Monday, March 30, 2009

An Illegal Early Edition of Dickens's "Nicholas Nickleby"

If you live in northeast Massachusetts, southern Maine, or southeast New Hampshire and consider yourself a book lover, give yourself a day to explore the “book barn” at Drake Farm on Route 1 in North Hampton, New Hampshire. The farm dates back to the founding of the town in 1705, and the barn itself to 1830. Since 1995, its fifteen rooms have housed a collection of thousands upon thousands of used books--modern and antiquarian, collectible and ephemeral, fiction and nonfiction--in nearly every conceivable category. In addition to the vast, reasonably-priced stock, you’ll enjoy the ambience provided by the large antique railroad-station wood stove that warms the building, the extremely friendly and implausibly informative owner (that’s him at the table stacked high with recent acquisitions, listening to NPR), and the rustic New England farm atmosphere (the barn is patrolled by 5 friendly cats and in the backyard live 2 sage old donkeys... “They’re the brain trust here,” the owner acknowledges, “We’re run by a couple of wise asses.”)

I had the occasion to spend this past weekend in Portsmouth, a town my partner and I have always loved as an escape destination for a few days. While the community has two theatres, many restaurants, and numerous shops and boutiques, the last decade has seen a steady departure of bookstores from the town as commercial rents have risen to unreasonable rates. This trip, I left downtown and went around to a few neighboring towns to see what they had to offer. On the advice of a friend and fellow-bibliophile, I stopped by Drake Farm Books. I meant to spend about an hour of my day there and maybe pick up one or two books. Four hours later, I ended up leaving with several great finds. 

This week’s book is one of those finds, and I’m indebted to the owner of the store for giving me some of the details as to its history. Some of what follows is courtesy of him and some is from my own research.

The book is the first American edition of Charles Dickens’s The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. The title page reminds the reader that Dickens had initially published works under the name of “Boz” (his regular pseudonym) and was also the author of Sketches of Every-Day Life (1836), The Pickwick Papers (1836), and Oliver Twist (1837-9). This edition of Nickleby includes black and white steel-print engravings by J. Yeager after the original illustrations by “Phiz” (the pseudonym of Hablot Browne) that accompanied the narrative’s original publication in serial form (as 19 monthly periodical installments between March 1838 and September 1839). The book was published in late 1839 in Philadelphia by the highly productive firm of Lea & Blanchard (“successors to Carey & Co.”), and was printed by T. K and P. G. Collins at 1 Lodge Alley in the city.

Nickleby was Dickens’s third true novel (not counting the collected stories of the Sketches as a novel) and demonstrates a masterly blending of comic (particularly his deft characterization of theatre is no coincidence that Dickens dedicated the book to his friend the famed actor-manager William Charles Macready) with the darkly serious (notably the depictions of the harsh mistreatment of children in nineteenth century English boarding schools). Not counting the serial format of the original publication (which would be counted as the true “first edition”) the first book publication of the novel was in octavo format by Chapman & Hall of London in 1839. Since then it has appeared in over 780 editions (including various permutations as audio books, translations, and in 2002 as a major motion picture); it was so popular when it first came out that even before Dickens had published the final installment, an adaptation for the stage, written by Edward Stirling, was being performed at the Royal Adelphi Theatre. 

Rather than explicate the plot of Dickens’s masterpiece (David Perdue sums it up on his Charles Dickens website, along with providing lots of other great information and links on the novel), I’m going to focus here on this particular edition and copy.

Tracing the publication history of a popular, serialized Victorian novel is a bit like trying to organize the grains of sand on a beach according to their circumference. The popularity of Dickens in America resulted in a highly profitable, highly illegal trade in smuggled copies of the serial installments, stuffed into steamer trunks and shipped across the Atlantic usually to the port of Philadelphia. The speed with which these pirates worked is suggested by the fact that Lea & Blanchard had their unauthorized edition out for retail less than a month after the final serial installment of the book appeared in London in September 1839. The inaccuracy with which these pirates worked is suggested, likewise, by the publishers’ need to frequently re-release subsequent printings of the edition to correct the text and add missing material (most distinctly, a rare engraving of Dickens himself meant to be appear in the preliminaries of the book...the absence of which is a tangible metaphor for the author’s lack of presence in this illegal publication process).

To add to the mayhem, two other American publishers had been releasing unauthorized editions of the Nickleby installments in this country between 1838 and 1839 (as had Lea & Blanchard); to fill gaps in the early illegal editions, an unscrupulous printer would have no compunction about literally removing a gathering of text from one of these pirated installments and binding it into their pirated book. It may be an exaggeration to claim that there are thus as many “issues” of these early editions as there are extant copies of the editions, but it’s not far off from the truth. (In 1842 Dickens made the first of two visits to the United States and Canada; he took the opportunity afforded by his celebrity to speak openly and often about two of his great causes: abolition and, not surprisingly, the enforcement of international copyright laws.)

My copy is bound in brown morocco leathered boards with marbled paper on both front and back, with the exception of the corners and the spine. Unfortunately, the spine is coming apart at the top and bottom (a side-effect, no doubt, of being pulled from shelves improperly for most of its life); the gilded stamp title portion of the spine is still present, though detached. The front board is detached, the rear board is very loose on its hinge. This binding is not the original (which was a green cloth binding); the punch-marks for the original binding can be seen throughout the book in the gutter. The pages measure 15.5cm x 23.5cm and were printed in tall quarto format; the gatherings are interrupted by the insertion of 37 illustrated plates on a heavier stock paper (the book was intended to be issued with 39 but two in my copy were omitted by the printer). As was customary at this time, the printer provided signatures on only occasional gatherings. The distinct differences in paper between the different gatherings suggest the piecemeal or hasty nature of the book’s assembly.

The contents of the book include three blank flyleaves at the front and back, along with pastedowns. Following the forward blanks are the following preliminaries ([i]-viii): the title page with printer’s imprint on verso; the dedication, with the list of plates on the verso; the preface; and the table of contents. The book’s contents begin on p. 13 and run through p. 404 (but see below). The list of plates includes a telling typographic error that reveals this copy to be an early-state uncorrected printing (the caption for the illustration on p. 317 includes the phrase “smale-clothes” where it should read “small-clothes”; it is correct on the plate itself).

