THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

53 posts categorized "Rare books"

12 March 2019

Felix Slade and his bindings bequest

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Felix Slade (1788-1868) was a lawyer, philanthropist and collector.  Born in Lambeth, he was the youngest of four sons and yet inherited his father’s estate.  He never married, instead devoting himself to the law and to collecting antiquities, fine bindings, glass and prints.  He supported many societies and funds, such as the Nightly Shelter for the Houseless, and lent items from his collection to public exhibitions including the 1857 Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition.  He belonged to the Society of Antiquaries and is widely remembered today for endowing three Slade Professorships of Fine Art at Oxford University, Cambridge University and University College London.  At the British Library, we remember Slade for his bequest of fine bindings to the British Museum (subsequently transferred to the British Library in 1973).

Felix Slade BM 1874 0314.1A drawing of Slade by Margaret Carpenter now in the British Museum 1874,0314.1

The bequest consists of twenty-five fine bindings from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.  It contains examples of work by notable binders and includes various styles with English, French and Italian bindings well represented.  It also contains books bound for royalty, including King Charles I, Emperor Maximilian II and Henry III of France.  Here is a small selection of bindings from the bequest:
 

La Cyropedie

This binding covers a copy of La Cyropedie (Paris, 1547).  It belonged to the royal library of King Edward VI of England (1547-1553), son of Henry VIII.  The leather is 16th-century English calf, tooled in gold and painted, with Edward’s arms on each cover. A similar binding is described here, and attributed to the King Edward and Queen Mary Royal Binder.

Le Monnier

An 18th-century mosaic binding by Jean Charles Henri Le Monnier, from a well-known dynasty of Parisian bookbinders.  He signed his bindings by gold tooling his name in tiny lettering on each cover.
 

Filareto

This is a rare survival from the library of Apollonio Filareto (fl. 1537-1547) Private Secretary to the Farnese family in Renaissance Italy.  The bindings on his books bear an impresa, or personal device, of an eagle soaring above a sea containing shoals of fish.  This also has “APLLONII PHILARETI” tooled in gold on the lower cover.  Filareto’s books all have fine 16th-century Italian medallion bindings.  The only comparable bindings from this period are those bearing an Apollo and Pegasus device made for Giovanni Battista Grimaldi (c.1524-1612), a Genoese banker and book collector who operated in the same social circles as Filareto.

Padeloup le Jeune
An 18th-century gold tooled goatskin binding by Antoine Michel Padeloup le Jeune for Marie Louise Adelaide de Bourbon Penthievre (1753-1821), whose arms are stamped in gold on the inside of the covers.  Padeloup was appointed royal bookbinder to King Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour in 1733.

Maddy Smith
Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
British Museum Library’s Donations Register 1866-1871 pp. 178-9.
To see more bindings bequeathed by Slade go to the Library’s online database of bookbindings and type “Felix Slade” into the Quick Search box.

 

28 February 2019

‘Smutty stuff’ for ‘debauched readers’: The Merryland books in the Private Case

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The Private Case is an historic collection of erotica that was segregated from the main British (Museum) Library collection on grounds of obscenity from the 1850s onwards in a moral climate of suppression and censorship.  Newly acquired erotica was restricted and ‘obscene’ books already in the Library’s collections were transferred into the Private Case.  These included a small but distinct sub-genre of Georgian erotica known as the Merryland books, in which the female body is described as a country to be explored, tilled and ploughed by men.  One particular tract volume (P.C.20.b.7) has copies of the key works in this sub-genre: A New Description of Merryland (1741), The Potent Ally or Succours from Merryland (1741) and Merryland Displayed: or, Plagiarism, Ignorance and Impudence, Detected (1741).

Merryland 1A New Description of Merryland P.C.20.b.7.(1), title page

These works are full of sexual double-entendres and terrible puns intended to be as humorous that make you want to put your head in your hands.  A New Description of Merryland originally belonged to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753); it was part of the Library’s main collection for a century before the Victorians deemed it obscene enough for transfer into the Private Case. 

