The Hermit Poet

February 23, 2006

Selling Poetry in the Song Dynasty

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 10:17 am

A little anecdote I gleaned from a lecture by Ronald Egan on “Early Book Printing in China (11th-12th Centuries) and Its Impact Upon Thinking About the Written Word.”

Evidently Wang Qi, the governor of Suzhou, having borrowed a large sum from the prefacture to expand his banquet hall, found himself short of the funds to repay his debt. He decided that he would print 10,000 copies of Du Fu (Tu Fu)’s poetry and sell them for 1,000 cash each. This venture was so successful, that he sold every single copy of the print run and was able to not only pay off his debt, but actually make a substantial profit.

As Professor Egan pointed out, selling out a first print run of 10,000 copies for a book of poetry is unheard of today. And this idea of poetry turning a profit… well that’s just absurd!

One Response to “Selling Poetry in the Song Dynasty”

  1. Ken Says:

    Sounds like a new approach to a government grant program!


Leave a Reply