Perhaps the most intriguing oddity about this book is the insertion of three chapters from one of the illicit periodical publications of the novel. In the table of contents, chapters XLVI-XLVIII are listed as beginning on pp. 293, 299, and 307 respectively (10 leaves in total), but the book itself skips from p. 292 to p. 449 at the start of Chapter XLVI and from there runs through p. 480 (18 leaves); subsequently, Chapter XLIX then recommences with p. 313 (the insertion starts in the middle of gathering 2M; the book recommences with 2P). The inserted pages are palpably different from the rest of the book: the text is set in single-column rather than double, the font is moderately larger, the running titles are different on both verso and recto of each page, and the paper is visibly different (cheaper and slightly smaller). In the lower margin, inner corner of the recto of the first inserted leaf appears the marker “No. XV-57”. This

 references the issue number of the serial publication (number 15 appeared in May 1839 in London and likely by early June in the United States) and the gathering of the leaves within the issue (subsequent markers appear on every fourth page up through 60, indicating a printing in quarto format). The inserted pages include two illustrations from the serial publication; these are identifiably different from the book’s illustrations because they are not reproductions by J. Yeager and because they are labelled with page references that correspond to the inserted pages and not the original book (the illustrations are included, one with a slightly different title, in the list of plates, but they reference here the book’s pagination and not the serial’s). 

The book has been well read in its time, with several pages folded or torn slightly and with foxing throughout. Perhaps the most egregious page damage was done to the conjugate leaves of pp. 187-190; these are removed from the binding, but have been pinned back in by an enterprising owner (hole marks suggest that more than one pin had been used at various times). Another hefty pin holds together the upper inner corner of pp. 195-204 (though these pages are bound in properly).

In addition, at least two different readers have made pencil markings in the book. The more modern hand has noted places where bibliographic or typographic features of the book provide evidence of its edition, state, and issue (including pointing out the absence of the 2 missing plates and the substitution of the 3 inserted chapters), usually by placing a small “x” in the margin alongside the variant. This hand is different from that of Elias [last name illegible], of Boston, who has made tick marks at fairly regular intervals throughout the book (perhaps to help him find his place after putting the book down; if so, he seems to have read about one page at a time). Elias has also written occasional one or two word notes alongside some passages, usually in a handwriting decipherable only by Elias himself and he has marked occasional phrases or passages that seem to have caught his fancy (usually aphorisms, particularly poetic lines, or memorable quips). In many places a pencil has marked a line along a long passage; whether this was done by Elias or the more recent textual sleuth is unknowable.

The preface closes with sentiments that provide a unique view of how the author intended his readers to feel upon encountering his narrative in book form rather than in periodical publication. Given the unauthorized nature of this particular copy, it seems only appropriate to give Mr. Dickens the final word here in defense of his work:

It only now remains for the writer of these passages, with that feeling of regret with which we leave almost any pursuit that has for a long time occupied us and engaged our thoughts, and which is naturally augmented in such a case as this, when that pursuit has been surrounded by all that could animate and cheer him on, — it only now remains for him, before abandoning task, to bid his readers farewell. 

“The author of a periodical performance,” says Mackenzie, “has indeed a claim to the attention and regard of his readers, more interesting than that of any other writer. Other writers submit their sentiments to their readers, with the reserve and circumspection of him who has had time to prepare for a public appearance. He who has followed Horace’s rule, of keeping his book nine years in his study, must have withdrawn many an idea which in the warmth of composition he had conceived, and altered many an expression which in the hurry of writing he had set down. But the periodical essayist commits to his readers the feelings of the day, in the language which those feelings have prompted. As he has delivered himself with the freedom of intimacy and the cordiality of friendship, he will naturally look for the indulgence which those relations may claim ; and when he bids his readers adieu, will hope, as well as feel, the regrets of an acquaintance, and the tenderness of a friend.” 

With such feelings and such hopes the periodical essayist, the Author of these pages, now lays them before his readers in a completed form, flattering himself, like the writer just quoted, that on the first of next month they may miss his company at the accustomed time as something which used to be expected with pleasure ; and think of the papers which on that day of so many past months they have read, as the correspondence of one who wished their happiness, and contributed to their amusement.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fugues: Music of the Devil?

“Beware you be not swallowed up in books!”

So cautioned English evangelist John Wesley, founder of the Anglican revivalist faith that became known as Methodism and which was formally organized into the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States in 1784 (today part of the United Methodist Church). Wesley's warning often haunts me in both the metaphorical sense (for example, when I take a break from reading for my graduate studies by doing some research on my books for this blog) and sometimes in the physical sense (ever been to Derby Square Books in Salem, MA?).

This week’s book is a Methodist devotional songbook with the typically over-precise title The Methodist Harmonist, containing A Great Variety of Tunes Collected from the Best Authors, Adapted to All the Various Metres in the Methodist Hymn-Book, and Designed for the Use of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. To Which is Added a Choice Selection of Anthems and Pieces, for Particular Occasions. The book had its copyright registered by the original publishers N. Bangs and T. Mason, under the hand of James Dill, Clerk of the Southern District of New York. The manuscript of the book was completed on October 23, 1821 and published in 1822, representing a year-long effort by a four-man committee (John M. Smith, Daniel Ayres, John D. Myers, and G. P. Disosway) specifically convened by the 1820 Methodist Episcopal General Conference. As far as I can determine, subsequent editions appeared in 1827, 1831, 1833, and 1841. The second and third editions were largely reprints of the first, but the 1833 edition changed the notation to shape-note and the 1841 edition greatly expanded the contents.

