Tag Archives: Auction Catalogues

Catalogues and Corrections

Friday n° 48, September 13th, 2019

Editorial note: There will be no blog post on 20 September 2019 as I will be attending the biannual meeting of the members of the working group Early Modernity within the German Historian’s Association. See you on September 27th!

A miss is as good as a mile

Feels good to be in time again. How my latest results make me feel is something I’m not as sure about though. A few weeks ago, I wondered here on this blog about Thomas Gale’s books not selling so well. And on the basis of those sales catalogues which I had at hand I determined that most likely Roger Henry Gale (1710-1768), his grandson, sold parts of his father’s and grandfather’s libraries to the London bookseller Thomas II Osborne (c.1704–1767) around 1758/59. Well, I nearly hit it. I was so close. So very close, but… not close enough, as it turned out.

More sales catalogues!

For in the meantime I managed to find more sales catalogues, and as always when I find something like that I wonder why I didn’t search the way I found it by straight from the beginning. I do not know, and I’m afraid I can’t help it. But that is what’s research is like: Think of something, find new sources, correct yourself and think again. So that’s what I’m going to do with the rest of this post.

For among the catalogues which I found where three Osborne catalogues forming a series running from 1756 through 1758. Looking at their titles it becomes instantly clear that these were the sources I was looking for:

So the good news is, I guessed right, and the books really were sold to Thomas Osborne. Bad news is, this did not happen in 1758/59 but already in 1755 (it can’t have been in 1756 as catalogue nr. 1 advertises the begin of the sale for 1 January 1756), three years earlier. Well, at least I got the general picture right. But what about the details, now that I have got three thick volumes (more than 400 pages each) with additional information at hand?

A broader picture

Unfortunately the catalogues are framed in a way which makes it impossible for me to assess which of these books once belonged to the Gale family library, much less which of them would likely have belonged to either Thomas Gale or his son Roger Gale, because Osborne jumbled all the libraries of the people on his title pages up in one big lot (and probably even more, since each title page says something about “others”). So the libraries of at least ten persons were taken together to form a massive collection, advertised to contain more than 200.000 volumes. It was so large that Osborne and Shipton from the start projected its sale to last at least two years:

Which will begin to be sold (the lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, without any Abatement, for Ready Money only) at T. Osborne’s and J. Shipton’s in Gray’s-Inn, This Day, and for the Conveniency of the Nobility and Genrry who live at a Distance (this Collection being so very numerous) will continue daily selling for two Years, viz. to the First of January 1758.[1]

Osborne & Shipton: A Catalogue of the Libraries of the following Eminent and Learned Persons, vol. 1, 1756, title page.

I must confess that I have no idea why the sale was organized in this way. The most likely explanation would be that they sold the collection as they themselves had bought it. But this only relocates the problem as it would mean that they bought it from someone who had assembled it before; and who would assemble two hundred thousand books? This is a figure sufficient for stocking a present-day medium-sized public library, let alone an early 18th century library. The sheer handling of the physical objects must have presented the booksellers with quite a challenge, as these were literally several tons of books to store. How many ox-carts or freight barges would have been necessary to transport them?  Well, apart from these rather fascinating questions to which I have absolutely no answers (but really would like to know more), the mass of books also was too much to be organized the way they normally were, which would have been thematically. This was only done for the folios, which would generate most of the proceeds; all the rest was just sorted by size, and all books of each size alphabetically within each of the catalogues.

So as before, the only books which I may assign to have been part of the Gale library with certainty are, as before, those which are listed in the catalogues as carrying manuscript notes by either Thomas or Roger Gale. These were, by the way, not as many as I would have expected; here’s the list.

Books annotated by Thomas and Roger Gale in the library sale

Volume I, 1756

None. Yes, that’s right, not a single one.

Volume II, 1757

Here we go. That’s a bit of a list.

  • p. 9: [Folio] “16590 Idem [=Beda Historia Ecclesiastica, cui accessere Leges Anglo-Saxonicae, Saxonice & Latine], cum Additionibus MSS. a Decano Gale, 1l 18s ib. 1643”
  • p. 12: [Folio] “16702 Balei Scriptorum Britanniae Centuriae ix. cum Observationib. MSS. a D. Galeo, 1l 1s Basil. 1559”
  • p. 14: [Folio] “16747 [Burton’s] Commentary on Antoninus’ Itinerary, with MSS. Additions by Roger Gale, Esq; 10s 6d 1658”
  • p. 16: [Folio] “16822 [Camdeni] Britannia, cum Additionib. Margine Mss. in Margine a T. Gale, 1l 1s Lond.”
  • p. 31: [Folio] “17237 Dictionarium Graeco Latinum, a Budaeo & aliis, 4 tom. interfoliat. cum Addit. MSS. a Th. Galeo, 3l 3s Basil. 1565”
  • p. 42: [Folio] “17564 Gesneri Bibliotheca universalis, 2 tom. interfoliat. cum multis Notis MSS. per Th. Gale, 1l 1s Tiguri 1574”
  • p. 43: [Folio] “17593 Gordon’s (Alexander) Itinerarium Septentrionale: or, Journey thro’ Scotland, with the Supplement and Cuts, large Paper, with marginal MSS. Observations by Roger Gale, Esq; neatly bound, 2l 2s 1726”
  • p. 46: [Folio] “17673 Herodoti Hist. Gr. & Lat. a Sylburgio, cum multis Observationibus per Th. Gale, 2l 2s Francof. 1608”
  • p. 47: [Folio] “17723 Idem [=Hesychii Lexicon, Gr.], cum multis Additionib. MSS. in margine, a Heinsio & T. Gale, 1l 1s Venet. 15[1]4”
  • p. 53: [Folio] “17898 Jamblichus de Mysteriis Liber ex Edit. Tho. Gale, cum Indice Mss. 5s Oxon. 1678”
  • p. 58: [Folio] “17994 Idem [=Luciani Opera], Gr. cum Notis MSS. in margine, 5l 5s. Fuit Liber hic Henrici Stephani & hac sunt Notae ejus manus literae. Teste T. Gale.”
  • p. 64: [Folio] “18179 Idem [=Matthaei Paris Historia Angliae, a Watts], cum MSS. Additionib. per T. Gale, 1l 11s 6d Lond. 1684”
  • p. 77: [Folio] “18555 Idem [=Platonis Opera Omnia], cum variis Observationib. Mss. in Margine per T. Gale, 2l 2s [Basil.] 1534”
  • p. 83: [Folio] “18748 Philipot’s Survey of Kent, with MSS. Additions by Roger Gale, Esq; very fair, 2l 2s 1659”
  • p. 88: [Folio] “18876 [Scriptores] Rerum Anglicarum post Bedam, cum multis Additionibus MSS. per Th. Galeum, 1l 11s 6d Francof. 1601”
  • p. 89: [Folio] “18907 [Stephani (Rob)] Glossaria ad utriusque Linguae, cum MSS. Observationib. Th. Gale, 3l 3s 1573”
  • p. 89: [Folio] “18914 Idem [=Suidae Lexicon], Gr. cum Observationibus MSS. per Th. Gale, 2l 2s Basil. 1544”
  • p. 91: [Folio] “18983 Septuaginta ex Auctoritate Sixti V, Pont. Max. editum, cum variis Lectionibus Mss. a Tho. Gale, 5l 5s Romae 1587”
  • p. 101: [Folio] “19292 Thoresby’s Topography of the ancient Town and Parish of Leeds in Yorkshire, with cuts, and a great number of MSS. Additions by Roger Gale, Esq; 1l 5s 1715”
  • p. 105: [Folio] “19405 Vincent’s Discoverie of Errours in the first Edition of the Catalogue of Nobility, published by Raph. Brooke, with a great Number of MSS. Additions by Mr. William Burton, the Leicestershire Antiquary, which appears by the Testimony of Roger Gale, Esq; 15s 1622”
  • pp. 3-4: [Quarto Litera A] “88 Antonini Iter Britanniarum cum comment. per Th. Gale & quam plurimis Additionibus MSS. per R. Gale, 1l 1s ibid. [=London] 1709”
  • p. 61: [Quarto Litera G] “1849 [Goadvirini] Idem [=de Praesulibus Angliae Comment.], cum multis Emendationibus, MS. in margine a Tho. Gale, 7s 6d”
  • p. 101: [Octavo Letter G] “3781 The same [=Grand Question concerning Bishops Right to Votes in Parliament in Capital Cases] with Manuscript Observations and Additions, by Dean Gale, 3s 6d”
  • p. 147: [Octavo Letter L] “Life of Bp. Kennet, with a MSS. Copy of a letter to Roger Gale, Esq; from Browne Willis, relating to Mr. Tho. Hearne, 2s 6d 1730”

Volume III, 1758

The leftovers, please.

