London, Volume 5

Knight, Charles
1843

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-

Thus from the root

Springs lightly the green stalk [or talk]-from thence the leaves

More airy-last the bright consummate flower.

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

the bright consummate flower

of thought.

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

226

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

the most noble city ;

and Dan John Lydgate's ballad of

London, Lyckpenny,

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:--

Mediocribus esse poetis,

Non dii, non homines, non concessere columnae

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

227

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 .

This street,

we are told by Strype, in his solemn fashion of speech,

(before the Fire of London, was taken up by eminent mercers, silkmen, and lacemen; and their shops were so resorted unto by the nobility and gentry, in their coaches, that oft times the street was so stopped up that there was no passage for foot passengers. But since the said fire, those eminent tradesmen have settled themselves in several other parts, especially in Covent Garden, in

Bedford Street

,

Henrietta Street

, and

King Street

. And the inhabitants in this street are now a mixture of tradespeople, and chiefly tire-women, for the sale of commodes, top-knots, and the like dressings for the females. There are also many shops of mercers and silkmen; and at the upper end some stationers, and large warehouses for booksellers; well situated for learned and studious men's access thither; being more retired and private.

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,

In Paul's Churchyard I bought the play of Henry the

Fourth

, and so went to the new theatre and saw it acted; but, my expectation being too great, it did not please me, as otherwise I believe it would; and my having a book, I believe, did spoil it a little.

Again, on the , we find him recording as follows:--

To Paul's Churchyard, and there I met with Dr. Fuller's

England's Worthies,

the

first

time that I ever saw it; and so I sat down reading in it; being much troubled that (though he had some discourse with me about my family and arms) he says nothing at all, nor mentions us either in Cambridgeshire or Norfolk. But I believe, indeed, our family were never considerable.

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.

By Mr. Dugdale,

writes Pepys, under date of ,

I hear the great loss of books in

St. Paul's Churchyard

, and at their Hall also, which they value at about

150,000l.

; some booksellers being wholly undone, and, among others, they say, my poor Kirton.

And on the he adds,

Mr. Kirton's kinsman, my bookseller, come in my way; and so I am told by him that Mr. Kirton is utterly undone, and made

2000l.

or

3000l.

worse than nothing, from being worth

7000l.

or

8000l.

That the goods laid in the Churchyard fired through the windows those in St. Faith's church; and those, coming to the warehouses' doors, fired them, and burned all the books and the pillars of the church, which is alike pillared (which I knew not before); but, being not burned, they stood still. He do believe there is above

150,000l.

of books burned; all the great booksellers almost undone; not only them, but their warehouses at their Hall and under Christ-church, and elsewhere, being all burned. A great want thereof there will

be of books, specially Latin books and foreign books; and, among others, the Polyglott and new Bible, which he believes will be presently worth

40l.

a-piece.

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

Diary

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.

It is strange,

he observes, on the ,

how Rycaut's Discourse of Turkey, which before the fire I was asked but

8s.

for, there being all but

twenty-two

or thereabouts burned, I did now offer

20s.

, and he demands

50s.

, and I think I shall give it him, though it be only as a monument of the fire.

Accordingly he bought the book, which is now in the Pepysian Library at Cambridge.

Away to the Temple,

he writes on the ,

to my new bookseller's; and there I did agree for Rycaut's late History of the Turkish Policy, which cost me

55s.

, whereas it was sold plain before the late fire for

8s.

, and bound and coloured as this is for

20s.

; for I have bought it finely bound and truly coloured all the figures, of which there was but

six

books done so, whereof the King, and Duke of York, and Duke of Monmouth, and Lord Arlington had

four

. The

fifth

was sold, and I have bought the

sixth

.

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.

To

Westminster

Hall,

is of his memoranda on the ,

and bought, among other books,

one

of the Life of our Queen, which I read at home to my wife; but it was so sillily writ that we did nothing but laugh at it.

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.