The book’s popularity can be attributed to the large niche it occupied in both the Church’s service and social life; hymnals at the time provided lyrics but no musical notation to indicate the tune to which the song should be sung. The Methodist Harmonist not only provided congregations with the correct melodies but also supplies harmony lines for all of the songs included (for those more ambitious or simply more musically-gifted assemblies, I suppose). The 1822 first edition is extremely rare (estimated assessed value is around $500); this edition (the third) is valued at approximately $100-$150 and came to my collection from my grandfather's collection. While books in houses of worship are often treated with reverence, the sheer volume of use to which they are subjected over the years (and which necessitated their constant replacement through the publication of later editions) means that it is often difficult to find extant copies that are in good or excellent condition. These were books that (like children’s books or school books) were truly practical objects, meant to be used over and over again and not simply read once and then stored away on the shelf.

The book was published by J. Emory and B. Waugh of New York and printed by J. Collord in 1831. The imprint notes also that it is “to be had of the Methodist preachers in the cities and country”, an interesting variation on the usual retail distribution rhetoric to be found in imprints of the period. Throughout the 1830s and 1840s Collord printed numerous other works for the Methodist Church including The Life of Rev. Henry Martyn, Missionary to India (1837), Bible Stories for Children (1846), and numerous Sabbath school history and text books. Emory and Waugh, both of whom may have been abolitionists (a defining feature of many evangelical Christian churches, including the Methodist Episcopalians), often published in partnership for the Church, including hymnals, Bibles, New Testaments, and didactic works.

L. Moore provides the following comments (the website also provides MIDI synthesized recordings of the songs in the Harmonist):

Sacred Harp singers with a taste for research may first encounter The Methodist Harmonist on the Web in its later shaped note incarnation, as printed beginning in 1833. I have read mild deprecations of it as a four-shape book because it doesn't contain many New England or Western tunes. But this is calling the glass half empty: we should instead rejoice that Billings, Read, Timothy Swan, Lewis Edson and Amos Bull have places made for them alongside John Cole of Baltimore, the anonymous American composer of "Forest" and English Dissenter or West Gallery composers like James Leach, Thomas Clark of Canterbury, William Arnold of Portsea and Thomas Walker, as well as a host of other--at the time--well-known English composers (Boyce, Randall, Shoel, Costellow, Harwood, and so on.)

The Methodist Harmonist was assembled by a four person committee, John M. Smith, Daniel Ayres, John D. Myers and G. P. Disosway. Only Gabriel P. Disosway (1799-1868) has other bibliographic attributions--he authored a book of children's sermons in 1864, another about the earliest churches of New York in 1865, and an essay about Huguenots in America included in a larger book by Samuel Smiles, The Self Help Man, in 1867. I have not seen evidence that any of the four were composers, or that they themselves altered or arranged the tunes and anthems included in the book. Most tunes included are printed in 3- or 4-part arrangements, although a handful of tenor-bass tunes are inserted here and there. The committee made excellent choices overall: in a relatively small collection (247 pages of music) they allowed in very few dull tunes. The book was planned for use in worship, not as a singing-master's textbook. As was customary throughout the period, most tunes have only one stanza of text provided, the expectation being that the singers (either as a choir or singing society) would balance tunebook and hymnbook on their knees or laps in order to sing the rest of a hymn, or a metrical alternative to the text attached to the tune.

The book is bound neatly in marbled paper-covered boards with a brown leather spine (what looks like faded residue from a sticker's glue remains on the front cover); at the front of the book there is a blank pastedown and blank flyleaf; at the back there is one blank flyleaf and the torn remains of a second, along with a blank pastedown. It was printed in octavo with 135 leaves measuring 13cm x 21.5cm each. These oblong measurements suggest the sheets were originally ledger or tabloid size paper; the type for the pages would have been set twice in the forme--one setting above the other--and each sheet, after printing and perfecting, would then be cut in half down the middle. Coincidentally, this practice was also followed by the U.S. military during World War II to mass produce paperback novels for servicemen overseas (something that, according to the New York Times, the military experimented with again in 2002).

As noted above, the book is in good condition, with only one of the back flyleaves torn out. Some of the page corners are turned down (perhaps inadvertently) and there is foxing throughout. Someone has taken a pencil rather aggressively to the blank flyleaves and pastedowns; most of the marks thus made are vigorous but meaningless scribbles across the page, but the name “Wightman” appears penciled very faintly on the recto of the front flyleaf.

After the title page, the book is followed by a preface relating the importance of “the science of sacred music” to the service and faith of the Methodist Episcopal church, along with the report of the committee assigned to assemble the book explaining their objectives: they purposefully selected tunes easily sung by the whole congregation, they have cross-referenced the Harmonist to the approved service hymn-book, they attempted to draw songs from a diverse geographic range both within the United States and abroad, and because “of that clause of our discipline which disapproves of fugue tunes [they] passed by those distinguished by that peculiarity.” I have no idea what it is precisely about the fugue that the Methodists found objectionable, but it was apparently felt to be corruptive enough to be the only genre of music specifically banned in the denomination’s devotional music.

Following the preface there are eight pages of “A Brief Introduction to the Science of Music”, meant to assist those members of the congregation for whom music is a new pursuit. This section covers the basics of reading musical notation, including sections on clefs, notes and rests, musical “characters” (that is, markings), timing, keys (including both major and minor, as well as how to transpose), a series of four exercises, and a brief glossary of terms. The conclusion of this Introduction, however, reminds the reader that all of the “scientific” knowledge of music in the world won’t help if one isn’t moved by the spirit: “We cannot attain the true pleasure of Sacred Music unless we feel a genuine spirit of devotion...”

The songs in the book (approximately two hundred in number) are almost all presented in the same fashion, with the name of the congregational community or geographic region from which it originates, the appropriate hymn number, the name of the composer, and usually the number of syllables contained in each line. In addition to the hymns, the book includes a selection of twelve “anthems and pieces”, or non-hymn songs, appropriate for various church occasions. These twelve are presented with more notational complexity, including often parts for multiple voices and more detailed instructions in the way of dynamics, tempo, and tone. At the back of the book there is an index of songs listed alphabetically by congregational community or geographic region, as well as an index listing songs by their metrical identity.