  • p. 58: [Folio] “2133 Account of what past [sic] in Parliament concerning Dr. Sacheverel – Tryal of Dr. Sacheverel – Bishops of Salisbury, Oxford, Lincoln, and Norwich’s Speeches – Report of the Committee of the House of Commons relating to the Mine Adventure, with other Tracts, the whole interspers’d with a great Number of MSS. Notes by R. Gale, Esq; 12 s”
  • p. 197: [Octavo] “8402 Rawlinson’s English Topographer, interleav’d with a great number of Manuscript Additions by Roger Gale, Esq; 2 vol. very fair, 1l 1s 1720”

So these three volumes contain 26 titles with annotations by either Thomas or Roger Gale, which in total add up to the sum of 42 £ 14 Shilling; quite a bit of money in the 1750s. But, and that was a surprise, obviously these prices were not too high, or at least not as much too high as I originally thought. In the 1760 catalogue which I started from in my last post on this subject, this list dwindles down to 9 volumes, totalling 17 £ 11 Shilling.

  • p. 12: “338 Herodotus, Gr. & Lat. cum multis addition. MSS. in margin. a T. Gale, 1l 11s 6d Francof. 1608”
  • p. 27: “735 Camdeni Britannia, cum addition. MSS. in margine a Tho. Gale, 1l 1s Lond. 1607”
  • p. 27: “736 [Camdeni] Anglica Normannica, &c. cum multis addition. MSS. a Roger Gale, 1l 1s Francof. 1602”
  • p. 27: “732 Matthaei Westmonast. Flores Histor. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Viri Erud. Gale, 1l 11s 6d Francof. 1601”
  • p. 42: “1272 Vetus Testamentum juxta Septuaginta, Gr. cum multis additionib. MSS. a Tho. Gale, 5l 5s Rom. 1587”
  • p. 51: “1570 Budaei & al. Dictionarium, Gr. & Lat. inferfol. in 4 vol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Gale, 3l 3s ib. [=Basel] 1565”
  • p. 51: “1593 Idem [= Gesneri Bibliotheca Universalis], 2 vol. interfol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Tho. Gale, 1l 1s”
  • p. 52: “1621 Suidae Lexicon, Gr. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Gale, 2l 2s Basil. apud. Froben. 1544”
  • p. 186: “6374 Rawlinson’s English Topographer, 2 vol. with MSS. Additions [by] Mr. [Roger, TW] Gale, interleaved, 1l 1s”

Actually, it comes even down to seven volumes, as two – set in bold in the above – were not even on the original list. Without these two, it’s seven volumes left over in 1760, estimated for 14 £ 18 Shilling and sixpence in total. Which means, that in two years two thirds of the books had been sold, and also that two thirds of the originally estimated proceeds had been realized.

Some things change, some don’t

This in turn means that the observation I made in my first post – that those volumes which were still on the list in 1760 were not selling so well, and only after 1762 disappear from Osborne’s catalogues – still holds, and may even be extended to 1758, which is when they were left over after termination of the ‘original’ sale. What might a bit trickier now is to come to a sound conclusion from this pattern of sales. On the whole, it’s still safe to say that books annotated by Roger Gale sold better than those annotated by Thomas Gale; which comes as no big surprise, as they were newer and leaning more towards general interest than Thomas Gale’s Greek classics and specialised philological literature.  It’s no longer valid to say that they did not sell so well altogether, as two thirds of them did, and I would assume that to be a rate quite good. So I no longer that sure that the decisive factor for this sales pattern is that Thomas Gale was comparatively forgotten by the time it happened; it be due as much to changing patterns of scholarly interest. Perhaps there were just not enough philologists frequenting Thomas Osborne’s shop at the time. Yet even if it may not be the sole decisive factor, I would still like to maintain that it is one among the decisive factors determining which of these books sold well – and which rather not.


[1] Thomas Osborne & J. Shipton: A Catalogue of the Libraries of the following Eminent and Learned Persons, deceased, viz. the Rev. Dr. Thomas Gale, Dean of York, and Editor of the Hist. Angl. Scriptores; Roger Gale, Esq; the great Antiquarian, and Commissioner of the Customs; the Learned Mr. Henry Wotton, Editor of St. Clementis Epistolae; Dr. Francis Dickens, Regius Professor of the Civil Law in the University of Cambridge; Counsellor Stukeley of the Temple; Counsellor Owen of Lincolns-Inn; Mr. Reynell, an Eminent Apothecary; and several Others. Vol. I. Containing near Two Hundred Thousand Volumes of the most scarce and valuable Books in all Languages, Arts and Sciences; great Numbers on large Paper, Morocco Leather, and other rich Bindings. […] Which will begin to be sold (the lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, without any Abatement, for Ready Money only) at T. Osborne’s and J. Shipton’s in Gray’s-Inn, This Day, and for the Conveniency of the Nobility and Genrry who live at a Distance (this Collection being so very numerous) will continue daily selling for two Years, viz. to the First of January 1758. Catalogues may be had at all the Chief Cities and Noted Towns in Europe, and at the Place of Sale; where may be had Money for any Library or Parcel of Books, Prints or Manuscripts. [N.B.] There are some Manuscript Sermons to be disposed of, recommended by an eminent and dignified Divine. N. B. The Books contained in the Two Volumes of the Catalogue for the last Year, which remain unsold, stand in their Order for the Conveniency of those Gentlemen who have not seen the Catalogue, or sent their Orders. London, 1756, title page. Digitzed via Google Books.

How two 9th Century Travellers stumbled into ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ (and did they?)

George Sael’s book sale catalogue of 1792, title page snippet (taken from Eighteenth Century Collections Online)

Saturday, July 27th, 2019, for Friday no. 41

In 1792, George Sael (c.1761 – c.1799) tried to sell an old book. Well, this was nothing out of the ordinary so far, as selling old books was part of Sael’s job. He was a London printer, bookbinder, bookseller, and sometime author of edifying publications such as his Moral biography; or, the worthies of England displayed: containing the lives of persons eminently distinguished for their virtues and talents[1] and other works for the use in instruction or education. Sael sold old and new books at his book shop in N° 192 Newcastle Street, the Strand, and as was usual, he issued sales catalogues to advertise the collection he had on display, which according to these catalogues amounted to a total of 20.000 volumes in 1792.[2] At the end of the 18th century this was rather on the low end of volumes on the shelf of a commercial second-hand seller, where some of Sael’s competitors issued catalogues announcing “One Hundred Thousand volumes, in various Languages and Classes of Learning”.[3] To market his stock, Sael thus introduced short descriptions of several of the works he had in store into his catalogue, something lacking in most other similar advertisements. Perhaps this was also due to the range of customers that he usually served, which included public schools and middle-class families, and not only a rather well-educated clientele as many of his fellow booksellers. Maybe he took not all of his customers to be familiar with the volumes on his shelves already.