To the Wardrobe,

he writes on the :

hither come Mr. Battersby; and, we falling into discourse of a new book of drollery in use, called Hudibras, I would needs go find it out, and met with it at the Temple: cost me

2s. 6d.

But, when I come to read it, it is so silly an abuse of the Presbyter Knight going to the wars that I am ashamed of it; and by and by, meeting at Mr. Townsend's at dinner, I sold it to him for

18d.

But this turned out to be a precipitate proceeding. To Pepys's infinite amazement, the

new book of drollery

continued to be the rage.

And so,

he tells us, under date of the thereafter,

to a bookseller's in

the Strand

, and there bought Hudibras again, it being certainly some ill humour to be so against that which all the world cries up to be the example of wit; for which I am resolved once more to read him, and see whether I can find it or no.

With this praiseworthy resolution (much

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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.

To Paul's Churchyard,

he writes in his account of his doings on the in this same year,

and there looked upon the

second

part of Hudibras, which I buy not, but borrow to read, to see if it be as good as the

first

, which the world cried so mightily up, though it hath not a good liking in me, though I had tried but [by?] twice or

three

times' reading to bring myself to think it witty.

He did buy the book, however, a few days after this.

To

St. Paul's Churchyard

, to my bookseller's,

is his naive and curious record on the , i

and could not tell whether to lay out my money for books of pleasure, as plays, which my nature was most earnest in; but at last, after seeing Chaucer, Dugdale's History of Paul's, Stow's London, Gesner, History of Trent, besides Shakspeare, Jonson, and Beaumont's plays, I at last chose Dr. Fuller's Worthies, the Cabbala, or Collections of Letters of State, and a little book, Delices de Hollande, with another little book or

two

, all of good use or serious pleasure; and Hudibras, both parts, the book now in greatest fashion for drollery, though I cannot, I confess, see enough where the wit lies.

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

calm pleasures

which the poet has coupled and by implication almost identified with

majestic pains.

The only other mention we find of Butler's poem in the

Diary

is in the entry dated , where, in a notice of an interview with Mr. Seamour, or Seymour, it is written,

I could not but think it odd that a parliament-man, in a serious discourse before such persons as we [me?], and my Lord Brouncker, and Sir John Minnes, should quote Hudibras, as being the book I doubt he hath read most.

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;

and, upon that acquaintance,

says Roger,

he expected, and really had from him, useful information of books and the editions.

--

This Mr. Scott,

the graphic and cordial biographer goes on,

was, in his time, the greatest librarian in Europe; for, besides his stock in England, he had warehouses at Frankfort, Paris, and other places, and dealt by factors. After he was grown old, and much worn by multiplicity of business, he began to think of his

ease, and to leave off. Whereupon he contracted with

one

Mills, of

St. Paul's Churchyard

, near

10,000l.

deep, and articled not to open his shop any more. But Mills, with his auctioneering, atlases, and projects, failed, whereby poor Scott lost above half his means. But he held to his contract of not opening his shop, and, when he was in London, for he had a country-house, passed most of his time at his house amongst the rest of his books; and his reading (for he was no mean scholar) was the chief entertainment of his time. He was not only an expert bookseller, but a very conscientious good man; and, when he threw up his trade, Europe had no small loss of him. Our doctor, at

one

lift, bought of him a whole set of Greek classics, in folio, of the best editions.

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,

a

plentiful and perpetual emporium of learned authors; and men went thither as to a market.

This,

he continues,

drew to the place a mighty trade; the rather because the shops were spacious, and the learned gladly resorted to them, where they seldom failed to meet with agreeable conversation. And the booksellers themselves were knowing and conversible men, with whom, for the sake of bookish knowledge, the greatest wits were pleased to converse.

Strype, in his edition of Stow, published in , describes as

well built, and much inhabited by booksellers, especially from the Pump to

Duck Lane

;

--

which,

he adds,

is also taken up by booksellers for old books.

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,

formerly were much resorted to by learned men for Greek and Latin books; but now the station of such booksellers is removed into

Paternoster Row

and Paul's Churchyard.

