This week’s book offered me the intriguing opportunity to try to track down the physical movement of a copy as it traveled between owners. The book is titled Hudibras, in Three Parts: Written in the Time of the Late Wars...with Annotations and a Complete Index, an epic verse satire written by the royalist Anglican Samuel Butler during England’s civil war (1642-1660). The tale follows the misadventures of the ridiculously over-confident and under-skilled knight errant and his long-suffering squire. Like Don Quixote, Sir Hudibras encounters a series of mundane and everyday people and events and mistakes them for true chivalric conventions. Unlike Don Quixote, his screw ups and his inability to distinguish truth from fiction is not because of an overbearing sense of romanticized idealism but simply because he is an idiot.
The epic was first published in London in three parts in 1663, 1664, and 1678 (Charles II had been restored to the throne in 1660, making mockery of the Parliamentarians, including Cromwell, much more publicly acceptable by the time Butler published his satire). In addition to ridiculing the writer’s political foes and religious opponents (Puritans and Presbyterians), the work also pokes fun at ludicrously hyperbolic and stilted styles of poetry from the time.
My copy was printed and published in 1806 by the firm of Wright, Goodenow, and Stockwell, in Troy, New York, and was sold by the firm at their Rensselaer Book-Store (not associated with Troy’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which did not open until 1824). This makes my copy, as the title page claims in elaborate font, the “First American Edition”. The second American edition did not come out until 1812 (published F. Lucas Junior and P. H. Nicklin, of Baltimore). The work was very popular in England and Scotland, however, and it seems that Wright, Goodenow, and Stockwell, for their copy, simply reprinted one of the UK editions.
I have not been able to determine which one precisely was used, but they did reuse the prefatory material (a note “To the Reader” and “The Author’s Life”) and annotations originally provided by Zachary Grey in his edition of 1774 (which included illustrative plates by none other than William Hogarth). The publishers of my copy were evidently unaware that some of Grey’s claims had been modified more recently in John Bell’s Poets of Great Britain (published originally in 1777 and republished by the British Library in 1797).
The most substantive variation to the 1806 edition’s form was the decision to move all of Grey’s annotation from the back of the book to the foot of the page of text itself -- no doubt a concession to (American) readers for whom much of the epic’s dense and historically specific allusions and humor required a heightened degree of explanation. The editors also included some additional glossarial notes at the foot of pages and, in a few places, an explanation of a typographic error in their copy-text (see the final photo in this post).
The book is bound in soft brown sheep leather, with some faded decorative tooling and a dark leather title label on the spine (see the photo at the start of this post). In binding the book, the printer did an excellent job: aside from some splitting to the front hinge, the spine is very tight and strong. The pages measure 10cm x 17cm and are of a sturdy though not particularly expensive paper stock with no evident watermark. The pagination runs [i]-xi from the title page through the end of the “Author’s Life” and -286 for the content; a 13-page unpaginated “Index” of important concepts and events written in comically implicit language, keyed to page and line number, concludes the book.
At the front there is a flyleaf, marbled on the recto (as is the pastedown) and blank on the verso, followed by two blanks; at the end there is a blank followed by a fly similarly marbled and conjugate to the final pastedown as the first. There are no catchwords and no variants to the running-titles. Signatures are alphabetic and appear on the first and third leaf of each gathering (the first leaf is signed with the sheet letter; with the exception of the final gathering, in which it is not signed, the third leaf of each is signed with the sheet letter followed by “2”). It may be collated as 12o: [#3] [A6]-Aa6 [π]. The type is a small pica throughout and is often so firmly impressed into the page that the bite has left a rippling, tangible texture to the paper (see the image below) -- a rich tactile reminder of the physical process by which the book was created. With the exception of a few pages, the type was fully inked.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, this copy of Hudibras afforded me the opportunity to sleuth out how an early nineteenth-century book moved around the young United States. There is little evidence of early readers within the content of the book itself, aside from an erased pencil note on the first page, an erased pencil doodle later in the preface, and some page corners that were clearly once dog-eared as place-holders. In the blanks, however, there is some more useful information.
My book is ex libris, bearing an erased pencil record of its (Library of Congress) catalog number. Inside the back cover there is a computer-printed label reading “A22901 059017” (accession number, perhaps?) and a label with the LoC number PR 3338 A7 1806. Typed in red on the label is the word “Vault”, suggesting the library kept the book in a special restricted-access area for rare books. Inside the front cover there is a bookplate indicating the library from which the book came: Springfield College, founded in 1885, in the city of Springfield, MA. According to the bookplate, it was given to the college library as part of the “Carolyn Doggett Memorial Collection”. The bookplate indicates that the college’s name at the time it was given was legally “International Y.M.C.A. College”, but the seal shows the name “Springfield College”, meaning the book must have been given (or the bookplate put in) after 1939 (when “Springfield College” was adopted as the institution’s public moniker) and before 1954 (when “International Y.M.C.A. College” was formally removed as the corporate name). It is only by finally coming to Springfield College and its history that I can begin to piece together the narrative of this book’s travels.