Not just any old book

Now the particular old book which I am concerned with here was one which was given an explanatory paragraph, something not all of the works in his catalogue were dignified with. That it ended up on the list at all testified to its standing, because Sael made it very clear that he had not listed all his stock:

Sael, Sael’s Catalogue for 1792, p. 49.[4]

The item in question was about 60 years old, not very old for the average used book circulating in 18th century Britain, but the majority of books Sael offered were of a more recent date (although he also had much older volumes in store). It was an English translation of a French work, and in case you are wondering by now how this links up with my research project after all, it was a copy of the 1733 English version of Eusebe Renaudot’s Anciennes relations des Indes et de la Chine of 1718.[5] The English translator had remained anonymous when the book was printed, and had confined himself to translate the French original rather without the amendments typical for 18th century translations.[6] The result was quite a success, and from what I have seen up until now I am inclined to presume that it was the most-read of all of Renaudot’s publications in 18th century England. One of the copies of this work had now ended up on Sael’s shelves in 1792, and he took pains to advertise it in a most interesting manner.

Sael, Sael’s Catalogue for 1792, p. 46.[7]

Of sales and claims

First of all this of course was a clever move to sell the book. By linking it up with Edward Gibbon’s (1737–1794) enormously popular History of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire Sael could hope to sell his copy of the Ancient Accounts of India and China free-riding on the other publications’ success. Yet this strategy does not seem to have worked out the way it should. At least not as far as can be seen from Sael’s catalogues, for he advertised it in almost exactly the same way again in 1794.[8] No catalogues of Sael’s seem to have survived from after 1794, so I don’t know whether he sold it later on. In any case he had estimated it rather high with the 5 shillings he charged for it, as it usually was advertised for around 3 shillings at the time.[9] Given that he described the copy as extraordinarily fair, this must not have been an unreasonable pricing after all, as a good fitment could fetch quite a high premium in a title.

But if I cannot say anything about Sael’s success in selling this copy, what about the seriousness of the claim he made about the connection to Gibbon?

Well, this is easier to do as it I can just look it up. And doing so reveals some interesting things. The first volume of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire appeared in 1770,[10] and it actually featured one quotations from Renaudot.[11] So far, so good, had it not referred to a completely different publication, Eusèbe Renaudot’s Historia Patriarcharum Alexandrinorum Jacobitarum of 1713.[12] Gibbon referred to the Ancient Accounts of India and China for the first time in the fourth volume, printed in 1788.[13] Yet it may be doubted, I think, if this particular reference (footnote 70, see green markings) really constitutes the “several particulars” Sael was speaking of.

Gibbon, The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 4, 1788, p. 75.

There is however a second reference to the Ancient Accounts within the same volume, and it would be the last Gibbon was ever to make in the Decline and fall of the Roman Empire. It was to a rather more ‘curious’ passage, as Gibbon used Renaudot’s accounts to back up an argument which he had found in Montesquieu’s l’Esprit des Loix:

A French philosopher (199) has dared to remark, that whatever is secret must be doubtful, and that our natural horror of vice may be abused as an engine of tyranny. But the favourable persuasion of the same writer, that a legislature may confide in the taste and reason of mankind, in impeached by the unwelcome discovery of the antiquity and extent of the disease (200).

Gibbon, The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 4, 1788, p. 409–410.
Gibbon, The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 4, 1788, p. 410

The accompanying footnote 200, where Renaudot’s edition is listed as providing evidence to support Gibbon’s rather bleak inference from Montesquieu’s claim – something I’m quite sure the abbé Renaudot would certainly not have approved of, neither Gibbon’s argument nor Montesquieu as its source – is interesting insofar as it indicates that Gibbon was aware enough of the complicated history of the Anciennes relations des Indes et de la Chine to know the controversies around it, of which I have already written something in an older post. By acknowledging them, Gibbon effectively undermined Sael’s claim to the usefulness of Renaudot’s account as such.

Finally, of forgetting

So where does this take me? It provides a glance into some ‘curious particulars’ of the end of the 18th century which seem quite interesting to me. First of all, Sael obviously neither trusted the name of Renaudot nor the title of the publication nor the copies’ alleged material qualities enough to sell the book off on their own, but he chose to qualify it by a reference to an author and work which were more recent and more popular, and perhaps still present enough in the back of the mind of his customers to entice them to buy the Ancient Accounts – 1788 was only four years ago in 1792, and in 1790 there even had been a new edition of the Decline and fall of the Roman Empire.[14] And even as Sael did advertise it this way, he either himself had not read his Gibbon very carefully, or he speculated on customers who had not read their Gibbon carefully enough to spot the mismatch between the advertisement and the actual publication.

What got a bit lost in this discussion were the two Muslim travellers who had left behind the account which Renaudot had translated in 1718. They really did not make their way into the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, as Gibbon only referred to Renaudot’s commentaries, and not to the text itself. From a point of view centring on structural forgetting, it looks like as if Renaudot for a larger British readership without a special background in Oriental learning, as it was called back then, was forgotten enough in 1792 to only be attractive when coupled with a reference to a recent publication, although the allusion was in fact misleading. For someone like Edward Gibbon, who commanded the necessary learning, the situation might be quite different, and he would quote a work like the Historiarum Patriarcharum Alexandrinorum 17 times where he would quote the Ancient accounts of India and China, by two Mohammedan travellers only twice. This was quite the reverse of the situation as it was on the used book market, where I have met with 40 announcements of the Ancient Accounts on sale between 1735 and 1801 in English book sales catalogues compared to only three of the Historia Patriarcharum (in 1732, 1762, and 1790). If the frequency with which announcements of a particular work to be sold may serve as an indicator of it going out of fashion, it would point to Renaudot becoming structurally forgotten for the larger British audience in the 1780s. There is a first wave of sales in the 1760s, when the last of the first generation of owners would presumably die; a second wave around one generation later in the 1780s, when a second generation of owners might die. But the 1780s wave did not subside but hold on throughout the 1790s, and this might point to the booksellers not getting rid of the copies they had.

The interesting question would now be whether Gibbon had acquired his specialist knowledge about Renaudot’s Historiarum Patriarcharum Alexandrinorum as a British historian, or if it was due to his spell on the continent (in Lausanne, 1753–1758) or his flirtation with Roman Catholicism in the early 1750s, but that might be a story for some week to come.


[1] Sael, George. Moral biography; or, the worthies of England displayed: containing the lives of men eminently distinguished for their virtues and talents. Designed for the use of private families and public schools. Embellished with a fine engraving. London: George Sael 1798; and: Sael, George. Moral biography; or, the worthies of England displayed: containing the lives of persons eminently distinguished for their virtues and talents. Designed for the use of private families and public schools. Second edition, improved. Embellished with a fine engraving. London: George Sael [1798].