Maitland, writing in , tells us that the booksellers' part of was then much deserted and had little trade; and he describes as

a place once noted for dealers in old books, but at present quite forsaken by all sorts of dealers.

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

Dunciad

) came over together from Philadelphia to London in the end of the year , they took a lodging in at per week;

as much,

says Franklin,

as we could then afford.

He has commemorated of the dealers in old books by whom the street was then inhabited.

While I lodged in

Little Britain

,

he relates,

I made an acquaintance with

one

Wilcox, a bookseller, whose shop was next door. He had an immense collection of

second

-hand books. Circulating libraries were not then in use; but we agreed that, on certain reasonable terms (which I have now forgotten), I might take, read, and return any of his books: this I esteemed a great advantage, and I made as much use of it as I could.

But by far the most curious and complete account that we have of the

231

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

Life and Errors.

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

speak it pretty well extempore;

but,

he continues,

the difficulties of the Greek quite broke all my resolutions; and, which was a greater disadvantage to me, I was wounded--with a silent passion for a virgin in my father's house, that unhinged me all at once, though I never made a discovery of the flame, and for that reason it gave me the greater torment. This happened in my

thirteenth

year.

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

the most eminent Presbyterian bookseller in the

three

kingdoms.

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.

Printing,

he says (meaning what we should now call publishing),

was now the uppermost in my thoughts, and hackney authors began to ply me with specimens, as earnestly, and with as much passion and concern, as the watermen do passengers with oars and scullers. I had some acquaintance with this generation in my apprenticeship, and had never any warm affection for them; in regard I always thought their great concern lay more in how much a sheet than in any generous respect they bore to the commonwealth of learning; and, indeed, the learning itself of these gentlemen lies very often in as little room as their honesty, though they will pretend to have studied for

six

or

seven

years in the Bodleian Library, to have turned over the Fathers, and to have read and digested the whole compass both of human and ecclesiastic history;when, alas! they have never been able to understand a single page of St. Cyprian, and cannot tell you whether the Fathers lived before or after Christ. And, as for their honesty, it is very remarkable: they will either persuade you to go upon another man's copy, or steal his thought, or to abridge his book, which should have got him bread for his lifetime. When you have engaged them upon some project or other, they will write you off

three

or

four

sheets perhaps; take up

three

or

four pounds

upon an urgent occasion; and you shall never hear of them more.

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.

232

 

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,

The Sufferings of Christ,

by the Rev. Mr. Doolittle.

This book,

he says,

fully answered my end; for, exchanging it through the whole trade, it furnished my shop with all sorts of books saleable at that time.

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,

an ungovernable itch to be always intriguing that way.

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.

Who would have thought,

he says, in his account of the Irish tour,

I could ever have left Eliza? for there was an

even thread of endearment run through all we said or did.

I may truly say, for the

fifteen

years we lived together, there never passed an angry look; but, as kind as she was, I could not think of growing old in the confines of

one

city, and, therefore, in

1686

, I embarked for America, Holland, and other parts. .. To ramble is the best way to endear a wife, and to try her love, if she has any. . It is true, for a wife to say, as Eliza did,

My dear, I rejoice I am able to serve thee, and, as long as I have it, it is all thine, and we had been still happy had we lost all but one another;

this, indeed, is very obliging, and shows she loves me in earnest. But still there is something in rambling beyond this; for this is no more, if her husband be sober, than

richer for poorer

obliges her to; but for a spouse to say,

Travel as far as you please, and stay as long you will, for absence shall never divide us,

is a higher flight abundantly, as it shows she can part with her very husband,

ten

times dearer to a good wife than her money, when it tends to his satisfaction.

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

Life and Errors,

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

Life and Errors,

is his

Athenian Mercury,

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

The

Second

Spira,

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

234

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,

Robinson Crusoe,

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

Dunton's Creed, or

Religio Bibliopolae

, in imitation of Dr. Brown's

Religio Medici

,

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

the Trade

were held in that day.