From 1896 to 1936, the President of Springfield College was Laurence L. Doggett. Laurence’s wife was his college sweetheart, Carolyn Doggett of Providence, Rhode Island; from 1898 to 1928, Carolyn provided what her husband called the “cultural background” he felt the College’s students needed in their comprehensive education; she taught classical and modern literature, art, and music for the duration of her husband’s tenure as President.
In his 1943 Man and a School: Pioneering in Higher Education at Springfield College (dedicated to his late wife, whom he terms his “Comrade in Pioneering”), Laurence explains a little about his family history -- and in the process helps illuminate the history of my copy of Hudibras. The Doggett family traces its roots in America back to Thomas Doggett, who arrived in Marshfield, Massachusetts in 1637. The family was always involved in educational “pioneering” -- they were involved with administration at Brown University and in 1796, Laurence’s great-grandfather Simeon founded Bristol Academy and was “the pioneer of liberal education in the old colony.” (He was also the subject of a brief biographical sketch, written in 1852). Laurence’s grandfather, Samuel Wales Doggett, started a school for women in South Carolina. When Samuel died, his widow (Laurence’s grandmother, Harriet Doggett) moved to Manchester, Iowa, where she lived until her death in 1892. Her son was Simeon Locke Doggett, who, after obtaining his law degree in Worcester, Massachusetts, returned to Manchester in 1856.
A blind impression stamp on one of the blanks at the start of the book reads “S. L. Doggett / Notary Seal / Iowa.”, and penciled on the recto of the blank before that is the large signature of “S. L. Doggett”. More faint is a penciled inscription in a different hand, running vertically on the verso of the flyleaf and facing the signed blank: “Samuel W. Dogg[ ]”. Beneath that is a second illegible inscription in the same hand. According to the 1878 History of Delaware County, Iowa, Simeon was first hired as a county clerk in 1860 and then served variously as clerk or justice of the peace (or both) through at least 1877 (when the record ends). In 1865 he drafted a petition to the state asking that the village of Manchester and the surrounding villages be incorporated into a town; the petition was approved by the county and then the state in 1866. In 1870, 1871, 1872, and 1876 he was elected mayor of the town. He also served as chair of the school board for many years.
His interest in Butler’s Hudibras, and in literature in general, is attested to by his involvement with the Manchester Select High School, which he and his wife, Mary, founded in 1858. There he was head of the classical department and taught the classes in literature (in his own memoir, his son recalls Simeon reading works “aloud with dramatic feeling”, including The Vicar of Wakefield, The Arabian Nights, and the works of Scott and Dickens, as well as, of course, the Bible). His younger sister, Gertrude was the school’s assistant and later “Preceptress” for a year; she is described as “a lady of rare native grace and of brilliant accomplishment”. Gertrude went on to teach literature and elocution, eventually becoming a Shakespearean actor in Chicago and mother of the novelists Charles Norris and Frank Norris.
In 1860, Simeon gave an address to the county’s first Teachers’ Institute, and while no record of what he said survives, he is described as “one of the pioneer teachers of the county”. The county marriage records show that he was still active as a notary there through at least October 1886; in June 1929, Mary provided music for the funeral of Susannah Coon, in Henderson, Iowa, at which Simeon served as pallbearer.
His son, Laurence (shown to the left, towards the end of his time at Springfield College), ended up attending Oberlin for theology, where he became active in the Young Men’s Christian Association. This eventually led to some time at the University of Berlin and in Leipzig (Carolyn also studied at both places with her husband), and finally his position as President of Springfield College. Presumably Laurence inherited his father’s books (including my copy of Hudibras). Because the book was given as part of a “Memorial” collection, he probably donated it to the College’s Library after 1943 (the date of Laurence’s memoir and its dedication to the memory of his late wife) but before 1953 (the last year the name “International Y.M.C.A. College” would appear on a bookplate for the College library). At some point between that date and 2007 it was deaccessioned from the collection for some reason, and it made its way up to Antiques at Deerfield in historic Deerfield, MA, where it was purchased to be added to Tarquin Tar’s Bookcase.
The book has gone from upstate New York to Massachusetts, South Carolina, Iowa, possibly Ohio and Germany, and then back to Springfield, Deerfield, and finally (for now) Leverett, Massachusetts. To say nothing of many possibly unrecorded trips between each temporary stop. When we look at our own books in the relatively immediate context of our own lives, they seem to be perpetually stationary -- sitting on their shelves, silently gathering dust. But when we look at them in the trajectory of history, our books are always moving -- far more, even, than any single one of their owners.