For those of you (both of you) who are musically inclined, there may be some interest in the different terms used for elements of musical notation at this time. Here are some from the Methodist Harmonist, with their modern equivalents (interestingly, a number of the older terms are still used for musical notation in the United Kingdom):

Ledger lines = Bar lines

Cliff = Clef

Counter Cliff = C-Clef

Semibreve = Whole-note

Minim = Half-note

Crotchet = Quarter-note

Quaver = Eighth-note

Semi-quaver = Sixteenth-note

Demi-semi-quaver = Thirty-second-note

In addition, the bass clef symbol looks like an inverted C, the repeat bar is replaced with a column of four dots in each space on the staff, the end bar is made of two thick bars backed by a short bar centered on the staff, and the notation sometimes uses a squiggly mark over a note (called a “direct”) to indicate the placement of the previous note. They also have terms for things such as notes held over a bar line (“driving notes”) and for notation to indicate that the singer should choose one of the notes presented to sing (“choice notes”, which sounds like a recipe for choral anarchy to me). Grace notes are referred to, rather gracefully, as appogioaturas. The different timing marks have between two and four different “moods”, indicated by the time signature, with each mood slightly changing how the beats are emphasized in each measure.

From the fifteenth century up until the switch to machine printing in the 1850s, the printing of music was a specialized trade (just like printing books in non-Roman alphabets) that demanded specially trained compositors and proofers, as well as unique type pieces. I always enjoy lingering over the pages of a hand-press period music book, such as The Methodist Harmonist, and noting how the craftsmen employed their specialized knowledge with care and precision in order to ensure that the harmonious rhythms of the printing process resulted ultimately in a harmoniously sounded piece of music.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"A Battle of Hearts and Minds"

This is a great little
anecdote and reflection on the importance of encouraging the next generation of readers to hold, read, and explore books. The website is that of ForeWord Magazine, which offers reviews of independently published books. The story was written by Scott Brown, who blogs about book collecting, book news, and bookstores (including his own, Eureka Books).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mary Godolphin's 19th century children's book "Evenings at Home, in Words of One Syllable"

Like most other men, when it comes to giving gifts to my significant other I frequently find myself giving her something that is perhaps more indicative of my interests than hers. Because her interests are towards early childhood education, particularly literacy education and music (a conjunction neatly encapsulated in the material conditions of this week's you will see below), I’ve noticed recently that the gifts I give her are often antiquarian or rare children’s books. A happy medium, I hope, between her interests and mine.

This is one of those books (I suppose technically it does not come from one of my bookshelves--as the intention statement of this blog professes--but I’m sure she won’t mind). The title is Evenings at Home, In Words of One Syllable written by “Mary Godolphin” and published by George Routledge & Sons of 9 Lafayette Place, New York. No date is given, but there is an early owner’s inscription dated 1883. The first edition of the book appeared in 1869 but the book from which it derives dates back to the previous century. That first edition had a blue cloth binding, color illustrations, and 161 pages (plus 4 pages of publisher’s advertisements), which tells me that this isn’t a copy of that first edition.

Given the popularity of this book, it isn’t surprising Routledge re-published it between 1869 and 1883, but I haven’t been able to find any precise data as to the date of the subsequent edition. This book adapts a previous collection of stories, Evenings at Home, written by John Aikin and his sister Anna Laetitia Barbauld between 1792 and 1796; Anna belonged to a movement of early evangelical Christian English women at the end of the 18th century who wrote children’s books designed to instill morals and to improve the character of their readers.

The book was part of a number of monosyllabic adaptations designed for early literacy learners (similar adaptations from Routledge included Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Sandford and Merton, and Aesop’s Fables). A preface at the start states that, “The great success which has attended the writer’s former efforts has induced her to translate another popular work into words of one syllable. It is hoped that, no less than her other books of the same character, the present volume may be of some assistance to those who are interested in the education of the young.”

The premise of the collection is that Mr. and Mrs. Howe, who dwell in the country, keep a box in their parlor, into which guests are asked to leave short stories and tales in verse; periodically, the Howe’s children would be allowed to select one at random and it would be read aloud to the entire family. “This was a source of so much fun, that to please those who were not there, the tales have been set forth in this book.” The ensuing 31 tales are all in prose (though some are written in a dramatic format) and are each headed--like a juvenescent Arabian Nights--“Night 1”, “Night 2”, etc. The book contains black and white print illustrations throughout. It is clearly designed for children’s use as evidenced by certain format features (frequent illustrations, very large font, safely rounded corners of both the paper and the cover boards, and a sturdy paper stock for the pages).

It is worth noting that the title and preface claim of using only single-syllable words in the book is not wholly true; the abbreviations “Mr.” and “Mrs.” are used, but if one were to read the book out loud (as it most certainly was), these would both be two syllables. A similar problem crops up with, of course, the title: “Evenings” is trisyllabic (or, in some cases, disyllabic) and “Syllable” is also trisyllabic. Other multisyllabic words in the book include "dollars" and "Alfred".

Whether or not single-syllable reading is still a viable or accepted means of teaching children or non-English speakers to read I leave open to those more qualified to speak on the subject. I can’t help but wonder, however, if there is an affinity between this segmentizing approach to literacy education and the modern emphasis upon phonemic awareness and pronunciation. Author, children’s literature specialist, and academic librarian, Peter Sieurta has an excellent blog on the subject of children’s literature, which includes a great, detailed post about some other single-syllable adaptations by “Godolphin” and others of the time (Sieurta also points out some that fail to live up to their monosyllable-only goal).

The pages of this book measure 14cm x 18.5cm. Oddly, the running titles are inconsistently laid out; occasionally the book’s title, “Evenings at Home.”, appears on the recto and the story’s title appears on the verso, but in other places this reverses. There’s no consistency to these changes, but I imagine they were a byproduct of the printing process (being post-1850, I presume the book was printed on a machine press--something I confess to know little about). There are no signatures, but the split binding (more on this below) shows 11 gatherings of 8 leaves apiece, suggesting the full sheets were folded in octavo when it was assembled. The cover has a color image of three children reading from a book; the back shows a young girl lifting a toddler up to grab a book from a shelf. The colors in both illustrations have faded considerably.

