London, Volume 5
CXV.-The Old London Booksellers.
CXV.-The Old London Booksellers.
Thought-Speech-Writing-Printing-these are, as it were, successive developments of mind, each ascending in about the same degree beyond the other. Much as in Milton's similitude-
Not, indeed, that any particular copy of a printed book, bound and lettered, much resembles a flower:--we must endeavour to conceive a printed book in the abstract, as Crambe did a Lord Mayor without horse, gown, and gold chain, or even stature, features, colour, hands, feet, or body. In this sense a printed book is really
Here, however, our business is not with either books or booksellers in the abstract, but with the latter in humble concrete, or in flesh and blood. Although books were written, and to a certain extent published too, by copies of them being made by transcribers, before the invention of printing, yet it may safely be assumed that it was not till after the introduction of that art that the sale of them became a regular trade in England. In the height to which even literary civilization had grown in the ancient world of Greece and Rome, there were shops for books probably in all the considerable towns; and in modern Europe, in the middle ages, Bibles, and also other books, were sold at the fairs in many of the principal cities of the Continent; but these were rather general than local marts; indeed, literature then, when books for the most part were written in Latin, the common tongue of the learned in all countries, was European, rather than national, everywhere; the manufacture or sale of books on a large scale could only be carried on at the great central points of attraction and confluence; England, being out of the way of common resort, could scarcely
| maintain anything of the kind. The purchase of a book here seems to have been merely an occasional transaction, like the purchase of a house; and the few books that were produced with a view to being sold were mostly prepared in the monasteries, as well as probably purchased only by those establishments. Perhaps the books that got to any extent into the hands of the people in England (and even their dispersion must have been but to a very limited extent) were the religious treatises of the reformer Wycliffe, and some of his followers, in the century. But, still, there is no mention of book-shops in London, we believe, till long after this date. Fitz-Stephen, of course, has no notice of any in his Description, written in the latter part of the century, in which he celebrates with so much gusto the wine-shops, the cook-shops, the fish-shops, the poultry-shops, the horse-markets, &c., of |
and Dan John Lydgate's ballad of
which belongs to the century, is equally silent as to the existence of any storehouses of food or furniture for the mind, while commemorating the activity and vociferation of the dealers in all other kinds of commodities.
Bookselling, no doubt, came in among us with printing; and, probably, our printers were also our booksellers. Memorable old William Caxton, who set up his press in the Almonry at , in the year , not only himself sold the books he printed, but even wrote many of them: he was author, printer, and publisher, all in . It was not long, however, before the merchandize in books, as in other commodities in extensive demand, came to be carried on by a class of persons distinct from both the intellectual and the mechanical manufacturers of the article.
The Stationers' Company was incorporated in , in the reign of Philip and Mary, and comprehends stationers, booksellers, letter-founders, printers, and bookbinders. The booksellers, however, have always been by far the most numerous portion of the body, and also the most influential from other causes, as well as from their greater number. They are, from the nature of the case, the capitalists by whom the production of books is mainly promoted--the employers of the printers, and to some extent of the authors also-and, as they run the risks, so they enjoy the advantages, of that position. Accordingly, while nobody ever heard of any influence on literature being exerted by printers, the influence of booksellers on literature has at all times, and in all countries, been very considerable. We have the high authority of Horace for looking upon them as, in the department of poetry at least, of the supreme controlling powers:--
that is, as the words may be translated, Mediocrity in poetry is a thing not suffered by gods, by men, or by booksellers. The bookseller, indeed, it is intimated by the metonymy here used, judges by a rule or standard of criticism different from that referred to by the general public; he applies what may be called a -rule to the matter; but it may be fairly questioned if any surer or better for ordinary occasions is to be found in Aristotle.
