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Lawrence Howe <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 6 Aug 2008 12:53:50 -0500
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The Paige Typesetter was a bad investment, but in becoming somewhat
iconic of the turn of SLC's fortunes, it has been too often identified
as the sole reason for his bankruptcy.  There are plenty of other bad
SLC investments to go around.  Let's not forget the Charles Webster
Publishing Co.  While he had reasonable success with his own works, he
also published others that floundered.  A similar example can be seen in
the success of Grant's memoirs; due to this notable success, he
subsequently thought that if this was such a hit, then the memoirs of
other CW generals would be similarly successful; they weren't.  And we
might compare the loss of something like $125,000 over several years in
his Paige investment to the $100,000 advance he paid out to Henry Ward
Beecher for his memoirs.  Beecher became ill and died soon after,
without ever delivering a ms.  The loss of the Paige Typesetter
investment is nothing to sneeze at, but the Beecher deal lost an amount
80% of that figure in one fell swoop.

It seems worth noting that Twain's engagement first as a printer, then
as a writer, then as a publisher, and finally as an owner of printing
apparatus shows his evolution higher and higher up the supply chain of
printed matter.  With each rise, he gained not only greater control, but
also the potential for greater wealth.  But with that potential came
obviously greater risk. There's the lesson for all venture capitalists.