[2] Sael, George: Sael’s Catalogue for 1792, consisting of Twenty Thousand Volumes; including two Libraries lately Purchased; and many rare and curious Books, collected from various Parts of the Kingdom; with a choice Collection of the most esteemed modern Publications: The whole forming an extensive Variety of the best Authors in every Branch of Literature; many of which are in elegant Bindings. […] Which are now selling, for ready Money only, at the exceeding low Prices printed in the Catalogue. by G. Sael, Bookseller, at the English Library, Newcastle Street, Strand, London, Who gives the full Value for Libraries and Parcels of Books, or Books exchanged. Catalogues may be had at the Place of Sale; of Mr. Richardson, at the Royal Exchange; Messrs. Merrills, Cambridge; Prince and Co. Oxford; Mr. Poole, Chester; and of the principal Booksellers in every County Town in England. Those Gentlemen and Ladies who are desirous of G. Sael’s future Catalogue, in either Town or Country, may depend on receiving it, by favouring him with their Address before the Publication. Country Dealers, and all Public Schools, &c. supplied with all Publications whatever, on the lowest Terms, and with the utmost Dispatch. Orders for Exportation punctually executed. [London]: George Sael [1792].

[3] Lackington, James. Lackington’s Catalogue for 1792. Consisting of One Hundred Thousand volumes, in various Languages and Classes of Learning; Including many valuable Libraries Lately purchased. With many Articles but just published; A very large Number in an uncommon Variety of plain, elegant and superb Bindings. Also many scarce, old, and valuable Books. […] By J. Lackington, at his shop, No. 46 and 47, Chiswell-Street, Moorfields, London. Where Libraries or Parcels of Books are purchased on a new Plan, by which the Seller is sure to have the utmost Value in ready Money, or in other Books. *** Not an Hour’s Credit will be given to any Person, nor any Books Exported, or sent into the Country, before they are paid for. Catalogues may be had at the Shop, and of Mr. C. H. Lackington (Private House) No. 12, Charles-Street, St. James’s-Square; also of the following Booksellers; Barker, Russell-Court, Drury-Lane; Marsom, No. 187, High Holborn; Lunn, Cambridge; Merrick, Oxford; Gander or Hodges, Sherborne; Hazard, Bath; Rollason, Coventry; Deck, Bury; Haydon, Plymouth; Edwards, Norwich; Bulgin, Bristol; Fisher, Newcastle; and also at Freeth’s Coffee House, Birmingham. [N.B.] To prevent Mistakes, those who send for any Books are desired, besides the Numbers, to send the first Words and the Prices of the Article they want. *** Book-Binding done in the newest Taste and exceeding cheap. [London]: n.p. [1792]

[4]  Sael, George: Sael’s Catalogue for 1792, consisting of Twenty Thousand Volumes […] [London]: George Sael [1792], p. 49.

[5] Renaudot, Eusèbe (transl., ed.): Anciennes Relations des Indes et de la Chine de deux voyageurs mahométans, qui y allèrent dans le neuvième siècle, traduites d’arabe (par l’abbé Eusèbe Renaudot), avec des remarques sur les principaux endroits de ces relations. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Coignard 1718.

[6] Renaudot, Eusèbe (ed.), Anon. (transl): Ancient accounts of India and China, by two Mohammedan travellers. Who went to those parts in the 9th century; translated from the Arabic by the late learned Eusebius Renaudot. With notes, illustrations and inquiries by the same hand. London: Printed for Samuel Harding 1733.

[7] Sael, George: Sael’s Catalogue for 1792, consisting of Twenty Thousand Volumes […] [London]: George Sael [1792], p. 46.

[8] Sael, George: A Catalogue of an extensive Collection of curious Books: with ancient Manuscripts, Missals, and Authors of uncommon Rarity, collected with much labour from various Parts of the Kingdom, and some elegant Libraries lately offered for Sale; the whole forming a great Variety of scarce and valuable Works in every Branch of Literature. […] And are now selling, for Ready Money only, at the low Prices printed in the Catalogue, by G. Sael, Bookseller, No. 20, Newcastle Street, Strand, London, where the full Value is given for Libraries and Parcels of Books, or Books exchanged. Catalogues may be had at the Place of Sale; of Mr. Richardson, at the Royal Exchange; Mess. Merrils, Cambridge; Jones, Chichester; Cooke & Palmer, Oxford; Hodges, Sherborne; Whittingham, Lynn; Bancks, Manchester; Dyer, Exeter; Poole, Chester; Binns, Leeds; Lowe, Birmingham; Bull […] [London]: George Sael [1794], p. 57: “1078 Renaudot’s Ancient Accounts of India and China, by two Mahommedan Travellers, who went there in the Ninth Century, neat, 5s 1733 *Gibbon, in his Roman History, makes honourable mention of this book, from which he has borrowed several particulars relating to his History.”

[9] Cf. the following catalogues:

  • Booth & Son: A Catalogue of Books, containing more than Twenty Thousand Volumes, including the Libraries of the Rev. John Brooke, D.D. Rector of Colney; the Rev. C. Topping, M.A. Vicar of Bradenham; and the Rev. J. Arnam, M.A. Rector of Postwick; and several other Collections; […] Which are now selling, 1789 (for ready Money) at the Prices in the Catalogue, by Booth and Son, Booksellers, Market-Place, Norwich. Catalogues to be had of Mr. Law, Ave Maria Lane, and Messrs. Wilkie, St. Paul’s Church Yard, London; the Booksellers in Lynn, Yarmouth, Bury, Cambridge, York, &c. and at the Place of Sale. [Norwich] [1789], p. 58: “1892 Renaudot’s Ancient Accounts of India and China, neat, 1s 6d 1733”.
  • Robson, James. A Catalogue of Books, comprehending many Libraries, particularly that of Robert Butler, Esq. and a General Officer, lately Deceased; Also the valuable Articles at the Pinelli Sale, intended for Abroad. Many capital Books of Prints, Natural History, Manuscripts, an Missals, finely illuminated. The whole in excellent Condition […] Which are now selling (1791) at the Prices affixed, for Ready Money only, by James Robson, Bookseller, in New Bond-Street. [N.B.] The full Value given for any Library or Parcel of Books. Catalogues, Price Six-pence, may be had at the Place of Sale; of Mr. Davis, Holborn; Mr. Law, Ave-Maria Lane; and Mr. Sewell, Cornhill. [London] [1791], p. 218: “6810 Renaudot’s Ancient Accounts of India and China, 3s 1733”
  • Simco, John: A catalogue of books, prints, and books of prints, For 1792. Consisting of a great variety of curious articles, Selected from the valuable Libraries which have been sold during the last Winter; consisting of antient Mss. and missals, illuminated on vellum and paper; capital books of prints, histories of counties, black-letter books, &c. […] The books are now selling, for ready money only, the price of every book printed in the catalogue, By John Simco, book and print seller, No. 11, Great Queen Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. Catalogues (price Sixpence) may be had of the following Booksellers, S. Hayes, No. 332, Oxford Street; Egerton, Whitehall; Sewell, Cornhill; Cook, Oxford; Merrills and Lunn, Cambridge; and Archer, Dublin. The full Value given for any Library or Parcel of Books, also Books exchanged. [London] [1792], p. 92: “2344 Renaudot’s (Eusebius) Ancient Accounts of India, and China, 3s 6d 1738”.
  • White, Benjamin & White, John: A Catalogue of an extensive and curious Collection of Books in every Language, and Class of Literature; containing two entire Valuable Libraries, and many costly Articles of Natural History; with a good Collection of Law Books. […] The sale will begin on Monday, the 13th of February, 1792, by Benjamin White and Sons, Booksellers, at Horace’s Head, in Fleet-Street, London. N.B. The Lowest Prices are marked in the Catalogue, and in the first Leaf of every Book. Catalogues may be had at the Place of Sale; also of Mr. Richard White, Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer, No. 76, Oxford-Street, opposite the Pantheon, and at Mr. Harris, Printseller, Sweeting’s Alley, Cornhill. [London] [1792], p. 343: “10916 Renaudot’s ancient Accounts of India and China, 4s 6d 1733”.
  • Edwards, James: A Catalogue of Books, in all Languages, and in every Branch of Literature, collected from various Parts of Europe. […] Now on Sale at J. Edwards’s, No. 77, Pall Mall, London. The Prices are printed in the Catalogue, and marked in the first Leaf of each Book. MDCCXVI. [London] 1796, p. 312: “7665 Renaudot’s Ancient Accounts of Persia [sic] and China, 3s 1733”.
  • Todd, John: J. Todd’s catalogue for 1794. A catalogue of a most valuable and curious collection of prints, drawings, books of prints, &c. amongst which are the entire collection of Marmaduke Tunstall of Wycliffe, Esq. lately deceased to which are added a select collection of books, in all languages, and in every class of literature, including the principal Part of the library of The late Right Hon. Lord Viscount Fairfax, Of Gilling Castle, in this Country, And several other Libraries and Parcels of Books lately purchased. The Whole will begin to be sold extremely Cheap, at the Prices printed in the Catalogue, on Monday, March 17, 1794, for Ready Money only, and continue on Sale till Christmas next, By J. Todd, Bookseller, Stationer, and Printseller, in Stonegate, York. – The full Value for Libraries, Parcels of Books, and Prints, in Ready Money. Catalogue, Price 1s. may be had of Mr. Johnson, Bookseller, St. Paul’s Church Yard, London, and at the Place of Sale. [York] [1794]: p. [174]: “5263 Renaudot’s Ancient Accounts of India and China, neat, 2s 1733”.

