The three-volume novel (sometimes three-decker or triple decker) was a standard form of publishing for British fiction during the nineteenth century. It was a significant stage in the development of the modern novel as a form of popular literature in Western culture.
Three volume novels began to be produced by the Edinburgh-based publisher Archibald Constable in the early 19th century. Constable was one of the most significant publishers of the 1820s and made a success of publishing expensive, three-volume editions of the works of Walter Scott, the first being Scott's historical novel Kenilworth, published in 1821.This continued until Constable's company collapsed in 1826 with large debts, bankrupting both him and Scott. As Constable's company collapsed, the publisher Henry Colburn quickly adopted the format. The number of three-volume novels he issued annually rose from six in 1825 to 30 in 1828 and 39 in 1829. Under Colburn's influence, the published novels adopted a standard format of three volumes in octavo, priced at 31 shillings and sixpence. The price and format remained unaltered for nearly 70 years, until 1894.
Three-volume novels quickly disappeared after 1894, when both Mudie's and W. H. Smith stopped purchasing them.
The format of the three-volume novel does not correspond closely to what would now be considered a trilogy of novels. In a time when books were relatively expensive to print and bind, publishing longer works of fiction had a particular relationship to a reading public who borrowed books from commercial circulating libraries. A novel divided into three parts could create a demand (Part I whetting an appetite for Parts II and III). The income from Part I could also be used to pay for the printing costs of the later parts. Furthermore, a commercial librarian had three volumes earning their keep, rather than one. The particular style of mid-Victorian fiction, of a complicated plot reaching resolution by distribution of marriage partners and property in the final pages, was well adapted to the form.
The standardized cost of a three volume novel was equivalent to half the weekly income of a modest, middle-class household.This cost was enough to deter even comparatively well-off members of the public from buying them. Instead, they were borrowed from commercial circulating libraries, the most well known being owned by Charles Edward Mudie. Mudie was able to buy novels for stock at about half the retail price – five shillings per volume. He charged his subscribers one guinea (21 shillings) a year for the right to borrow one volume at a time. A subscriber who wished to borrow three volumes, in order to read the complete novel without having to make two additional trips to the library, had to pay a higher annual fee.
Their high price meant both publisher and author could make a profit on the comparatively limited sales of such expensive books – three volume novels were typically printed in editions of under 1000 copies, which were often pre-sold to subscription libraries before the book was even published.It was very unusual for a three-volume novel to sell more than 1000 copies. The system encouraged publishers and authors to produce as many novels as possible, due to the almost-guaranteed, but limited, profits that would be made on each.
The normal three-volume novel was around 900 pages in total at 150–200,000 words; the average length was 168,000 words in 45 chapters. It was common for novelists to have contracts specifying a set number of pages to be filled. If they ran under, they could be made to produce extra, or break the text up into more chapters — each new chapter heading would fill a page. In 1880, the author Rhoda Broughton was offered £750 by her publisher for her two-volume novel Second Thoughts. However, he offered her £1200 if she could add a third volume.
Outside of the subscription library system's three-volume novels, the public could access literature in the form of partworks - the novel was sold in around 20 monthly parts, costing one shilling each. This was a form used for the first publications of many of the works of Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope and William Thackeray. Many novels by authors such as Wilkie Collins and George Eliot were first published in serial form in weekly and monthly magazines that began to become popular in the middle of the 19th century. Publishers also offered cheap, reprint editions of many works, priced at one to two shillings.Although there was often a lengthy delay before reprint editions were released. Those who wished to access the latest books had no choice but to borrow three volume editions from a subscription library.
The cheapest works of popular fiction were sometimes referred to pejoratively as penny dreadfuls. These were popular with young, working-class men,and often had sensationalist stories featuring criminals, detectives, pirates or the supernatural.
Though the era of the three volume novel effectively ended in 1894, works were still on occasion printed in more than one volume in the 20th-century. Two of John Cowper Powys's novels, Wolf Solent (1929) and Owen Glendower (1940) were published in two volume editions by Simon & Schuster in the USA.
The Lord of the Rings is a three-volume novel, rather than a trilogy, as Tolkien originally intended the work to be the first of a two-work set, the other to be The Silmarillion , but this idea was dismissed by his publisher.For economic reasons The Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes from 29 July 1954 to 20 October 1955. The three volumes were entitled The Fellowship of the Ring , The Two Towers , and The Return of the King .
Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has written several books in this format, such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84 . However, many translations of the novel, such as into English, combine the three volumes of these novels into a single book.
The Two Towers is the second volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. It is preceded by The Fellowship of the Ring and followed by The Return of the King.
George Augustus Moore was an Irish novelist, short-story writer, poet, art critic, memoirist and dramatist. Moore came from a Roman Catholic landed family who lived at Moore Hall in Carra, County Mayo. He originally wanted to be a painter, and studied art in Paris during the 1870s. There, he befriended many of the leading French artists and writers of the day.
The Yellow Book was a British quarterly literary periodical that was published in London from 1894 to 1897. It was published at The Bodley Head Publishing House by Elkin Mathews and John Lane, and later by John Lane alone, and edited by the American Henry Harland. The periodical was priced at 5 shillings and lent its name to the "Yellow Nineties", referring to the decade of its operation.