Booksellers, in the gross,

he says,

are taken for no better than a pack of knaves and atheists.

He asserts, however, in opposition to this vulgar prejudice, that

among them there is a retail of men who are no strangers to religion and honesty.

In his Life and Errors he undertakes

to draw the characters of the most eminent of that profession in the

three

kingdoms,

--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

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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,

who,

says he,

well deserves the title of metropolitan bookseller of England, if not of all the world. His name at the bottom of a title-page does sufficiently recommend the book. He has not been known to print either a bad book, or on bad paper.

Chiswell was the printer of the octavo edition of

Tillotson's Sermons,

which proved a remarkably successful publication. A short account of him may be seen in Strype's

Stow,

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

a man worthy of great praise.

His shop was in .

A name now better remembered is that of the wealthy Thomas Guy, the founder of the hospital. He lived in .

He is,

says Dunton,

a man of strong reason, and can talk very much to the purpose upon any subject you will propose.

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,

when Mr. Parkhurst dies will be the

first

Presbyterian bookseller in England,

is declared to be

very much conversant in the sacred writings.

Of Mr. Samuel Smith, bookseller to the Royal Society, it is stated that he

speaks French and Latin with a great deal of fluency and ease.

Mr. Halsey was already distinguished, we are assured, for

his great ingenuity and knowledge of the learned

languages,

though still

in the bloom and beauty of his youth.

Mr. Joseph Collier, who had been Dunton's fellow apprentice, is affirmed to have

a great deal of learning.

Of Mr. Shrowsbury it is written,

He merits the name of universal bookseller, and is familiarly acquainted with all the books that are extant in any language.

Others again are celebrated for their natural abilities. Mr. Robinson is described as

a man very ingenious and of quick parts.

Mr. Shermerdine,

says our author,

is a man of very quick parts; I have heard him say he would forgive any man that could him.

Mr. Tooke, near

Temple Bar

--

descended from the ingenious Tooke, that was formerly treasurer

(the same Tookes, we suppose, that claim Friar Tuck as of their family)-is set down as both

truly honest,

and

a man of refined sense.

Mr. Crook, whose shop was in the same quarter, the publisher of many of Hobbes's works, was dead when Dunton wrote his book, but

was a man of extraordinary sense,

which he had the happiness of being able to express in words as manly and apposite as the sense included under them.

Of Mr. Pero it is asserted that

for sense, wit, and good-humour, there are but few can equal, and none can exceed him.

Mr. Child is commemorated for

abundance of wit, and nice reasoning, above most of his brethren.

Of Mr. Benjamin Harris, of , it is recorded that

his conversation is general, but never impertinent, and his wit pliable to all inventions.

Mr. Knapton, whose sign was the Crown, in , close by Churchyard--the shop from which issued Tindal's translation of Rapin's

History of England,

and many more of the most successful publications of the earlier part of the last century--is spoken of with warm laudation as

a very accomplished person .. .. made up with solid worth, brave and generous.

Of Mr. Burroughs, in , we have also a high character.

He,

says Dunton,

is a very beautiful person, and his wit sparkles as well as his eyes. He has as much address, and as great a presence of mind as I ever met with. He is diverting company, and perhaps as well qualified to make an alderman as any bookseller in

Little Britain

.

We see the very aldermen in that Augustan age were expected to be somewhat lively. The next who is introduced is Mr. Walwyn:

he,

proceeds our encomiastic author,

is a person of great modesty and wit, and, if I may judge by his Poems, perhaps the most ingenious bard, of a bookseller, in London.

Mr. Evets, at Dragon, though not talkative,

has a sudden way of repartee, very witty and surprising.

Mr. Swall, now out of business,

was the owner of a great deal of wit and learning.

Mr. Fox, in Hall,

is a refined politician.

Mr. Sprint, junior,

has a ready wit--is the handsomest man in the Stationers' Company-and may without compliment be called a very accomplished bookseller.

Mr. John Harris, now dead, had a little body,

but what nature denied him in bulk and straightness, she gave him in wit and vigour.