We have not much information about bookselling in London that is curious or interesting till we come to the middle of the century. It was probably not till some time rafter this that book-shops (in the
| modern sense) began to rise in what is now the great centre of the trade-Paternoster Row, or The Row, as it is styled by way of eminence (and also perhaps to get rid of an inconveniently polysyllabic designation). They seem to have been only beginning to make their appearance when Strype produced his edition of Stow, in . |
we are told by Strype, in his solemn fashion of speech,
At the time of the Great Fire, and probably for long before, the principal booksellers' shops were in . Hither Pepys was commonly wont to resort when he wanted either a new or an old book. Thus, on the , he notes,
Again, on the , we find him recording as follows:--
Poor Pepys! never was inordinate vanity in any man so snubbed and checked at every movement by a still more inveterate principle of honesty: it is like the convulsive jerking and counter-Jerking of a Supple Jack.
A few years after this, however, the booksellers were for a time driven from this quarter by the effects of the great fire.
writes Pepys, under date of ,
And on the he adds,
Walton's, or the London Polyglott, here mentioned, is in folio volumes, the of which had been published in , and the , , and in . Evelyn also records the immense destruction of books by this terrible conflagration. In his
he states that the magazines or stores of books belonging to the stationers, which had been deposited for safety in the vaulted church of St. Faith's under , continued to burn for a week.
The history of of Pepys's purchases affords an instance of the extent to which the fire raised the price of certain books.
he observes, on the ,
Accordingly he bought the book, which is now in the Pepysian Library at Cambridge.
he writes on the ,
Pepys's new bookseller, as we see, was stationed in or near the Temple. Hall, the other more noisy temple of the laws, was also in those days a great place for the sale of books, and as such was frequently visited by Pepys.
is of his memoranda on the ,
And if the book kept his wife and him laughing for a whole evening, what more or better would he have had for his money? They are rare tomes of which anything so commendatory can be said. Some doubt, it is true, may be raised by other entries if Pepys's sense of the ludicrous was the justest in the world. Possibly he found matter of laughter where nobody else would have seen anything of the kind, as it is certain that he would sometimes find none in what was the richest wit and humour to other people.
he writes on the :
But this turned out to be a precipitate proceeding. To Pepys's infinite amazement, the
continued to be the rage.
he tells us, under date of the thereafter,
With this praiseworthy resolution (much
| resembling that of the ingenious individual who, not knowing how to read, sought to cure that defect by procuring a proper pair of spectacles- of the most touching examples of the Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties) Pepys set to work; but we fear his success was not considerable. |
he writes in his account of his doings on the in this same year,
He did buy the book, however, a few days after this.
is his naive and curious record on the , i
So he seems to have laid out his money in this last instance in the way of duty, or of penance, rather than for either pleasure or use. No doubt, if he found any pleasure in Hudibras, it must have been, in his own phraseology, serious enough-entirely of the order of those very
which the poet has coupled and by implication almost identified with
The only other mention we find of Butler's poem in the
is in the entry dated , where, in a notice of an interview with Mr. Seamour, or Seymour, it is written,
From his thus taking it as a sort of insult that a person should quote the book in his presence, we might almost suspect that his ineffectual endeavours to comprehend the wit of Hudibras had come to be a standing joke against Pepys.
On the rebuilding of the City after the fire, the booksellers, who had formerly carried on business in , or such of them as were not reduced to absolute ruin, seem to have generally returned to their old quarters. Pepys's friend Kirton, however, appears never to have recovered from the losses he sustained by that catastrophe. In Pepys's latter days, when he was probably a larger collector than ever of rare books, the bookseller with whom he. chiefly dealt appears to have been Mr. Robert Scott. Scott was the prince of London booksellers in his day. It was with him, too, Roger North tells us, that his brother Dr. John North dealt, in laying the foundation of his library. Scott's sister was North's grandmother's woman;
the graphic and cordial biographer goes on,
Scott kept shop in , probably in the part of that zigzag street adjacent to , or, as it is now called, , in Smithfield. This portion of and the whole of , in the latter half of the and the early part of the eighteenth century, were mainly inhabited by booksellers and publishers. It was, Roger North tells us,
Strype, in his edition of Stow, published in , describes as
Afterwards, he describes the part of occupied by the booksellers as extending from St. southward towards the Pump, and so bending eastward to . The booksellers here, he says,
Maitland, writing in , tells us that the booksellers' part of was then much deserted and had little trade; and he describes as
When Benjamin Franklin and his friend James Ralph (who also became in after years a person of some note, making a considerable figure as a political writer in the latter part of the reign of George II., and having besides got himself immortalized in the
) came over together from Philadelphia to London in the end of the year , they took a lodging in at per week;
He has commemorated of the dealers in old books by whom the street was then inhabited.