While there is no marginalia in the content of the book (with the exception of some meaningless pencil squiggles on the last page), there are three interesting features of note. The first is the inscription noted above. It appears on the recto of the first blank flyleaf and reads (in very elegant cursive): “Presented to Andrew Ritter, / by his Aunt, Kate Wright. / Dec. 25th 1883.” I’ve found numerous Andrew Ritters who would have been young boys at the time Aunt Kate gave this book as a Christmas gift, but there’s no way to know who (if any of them) might have owned this book. Regardless of which Andrew Ritter it was, he took fairly good care of it.

This is the second interesting feature, in fact: antiquarian children’s books are not hard to find--they were mass-produced in cheap formats on cheap paper; however, this very cheapness, combined with the often brutal (though loving) treatment they received from their intended owners, means most are in heavily marked-up and damaged condition. The only reader’s marks in this copy, however, are grubby fingerprints on almost every page. Also, the spine has split away, resulting in some looseness in the pages and a previous owner’s decision to use tape to hold the two boards on. 

But this splitting of the spine has resulted in the third interesting feature of the book’s physical character: when the book was bound, scrap paper from other publications was used (as was customary) to provide a core in the spine to which the book’s gatherings could be pasted. In this case, Routledge’s printer used two different stocks of scrap paper to bind “Godolphin’s” Evenings at Home, in Words of One Syllable. The outer layer is a discarded page from a hymnal (how would the pious Anna Barbauld feel about that?), the inner layer contains a scrap from a publisher’s advertisement, listing two books (one apparently an antebellum guide to the south and the other a travel guide to Manhatten Island).

No doubt by now the more astute reader of this blog (that is, both of the readers of this blog...) will have noticed that I have twice set the author’s name in quotation marks: “Mary Godolphin”. This is because the name is actually a pseudonym. The true author of not only this book but also the other single-syllable works published by Routledge noted above was Lucy Aikin (1781-1864), the daughter of John Aikin and niece of Anna Barbauld. Lucy obtained fame at the turn of the century as an author and an historian, her works spanning genres from children’s literature to English monarchical history and from French translations to contemporary biography (including biographies of her father and her aunt). She began writing for magazines and assisting her father on his magazine editing work when she was 17. Under the guidance of her father and her aunt (who was herself an outspoken education activist), Lucy read widely and deeply, becoming fluent in French, Italian, and Latin at an early age.

Between 1801 and 1870 she published 23 works, including 7 under the name of “Mary Godolphin” (all of these were her single-syllable adaptions). While she professed that her principle interest was in early education, the works for which she gained fame were her biographical studies of English monarchs Elizabeth I (1818), James I (1822), and Charles I (1833). She lived her entire life in Hampstead, England, where she was known as a highly proficient essayist, letter-writer, and debater; like the rest of her family, she was a devout Christian, worshipped in the Unitarian congregation, and was a great bibliophile, collecting a substantial library of her own. I can’t help but wonder, though, how Lucy Aikin would feel about seeing her Evenings at Home, in Words of One Syllable sitting idly behind a glass door on the shelf of a collector, rather than in the hands of a child.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Former Secretary of the Treasury's copy of Thomas Hull's 1797 "Moral Tales in Verse"

Two years ago my grandfather sold his large farm in the mountains of Maine and moved to an idyllic island house off the coast. To make the move easier, and because of the lack of space in the new house, he offered me some of the books from the large collection he had gathered over the years. At the time I, too, was in the process of relocating and dealing with the process of moving a substantial collection (until we have to move large quantities of them, we tend to forget that books are made out of trees...). Expecting he would have just a few volumes with which he would be willing to part, I eagerly accepted his offer. A few days later he showed up at my door with six boxes of books in the trunk of his car. “I’m not sure what exactly is in there,” he shrugged, “but they’re yours if you want them.” The majority of the books were 18th, 19th, and early 20th century volumes, many in foreign languages, most in good condition. Today they form the core of my little library.

This book is one of the English volumes from my grandfather’s collection, though it’s not in as good a condition as some of the others. The title is Moral Tales in Verse, Founded on Real Events. It was written by actor, playwright, and theatre manager Thomas Hull (1728-1808), “of the Theatre Royal, Covent-Garden”, and published in two volumes by George Cawthorn of the “British Library, Strand”, January 20, 1797. The book was dedicated to “His Grace the Duke of Leeds”. My copy has both volumes bound into one and I can’t find any information about whether it was issued that way by the printer or if a later owner of my copy had it bound that way. I also haven’t been able to find an estimated assessed value, but it is likely in the $100 to $200 range; its contemporary peers are priced slightly higher ($300 to $700) but the condition of my copy is poor (the front board is missing altogether; the rear board is detached; the spine is decayed; the contents, however, are in excellent condition with the exception of some foxing on the title page, its facing engraving, and a few pages throughout; tape residue on the back board suggests a previous owner tried, poorly, to reattach the board, and part of the spine--reading “Hulls Tales”--still exists and was used by one reader as a bookmark, resulting in discoloration on the paper where it was sandwiched for so many years).

The pages measure 12.5cm x 21cm and are made of a fairly sturdy paper bearing the watermark “TW / 1795” with the countermark “17 LEPRD 50”. The same paperstock was apparently used for both volumes of the book. The text was set in a large font (18 verse lines to the page) and ample room was left between the lines of the poems for improved readability. Printing was done in gatherings of four, with an initial signature, and volume indication, on the recto of the first page of each gathering (volume 1 runs from [A2]-[R2], there is a flyleaf at the front with an engraved portrait of Hull on the verso, but the paper is substantially heavier than the rest of the book and is thus not part of gathering A; volume 2 runs from [A4]-[Cc4]). Both volumes are also paginated in the top outer corner (volume 1 runs [i]-[xxviii] and [1]-124; volume 2 runs [1]-200 with an unnumbered flyleaf at the end). The book begins with the dedication to the Duke of Leeds and a preface in which Hull explains his project:

The following little Compositions, which I have dignified with the title of Moral Tales, have been the employment of several leisure hours, at different periods of time. Some of them have been written many years, as the respective dates specify, but none of them printed till now, except the last in the second volume, of which further mention shall be made in its proper place.