[10] Gibbon, Edward. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. By Edward Gibbon, Esq; Volume the first. London: printed for Strahan & Cadell 1776, p. 508–509: “Three bishops were consecrated by the hands of Demetrius, [509] and the number was increased to twenty by his successor Heraclas (162).” For note 162 see p. lxxiv: “[Notes on the fifteenth Chapter] (162) For the succession of the Alexandrian bishops, consult Renaudot’s History, p. 24, &c.”

[11] Gibbon, Edward. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. By Edward Gibbon, Esq; Volume the first. London: printed for Strahan & Cadell 1776, p.

[12] Renaudot, Eusèbe: Historia Patriarcharum Alexandrinorum Jacobitarum A D. Marco Usque Ad Finem Saeculi XIII: Cum Catalogo Sequentium Patriarcharum & collectaneis Historicis ad ultima tempora spectantibus; Inseruntur Multa Ad Res Ecclesiasticas Jacobitarum Patriarchatûs Antiocheni, Aethiopiae, Nubiae & Armeniae pertinentia, Paris: Fournier 1713.

[13] Gibbon, Edward: The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. By Edward Gibbon, Esq; Volume the Fourth, London: printed for Strahan and Cadell 1788.

[14] Gibbon, Edward: The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. By Edward Gibbon, Esq. A New Edition. London: printed for Strahan and Cadell, 12 vols., [1790].

Not Selling so Well: The Books of Thomas Gale

Camden’s Britannia and Anglica Normannica with manuscript additions by Thomas and Roger Gale in Thomas II Osborne’s sales catalogue for the spring of 1760

There is an update for this post!

Some of the information in this post has become outdated by later research. Please also visit this post here.

Friday n° 39, July 11th, 2019

Thomas Gale sired Roger Gale, and unto him passed on his books as he deceased, and Roger put them to good use, and all was well. Roger Gale sired Roger Henry Gale, and unto him passed on his books as he deceased, and Roger Henry put them on the market, and all was not so well anymore.

And that’s where today’s story begins. As I have already indicated in another post, Roger Gale (1672–1744) relied rather heavily on the library and notes he inherited from his father Thomas Gale, except from those volumes which Thomas Gale himself donated to Oxford and Cambridge. Roger Gale could use them very well, as they suited his own interests in Antiquarianism, which he pursued besides his political career as MP and Commissioner of the Excise and his duties as an estate proprietor in Scruton, Yorkshire. I did not know until now what became of these books when Roger Gale himself died in 1744 and passed his estate on to his son Roger Henry Gale (1710–1768), who did not share in the learned interests of his father.

Books on Sale

But ploughing diligently through heaps of auction catalogues I think I may now have assembled enough clues to bring a bit of light into the matter. For in his catalogue for the first half of 1760 the London bookseller Thomas II Osborne (c.1704–1767) advertised quite some books which were explicitly described as being heavily annotated by the hands of Thomas and/or Roger Gale:[1]

  • p. 12: “338 Herodotus, Gr. & Lat. cum multis addition. MSS. in margin. a T. Gale, 1l 11s 6d Francof. 1608”
  • p. 27: “735 Camdeni Britannia, cum addition. MSS. in margine a Tho. Gale, 1l 1s Lond. 1607”
  • p. 27: “736 [Camdeni] Anglica Normannica, &c. cum multis addition. MSS. a Roger Gale, 1l 1s Francof. 1602”
  • p. 27: “732 Matthaei Westmonast. Flores Histor. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Viri Erud. Gale, 1l 11s 6d Francof. 1601”
  • p. 42: “1272 Vetus Testamentum juxta Septuaginta, Gr. cum multis additionib. MSS. a Tho. Gale, 5l 5s Rom. 1587”
  • p. 51: “1570 Budaei & al. Dictionarium, Gr. & Lat. inferfol. in 4 vol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Gale, 3l 3s ib. [=Basel] 1565”
  • p. 51: “1593 Idem [= Gesneri Bibliotheca Universalis Tiguri 1545], 2 vol. interfol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Tho. Gale, 1l 1s”
  • p. 52: “1621 Suidae Lexicon, Gr. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Gale, 2l 2s Basil. apud. Froben. 1544”
  • p. 186: “6374 Rawlinson’s English Topographer,[2] 2 vol. with MSS. Additions [by] Mr. [Roger, TW] Gale, interleaved, 1l 1s”

As these had not been part of Osborne’s catalogues before,[3] the sale must have taken place sometime around the second half of 1759, before the first catalogue for 1760 went to the press, but after the second catalogue for 1759 saw print.[4] Now Osborne was notorious for on the one hand running the largest second-hand book store in London, with a regular stock of some 14.000 titles, but also for not being able to judge any of the volumes on his shelves for their content. He nevertheless has been described as having a good intuition when it came to valuing his stock.[5] This lead him to label the nine volumes quoted above, all of which I take to be coming from the library of the late Roger Gale, 17 £ 11 shilling in total, quite a heavy sum in 1760.

Books still on Sale…

Perhaps too heavy a sum for his customers, for in 1761 he still had six of these volumes on his list:[6]

  • S. 23: “586 Herodotus, Gr. & Lat. cum multis addition. Mss. in margine, a T. Gale, 1l 11s 6d ib. [=Frankfurt] 1608”
  • S. 28: “741 Budaei & ak. Dictionarium, Gr. & Lat. interfol. in 4 vol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Gale, 3l 3s ib. [=Basel] 1565”
  • S. 28: “765 Idem [=Gesneri Bibliotheca Universalis], 2 vol. interfol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Tho. Gale, 1l 1s [Zürich 1545]”
  • S. 29: “794 Suidae Lexicon, Gr. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Gale, 2l 2s Basil. apud Froben. 1544”
  • S. 31: “888 Camdeni Britannia, cum addition. MSS. in margine a Tho Gale, 1l 1s Lond. 1607
  • S. 58: “1797 Vetus Testamentum juxta Septuaginta, Gr. cum multis additionib. MSS. a Tho. Gale, 5l 5s Rom. 1587”

And, surprisingly, Osborne now listed yet another title with manuscript annotations by Gale.[7]

  • S. 26: “675 Idem [=Platonis Opera omnia], Graece, cum var. Observat. Mss. in margine T. Gale, 2l 2s ib. [=Basel] 1534”