 
Merryland- 2A New Description of Merryland P.C.20.b.7.(1), frontispiece


The inspiration behind Merryland was an earlier work entitled Erotopolis: The Present State of Betty-land (1684) by Charles Cotton, an English poet and writer. It satirised the New World promotional tracts flying around in the 17th century, transforming their messages about land ownership into sexualised puns.  The female body became fallow land subject to ‘manuring’ and ‘tilling’ with a phallic ‘plow’.  There are two copies of Betty-Land in the Private Case (P.C.30.b.41 and P.C.27.b.37).  In both, particularly suggestive passages have been underlined, including ‘the more will the soyl cleave and gape for moisture’, ‘rank and very hot’ and ‘the whole country of Betty-land shews you a very fair prospect, which is yet the more delightful the more naked it lies’.  Saucy, indeed.

The bookseller and publisher behind Merryland was Edmund Curll (c.1675-1747).  He was notorious for selling pirated editions, inaccurate celebrity biographies, pornography and patent medicine (he sold mercury as a cure for syphilis).  Curll made his living from selling this cheaply printed material that was affordable for the masses.  He was evidently successful;  the Merryland books, all with a false ‘Paris’ or ‘Bath’ imprint, went through several editions.  The introduction to Merryland Displayed gives us further insight into their popularity.  They were apparently ‘a master-piece of wit and humour’ and in such high demand that ‘in about three months [they] went thro’ seven editions, besides some thousands of pirated copies that were sold in town and country’.  It even encouraged other booksellers to dredge up similar ‘smutty stuff’ from their stocks to ‘scratch the callous appetites of their debauched readers’. 

The Merryland books demonstrate how attitudes towards sexuality, censorship and obscenity have changed over time, and how books have moved in and out of the Private Case as a result.  All of this, and more, can be explored by researchers in our Rare Books & Music Reading Room or online.  We have digitised the 2,500 volumes that comprise the Private Case, and they are being made available online by publisher Gale as part of their Archives of Sexuality and Gender academic research resource.  The resource is available by subscription to libraries and higher education institutions, and is available for free via the British Library’s reading rooms in London and Yorkshire.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

 

19 February 2019

The Dawes Bequest of erotica: so sensitive, it had to be smuggled in at dawn

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The Private Case is the British Library’s historic collection of erotica.  Comprising ‘obscene’ books that were historically set aside from the main collection, its contents tell us much about past attitudes towards sex and sexuality.  This is the main reason why the British Library has just completed a project to digitise the entire collection.  Within the Private Case we can see the hands of several private collectors at work, among them Charles Reginald Dawes.  But who was Mr Dawes?

Dawes bookplate&Label PC13a24C. R. Dawes’s own bookplate and the Dawes Bequest label added by the British Museum (shelfmark: P.C.13.a.24)

Bibliographers of erotica have struggled to establish the facts about Mr Dawes.  The son of an iron broker born in Worcestershire in 1879, Dawes spent most of his adult life living initially in central London and later in the Gloucestershire village of Gotherington.  The Dawes family were independently wealthy, but in the 1911 census Charles lists himself as ‘author’.  This is curious as his name is associated with just two publications.  Patrick J. Kearney raises the possibility that he may in fact have made a living from writing erotic stories under a nom de plume.

Dawes had a reputation as a discerning book collector.  At his death in 1964, his library of erotica was left to the British Museum library (now the British Library).  Peter Fryer tells us that the bequest was collected overnight and ‘carried reverently’ into the museum at six o’clock one summer morning’.  246 of these works can today be found in the Private Case.  This was not the entirety of his erotica: Dawes also left 100 ‘books of his choice’ to his personal secretary, Antony John Gordon-Hill, who sold some privately and others at Sotheby’s on 12 April 1965.  Further manuscript volumes are now lost.

The Dawes volumes in the Private Case are all in either English or French.  Many are illustrated with erotic plates, some of which have been added post-publication (as with the Livre d’Amour des Anciens, 1912). Highlights include:
• four editions of John Cleland’s mid-18th century work Fanny Hill, considered the first pornographic novel in English;
• the first edition of the Memoirs of Dolly Morton (1899), recounting the erotic adventures of a fictional Quaker woman in the American South;
• five editions of works by the Marquis de Sade (unsurprising given that the Marquis was the subject of Dawes’s own publication of 1927);
• and a 1906 edition of Teleny, one of the earliest published works of gay erotic fiction, often attributed to Oscar Wilde.