But by far the most curious and complete account that we have of the
| booksellers and bookselling business of London at the beginning of the eighteenth century is that given by the famous John Dunton in the extraordinary autobiographical performance which he entitles his |
Dunton, born in , was the only son of the Rev. John Dunton, rector of Graffham, in Huntingdonshire, and as such the descendant of a line of clergymen, both his grandfather and great-grandfather having been ministers of Little Missenden, in Bucks. He was himself intended for the church, and with that view he was put to school and taught Latin, which he says gave him satisfaction enough, so that he attained to such a knowledge of the language as to be able to
The truth is, Dunton, with prodigious intellectual activity, or rather restlessness, never could persevere long enough with anything he undertook, study, task, business, or plan of life, to make much of it. So, finding him too mercurial for a scholar, his father determined to make a bookseller of him, and in his year he was sent up to London, and apprenticed to Mr. Thomas Parkhurst, whom he describes as
Having passed through his apprenticeship, Dunton set up for himself as a bookseller and publisher about the year . The picture he draws of literature and its followers in London at this date is not flattering, but it may be held to prove, at any rate, that the profession can hardly have degenerated.
he says (meaning what we should now call publishing),
Well, there may be some rapacity here, but there is considerable simplicity too; for surely the or , even at the then value of money, could scarcely have been the full price of copy for as many sheets of letter-press. We doubt if a publisher ever now-a-days gets rid of an author upon such easy terms.
The most saleable of all publications at this date were sermons and other religious disquisitions. The copy or manuscript D.unton ventured to print was a volume entitled,
by the Rev. Mr. Doolittle.
This lets us into a peculiarity in the manner in which the publishing business was then carried on :--when a publisher, being also, as was generally or universally the case, a retail and miscellaneous bookseller, brought out a work, he disposed of the copies among the trade mostly in the way of barter or exchange for other books. This practice, it is hardly necessary to say, has long gone out.
Dunton speedily followed this venture by or other publications in the same line, all of which did well; and this extraordinary success in his attempts gave him, he observes,
He now began to be plied with projects and proposals of marriage from various quarters. Mrs. Mary Sanders, the virgin who unhinged him under the paternal roof, had by this time got entirely out of his head; the beautiful Rachel Seaton, the innocent Sarah Day of Ratcliffe, the religious Sarah Briscow of Uxbridge, had all had their turn; at last, being smitten at church by Elizabeth Annesley, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Annesley, a distinguished nonconformist preacher of those times, he married that lady. Another daughter of Dr. Annesley's, it may be noticed, married Mr. Samuel Wesley, the poet, and became by him the mother of John Wesley, the famous founder of Methodism. Annesley is said to have been a near relative of the Irish Annesleys, Earls of Anglesey-and the Wesleys, as is well known, were connected with another English family settled in Ireland, the Wellesleys, which has risen to much greater distinction. It is curious what strange diversities of station and character a genealogy will sometimes bring together.
The history of Dunton's various amours, connubial and Platonic, makes up a great part of his book; but of course, although many of his details are abundantly curious, we cannot enter upon that matter here. His wife and he called another Iris and Philaret, both before and after their marriage-and he would have us believe that they lived together in unequalled affection and harmony. But for all that Dunton never could remain long at home: he had been but a few years. married when he set off for New England, and remained away for nearly a year; when he came back he found his affairs in such a state that he thought it prudent to make a tour in Holland and Germany, in order to be safe from his creditors ;-- of his books is an account of a visit he made to Ireland ;--he talks there of a projected expedition to Scotland; and we do not know how much farther he extended his rambles. He defends his practice in this respect, indeed, upon high grounds.
