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The Boyhood Of William Chambers
by [?]

He accepted the proposition at once, and for two and a half hours every morning he sat on a flour-sack in the cellar, and read to the bakers by the light of a penny candle stuck in a bottle.

Out of his small wages it was impossible for the boy to save anything, and so, when the five years of his apprenticeship ended, he had only five shillings in the world. Yet he determined to begin business at once on his own account. Getting credit for ten pounds’ worth of books, he opened a little stall, and thus began what has since grown to be a great publishing business.

He had a good deal of unoccupied time at his stall, and “in order to pick up a few shillings,” as he says, he began to write out neat copies of poems for albums. Finding sale for these, he determined to enlarge that part of his business by printing the poems. For that purpose he bought a small and very “squeaky” press and a font of worn type which had been used for twenty years. He had to teach himself how to set the type, and, as his press would print only half a sheet at a time, it was very slow work; but he persevered, and gradually built up a little printing business in connection with his book-selling. After a while he published an edition of Burns’s poems, setting the type, printing the pages, and binding the books with his own hands, and clearing eight pounds by the work.

Chambers wrote a good deal at that time, and his brother Robert wrote still more, so that they were at once authors, printers, publishers, and booksellers, but all in a very small way. After ten years of this work, William Chambers determined to publish a cheap weekly paper, to be filled with entertaining and instructive matters, designed especially for the people who could not afford to buy expensive books and periodicals. Robert refused to join in this scheme, and so, for a time, the whole work and risk fell upon William. His friends all agreed in thinking that ruin would be the result; but William Chambers thought he knew what the people wanted, and hence he went on.

The result soon justified his expectations. The first number was published on the 4th of February, 1832. Thirty thousand copies were sold in a few days, and three weeks later the sale rose to fifty thousand copies a week.