Mr. Herrick, again, who is

a tall, handsome man,

is well skilled in the doctrine of the Christian faith, and can discourse handsomely upon the most difficult article in religion.

Others, finally, are prodigies of both genius and scholarship--as Mr. Samuel Buckley, who

is an excellent linguist, understands the Latin, French, Dutch, and Italian tongues, and is master of a great deal of wit.

--

He prints,

adds Dunton,

the

Daily Courant

and

Monthly Register,

which I hear he translates out of the foreign papers himself.

Buckley, who ultimately became the printer of the

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London Gazette,

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

Latin History,

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

a man very neat in his dress, and very much devoted to the church.

Mr. William Hartley is

a very comely, personable man.

Mr. Nicholas Boddington

has the satisfaction to belong to a very beautiful wife.

Mr. Bosvile, at the Dial in ,

is a very genteel person; and it is in Mr. Bosvile that all qualities meet that are essential to a good churchman or an accomplished bookseller.

Mr. Richard Parker;

his body is in good case; his face red and plump; his eyes brisk and sparkling; of an humble look and behaviour; naturally witty; and fortunate in all he prints.

Mr. Wellington, among other qualifications,

has a pretty knack at keeping his word.

Mr. William Miller, deceased,

had the largest collection of stitched books [pamphlets] of any man in the world, and could furnish the clergy (at a dead lift) with a printed sermon on any text or occasion;

his person was tall and slender; he had a graceful aspect (neither stern nor effeminate); his eyes were smiling and lively; his complexion was of an honey colour, and he breathed as if he had run a race; the figure and symmetry of his face exactly proportionable; he had a soft voice, and a very obliging tongue; he was very moderate in his eating, drinking, and sleeping; and was blest with a great memory.

Mr. Gilliflower

loved his bottle and his friend with an equal affection.

Mr. Philips

is a grave, modest bachelor, and it is said is married to a single life; which I wonder at, for doubtless nature meant him a conqueror over all hearts, when she gave him such sense and such piety: his living so long a bachelor shows his refined nature.

Mr. Smith, near the ;

his fair soul is tenant to a lovely and well-proportioned body.

Mr. Harding is

of a lovely proportion, extremely well made, as handsome a mien and as good an air as perhaps few of his neighbours exceed him.

Mr. Thomas Simmons, formerly of ;

his conjugal virtues have deserved to be set as an example to the primitive age.

Mr. Harrison, by the ;

his person is of the middle size; his hair inclines to a brown, but his care and concern for his family will soon change it into a white, at once the emblem of his innocence and his virtue.

Mr. Jonathan Greenwood

is a rare example of conjugal love and chastity.

Mr. Isaac Cleave, in ,

is a very chaste, modest man.

Mr. Place, near ;

his face is of a claret complexion, but himself is a very sober, pious man.

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

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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,

was bookseller to the famous Dryden, and is himself a very good judge of

Tonson.

persons and authors; and, as there is nobody more competently qualified to give their opinion of another, so there is none who does it with a more severe exactness or with less partiality; for, to do Mr. Tonson justice, he speaks his mind upon all occasions, and will flatter nobody.

short paragraph is interesting as connecting the present time with the past, or at least a recent with a more distant age. Mr. Ballard

is,

says Dunton,

a young bookseller in

Little Britain

; but is grown man in body now, but more in mind:

His looks are in the mother's beauty dressed, And all the father has informed his breast.

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

London and Middlesex,

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.

Huge Lintott

and

Left-legged Jacob

are the only of the competitors in the immortal contests of the book of the

Dunciad

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

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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

Curll's Corinna

of the Dunciad, and which she had sold to Curll. This was in . more volumes followed, under the title of

Mr. Pope's Literary Correspondence,

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

Gentleman's Magazine

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

Gentleman's Magazine

--now well entitled to be styled the

Old Gentleman's Magazine

--still perseveres in coming out every month, with a tenacity of life, and constancy to early habits, above all praise.

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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.