Moreover, the three titles which had been sold from the original list were those featuring annotations by Roger Gale, which may indicate that Thomas Gale’s notes did not spark so much interest amongst contemporary scholars as had been expected:

  • p. 27: “736 [Camdeni] Anglica Normannica, &c. cum multis addition. MSS. a Roger Gale, 1l 1s Francof. 1602”
  • p. 27: “732 Matthaei Westmonast. Flores Histor. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Viri Erud. Gale, 1l 11s 6d Francof. 1601”
  • p. 186: “6374 Rawlinson’s English Topographer, 2 vol. with MSS. Additions [by] Mr. [Roger, TW] Gale, interleaved, 1l 1s”

Together these three volumes accounted for 3 £ 13 shilling, while the addition of the annotated Plato was valued at 2 £ 2 shilling, so that Osborne still had Gale-annotated tiles totalling exactly 16 £ in his books. Things eventually got better, though. In 1762 the catalogue noted only three leftovers from the original list (which still amounts to over 40% of it):[8]

  • S. 8: “239 Budaei & al. Dictionarium, Gr. & Lat. interfol. in 4 vol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Gale, 2l 12s 6d ib. [=Basel] 1565”
  • S. 19: “646 Camdeni Britannia, cum addition. MSS. in Margine a Tho. Gale, 1l 1s Lond. 1607”
  • S. 44: “1380 Vetus Testamentum juxta Septuaginta, Gr. cum multis additionib. MSS. a Tho. Gale, 4l 4s Rom. 1587

Value for Money?

Those titles together totalled only 7 £ 17 shilling now, slightly below 50% of the original list’s value, but that was due to a change in mind concerning the most heavily priced item on the list, the 1587 Septuagint with Gale’s additions. Having for two years not sold it for the originally estimated 5 £ 5 shillings, Osborne cut down the price by 20% and offered it for 4 £ 4 shilling now.

How much of a premium was accorded Gale’s annotations by Osborne can for the first time be seen directly in the 1762 catalogue, too, as it listed after n° 239, Guillaume Budé’s (1480–1540) Greek-Latin dictionary,[9] a comparable item: “240 Idem, absque addition. MSS. 10s 6d Basil. 1563”,[10] which was thought to fetch only about one fifth of that which once belonged to, and was written in by, the dean of York. Gale’s notes thus seem to have served, at least for this particular item, to quintuple its value – a bit over the top, I’d say (but obviously not worth changing, this price stayed the same). An unknown scholar’s annotations for the third copy on the list only served to raise the price by 4 shilling sixpence. A similar, but not as drastic, case is Conrad Gesner’s (1516–1565) Bibliotheca Universalis,[11] which in the 1759 catalogue was 1l 1 shilling with Gale’s additions and 10 shilling sixpence without, or half the price.

Perhaps the price cut for the Septuagint also influenced the estimate put to yet another Gale title to appear on the list in 1762, this time annotated by Roger Gale, bringing the total up to four items totalling 8 £ 2 shilling:[12]

  • S. 199: “7109 Knowledge of Medals, with MSS. Observations and Additions by Roger Gale, 5s 1715”

Patterns of Sale vs. Patterns of Reference

What becomes visible here is an interesting pattern of Osborne’s in putting his annotated Gale volumes on the market, although these conclusions need to be taken as preliminary, as the evidence is a bit shaky; not all of Osborne’s catalogues have survived.[13] But from what I have seen and related above, it looks like as if Osborne had not first of all not put ‘Roger Gale, Esq, lately deceased’ or something the like on the title page of his next catalogue when he purchased the books, but had rather been content with having them encompassed by “And of several other Eminent Genlemen, lately deceased”.[14] As Thomas Gale in 1760, when the sale would begin, was dead for 58 years, and his son Roger also for 16 years already, this seems quite sensible. Their deaths would not have been fresh in the memory of the contemporaries anymore, and thus their names would probably only have drawn a very limited circle of customers. This might also have been caused by the dimensions of the sale, which I don’t know. Only the annotated volumes are easily singled out, as other volumes which might have belonged to father or son Gale are not marked in the catalogue and thus not identifiable.

But even the nine annotated volumes Osborne put on sale between 1760 and 1762 will in all likelihood not have been all that Thomas Gale had annotated and left to his son, or that Roger Gale had annotated with his own hands. Which tempts me to think that only a part of the library had been sold, perhaps to make room, and not everything, for instance no manuscript volumes. And from the adding of new items each time others had been sold, it seems that Osborne had put some of them in store, and only offered them one after the other, although I’m not really sure what the reason for this would have been. From the rather long drawn-out sales processes it does not look like as if he would have spoiled the market in releasing too many at once. For in 1762 the story was not yet at its end.

When Osborne announced that from now on his catalogues would employ a new system to make better accessible to his customers in 1766, two old acquaintances showed up again:[15]

  • S. 12: “434 [Budaei] Idem [=Constantini & al. Lexicon, Gr. Lat. 2 vol.], interfol. cum addition. MSS. Gale, 4 vol. 2l 2s ib. [=Basel] 1565”
  • S. 15: “548 [Camdeni Britanniae] cum tab. geo. & addit. MSS. in margine a J. [sic, =T.?] Gale, 1l 1s ib. [=London] 1607”

That is, if the second one, the edition of William Camden’s (1551–1623) Britannia,[16] is the same as noted in Osborne’s catalogues for the first time in 1759 as “735 Camdeni Britannia, cum addition. MSS. in margine a Tho. Gale, 1l 1s Lond. 1607”.[17] I must confess that I would rather take the “J.” in the 1766 catalogue as a misprint for “T.” than believe that the Baptist preacher and theologian John Gale (1680–1721) who never displayed any interest in historical geography had annotated a copy of the same edition of Camden’s work as his not-related namesake, the dean of York. Osborne’s catalogues were shoddy work more often than not, aiming at quick profit rather than at scholarly exactitude, and both Drs Gale were mistaken for each other sometimes, the more often the longer both were dead. Unless proven wrong by other sources, I will settle for this item to be that which I already know. Which leaves me with two of the nine Gale-annotated volumes put on sale by Thomas Osborne still being unsold six years later, one of them being the Budé dictionary which I already suspected to have been slightly overrated in accessing its price. Well, at least Osborne had managed to get rid of the Septuagint, although I don’t know how much it fetched in the end.

Remembrance, fading

In 1759 Thomas Osborne did not think either Gale sr. nor jr. suitable as headline figures to promote the sales catalogue for the upcoming year, although he had just bought at least a part of their library. He did nevertheless account their manuscript additions to some of the books he had acquired as increasing their worth considerably, but realising this added value proved to be a quite long drawn-out process in the course of which Osborne at least once had to correct overly optimistic calculations. Taking these book market conjunctures as indicative of the larger conjunctures in the scholarly community, at least for the London of the 1760s I can say that Thomas Gale’s star had sunken, though not yet disappeared. His son’s name obviously guaranteed a faster turnaround of books annotated from his, Roger Gale’s, hand, although at lower overall prices – what may be directly related to the lesser relative distance in time of Roger, who was but 14 years dead in 1760, compared to Thomas, whose death had befallen 58 years ago, to the catalogue’s readers. If this was the case, though, obviously Thomas Gale’s scholarly achievements did not compensate for the chronological distance, or only to a group of people too small to make much of a difference. Which in turn might be taken to say something interesting concerning the balance of different factors in social memories active in processes of getting structurally forgotten, but this is something I’ll still have to think about.   