PC.13.g.32 Teleny 1906 titlepageTitlepage of Dawes’s 1906 edition of Teleny, one of the earliest published works of gay erotic fiction (shelfmark: P.C.13.g.32)

For many bibliographers, the most significant item is Dawes’s copy of My Secret Life.  This purports to record the sexual exploits of a Victorian gentleman called ‘Walter’, and is widely thought to be by another erotic bibliographer, Henry Spencer Ashbee (1834–1900). This eleven-volume first edition, probably issued 1889–95, is thought to be just one of 25 copies produced.

Private Case items are listed in the library’s online catalogue Explore the British Library.  The Dawes Bequest is shelfmarked P.C.13.a.1 to P.C.13.h.19, and volumes can be consulted in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room.  The collaboration with Gale Cengage means that they can also be viewed online via the newly-released Archives of Sexuality and Gender: Part III.  This subscription resource is available at many larger research libraries and can be accessed for free in the reading rooms of the British Library.

Adrian Edwards
Head of Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Paul J. Cross, ‘The Private Case: a History’, in P.R. Harris (ed.), The Library of the British Museum: Retrospective Essays (London: British Library, 1991), pp.201-40.
Peter Fryer, Private Case – Public Scandal (London: Secker & Warburg, 1966).
Patrick J. Kearney, The Erotic Library of Charles Reginald  Dawes (Santa Rosa, Calif.: Scissors & Paste Bibliographies, 2016).
Patrick J. Kearney, The Private Case: an Annotated Bibliography of the Private Case Erotica Collection in the British (Museum) Library (London: Jay Landesman, 1981).

 

15 January 2019

Cats and games of forfeit

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Did you play any board or parlour games with friends or family over the festive period?  In our Cats on the Page exhibition we feature a small pamphlet entitled The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands.

Pretty  playful  tortoise-shell catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Facing this title-page there is an image of a group of children sitting round the (slightly over-performing) fire with their cat - apparently about to begin playing the game.  The publisher, John Marshall, seized this opportunity to promote two more of his games, namely The Hopping, prating, chatt’ring magpie and The Frisking, barking, lady’s lap-dog which he also published in 1816-17.

 
Pretty playful catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Other titles produced around the same time include The Noble, prancing, cantering horse, also printed by Marshall, and The Pretty, young, playful, innocent lamb, printed for J. and E. Wallis.  (There were also similar games based on the rhyme The House that Jack built and derivatives such as The Barn that Tom built and The Mill that Charles built!).

Several are subtitled ‘a new [entertaining] game of questions and commands’ and essentially they are cumulative memory games with forfeits.  Generally someone is appointed Treasurer and passes a small item such as a thimble to the first player with the command “Take this”.  The first player asks “What’s this?” and the Treasurer replies with the first section of the rhyme (e.g. “The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat…” ).  The first, and subsequent players, then repeat these actions until the thimble returns to the Treasurer.  It is then passed round again with the addition of the second section of the rhyme and so on until the entire, lengthy, rhyme has to be memorised and repeated by each player.  Should a player make a mistake or forget the rhyme a forfeit has to be paid to the Treasurer.  At the end of the game, another player is appointed to devise appropriate tasks for the retrieval of the forfeits – tasks might include solving a riddle, spelling a long, nonsensical word or being tickled.      

There seems to have been a brief flurry of these titles from about 1815 to around 1830.  Though Marshall was not the only publisher of such works he does seem to have made these games a speciality.  Presumably they were profitable since his widow subsequently assigned some of the titles to David Carvalho who continued to print them until around 1830. 

However their origin appears to have been earlier.  As you can see, there was a formula to the titles, which seems to have drawn on The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog.  This is believed to have been first recorded in print around 1760 in The Top book of all, for little masters and misses as ‘The play of the wide-mouth waddling frog, to amuse the mind, and exercise the memory’.  It is found again, with instructions, in Mirth without mischief around 1800 and we have a copy of the game based on the rhyme published by A.K. Newman & Co. around 1825.  A version of the verses was also illustrated by Walter Crane in the late 19th century.

Gaping wide-mouthed waddling frogThe Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog (London, ca. 1825) © British Library Board

Many of the catalogue records relating to the booklets published in the early 19th century by Marshall suggest that the illustrations were by Isaac Robert Cruikshank.  We shall be looking into stories about his early life in our next post.