he says, in his account of the Irish tour,
Acting upon these principles of philosophy, D unton took his swing; and not only gratified himself with the sight of foreign parts, but, being a perfectly virtuous person, struck up Platonic friendships with all the agreeable women,--maids, wives, and widows,--he met with wherever he went. Meanwhile, he took care never to forget his wife at home; when he was in New England, he says, he sent Eliza letters by ship! He kept all he wrote during his stay, we suppose, and making them up into a parcel, sent them off at once. However, Eliza, or Iris, died in ; and the same year he married a Miss Sarah Nicholas, whom he calls Valeria, and with whom and whose relatives he by no means got on so harmoniously as he had done with his matrimonial connexion. The truth appears to be that he was by this time a ruined manand that his new marriage was rather a speculation in trade than anything else, his wife having some expectations which he wished to turn to account and was thwarted in his object by her friends. He had wasted a world of energy and ingenuity in a vast multiplicity of enterprises and projects, very few of which probably turned out remunerative. Dunton's shop was at the corner of , near the ; from this, in , on the day the Prince of Orange entered London, he transferred himself, and his sign of the Black Raven, to the Poultry Compter, where he remained for years. Whither he went after this does not appear. He published his
in a little thick duodecimo, in , when he had been years in business-in the course of which time, he tells us, he had printed no fewer than works. Of many of these he was the author, as well as the publisher-and he continued to write and print for nearly years longer. The last years of his existence, however, seem to have passed in quiet and obscurity--not improbably in poverty and broken health-and all that is further known of him is that, having lost his wife, from whom he had long been separated, in , he gave up the battle of life in , at the good old age of .
The principal literary performance by which Dunton's memory is preserved, besides his
originally published from , to , in weekly numbers, the best of which were afterwards collected and reprinted in octavo volumes. It was projected by himself, and his principal or only associates in carrying it on were a Mr. Richard Sault, a Cambridge theologian, of his hack authors, for whom he soon after published a singular production entitled
which made a great deal of noise-his brother-in-law, Mr. Samuel Wesley-and the famous metaphysical divine, Dr. John Norris. The papers consist of casuistical and other disquisitions, in answer to queries upon all sorts of subjects, which are supposed to have been submitted to the conductors, and many of which probably were actually sent to them, although in other cases the puzzle as well as the
|solution of it may have been the oracle's own. The scheme at least ensured unlimited variety of subject, and the writers had sufficient talent and superficial learning to give a temporary interest to their lucubrations, if not to put into them much of an enduring value.|
Dunton himself was not without a touch of something that may be almost called genius. No doubt he was all along a little, or not a little, mad; both his writings and his history betray this throughout; and he was also a very imperfectly educated man. But, if we make due allowance for these defects, we shall find a merit far above mediocrity in much of what he has done. He may be shortly characterised as a sort of wild Defoe--a coarser mind cast in somewhat a like mould--a Defoe without the training, and also with but a scanty endowment of the natural capability of being so trained, but yet with a considerable portion of the same fertility and vital force, as well as of the same originality of intellectual character. If Defoe had died before producing any of his works of fiction--which he might very well have done and still left behind him a considerable literary name, seeing that the of them,
did not appear till , when he was in his year, and had long been distinguished as a political and miscellaneous writer--the comparison between him and Dunton would not have at all a fanciful or extravagant air.
In a tract, which he entitles
published in , under the name of Benjamin Bridgwater, an M.A. of Trinity College, Cambridge, by whom it was in fact partly written, Dunton gives no very favourable account of the estimation in which the members of
were held in that day.
He asserts, however, in opposition to this vulgar prejudice, that
In his Life and Errors he undertakes
--and this is of the most curious and interesting portions of his book. His review of his literary contemporaries comprehends also the authors for whom he published, the successive licencers of the press with whom he had to do, his printers, the stationers from whom he bought his paper, and even the binders he employed; but we must confine ourselves to a few gleanings from his notices of the booksellers.