The History of The Lord of the Rings is a four-volume work by Christopher Tolkien published between 1988 and 1992 that documents the process of J. R. R. Tolkien's writing of The Lord of the Rings. The History is also numbered as volumes six to nine of The History of Middle-earth. Some information concerning the appendices and a soon-abandoned sequel to the novel can also be found in volume twelve, The Peoples of Middle-earth.
She, subtitled A History of Adventure, is a novel by the English writer H. Rider Haggard, published in book form in 1887 following serialisation in The Graphic magazine between October 1886 and January 1887. She was extraordinarily popular upon its release and has never been out of print.
Linwood Vrooman Carter was an American author of science fiction and fantasy, as well as an editor, poet and critic. He usually wrote as Lin Carter; known pseudonyms include H. P. Lowcraft and Grail Undwin. He is best known for his work in the 1970s as editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which introduced readers to many overlooked classics of the fantasy genre.
Penny dreadfuls were cheap popular serial literature produced during the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom. The pejorative term is roughly interchangeable with penny horrible, penny awful, and penny blood. The term typically referred to a story published in weekly parts, each costing one penny. The subject matter of these stories was typically sensational, focusing on the exploits of detectives, criminals, or supernatural entities. First published in the 1830s, penny dreadfuls featured characters such as Sweeney Todd, Dick Turpin and Varney the Vampire. The Guardian described penny dreadfuls as "Britain’s first taste of mass-produced popular culture for the young."
Ace Books is a publisher of science fiction and fantasy books founded in New York City in 1952 by Aaron A. Wyn. It began as a genre publisher of mysteries and westerns, and soon branched out into other genres, publishing its first science fiction (SF) title in 1953. This was successful, and science fiction titles outnumbered both mysteries and westerns within a few years. Other genres also made an appearance, including nonfiction, gothic novels, media tie-in novelizations, and romances. Ace became known for the tête-bêche binding format used for many of its early books, although it did not originate the format. Most of the early titles were published in this "Ace Double" format, and Ace continued to issue books in varied genres, bound tête-bêche, until 1973.
Charles Edward Mudie , English publisher and founder of Mudie's Lending Library and Mudie's Subscription Library, was the son of a second-hand bookseller and newsagent. Mudie's efficient distribution system and vast supply of texts revolutionized the circulating library movement, while his "select" library influenced Victorian middle-class values and the structure of the three-volume novel. He was also the first publisher of James Russell Lowell's poems in England, and of Emerson's Man Thinking.
Elements of the supernatural and the fantastic were an element of literature from its beginning. The modern genre is distinguished from tales and folklore which contain fantastic elements, first by the acknowledged fictitious nature of the work, and second by the naming of an author. Works in which the marvels were not necessarily believed, or only half-believed, such as the European romances of chivalry and the tales of the Arabian Nights, slowly evolved into works with such traits. Authors like George MacDonald created the first explicitly fantastic works.
The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean (1857) is a novel written by Scottish author R. M. Ballantyne. One of the first works of juvenile fiction to feature exclusively juvenile heroes, the story relates the adventures of three boys marooned on a South Pacific island, the only survivors of a shipwreck.
A circulating library was first and foremost a business venture. The intention was to profit from lending books to the public for a fee.
In literature, a serial is a printing format by which a single larger work, often a work of narrative fiction, is published in smaller, sequential instalments. The instalments are also known as numbers, parts or fascicles, and may be released either as separate publications or within sequential issues of a periodical publication, such as a magazine or newspaper.
The Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men comprised ten volumes of Dionysius Lardner's 133-volume Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1829–46). Aimed at the self-educating middle class, this encyclopedia was written during the 19th-century literary revolution in Britain that encouraged more people to read.
Richard Bentley was a 19th-century English publisher born into a publishing family. He started a firm with his brother in 1819. Ten years later, he went into partnership with the publisher Henry Colburn. Although the business was often successful, publishing the famous "Standard Novels" series, they ended their partnership in acrimony three years later. Bentley continued alone profitably in the 1830s and early 1840s, establishing the well-known periodical Bentley's Miscellany. However, the periodical went into decline after its editor, Charles Dickens, left. Bentley's business started to falter after 1843 and he sold many of his copyrights. Only 15 years later did it begin to recover.
The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of three volumes of the epic novel The Lord of the Rings by the English author J. R. R. Tolkien. It is followed by The Two Towers and The Return of the King. It takes place in the fictional universe of Middle-earth. It was originally published on 29 July 1954 in the United Kingdom.
The Silmarillion is a collection of mythopoeic stories by the English writer J. R. R. Tolkien, edited and published posthumously by his son Christopher Tolkien in 1977 with assistance from Guy Gavriel Kay. The Silmarillion, along with many of J. R. R. Tolkien's other works, forms an extensive though incomplete narrative of Eä, a fictional universe that includes the Blessed Realm of Valinor, the once-great region of Beleriand, the sunken island of Númenor, and the continent of Middle-earth, where Tolkien's most popular works—The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings—take place.
Constable's Miscellany was a part publishing serial established by Archibald Constable. Three numbers made up a volume; many of the works were divided into several volumes. The price of a number was one shilling. The full series title was Constable's Miscellany of Original and Selected Publications, in the Various Departments of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
George Bentley was a 19th-century English publisher based in London.