Alison Bailey
Lead Curator, Printed Heritage Collections 1901-2000

Further reading:
The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands. Embellished with fourteen coloured engravings. London: Printed and sold by John Marshall, 1817. C.194.a.968.
The Top book of all, for little masters and misses. London: sold only at R. Baldwin's, and S. Crowder's, and at Benj. Collins's, Salisbury, [1760?]. Ch.760/5.(1.). Pages 15-31.
Mirth without mischief. London: printed by J. Davenport, for C. Sheppard, [1800?]. Ch.780/110. Pages [17]-33.
The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog: a new and entertaining game of questions and commands. With proper directions for playing the game and crying the forfeits. Embellished with fifteen coloured engravings. London: A.K. Newman & Co., [ca. 1825] C.194.a.842.
The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. Edited by Iona and Peter Opie. New ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.  YK.1997.a.6456.
Brian Alderson and Felix de Marez Oyens, Be merry and wise: origins of children's book publishing in England, 1650-1850. London: British Library, 2006. LC.31.b.2656.

Cats on the Page exhibition supported by

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07 January 2019

Blanchard! Where are your trousers? The first crossing of the English Channel in a balloon

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On 7 January 1785 Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Dr John Jeffries took their lives in their hands and set off across the Channel in a balloon.  It’s no exaggeration to say this was a life and death moment.  French inventor Jean Francois Pilâtre de Rozier and his co-pilot proved this clearly when they crashed and were killed trying to cross the Channel in the opposite direction in June the same year.

Blanchard balloonColumn erected to mark landing place of Blanchard and Jeffries' balloon from A Narrative of the Two Aerial Voyages of Dr. J. with Mons. Blanchard

After a week of detailed preparations, and with the experience of a flight from London into Kent in the previous November, Blanchard and Jeffries prepared to set off from Dover.  With a keen eye on the winds, they first flew a kite, ‘a paper Montgolfier, and a small gaz balloon’, and then they felt sufficiently confident to launch.

During the crossing, they threw their ballast over the side to keep the balloon airborne.  By the time they were half way across, all of this was gone.  At about half past two, about three quarters of the way across, and as the French coast became clearer before them, the balloon started descending again.  This time they were obliged to throw food, fittings, and some of their equipment into the sea.  This included silk oars, constructed in the expectation that they might be able to ‘row’ through the air.  Still they did not rise.  They stripped off their jackets, and Blanchard even threw away his trousers.  Finally the balloon rose again, and onward they flew until they were over land.

The danger continued as they flew fast over dense woodland, dropping closer and closer to the trees.  Fearful that they would yet crash, they looked around for anything else they could do to lighten the load.  They threw off their life jackets made of cork, since they were no longer over the sea, but still they descended.  Finally, continuing to look for weight, Blanchard reflected: 'it almost instantly occurred to me that we could supply it from within ourselves … from the recollection that we had drunk much at breakfast, and not having had any evacuation, and from the severe cold, little or no perspiration had taken place, that probably an extra quantity had been secreted by the kidneys, that we might now avail ourselves of by discharging … we were able to obtain, I verily believe, between five and six pounds of urine; which circumstance, however trivial or ludicrous it may seem, I have reason to believe, was of real utility to us'.

Thus saved from crashing into the trees, as they slowed they were able to grab branches alongside and gradually lower themselves to the ground, at around 4.30 in the afternoon, when they were well met.  'In a short time, many persons made their way to us in the Forest, from whom we received every form of civility and assistance, particularly, in sparing from themselves clothing for us'.

Huw Rowlands
Project Manager, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
John Jeffries and Jean-Pierre Blanchard,, A Narrative of the Two Aerial Voyages of Dr. J. with Mons. Blanchard: With Meteorological Observations and Remarks. The First Voyage on the Thirtieth of November, 1784, from London into Kent: The Second, on the Seventh of January, 1785, from England into France (London, 1786) Online version

21 December 2018

Hey for Lubberland!

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Before the end of the 19th century, catching a sight of cheap ballad-sheets, broadsides, chapbooks, and almanacks is how most people in England came into contact with the printed word.

Lubberland 8A 17th-century ballad ‘An Invitation to Lubberland’. BL Shelfmark C.20.f.8.(226)

Ballads often blended strands of traditional fable, myth and lore into topical themed entertainment.  In the 17th-century ballad ‘An Invitation to Lubberland,’ a ship’s captain and crew spread news of a far-off land, an English version of the medieval legend of a Land of Plenty, known throughout Europe as ‘Cockaigne’.  This utopia of gluttony and idleness has also been known in northern Europe as Luilekkerland (‘Lazy Luscious Land’) or Schlaraffenland (‘Sluggard’s Land’).