A circumstance that is apt at to excite some surprise is the apparent extent and activity of the publishing business in London at this date. The booksellers were very numerous-those of eminence perhaps more numerous than in the present day-and nearly all of them seem to have at least occasionally engaged in publishing, or printing, as it was called. The impressions, too, we apprehend, were in general at least as large as in more recent times; of some descriptions of publications certainly many more copies were thrown off than would now find a sale. The fact is, that from the middle of the to the middle of the eighteenth century was the age of pamphlets; the century that has since elapsed has been the age of periodical publications and of newspapers. All controversy and discussion upon the events of the day, and upon the reigning questions both of politics and religion, was then carried on by occasional writers; even news was to a considerable extent communicated to the
|public in pamphlets. The gradual transformation of this unregulated condition of things into the organized system that has taken its place was according to the common course of nature and the development of society; and it may be remarked that the same process is still going on. Publication seems to be falling more and more into the form of series and periodical issue; and who knows but the time may come when nearly all new works shall be brought out in that method?|
The bookseller with whose name Dunton heads his list is Mr. Richard Chiswell,
Chiswell was the printer of the octavo edition of
which proved a remarkably successful publication. A short account of him may be seen in Strype's
where we are told that he was born in , and died in . Strype, who states that he was of the proprietors of his book, characterises him as
His shop was in .
A name now better remembered is that of the wealthy Thomas Guy, the founder of the hospital. He lived in .
Many of these notices of Dunton's, by the bye, bear out what is said by Roger North of the superior acquirements of the booksellers of that generation. Thus, Mr. John Lawrence, who, we are informed,
is declared to be
Of Mr. Samuel Smith, bookseller to the Royal Society, it is stated that he
Mr. Halsey was already distinguished, we are assured, for
Mr. Joseph Collier, who had been Dunton's fellow apprentice, is affirmed to have
Of Mr. Shrowsbury it is written,
Others again are celebrated for their natural abilities. Mr. Robinson is described as
is a man of very quick parts; I have heard him say he would forgive any man that could him.
descended from the ingenious Tooke, that was formerly treasurer
a man of refined sense.
was a man of extraordinary sense,
Of Mr. Pero it is asserted that
Mr. Child is commemorated for
Of Mr. Benjamin Harris, of , it is recorded that
Mr. Knapton, whose sign was the Crown, in , close by Churchyard--the shop from which issued Tindal's translation of Rapin's
and many more of the most successful publications of the earlier part of the last century--is spoken of with warm laudation as
Of Mr. Burroughs, in , we have also a high character.
We see the very aldermen in that Augustan age were expected to be somewhat lively. The next who is introduced is Mr. Walwyn:
proceeds our encomiastic author,
Mr. Evets, at Dragon, though not talkative,
Mr. Swall, now out of business,
Mr. Fox, in Hall,
Mr. Sprint, junior,
Mr. John Harris, now dead, had a little body,
Mr. Herrick, again, who is
Others, finally, are prodigies of both genius and scholarship--as Mr. Samuel Buckley, who
Buckley, who ultimately became the printer of the
seems to have been an object of special admiration, or envy, to our author, and his merits and good fortune are expatiated upon at great length in various of his publications. He is known in the republic of letters as the learned printer, and, in fact, editor, of the London edition of De Thou's
published in , in volumes folio.
The London booksellers of this era would seem, then, to have formed quite a brilliant constellation of wits and literati. But we have not yet by any means acquired a complete notion of their fascinations. The following are a few more of Dunton's graphic touches :--Mr. Thomas Bennet is
Mr. William Hartley is
Mr. Nicholas Boddington
Mr. Bosvile, at the Dial in ,
Mr. Richard Parker;
Mr. Wellington, among other qualifications,
Mr. William Miller, deceased,
Mr. Smith, near the ;
Mr. Harding is
Mr. Thomas Simmons, formerly of ;
Mr. Harrison, by the ;
Mr. Jonathan Greenwood
Mr. Isaac Cleave, in ,
Mr. Place, near ;
Never, certainly, before or since, were all the graces, both of mind and body, so generally diffused among any class of men as among these old London booksellers.