Mr. Addison describes himself, as always being possessed of a disposition to examine such old prints and ballads as he saw pasted upon the walls of cottages, &c. I have not only discovered the same turn in myself, (and I would I could find something else more similar to that excellent writer!) but I have ever, even from childhood, felt my attention peculiarly engaged by stories related in company, which have contained in them any thing of the marvellous and supernatural. Hence it is, probably, that I have so long retained many of the singular events whereon the ensuing compositions are founded.

I have been (I can say it with great truth) repeatedly urged to publish them by friends, who have seen the manuscripts. -- The Reader, perhaps, will call them very partial friends: it may be so. And I am ready to acknowledge that, after a careful revisal, they are much better calculated to elicit the approbation of a kind heart, than to obtain the commendation of a critical judgment.

Hull’s comments here--besides being generously lathered in the typical show of humility and disinterestedness that was the standard fare of author’s prefaces since the printing press arrived in England and perhaps earlier--are false in that at least one other story in the collection was previously published. Its poor reception (see below) may account for his brief absent-mindedness here.

With the exception of owners’ names and some penciled comments at the front, the book lacks marginalia. On the recto of the front flyleaf there is a pencilled statement regarding the book’s containing 2 volumes; the rest of the writing is illegible due to fading of the pencil and foxing on the page (though it looks like the date “May 31 1866” heads the comment). The same hand has added the note “in 2 vols in one Book” to the title page and possibly the name penciled (upside down) on the verso of the final flyleaf that seems to read “H. W. Erving”. Two other hands appear in the book. A copper ink has written “W. J. Duane” on the title page and again above the dedication on A3r; this is possibly the same as the ink used to write (again upside down) on the verso of the final flyleaf a name that may be “W Duane”. Duane’s inscription on A3r has been crossed out by the third owner: “Anna P. Cu[r?]shing”. A final scribbler has used a thick gray-black crayon to add a squiggle on P4v that may or may not be a name; the exact same squiggle in the same medium has been added (once more, upside down) on the verso of the final flyleaf. Both of these crayon squiggles bear a remarkable similarity to the name on the final flyleaf that looks like “W Duane”.

I haven’t been able to find any information on H. W. Erving or Anna Cushing, but searching about for a likely candidate for W. J. Duane reveals the following candidate, as described in the May 13, 1894 New York Times: “William J. Duane, who was born in Ireland in 1780 and died in Philadelphia in 1865, was originally a printer, afterward a paper dealer. He then studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1815. He early became distinguished for his legal attainments, and occupied an enviable position at the Pennsylvania bar. For several years he represented Philadelphia in the State Legislature. During his father’s editorship of The Philadelphia Aurora, for years the leading organ of the Democratic Party, he was his assistant. In 1833 he became Secretary of the Treasury, but was removed by President Jackson for refusing to order the removal of the deposits from the United States Bank. In 1838 he published the ‘Narratives and Correspondences Concerning the Deposits.’ He also wrote ‘The Law of Nations Investigated,’ (Philadelphia, 1809.) and ‘Letters on Internal Improvement,’ (1811.) He was much interested in educational matters, and was a Trustee, and subsequently a Director, of Girard College.”

As with many books published in the 18th and 19th centuries, Hull managed to get his onto the press by selling advance subscriptions to numerous individuals. By the 1790s Hull was approaching the end of his career in the London theatre (see below for his biography) and was spending more time on his writing (including, at the time the Moral Tales in Verse was in preparation, his novel The History of Sir William Harrington, a book that took him 26 years to complete). He had built a numbered of key friendships, business partnerships, and acquaintances through his theatre work, and the list of subscribers in the book (B1r-D2r) contains many notable figures, including actors such as Sarah Siddons and Charles and John Kemble (as well as Eva Maria Veigel, the late David Garrick’s famously devoted widow), Shakespearean scholars such as the eccentric George Steevens and the notoriously unfortunate Samuel Ireland, and nobility such as the Duke of Gloucester, Prince William, and the Bishop of Rochester. The bulk of the subscribers seem to be clergy, lawyers, or individuals associated with the theatre (subscription publication makes strange bedfellows, I suppose...). None of the names inscribed in my copy as early owners appear in the list of subscribers (however, all but one of the people listed lived in England or Ireland; the sole exception is Mr. Owen Morris of Philadelphia; perhaps this is his copy and it ended up eventually in the hands of his fellow turn-of-the-century Philadelphian W. J. Duane).

The book’s contents take the form of thirteen narratives, most dedicated to an individual and each written in verse (most are in rhyming quatrains of forty to fifty stanzas, though several are simply blank verse without a stanza structure). The tales related all have at their heart a moral lesson, though given the nature of how Hull wrote them (often in pieces over several years; some were even published in prior collections or individually) their collection together under the rubric of “morals” is probably more of a later, editorial move on the part of the author. The publisher (presumably) has provided helpful footnotes throughout, indicating precisely where quotations originate from (mostly Shakespeare, the Bible, The Spectator, and Cotton’s Visions in Verse), what (and who) certain obscure passages reference, and what stories served as Hull’s sources. Despite the book’s subtitle (“Founded on Real Events”) some of the tales seem to echo narratives that were popular in drama and fiction at the time. There may have been some confusion about the book’s intended contents, because one footnote references a table of contents that does not, in fact, exist.

The tales in the book usually begin with a verse dedication to an individual, followed by the tale itself. The contents of the first volume are:

 “Henry: or, Virtue its Own Reward. Addressed to John Beard, Esq. 1771”

 “Foscue: or, Vice its Own Punishment. Addressed to ******” (“written in the form of the old English ballad”)

 “Eldred; or, The Justice of Retaliation. Written in the Year 1783. Addressed to Miss M******”

 “The Excellence of Self-Denial. Exemplified in Sir Philip Sidney. Written in the year 1762.” Dedicated to “The Hon. William Keppel, on his return from the Conquest of the Havannah, in 1762.”


“The Unconscious Avenger: or, The Tale of Alleyne. In the Antient Ballad Style, in Two Parts.”