Lubberland 1Verses from the ballad tell of ‘streets are pavd with pudding-pies,’ and ‘hot roasted pigs’ that ‘run up and down, still crying out, Come eat me’. ‘The rivers run with claret fine, the brooks with rich canary’. ‘Hot custards grows on eery tree, each ditch affords rich jellies’. BL Shelfmark C.20.f.8.(226)

The word Lubberland in part comes from the Swedish word for lazy.  ‘Lubber’ is popularly associated with the salty, derogatory language of nautical folk.  It is maritime characteristics that are found in this ballad from the English tradition.  An island status necessarily means that such an earthly paradise can only be reached by voyaging the sea.

Lubberland 2 ‘Cocagna, as we say Lubberland’ perhaps the first printed mention of the English variant of the earthly paradise in Florio’s A Worlde of Wordes, or most copious and exact Dictionarie in Italian and English. 1598. BL Shelfmark 1560/4535

Elizabethan poets frequently repeated the spirit of the classics, nostalgically longing for perfect conditions that might be found on the ‘Fortunate Islands’ or the ‘Isles of the Blessed’.  Cheap ballads, chapbooks and broadsides represent a less sophisticated and more popular literature. Lubberland appealed to many an ‘ordinary’ person faced with the all-too-often grim reality of life.

Lubberland 3 ‘The Mapp of Lubberland or the Ile of Lasye’. An English print (ca. 1670) which is a take on Pieter Breugel the Elder’s ‘Interpretation of Land of Cockaigne’ (1567) ©Trustees of the British Museum.

It’s not always possible to be precise when tracing the use, reception and meaning of particular ballads.  Many are thematically ambiguous, dubious or have multiple meaning and intent.  Of course the land where ‘rocks are all of sugar candy’ and a person is ‘paid fourteene pence a day for snorting’ and lazing around is the stuff of nonsense and make-believe but it does reflect peoples’ dreams.  The necessities of food, shelter, clothes and a pleasant environment are all satisfied in the Land of Plenty, but there are also subversive traces in Lubberland:

‘There is no law nor lawyers fees. all men are free from fury, For eery one dos what he please, without a judge or jury’.

A hankering for justice, freedom and better conditions is projected to far-off lands.

Lubberland 4William Hawkins’ play Apollo Shrouing where' fourteene pence a day' can be earned in Lubberland.  BL Shelfmark C.34.d.59

The ballad must surely be mocking such wishful thinking; a life of ease where, ‘They have no landlords rent to pay, each man is a free-holder’ must be just a tall tale – the colourful yarn of sailors!

Lubberland 5Just a bit of Lubberland fun in Poor Robin Almanack , 1720. BL Shelfmark  P.P.2465.

Lubberland is commonly depicted as a land of fools and n’er-do-wells, an unreal place, a place of ‘child’s geography’.  The term becomes employed to denigrate, ridicule or satirise political outlooks that seek to change society.  Walter Scott described Napoleon as, ‘A Grand Elector, who was to be the very model of a King of Lubberland’, and in 1784 Benjamin Franklin insisted, ‘America is a land of labour, not what the English call Lubberland’.

The Topsy-Turvydom of Lubberland seems not simply to be just a bit of fun.  Subversive emotion and impulses which carry the tradition of Cocagna can be seen in other cheap printed literature from the period, like in the tale of  Lawrence Lazy.

Lubberland 6The History of Lawrence Lazy ca. 17550.  Lawrence Lazy, put on trial in Lubberland for casting spells on tradesmen which force them into instant slumber. Lawrence is acquitted by the Jury after supplicant apprentices testify that Lawrence gained them respite from being worked to death by their masters. BL Shelfmark 1079.i.14.(16)

The British Library was pleased to host recently The London Sea Shanty Collective singing sea songs from our collections, including a reinterpretation of ‘An Invitation to Lubberland’ with the assistance of the historian and author, Oskar Cox Jensen. 

Lubberland 7The London Sea Shanty Collective singing at the British Library, Summer 2018.

There are thousands of ballads to be found in the British Library’s printed heritage collections.  A new guide is available.

