Ballantyne, James (1772–1833)

Printer and schoolfriend of Walter Scott. He printed Southey’s Madoc (1805) and many of his subsequent poems. Ballantyne’s printing business, in which Scott had a secret share, became one of the most highly regarded and profitable of the first decade of the nineteenth century. In 1809 Southey agreed to provide historical material for the Edinburgh Annual Register, issued by the related publishing firm in which Ballantyne, Scott and Ballantyne’s younger brother John were partners. Southey wrote the historical section of the Register between 1810–1813, though as the Register was issued two years in arrears, this covered the period 1808–1811. Southey was persuaded to invest his first year’s salary of £209 in the Register and become a shareholder in the concern. However, the Register was not a financial success and helped draw the Ballantynes’ partnership into increasing difficulties. Southey was not paid for his work on the volume published in 1813 and ceased writing for the Register at the end of that year. He also lost his investment. As a result, Southey became increasingly hostile to Ballantyne, describing him as shifty and incompetent (a ‘sad shuffler’). Although the Register’s failure owed much to its attempt to compete in an already crowded marketplace, Southey himself played a role. His contributions often massively exceeded the length allocated to them, thus delaying the appearance and increasing the cost to the publisher of the periodical. In 1811 Ballantyne’s concern about the impact of this on the Register’s potential sales led him to demand that Southey publish an apology at the front of that year’s issue.

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154 pages