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It's about $15 now. But 10,000 sets! I had just enough
paper for that! You couldn't print less of a great big
book like that. It was a very costly project. With 10,000
sets we would just about get our money back, but from then
on, we'd have clear sailing. Well, that was my figuring.
What I did not know was that every Jesuit school in
the country was waiting for this two-volume set. Within a
week of publication, we got two orders for 2,500 sets each
from two institutions that I had never heard of. That was
half of the entire edition. In about three weeks, our
10,000 sets were gone. I thought they'd last ten years.
That's how brilliantly I figured!
We didn't have paper for anymore at the time. I
thought we'd have to wait until the War was over. But one
day my phone rang. It was a monsignor from St. Patrick's
Cathedral. I've forgotten his name. I think it was Murphy.
A good Irish name anyway.
Yes. It was a good Irish name. It was Kelly or
Murphy or something like that. He began in a deeply
resonant voice, “Is this Bennett Cerf?" I said, “Yes.”
Let's say that his name was Murphy for the purposes of the
story. He said, “This is Monsignor Murphy from St. Patrick's
Cathedral. I just want to tell you that you're the stupidest
publisher in the United States of America.” I said, “Well,
thank you for that sweeping compliment. What do I owe it
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