A Genuine and Curious Library

Snippet from the title page of the auction catalogue of Samuel Gale’s Library, London 1754

Saturday, June 8th, 2019, for Friday n° 34

How to find something – again

After having paused for a short vacation, I returned just to rediscover among my notes something I had already found three years ago but not noted for its significance. And because of that I obviously completely forgot about it, only to pick it up again now as I was busy updating my list of 18th century English auction catalogues (as I already have discussed here). It is, surprise, surprise, an auction catalogue also. And a rather small one at that, listing only 445 books to be auctioned off in three night’s sales, from Monday, 11th of February 1754, until Wednesday the 13th

A special kind of catalogue

But it’s not just any old catalogue because the provenance of the library in question is known, and it belong to no one else than Samuel Gale (1682-1754), second son of Thomas Gale, one of my protagonists.[1] And it is special in that the copy from the Bodleian library (available in digitized form both via Eighteenth Century Collections Online and via GoogleBooks – I’ve checked both, they are taken from the same original) does also list the sales prices for many of these items on additional leaves, so it is possible to determine which books sold, and for which prices. Unfortunately, the author of these notes did not calculate the total of the sale’s worth, but as he listed each item by pound, shillings, and pence this is quite easy to do. Of the 445 books listed in the printed catalogue, 397 are accorded prices, which add up to a total of 168 pounds and 13 shillings (approximately 1120 reichstaler, or 1870 Dutch gilders), showing the collection to be small but quite valuable.

I must confess I don’t know exactly why the 48 volumes without prices don’t have them. They come in four blocks: volumes 147-158 of the second night’s sale, and volumes 1-7, 61-80, and 134-142 of the third night’s sale. Maybe they were dealt with separately on another account, were set aside for special customers, or were dropped from the auction for some reasons. In themselves the titles listed in these blocks do not differ significantly from the rest of the catalogue in their composition, so the question remains open – which is a pity, because it affects to a small part what interests me most about this document: what it can say about the circulation of the works of my protagonists, and thus about one aspect of them being remembered structurally – or forgotten.

My protagonists in this library

So which clues to this does this library give? Here’s the list of titles related to my protagonists it contained in the order they are listed in the catalogue:

  • p. 8: “45 Johannis de Fordun Scotichronicon, 5 vol. 1722 [T. Hearne]”
  • p. 9: “83 Relandi Antiq. Sacrae Veterum Hebraeorum – Rerum Anglicarum, Lib. 5. Auct. G. Neubrigensis Antv. 1567 – Rau Ara Ubiorum – Traj. ad. Rhen. 1738”
  • p. 9: “95 Antonini Iter Britannicarum Comment. T. Gale 1709”
  • p. 11: “148 Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores Veteres T. Gale, 3 vol. Oxon. 1684”
  • p. 11: “7 Leland de Scriptoribus, 2 vol. in 1. – Florus Anglicus – Reland de Nummis Samaritan – De Cultu ac Usu Luminum Antiquorum”
  • p. 12: “27 Relandus de Religione Mohammedica Traj. ad. Rh. – de Spoliis Templi – ib. 1716”
  • p. 12: “59 Opuscula Mythologica, Physica & Ethica, Gr. & Lat. Amst. 1688”

Samuel Gale owned at least some works written by my protagonists; yet not of all four of them. He did own a number of works by his father Thomas Gale, even if not as many as might have been expected: four in total. Yet only two of these had been published in his lifetime, while the other two had been published posthumously – one, the commentary on the itinerary of Antoninus, by his Samuel Gale’s elder brother Robert Gale, and the other, the Scotichronicon of John of Fordun, by the prolific Antiquarian scholar Thomas Hearne on the instigation and with the continuous support of Robert Gale.

While Samuel Gale owned no works by either Johannes Braun or Eusèbe Renaudot, he did however own three books containing titles by Adriaan Reland. The interesting thing about these three books is now that all of these consisted of several titles bound together. Twice Reland appears bound together with titles of other authors, although there is no evident connection between the titles making up the respective books, and once two Reland titles have been bound together: the first edition of De religione mahomedica (Utrecht 1705) and the treatise on the spoils looted from the temple of Jerusalem as displayed on the triumphal arch of Titus in Rome (Utrecht 1716). Apart from them stemming from the same author, there is not much of a connection between these two titles also.

I am not sure what the nature of these Reland titles being bundled up together with other materials means in the context of this special library, but I am tempted to suppose that it perhaps meant that these were materials actually used by Samuel Gale. This does however not manifest in the prices they fetched, which were rather a bit on the low side compared to the rest of the catalogue:

  • p. 9: “83 Relandi Antiq. Sacrae Veterum Hebraeorum – Rerum Anglicarum, Lib. 5. Auct. G. Neubrigensis Antv. 1567 – Rau Ara Ubiorum – Traj. ad. Rhen. 1738“: sold for three shillings, six pence.
  • p. 11: “7 Leland de Scriptoribus, 2 vol. in 1. – Florus Anglicus – Reland de Nummis Samaritan – De Cultu ac Usu Luminum Antiquorum”: no price noted, one of the 48 titles the sale condition of is unclear.
  • p. 12: “27 Relandus de Religione Mohammedica Traj. ad. Rh. – de Spoliis Templi – ib. 1716”: sold for four shillings.

Compared to the items connected to Thomas Gale, this however seems not to be something special to Reland’s works, as they sold in exactly the same price range.

  • p. 8: “45 Johannis de Fordun Scotichronicon, 5 vol. 1722 [T. Hearne]”: sold for four shillings.
  • p. 9: “95 Antonini Iter Britannicarum Comment. T. Gale 1709”: sold for three shillings.
  • p. 11: “148 Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores Veteres T. Gale, 3 vol. Oxon. 1684”: no price noted, one of the 48 titles the sale condition of is unclear.
  • p. 12: “59 Opuscula Mythologica, Physica & Ethica, Gr. & Lat. Amst. 1688”: sold for three shillings.

Preliminary conclusions

Now what does this tell me about the circulation of my protagonists, and thus about them being structurally remembered or forgotten? At first, it points to them being in circulation: At least five of the seven volumes were sold and found new owners. They also were obviously not very rare, as the prices they sold for were quite moderate. While this is not very astounding looking at the works of Thomas Gale in a British context, it is a bit more surprising when looking at Adriaan Reland, testifying to the impact of his works on the book market. Interestingly Samuel Gale owned none of the books of Johannes Braun which dealt with the same topics as those of Reland’s works he had – Jewish antiquity – which perhaps may be a case in point to conclude that Braun’s circulation was much more limited. Even more interesting is the complete absence of Renaudot’s works as they would have fitted in quite well with Gale’s overall interests as displayed by the catalogue. This fits in with Renaudot obviously being not much current on the British market in the first half of the 18th century, but why that would be so I have no clear idea at the moment. So I’ll need more catalogues still: to be continued…


[1] Langford, Abraham: A catalogue of the genuine and curious library of that learned antiquary Samuel Gale, Esq; … consisting chiefly of books of antiquities and English history. … which will be sold by auction, by Mr. Langford, … on Monday the 11th of this instant February 1754, … [London]: n.p., [1754].


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