Works of Karl Marx 1865

Agreement between Karl Marx and Otto Meissner, Publisher and Bookseller

Source: MECW, Volume 20, p. 361;
Drawn up: not later than March 21, 1865;
First published: in Karl Marx. Dokumente Seines Lebens, Leipzig, 1970.

Marx was put in touch with the Hamburg publishing house of Meissner and Behre through former member of the Communist League Wilhelm Strohn, a commercial (Jerk from Bradford who often went to Hamburg on business. At the end of January 1865 Strohn and Otto Meissner agreed on the terms on which the book to be printed. The text of the agreement was sent to Marx 1) Meissner in his letter of March 21, 1865. ‘Fire date of the agreement was not indicated. Meissner left it to Marx’s discretion to decide how the manuscript was to be to fruit: by instalments or as a whole.

Marx could avail himself of the agreement only in two years’ time In April 1867 Marx personally handed in the manuscript of the first volume of Capital. The first edition appeared in September of that year.

The term of the agreement giving Meissner the right to put out subsequent volumes and reprint the book was observed during Marx’s lifetime and after his death. Until 1914 the German edition of all three volumes of Capital was published by Meissner und Behre.

1. We, the undersigned, jointly undertake to publish the first and all subsequent editions of the work entitled “Capital. A Critique of Political Economy” by Karl Marx on the following terms. The book will be approximately 50 signatures in length and will appear in two volumes. Each of the contracting parties will receive one half of the net earnings which are arrived at after deducting 33 1/3 per cent discount for the retailers from the gross receipts and after deducting the costs of paper, printing, binding, transport and advertisement, etc., from the remainder.

2. The accounts will be drawn up each August for the copies sold during the preceding year and the profit will be shared out at the same time. The Publisher reserves the right, however, to pay one-third of the sum not more than three months later.

3. The cost of paper, printing and binding will be calculated on the basis of the original invoices. To cover the costs of advertising, transport, circulars, postage, etc., Otto Meissner will debit the production costs with the round sum of 100 Thalers for each edition, irrespective of whether the actual sum be greater or less.

4. Should the work yield no profit, any resulting loss will be borne by the Publisher, Otto Meissner, alone.

5. Neither of us may transfer his rights in the publication to a third party without the consent of the other, except in the event of death, when the ownership passes to the heirs without the need for an additional deed of assignment.

6. The size of the edition and the format of the work shall be determined by mutual agreement. The Publisher shall have the discretion to determine the price and the method of sale of the work.

7. Each of the contracting parties has the right to receive ten free copies of the work for his own private purposes and these, together with the review copies to be sent to newspapers, will be deducted from the edition when the accounts are presented.

8. The Author undertakes to deliver the complete manuscript of the work to the Publisher on or before the last day of May of this year, while the latter undertakes to publish the work in its entirety by, October of this year at the latest, and to dispatch the first volume sooner if possible.

We regard the above eight points as binding upon us and our heirs.

Hamburg and Otto Meissner in Hamburg