he himself could not tell me the price, but informed me that he would inquire, and speedily send me word; but as I have as yet heard nothing from him, I write lest it should be supposed in England that I am sleeping on my station. I SHALL WRITE AGAIN IN A FEW DAYS ON THIS POINT; IN THE MEAN TIME YOU WOULD OBLIGE ME BY CAUSING THE ACCOUNTS OF DR. PINKERTON'S EXPENSES TO BE REFERRED TO, for the purpose of ascertaining how much he paid per ream for this kind of paper. I believe it to be extravagantly dear, at least five times dearer than good common paper, which can be procured for fifteen roubles per ream; and if that be the case, common paper must be used and the book printed in the common fashion, unless the Society be prepared to disburse thousands instead of hundreds; for if the work were printed on this Chinese paper, four times more paper would be required than if it were printed on the other, as five multiplied by four make twenty, the expense of paper would be twenty times greater.

Thirdly, respecting Mr. Lipoftsoff, with whom I have of late had much conversation. He has behaved very handsomely. He has made an immense number of alterations in his translation, all of which are excellent improvements, and all these are to be at our disposal gratis. He says that he cannot receive any remuneration for looking over the work, being bound to do so as Censor. I shall therefore edit it, and have the supervision of the proof sheets, which he will peruse last of all. He having examined me in Mandchou did me the honour to say I required no assistance at all; but should the Committee and yourself be of opinion that it would be advisable to procure a little, the 'pundit' would be very happy for an extra six or seven shillings per week to collate with me when wanted. I have derived great benefit from this man, who though in many respects a most singular and uncouth being speaks Mandchou gallantly, with the real pronunciation of PEKIN, which differs considerably from that of PEKHAN (the desert), being far more soft and melodious. During the interval which will elapse between my writing to you and hearing from you, I shall borrow from Baron Schilling the Mandchou Old Testament and reperuse the notes in order to be able to give a suitable opinion as to their value. My present opinion of them is no mean one. In answer to your query RESPECTING THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, I beg leave to inform you that it is in the hands of a Mr. Merrilies, an English merchant, to whom Mr. Swan entrusted it. I believe he starts for England by the first steam-boat.

I have the honour to remain, Revd. and dear Sir, sincerely yours,



P.S. - Since my last letter I have been laid up for some time with a nervous fever, but thank God I am quite recovered. My best respects to Mr. Brandram. Pray excuse the haste in which this letter is written, it will be barely in time for the post.