Christian Algar
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Theresa Bane, Encyclopedia of Imaginary and Mythical places (2014)
Leslie Sheppard, The History of Street Literature (1972)
The London Sea Shanty Collective @LondonShanty

 

19 December 2018

Christmas bound

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'Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.' Sound advice from American magazine editor Lenore Hershey (1919-1997).

Naughty Boys and Girls11526.f.1. 19c green paper over boards on Naughty Boys and Girls [1852].

Those of us born ‘non digital’ would have regularly received a festive book or two; an annual, collections of fairy tales, ghost stories or Christmas verse.  Whatever the subject, the bindings were invariably attractive. Mass production techniques developed in the 19th century meant that books once hand-bound in leather were now available in inexpensive cloth or paper covers.  The emerging middle classes in Victorian England had money to spare for the purchase of extras, notably books, and if they were instructional as well as aesthetically appealing, all the better.  Artists were employed to decorate the bindings and they often ‘advertised’ by incorporating their initials into their designs.  Notable were John Leighton, also Albert Henry Warren, William Harry Rogers and William Ralston.  Examples of their work are below.

Naturally, Christmas would not be Christmas without Charles Dickens, particularly as many of his stories were set in the festive season.  Their popularity was a money-spinner for author and publishers alike.

Dickens - Christmas Stories12623.g.25. Christmas Stories from the Household Words. Conducted by Charles Dickens. [The extra Christmas numbers for 1850-1858.]

Victorian publishers exploited this lucrative new market to tailor books to the tastes of children, although the two depicted in the song book below seem somewhat depressed at the prospect!

 Stories for the Little Ones11602.cc.30. Gold blocked cloth binding designed by William Ralston.  Note the initials WR towards the centre of the tail edge.

Some children’s picture books retained a didactic flavour.  The upper cover of Simple Hans and other funny pictures and stories proclaimed 'Oh children, children come and see / This funny picture-book for you and me/ Bought by our Mama dear! / So that we may grow good and wise / And ‘neath a merry laugh’s disguise/ Learn naughty ways to fear'.

Other themes were more fun, ranging from the snowy weather to seasonal tales and traditional toys.

Jack Frost & Betty Snow
12807.b.53. Gold blocked cloth binding designed by John Leighton.

King Nut Cracker12806.e.12. Paper binding over boards on King Nutcracker, 1854.

Tales of the Toys12807.ee.35.  Gold blocked cloth binding designed by Albert Henry Warren on Tales of the Toys, 1869 and bound by Bone and son of London.

Books could also promote sociability and enhance family life.  After the grand Christmas dinner, chapters containing stories, jokes, nonsense verse and other favourites could be read aloud and enjoyed by everyone.
 

Hunting of the SnarkW14/4782.  Gold blocked cloth binding on Lewis Caroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, 1876.


Bushel of MerrythoughtsRB.31.a.43. Paper binding over boards on A bushel of merry-thoughts, 1868 designed by William Harry Rogers (his intertwined initials are beneath the red pennant to the left).

Serious-minded relatives or godparents who held themselves responsible for the spiritual or moral well-being of their young kinsfolk, sometimes felt it appropriate to give them devotional or educational works.  One can only hope that they were not quizzed on the contents!

Five spinesSpines from gold blocked cloth bindings (taken from the Library’s online image databse of bookbindings).

Annuals were popular, particularly as gifts to older children who could be trusted to read quietly to themselves (perhaps whilst the adults had an after dinner nap).

Peter Parley's AnnualPP.6750. Gold blocked publisher’s cloth binding on an 1860 annual (note the designer’s signature MAC below the date). This was a gift from father to son as indicated by the manuscript notes inside: "Dec. 21st 1859. To My Dear Son Denis. A Reward for attention to his studies. D H Donnell".

 

London Out of Town12352.a.3. Detail from the paper cover of London out of town.  The price was one shilling.

In 1844, John Leighton wrote and illustrated the amusing London out of town. Or the adventures of the Browns at the sea side.  It was one of the earliest comic books and appealed to old and young alike.

Merry Christmas and merry reading!

Christmas Rhymes and New Year's Chimes11649.f.22. Blocked in colours on cloth. Mary D Brine, [Christmas Rhymes and New Year's Chimes ... Illustrated.] [1890] 

P. J. M. Marks
Curator, Bookbindings. Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Edmund M. B. King, Victorian Decorated Trade Bindings, 1830-1880: A Descriptive Bibliography. The British Library and Oak Knoll Press, 2003.
The Victorian Web

With thanks to Gillian Ridgley.