 “The Needy Man’s Security; or, The Tale of Alcon. Addressed to my long beloved friend Thomas King, Esq.” [This particular dedication contains numerous references to the many Shakespeare performances the two men enjoyed over the years, including Falstaff, Hotspur, As You Like It, and Macbeth, and actors such as Quinn, Woffington, Pritchard, Barry, Cibber and Garrick.]

 “What is the Best; or, The Tale of Alvarez.” Begins with “Address to a Departed Friend.”

The contents of the second volume are:

 “The Force of Friendship: or, The Tale of Muley-Zeydan. Addressed to Theodore Maurice, Esq.”

 “Mutual Self-Reproof: or, The Tale of Cadwal. In Two Parts.” [Hull had previously published this tale on its own several years earlier but it met with very little success.]

 “Retribution: or, The Tale of Durand.” Begins with “Address to Mrs. B----------”

 “The Test of Love: or, The Tale of Edward and Orra.” Begins with “Address to W. Wilberforce, Esq. M.P.” As befits a tale dedicated to William Wilberforce, the Member of Parliament who almost single-handedly put an end to England’s participation in the slave trade, Hull’s story is an anti-slavery narrative about a married couple from Africa whose lives are nearly destroyed by the slave trade to the Americas. Hull’s dedication to Wilberforce is, itself, an eloquent and forceful damnation of both slavery and the racism upon which it was predicated.

 “Chedder Clifts: or, Raymond. Addressed to Maria.”

 “The Advantages of Repentance. In Blank Verse. Founded on the Anecdotes of a Private Family, in *********shire.” [This was also published separately in the 1770s. Unlike “The Tale of Cadwal” this was a success with the reading public, going through four editions and eventually being entirely sold-out. It was included in this collection at the insistence of Hull’s friends.]

Trevor Griffiths has written the best available biographical summary of Thomas Hull, for the Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford UP):

[Thomas Hull] was born in London in the house in the Strand where his father, whose identity is otherwise unknown, practised as an apothecary. According to the Biographia dramatica, Hull was educated for some time at Charterhouse School and had been intended for the church, but he rejected that vocation and also failed as an apothecary. He appeared as an actor at the Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, for the 1753–4 season and then played at Bath from 1754 until 1758. The Bath engagement ended controversially: Hull accused the theatre owner, John Palmer, of reneging on an agreement that Hull should manage the theatre from 1757, on a three-year contract with escalating rewards, and of ousting him from the theatre without a benefit. Some indication of Hull's plight may be gleaned from the fact that he ended his pamphlet of complaint with an advertisement for apothecary's wares ‘at the lowest Prices’ (Highfill, Burnim & Langhans, BDA, 3.34).

Hull first appeared in London at Covent Garden on 5 October 1759. He subsequently enjoyed a long London career in secondary roles, interspersed with summers of provincial theatrical appearances and management in, for example, Birmingham, Bristol, Margate, and Brighton. He married the actress Anna Maria Morrison at an unknown date between 1764 and 1766. They appear to have had at least one child (a Master Hull was in the company at Bristol in 1769 when Thomas and Anna Maria Hull were there).

In an acting career of more than fifty years Hull played well over 200 characters and missed only one performance, as a result of illness. In London he started in roles such as Renault in Thomas Otway's Venice Preserv'd, Horatio in Hamlet, Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, and Pinchwife in William Wycherley's The Country Wife. He stayed at Covent Garden as an actor until 28 December 1807, and was acting manager from 1775 to 1781. With few exceptions, such as Prospero and Angelo, which he took over in 1776–7 when he was manager, he continued to play significant parts but was seldom the motor of the action. He was the epitome of a sound company man and, as his early problems at Bath suggest, concerned with professional conditions of service; in 1765 he was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the Covent Garden Theatrical Fund to provide a pension fund for old or ill actors and actresses.

According to Francis Gentleman (1770), Hull was ‘very capable of supporting paternal characters with propriety and feeling’ and was well suited for the ‘graver parts of comedy’, since ‘declamation and paternal tenderness are his style, not love nor fire’; he was ‘better calculated for exhibiting amiable and tender feelings, than any which border on gloomy and sanguinary designs’ and ‘had nature given him executive requisites equal to his judgment and assiduity, he would have been a capital pillar of the stage’. Francis Godolphin Waldron in 1795 suggested that it was time he retired, noting that he ‘has long enjoyed a respectable rank in the theatrical world in personating old trusty Stewards and parts that require an apparent honest sincerity of expression’, but, as Genest noted, ‘he stayed on the stage until he was quite worn out’.

As a writer, Hull was a ‘respectable’ (Baker), if undistinguished, practitioner of most of the eighteenth century's theatrical genres. None of his dramatic works long survived him in the repertory, and several were written as novelties for his own or others' benefits—for example, a version of Timon of Athens, adapted from that by Shadwell, for his own benefit in 1768, or Iphigenia, or, The Victim, an adaptation of Abel Boyer's Achilles, itself a translation of Racine, for Mrs Barry's benefit in 1778. He adapted The Comedy of Errors twice, once as The Twins and once under Shakespeare's title, and turned Beaumont's and Fletcher's The Beggar's Bush into a comic opera, The Royal Merchant (with music by Thomas Linley, 1767). The Perplexities, originally staged in 1767 on the same bill as his The Fairy Favour, a masque to music by J. C. Bach, was one of Hull's more successful pieces. A mediocre if competent adaptation of Samuel Tuke's Adventures of Five Hours, the play is ‘a chaos of balconies, cloaks, rapiers and dark lanterns’ (Biographia dramatica), deploying a range of love–honour conflicts in a Spanish setting with a familiar cast of jealous brothers and spirited young women, mistaken identities, and hidden doors. Hull's popular tragedy Henry II, or, The Fall of Rosamund, adapted from William Hawkins's play of 1749, was staged in an early version at Birmingham in 1761 and revised at the suggestion of Hull's friend the poet William Shenstone. Although Joseph Knight suggested in the Dictionary of National Biography that the play ‘could rank with most tragedies of the day’, it is a sentimental small-cast tragedy in which affairs of state are little more than period colour, and the verse, at best competent, is haunted by the thinnest Shakespearian overtones mediated through Dryden and Rowe. Hull also achieved success with a patriotic afterpiece, The Spaniards Dismayed, or, True Blue Forever, also known as True Blue, or, The Press Gang, adapted from Henry Carey's Nancy, first staged in 1776. His non-dramatic works include the novel The History of Sir William Harrington (1771–97), which was translated into both French and German.

