Although undoubtedly the focus is a shade special for the general reading public, this handsomely, researched history of the Harper Brothers, publishing enterprise from its inception in 1817 to 1853 will surely become a ""basic"" for book collectors, literary historians and the publishing trade. With a fine detective hand for tying up. snapped threads, the author plumbs the morass of contractual and financial dealings by the brothers to reveal a business acumen of astounding vitality. In the days when book publishing was anybody's bail game, when there were no such things as an international copyright (the author cannot resist a few pokes at our present situation, however), when a vigorous crop of weeklies sprouted to serialize imports from England, Harper Brothers flourished. With an intuition of young America's literary taste and needs, they increased the volume of travel, adventure, medical texts, school texts theological treatsies and a ""home library"" which became a domestic staple. Among authors and publishers of the time a jaunty-to-desperate gamesmanship was practiced, from the greats like Melville and Poe to the lesser but more profitable writers, and the author devotes a great deal of space to attacks by the authors and counter volleys by the brothers. There is an interesting glimpse of James Harper as mayor of New York City, and the birth of Harper's Monthly. Meticulous, scholarly, special.