The Publishing Boom of the Second Half of the 1930s

The growth of production between 1935 and 1936 was generated at the confluence of two intertwined factors. On the one hand, a diversification of the communities of readers thanks to the expansion of education and the desacralization of the uses of books, as testified by the notable increase in the publication of children’s books and books for women (Pellegrino Soares 2007). On the other hand, a marked decrease in the import of books from other markets, caused by the devaluation of the currency and imbalances in various export markets after the financial crisis of 1929 and by the increase in the caution of businessmen at that time.

Owing to economic dependence, the evolution of publishing markets in Latin America is commonly held back by low standards of institutional autonomy. This is reflected in the fragility of active policies (public and private) to regulate foreign trade. The fall in imports in the period under review was a global process that affected interdependence with other national and linguistic markets (Sora 2010: 331). The recession in trade especially affected the import of books of French origin and stimulated “import substitution”. In a few years the number of publishers multiplied exponentially, reaching 146 companies in 1936 (Sora 2010: 458). At the end of the decade, international trade was again activated with a transformation (obviously due to the effects of World War II) of the ports of import: The United States, Portugal, and Argentina.

The evolution of the publishing market reflects the expansion and diversification of reader communities (Chartier 1994, Chapter 4). But “the reading habit”, following smooth rhythms that avoid statistical measurement, does not allow direct inferences. Let us see then some deferred reflexes. In 1937, the binomial Companhia Editora Nacional (a Sao Paulo company with a predominance of didactic material production) - Civiliza^ao Brasileira (a Carioca subsidiary specialized in literature) was responsible for the production of 2,300,000 copies, a third of all the books produced in Brazil in that year. Of this total, books authored by Monteiro Lobato (and/or translated by him) totalled 1.2 million. Among other bestsellers were Humberto de Campos (Jose Olympio); Machado de Assis (Editora Jackson); Afranio Peixoto (Guanabara); Joaquim Nabuco (Civiliza^ao Brasileira); Agripino Grieco (Companhia Brasil Editora); and Aluisio Azevedo and Gra^a Aranha (Briguiet-Garnier) - that is, some of the most prestigious intellectual figures of the generation of 1870 together with “Anatolian polygraphers”2 who were dominant during the Republica Velha (Old Republic).J The avant-garde writers valued by the critics as discoverers of Brazil (new realistic novelists, interpreters of Brazil) were not the only springs of the material transformation of the publishing scene in the 1930s. The commercial consecration of “Jose Olympio authors” such as Jose Lins Do Rego, Gilberto Freyre, Rachel de Queiroz, or Graciliano Ramos (see Chapter 6) had to wait for the consolidation of their appreciation as a generation (the effects of criticism on the school system - Cfr. Rivron 2005) and for international acclaim (measurable by translation indexes - Sora 2003).

If for previous periods we observe quasi-monopolistic publishing houses (Gamier at the end of the 19th century, then Francisco Alves, CEN at the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s), the growth of the market discussed here allowed it to diversify, with indicators of the growth of a true field. Between 1938 and 1944, 36% of the launches and half of the copies produced came from six competing publishing houses (Miceli 1979: 83).4 Among other variables necessary to consider in this chapter, it may be observed that while Rio de Janeiro hosted the largest number of publishing houses, Sao Paulo was the industrial powerhouse of the market. Companhia Editora Nacional, Revista dos Tribunais, Companhia Melhoramentos, respectively the largest publishing house and printing houses in the country, at that time, produced many more copies than any competitor in other regions. It is no coincidence, however, that the three largest publishers were distributed in three different cities: Rio (Livraria e Editora Jose Olympio), Sao Paulo (Companhia Editora Nacional), and Porto Alegre (Livraria e Editora do Globo). The explanation of this division leads us to consider the regional trends of the markets in the second half of the 1930s.

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