[1] Osborne, Thomas: A catalogue of the libraries of that learned antiquarian Edmund Sawyer, Esq; (Late one of the Masters of the High Court of Chancery;) And of several other Eminent Genlemen, lately deceased; Containing many Thousand Volumes of the most approved Authors in all Languages, Arts and Science. […] Which will begin to be sold on the first day of January 1760, and continue selling for one year, (the lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, without any Abatement, and for Ready Money only) at T. Osborne’s in Gray’s-Inn. Where may be had Money for any Library or Parcel of Books, Prints, or Manuscripts. Catalogues may be had of the Booksellers in all the chief Cities and noted Towns in Europe, and at the Place of Sale. N.B. To be disposed of, some curious Manuscript Sermons of an eminent Divine, lately deceased, which will be warranted Originals, [London], [1759/60]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Document Number: CW3316875388.

[2] Most likely this title: Richard Rawlinson: The english topographer: or, an historical account, (as far as can be Collected from Printed Books and Manuscripts) of all the pieces that have been written relating to the antiquities, natural history, or topographical description of any part of England. Alphabetically digested, and illustrated with the Draughts of several very Curious old seals, exactly Engraven from their respective Originals. By an impartial hand, London: printed for T. Jauncy at the Angel without Temple-Bar, 1720. The manuscript additions thus would have to be of Roger Gale’s hand, as Thomas Gale was 18 years dead when the book appeared in print.

[3] Cf. the 1758 catalogue: T. Osborne, J. Shipton. The third part of a catalogue of the large and valuable stock of bound books of T. Osborne and J. Shipton, (the Partnership being amicably Dissolved) Which will be sold by auction, In the Great Room up One Pair of Stairs, at the East End of Exeter-Change, on Monday the 6th of March, and be continued every Evening, exactly at Six O’Clock, till Saturday, March the 25th. The books may be viewed on Wednesday the 1st of March, and every Day after, from Ten to Two O’Clock, till the Day of Sale. Catalogues may be had of the Booksellers of Oxford, Cambridge, and Eton, at T. Osborne’s in Gray’s-Inn, W. Shropshire’s Bookseller in New Bond-Street, and at the Auction-Room. Price Six-Pence. The Fourth Part of this Catalogue, containing a curious Collection of Books, Prints, Drawings, &c. by the most eminent Masters, will positively begin selling on Monday, April 3d, and the following Evenings. [London]: n.p., [1758]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Document Number: CW116632955.

[4] This is however a bit difficult to determine exactly, as only one catalogue each from 1758 and 1759 has been accessible to me so far.

[5]Brack, O. M. 2008 “Osborne, Thomas (bap. 1704?, d. 1767), bookseller.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 9 Jul. 2019. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-20885.

[6] Osborne, Thomas. A catalogue for the year 1761, of the libraries of the Hon. Augustus George Egerland, The Learned and Eminent Physician Dr. George Hepburn, of King’s Lynn in Norfolk; Dr. Edward Hody, Physician to St. George’s Hospital; and many other Gentlemen, lately deceased; containing many Thousand Volumes of the most Scarce and Valuable Books, in all Languages. Great Numbers on Large Paper, bound in Morocco and Russia Leather, and other rich Bindings. […] Which will begin to be sold this day (the lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, for Ready Money only) and will continue daily selling ’till the First of January 1762. At T. Osborne’s in Gray’s-Inn. Catalogues may be had at all the Chief Cities and noted Towns in Europe, and at the Place of Sale. Where may be had Money for any Library or Parcel of Books, Prints or Manuscripts, [London] [1761. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Document Number: CW3325362744.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Osborne, Thomas. The first volume of a catalogue of the libraries of the Rev. Mr. Dongworth, of Durham, Dr. Green, of Spalding, Henry Anderson, Esq; of the Temple, And many other Gentlemen, lately deceascd; Consisting of Near One Hundred Thousand Volumes, Of the most Scarce and Valuable Books,) Prints, Books of Prints, and Manuscripts, In all Languages, Arts and Sciences: Great Numbers on large Paper, most elegantly bound in the richest Bindings. Which will begin to be sold this Day (the lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, for Ready Money only) and, for the Conveniency of Gentlemen abroad, will continue daily selling ’till the First of January 1763. At T. Osborne’s, in Gray’s Inn. Catalogues may be had at all the Chief Cities and noted Towns in Europe, and at the Place of Sale. Where may be had Money for any Library or parcel of Books, Prints or Manuscripts. The most valuable Manuscript Sermons of the late Reverend Mr. Dongworth are to be disposed of. [London]: n.p., [1762]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale Document Number: CW3316649518

[9] Guillaume Budé et al.: Lexikon Hellēnorōmaikon, Hoc est, Dictionarivm Graecolatinum : supra omnes editiones postremo Nvnc Hoc Anno Ex Variis Et multis praestantioribus linguae Græcæ authoribus, commentarijs, thesauris & accesionibus, non duntaxat allegationum, sed etiam plurimarum uocum simplicium auctario locupletatum, illustratum & emendatum, Basel: Henricpetri 1565.

[10] Ibid, p. 8.

[11] Conrad Gesner: Bibliotheca vniversalis, siue catalogus omnium scriptorum locupletissimus, in tribus linguis, Latina, Graeca et Hebraica: extantium et non extantium, ueterum et recentiorum in hunc usque diem, doctorum et indoctorum, publicatorum et in bibliothecis latentium, Zürich: Froschauer 1545.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Brack 2008.

[14] Osborne [1759/1760], title.

[15] Osborne, Thomas. A catalogue of a farther part of the stock of T. Osborne, Bookseller, in Gray’s-Inn. Vol. IIId, for the year 1766. (The lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, for ready Money only.) Which will be selling every day (Sundays excepted) to the First of January 1767. Containing the largest most curious and valuable Collection of Books, in all Languages, Manuscripts, Prints, Books of Prints and Drawings, that have been exposed to Sale for many years […] Many of the Books are on the larger Paper, being the Libraries of the following Gentlemen, and many others deceased, Viz. Dr. James Sherrard, and his brother the Consul at Smyrna. The Hon. Adm. Lestock […]. Wm. Eyre, Esq; Serjeant at Law. The Hon. Gen. Murray. Mr. Alderman Dickenson, Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means. The Rev. Mr. Bryan, Editor of Plutarch, at the Recommendation of Dr. Hare, Bishop of Chichester. Dr. Monk of Walthamstow. Samuel Berkley, Esq; one of the Benchers of the Hon. Society of Gray’s-Inn. As likewise, the Rev. Mr. Noble, Afternoon Preacher to the said Society. […] The Catalogue is made in a New Method, so that any Person, at any Time, may find out any Book, &c., they may want. […] Vol. 3. [London], [1766]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Document Number: CW3306652960.

[16] William Camden: Britannia Sive Florentissimorum Regnorum Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae, Et Insularum adiacentium ex intima antiquitate Chorographica descriptio, London: Bishop & Norton 1607.

[17] Osborne [1759], p. 27.

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].

How Books circulate

Thomas Gale’s non-Britain printed titles in an English auction catalogue

Friday n° 32, May 24th, 2019

As good as new

The early modern learned book was, for most of its lifetime, a second-hand book. There are a number of reasons for this: Editions, especially first editions (and many of these books never made it into a second edition) were usually done in small print runs, so that there not so many exemplars per title around from the start. The public or institutional library landscape was underdeveloped, and even if an institutional library existed in reach of a given scholar, this did not mean that access was without problems. Often libraries would not loan, and something like today’s interlibrary loan systems was not even invented. And with the concept of scientific progress not as radically conceptualized as today, scholarly results kept their validity for a longer time, and with them the books which they were laid down in. So if a given title achieved a certain notoriety, and the generic 18th century scholar wanted to use it, the best option was to buy. And as there likely were no new copies around anymore, especially if some years had already passed since it had been printed, the best option to buy was to buy second-hand. This is important in discussing processes of fading from the memory of the scientific community because one might easily argue that as long as that community bought your books, it didn’t forget you. So to constantly be in the trade, that is, appearing on the lists of the auction catalogues, would equal being in circulation and constant demand, and thus rather not structurally forgotten.