 

06 November 2018

Hogarth’s London in the 18th century Latin poetry of Benjamin Loveling

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In 1738 an anonymous book of Latin and English poetry was published ‘by a Gentleman of Trinity College, Oxford’. Its author was Benjamin Loveling (1711-1750?), a clergyman, satirist and one-time rake, who documented his liaisons in the inns and brothels of 1720s and 30s Covent Garden and Drury Lane in Latin poems inspired by the Roman poets Horace and Ovid. Loveling’s poems primarily take the form of verse epistles addressed to a circle of male friends. They are often funny – and sexually explicit.

  IMG_9302British Library, General Reference Collection 641.i.14. The title page motto is taken from Horace’s Epistles 1.14.36: nec Lusisse pudet, sed non incidere Ludum (‘there’s no shame in playing, but in not bringing an end to play’).

However, Loveling’s bawdy humour was not only at the expense of the sex workers of 18th century London. He also composed realistic and sympathetic depictions of prostitutes living in poverty, and Hogarthian social satire of the over-zealous moral reformers of the age. One such target was John Gonson, a notorious magistrate whose enthusiastic raids on brothels and harsh sentencing was satirised in William Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress (1731-2). Loveling addresses Gonson in his ode Ad Joannem G[on]s[o]num, Equitem (pp. 21-2):

  IMG_9303 2

Pellicum, G---s—ne, animosus hostis,
Per minus castas Druriae tabernas
Lenis incedens abeas Diones
                                                                     Aequus Alumnis.
Nuper (ah dictum miserum!) Olivera
Flevit ereptas viduata maechas,
Quas tuum vidit genibus minores
                                                                     Ante tribunal.
Dure, cur tanta in Veneris ministras
Aestuas ira?

(‘Gonson, fearless enemy of prostitutes, advancing on bawds throughout the less virtuous taverns of Drury, may you look kindly on the pupils of Dione [i.e. the mother of Venus] and be gone. Recently (ah it is wretched to say!) Oliver wept, bereft of her stolen whores, whom she saw on bended knees before your tribunal. Harsh man, why do you rage with such anger against the attendants of Venus?’)

He sympathetically represents the plight of the women affected by Gonson’s harsh punishments:

Nympha quae nuper nituit theatre
Nunc stat obscuro misera angiportu,
Supplici vellens tunicam rogatque
                                                                   Voce Lyaeum.

(‘The girl who recently shone in the theatre now stands wretched in a dark alley, and tearing at her dress she begs for wine [i.e. ‘the loosener’] with humble prayer.’)

With typically irreverent humour, Loveling ends the ode by suggesting that Gonson might change his mind if he were to experience the delights of brothel for himself, to be entertained by wine, or a ‘skilful prostitute’ (pellex … callida).

  Harlots-progress-f60135-32Plate 3 of Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress, a series of 6 paintings depicting the decline of Moll Hackabout, an innocent country girl who is drawn into a life of prostitution in London. This image shows Gonson entering with bailiffs to arrest Moll. 

Why write in Latin in 18th century England? Loveling was certainly not unusual; most educated men of this period still wrote and read Latin. Given his subject matter the desire to restrict his readership to a select male audience – and obscure the identity of himself and his addresses – is obvious. He perhaps also intended to create an amusing contrast between his ‘low’ subject matter and carefully crafted Latin verse. But most of all Latin was a medium that implicitly excluded most women, and within a closed circle of male readers gave him relative freedom and privacy to give voice to the underworld of 18th century London.

How do we respond to the undoubtedly masculine – and potentially misogynistic – associations of these Latin poems today?

Sara Hale
AHRC Innovation Placement Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Manchester
British Library, Heritage Made Digital

Further reading:
Latin and English poems. By a Gentleman of Trinity College, Oxford, London, 1738 (British Library, General Reference Collection 641.i.14) [2nd ed. 1741]
See quotations from Loveling’s poems used to ‘illustrate’ Hogarth’s works in: Edmund Ferrers, Clavis Hogarthiana: or, Illustrations of Hogarth, London, 1817
And in: John Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, 3rd ed., London, 1785

British Library website on Georgian Britain