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Constable, Archibald

Constable, Archibald (1774–1827). Publisher. Son of the earl of Kellie's land steward and apprenticed to Peter Hill, an Edinburgh bookseller, Constable soon established himself independently. Drawing on London and Scottish contacts, he ventured into publishing with theological and political pamphlets, before becoming proprietor of the Scots Magazine (1801) and then publisher of the prestigious Edinburgh Review (1802), which brought him into prominence. His liberality with authors confounded rivals. In 1805–8 and 1814–26 he published most of Sir Walter Scott's works, and owned Encyclopaedia Britannica for a decade, introducing extended ‘dissertations’ as supplements. Dreams of a revolution in bookselling by offering easily affordable fiction to the ‘millions’ were ambushed by huge debts and bankruptcy (1826) from heady speculativeness; the firm's collapse (together with Ballantyne's) so rocked the publishing industry that ambition and innovation were stifled for years. Constable's efforts to recover lacked heart, and he soon succumbed to ill-health.

A. S. Hargreaves

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