Hull's wife died on 23 October 1805, and he himself died on 22 April 1808, at his house near Dean's Yard, Westminster. Both were buried in the churchyard of St Margaret, Westminster.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

From a 91 BC Chinese manuscript to a 1759 London drama to a 2009 bibliophile's blog.

While attending a professional conference in Boston this weekend I paid my first visit to the Brattle Book Shop, which has been operating as a bookstore in Boston since 1825 and has been owned by the Gross family for the last sixty years. The Brattle has a terrific collection of affordable used books packed onto discount carts in the lot next to the building. Inside there are two floors of more higher-end used books and on the third floor one will find thousands of rare, antiquarian, and collectible volumes. The selection was eclectic and broad (which I love) and--on the third floor--priced within the assessed value range for most of the books (which I don’t love...what can I say, I’m cheap).

Among the books I picked up is this second edition of Arthur Murphy’s mid-18th century tragedy The Orphan of China, which 

was staged at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, London in 1759. The role of Zamti, “a Mandarine”, was played by the legendary Shakespearean actor David Garrick. Murphy’s play was popular enough to go through two editions in one year, both published by Paul Vaillant, whose shop was on the Strand near Southampton Street. The book sold for 1 shilling, 6 pence (the equivalent of $13 in today’s money; its actual assessed value today is $50-$100). The play was revived in 1772 and Vaillant released a third edition to coincide with the performance run; a fourth edition was published by W. Gilbert and H. Chamberlaine in 1787.

The pages of the book measure 13cm x 20cm with vertical chain-lines space approximately 3cm apart. There are no errors in pagination ([1]-88 on B1-G4 verso), though the running-titles occasionally read “The Orphan of China:” instead of the more frequent “The Orphan of China.” suggesting at least two skeleton-formes were used for the printing. The title page (A1) is unsigned, as is the second page of the dedication (A3) and the Epilogue (A4). While gathering A contains only 4 leaves, gatherings B through F are of 8 leaves (signed on the recto of the first four of each, with the exception of F3, which is unsigned). The final gathering (G) is only four leaves. Often the preliminary matter in plays (the title page, dedication, dramatis personae, etc.) was printed last -- after the body of the play had been printed; perhaps the four leaves signed as A in the book are actually the absent four leaves from G.

The contents of my copy include a blank modern flyleaf, followed by: the title page (A1) with a blank verso; the dedication (dated April 30, 1759, Lincoln’s Inn) to John, Earl of Bute, Groom of the Stole to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (A2-A3 recto; paginated “iv” on A2 verso and “v” on A3 recto); the Prologue (A3 verso) and Epilogue (A4 recto), written by Poet Laureate William Whitehead; the dramatis personae list and location identification (A4 verso); the play proper (B1-G4); and a blank modern flyleaf at the end. A Latin quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid (IX.v.474-8) appears on the title page. Fancy tiny figures are arranged in careful geometric patterns at key places in the book (at the start of the play proper, for example, between acts and at the end); they give the text a very exotic feel that corresponds to the exotic narrative and setting of the play itself (and to the “Orientalism” fad that was sweeping 18th century England). The only marginalia in my copy is an inked “5” at the center top of the title page (suggesting that the copy had once been bound fifth into a collection of other plays; the same ink may be responsible for the accidental spotting on the title page) and, in what might be the same hand, a series of (accurate) sums written in pencil in the outer margin of A3 recto. Aside from some tears in the margins of a few pages (none affecting the text) the copy is in excellent shape.

The play itself is, like most Georgian English tragedies, is sensationalist in plot and rhetorically florid in dialogue; the drama revolves around a fantastic dispossession and vengeance plot, coupled with sword fights, royal power struggles, and staged deaths. Murphy based his Orphan of China on a French translation (by Joseph Henri Marie de Prémare) of a Yuan Dynasty-era play published in a French work (Jean-Baptiste Du Halde’s 1735 Description géographique, l’empire de la Chine). The play, Tchao chi con ell (“The little orphan of the family of Tchao”) was also used by Voltaire for his 1755 Orphelin de la Chine and is generally recognized to be the first Chinese play staged in Europe (the Chinese original--The Great Revenge of the Orphan of Zhao Family--was itself based on an episode from The Records of the Grand Historian, also known simply as Shiji. Shiji is the first continuous historiographic narrative of China, an epic recounting of Chinese history from the age of the Yellow Emperor (ca. 2600 BC) through the age of the work’s author (Sima Qian) around 91 BC.

Though Voltaire and Murphy came to the drama from the same source (Prémare’s translation), there are many significant differences between Murphy’s version and Voltaire’s dramatization (Murphy actually wrote a letter to Voltaire after the French production and before staging his own).

Born in Ireland, Murphy (1727-1805) was a celebrated legal mind--as a lawyer, writer, and law review editor--who shaped many important cases in late 18th century London. He also wrote three biographies (of Samuel Johnson, Henry Fielding, and David Garrick), eighteen plays (of which The Orphan of China was his third), and numerous essays and poems (sometimes under the pseudonym of “Charles Ranger”).

Before I conclude this entry, I wanted to share a lesson that I learned from buying this book at Brattle: it's the old cliche about not judging a book by its cover. While browsing the shelves on the third floor I spent most of my time looking for “old” bindings (vellum, faded leather, etc.). But this book--in a very tight, immaculately plain full-calf with very simple gold embossed lines on the spine--is a reminder that, frequently, old texts are to be found in newer bindings; indeed, old texts that are very well taken care of are more likely to be in newer bindings. Just a cautionary tale for those browsers out there: don’t skip over the shiny spines for the decayed volumes with the boards pulling apart. You never know what you might miss.