The greatest bookseller that had been in England for many years, according to Dunton, was the late Mr. George Sawbridge. He left his daughters portions of a-piece, and was succeeded in his business by his son of the same names. The most famous characters in the list are Jacob Tonson and
| Bernard Lintott, immortalized by the association of their names with the writings and wranglings of Dryden and Pope, and the other wits and literary celebrities of that age. But there is nothing in the notice of either that is of much interest. Lintott Dunton affirms to be a man of very good principles. Tonson, he says, |
short paragraph is interesting as connecting the present time with the past, or at least a recent with a more distant age. Mr. Ballard
This Mr. Ballard is said to have been the last survivor of the booksellers of , and to have died in the same house in which he began trade at the age of upwards of a . If he lived, indeed, till about the year , as is asserted in Nightingale's
he must have been considerably more than a centenarian. But it is probable that there is a mistake of a few years in this date. It is not in , as Nightingale supposes, but in , that Dunton speaks of Mr. Ballard as a young man rising in business.
are the only of the competitors in the immortal contests of the book of the
that are mentioned by Dunton; the other , Osborne and Curll, were as yet unknown to fame. Thomas Osborne, whose shop was the same that had been occupied by Lintott, under the gateway of , was, we believe, a respectable
|enough man; he is celebrated as the purchaser of the printed books of the library of Harley Earl of Oxford, and the publisher of the Harleian Miscellany, and also of folio volumes of scarce Voyages and Travels, reprinted from that collection. Pope charges him with having cut down the folio copies of his Iliad to the size of the subscription copies, which were in quarto, and sold them as subscription copies; but he was probably not guilty of any such misrepresentation; if he found that the public preferred the quarto to the folio size, he had a perfect right to cut down his books accordingly. The discomfiture, however, to which the revengeful poet dooms him for this ingenious manoeuvre is, it must be admitted, inimitably happy and appropriate.|
The notorious Edmund Curll kept shop in , Covent Garden, having Pope's Head for his sign. As the castigation bestowed on him in the glorious satire is more severe and merciless than that dealt out to any of his comrades in suffering, so his offence, or offences rather, had been much the most atrocious. He appears to have thrown himself into collision with Pope by publishing a duodecimo volume of early Letters written by the poet to his friend Henry Cromwell, Esq., which that gentleman had given to Mrs. Eliza Thomas, the
of the Dunciad, and which she had sold to Curll. This was in . more volumes followed, under the title of
the last of which appeared in ; but in these there were only or genuine letters of Pope's: the rest of their contents consisted partly of forgeries in his name, but mostly of matter, much of it grossly indecent, which, notwithstanding the title-page, it was not even pretended in the body of the book that he had anything to do with. Curll, whose name has become a synonym for every thing most disreputable in the trade of defamation and obscenity, richly deserved all he met with at Pope's hands. The only pity is that he probably would not feel it-any more than he had felt his exposure in the pillory a few years before for of his atrocious publications upon which occasion it is said that, by getting printed papers dispersed among the people telling them that he stood there for vindicating the memory of Queen Anne, he not only saved himself from being pelted, but, when he was taken down, was carried off by the mob, as it were in triumph, to a neighbouring tavern.
The early part of the eighteenth century, we have said, was still an age of pamphleteering. This system was effectually broken in upon by the ingenious and enterprising Edward Cave, who, conceiving the notion of substituting a single vehicle of information and discussion, to appear at regular intervals, for the numerous occasional papers which then constituted our ephemeral literature, brought out the number of the
on the . The speculation was immediately and eminently successful; the Magazine soon dried up the occasional papers, as the formation of a deep drain or reservoir of water does all the minor springs in its neighbourhood; and its founder, a man of humble origin, little education, and nobody to help him forward in the world but himself, was made rich and famous, as he deserved to be, by his lucky project. The
--now well entitled to be styled the
--still perseveres in coming out every month, with a tenacity of life, and constancy to early habits, above all praise.
|Perhaps the next great revolution in the commercial system of our literature was that brought about by James Lackington, of the Temple of the Muses, in , who may be called the father of cheap bookselling and cheap reprinting. Lackington, also, like Cave, of obscure parentage, and the architect of his own fortunes, has himself told us the story of his rise to greatness in a very remarkable performance, entitled Memoirs of the Years of his Life. But he belongs to the subject, not of the Old but of the Modern booksellers of London; for his book was published at so late a date as , and he lived till . Though we cannot enter upon his doings and character, however, his effigies may fitly enough close our paper.|