The Used Book Market

There was a lively trade in used scholarly books which facilitated this kind of book circulation, which in turn was stabilized by the economic circumstances in which 18th century scholarship existed. Given the fact that social welfare systems and pension funds were underdeveloped, too, a well-stocked library represented a considerable stock of capital which could be liquidated if need be. In cases of death, poverty, exile, or persecution by authorities, scholarly libraries were sold off, voluntarily or involuntarily, in irregular intervals.

This usually happened in form of large-scale book auctions, which, depending on the size of the library involved, could take weeks and months until completed. For the purpose of these auctions catalogues of the items on sale were printed and distributed far and wide to attract potential customers which – as the overall density of scholars was low for most places in Europe – might also be scattered widely. Boring as they are to the reader, consisting of nothing than lists of titles, dates, sometimes prizes and small descriptions in case a volume sported some extras such as illustrations or manuscript annotations, these catalogues contain valuable information about which kind of information was available at a given time at a given place in early modern Europe.

Library auction catalogues have survived in great quantities but are only slowly beginning to be made available for research purposes, so the question always is how to build a instructive sample for a given research question. One possibility which I am making use of is to go via Eighteenth Century Collections Online (link) because these digitized materials are full-text searchable.

Used Books, Forgetting…

Now what do British auction catalogues reveal about the reference patterns connected to my four protagonists? There are a number of hypotheses which may be tested by such a sample.

Hypothesis I

First, the British market for used scholarly books vastly expanded coupled with the economic and politic rise of the country during the 18th century, and that meant that to meet demand literature had to be imported on a large scale from the continent. Already in 1702 sales catalogues advertised books “lately brought from France and Holland” stemming from prestigious former owners such as Johan de Wit (1662-1701) and Constantijn Huygens (1628-1697).[1] This might lead to a large proportion of continentally printed books in these catalogues, which would favour my three non-British protagonists Braun, Reland, and Renaudot.

Hypothesis II

But, second, of course there were British scholars also whose works were printed in Oxford, Cambridge, and London; so this might lead to a greater number of locally produced works, favouring the non-continental scholar amongst the four, Thomas Gale.   

Hypotheses III

Third, it seems likely that there was an incubation phase between a book being bought as it came from press and binder and between this book being re-sold at the auction of the library, namely the time in which the library’s owner used his books himself. Then my protagonist’s books would only hit the second-hand market with a delay of several years, favouring those works printed earlier. On the other hand, sudden death was an ever-present risk at the time, so that it might well be the case that owners died soon after buying a particular book, setting it free again.

Hypothesis IV

Fourth, geographical proximity between the Netherlands and Britain might facilitate the import of Dutch books, which might result in giving Reland and Braun a comparative advantage on the British market compared to Eusèbe Renaudot from France.

… and: testing!

To put these assumptions to the test I am currently bolstering up those data I already gathered three years ago on Reland’s and Braun’s books in auction catalogues in ECCO with those for Gale and Renaudot also. This is a time-consuming process even with the advantage of conducting full-text searches, but I can give at least some preliminary sketches for the situation in the first decades of the 18th century. What you see here is the statistical breakdown of 21 auction catalogues listing works by my protagonists, from the first one I have found so far (appearing in 1720) until the year 1740. That the number of catalogues matches the years is coincidental, as I for some years I did not yet find any matching results, and two or three for others. While this is in no way a statistically representative sample it nevertheless shows some interesting trends.

The works of Braun, Gale, Reland, and Renaudot in 21 British auction catalogues between 1720 and 1740

H I: Rather not…

First, the import of books from the continent obviously really favoured one of my continental protagonists, and this was Adriaan Reland, whose books got the second most listings of all four: 39 in total.

H II: …also not really.

But, second, local origin seems to have beaten it, because Thomas Gale scored first place with 54 listings of his works in total in these 21 catalogues. Or the reason for this might, at least partly, be that Gale’s books were on average older than Reland’s, as Gale had started publishing in the mid-1670s when Reland was just born.

H III: Not very likely…

But, third, time seems not to have been the all-important factor, otherwise Gale and Braun as the elder scholars who began publishing earlier would be scoring higher than Reland and Renaudot who both published much later. And although Renaudot is, with only seven listings of works by him in these 21 catalogues, the scholar least referred in terms of this sample, the publication date of his works is likely not the issue here, because six of these seven listings go to the same work, his 1718 Anciennes Relations des Indes et de la Chine de deux voyageurs mahométans,[2] or even its 1733 English translation.

H IV: …and not decisive, too.

Fourth, geographical proximity also seems not to be the decisive factor. Although Renaudot’s works are listed only a couple of times, the catalogues do frequently list other French and Latin titles printed in France. In fact, two of Thomas Gale’s works which circulated on the British second hand market had been printed abroad, in Paris[3] and Amsterdam[4]. And between the two scholars whose works originated from Dutch presses, Braun and Reland, the difference is virtually as large as that between Reland and Renaudot – where Renaudot scored seven listings, Braun scored eight.

To be continued! (In two weeks, though)

So if none of the four hypotheses I wanted to test by this first small sample has real explanatory power, what has? And does this mean that Renaudot and Braun were comparatively much more forgotten than Gale and Reland, at least within the reference frame of the British used book trade? Well, this will become clearer in two weeks’ time, I hope – I do have some days off next week, so there will be no Research weekly on May 31st. Gives me more time to complete the sample, so let’s see what this will show, then.


[1] Catalogue of books, in Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, and French. Collected chiefly from the libraries of John de Wit, Constantin Huygens, and Frederick Spanheim. With divers curious editions of ancient and modern authors, and most of the classics printed by Aldus, Rob. Stephans, Christ. Plantin, Old Elzevir, and Gryphius. Lately brought from France and Holland. With a curious parcel of prints. To be sold by auction, in Exeter-Exchange, at the west-end, up stairs. On Wednesday the 25th of February, 1701/2. Catalogues are sold for 6d. apiece by Mr. Hensman in Westminster-Hall, Edw. Castle next Scotland-Yard-Gate near Whitehal, P. Varenn at Seneca’s-Head near Somerset-house, Mr. Wotton at the 3 Daggers near the Temple-Gate, J. Knapton at the Crown in Pauls-Church-Yard, Rich. Parker under the Piazza’s of the Royal-Exchange, H. Clemens in Oxford, and Edm. Jefferies in Cambridge. The books may be view’d five days before the sale begins. [London ],  [1702].

[2] Eusèbe Renaudot (ed.): Anciennes Relations des Indes et de la Chine de deux voyageurs mahométans, qui y allèrent dans le neuvième siècle [Texte imprimé], traduites d’arabe (par l’abbé Eusèbe Renaudot), avec des remarques sur les principaux endroits de ces relations, Paris : Coignard 1718.

[3] Thomas Gale: Historiæ Poeticæ Scriptores Antiqui : Apollodorus Atheniensis. Ptolemæus Hephæst. F. Conon Grammaticus. Parthenius Nicaensis. Antoninus Liberalis ; Græcè & Latinè ; Acceßêre breves Notæ & Indices necessarij, Paris: Muguet 1675.  

[4] Thomas Gale: Opuscula mythologica, physica et ethica graece et latine ; Seriem eorum sistit pagina praefationem proxime sequens, Amsterdam : Wetstein 1688.