Tag Archives: Great Britain

Charts and Dictionaries

My protagonists as they appear in 93 encyclopaedic works covering the 18th and 19th centuries

Sunday, 4th of August, 2019, for Friday n° 42

PS: There will be no post for Friday the 9th and 16th of August as I will be on vacation. I’ll be back with new stuff on August 23rd. Have a good time!

80.8 %

Over the last week I have been busy finalizing my sample of encyclopaedic works in which I tracked the appearances my four protagonists made over the course of almost two centuries, from 1715 until 1898, when the earliest[1] and latest works[2] from that list got printed. It now consists of 115 titles, 98 of which are bio-bibliographical dictionaries, and 17 are general encyclopaedias (such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, for instance).[3] My aim in compiling this set of dictionaries was to get a grip on the representation of scholars in general and especially my protagonists in biographical dictionaries, which – alongside other kinds of encyclopaedic titles – constituted a hughely popular medium for the communication and circulation of information in the 18th, but even more so in the 19th century. To be able to do so I have included specialized biographical dictionaries focusing on scholars and men of letters as well as general biographical dictionaries promising to include the famous men (and sometimes women) of all ages and nations. I did include re-editions, but no reprints, that is, I left out textually unchanged re-editions, because I am interesting in changes rather than continuities; but I admit that this might be a questionable decision (but you just have to cut it somewhere). There are works in five languages in my sample – Dutch, English, French, German, and Latin – to cover the main areas my inquiries so far have revolved around, although English and French works, quite to my suprise, really seem to have dominated the field. Only six titles are in Latin, five from the 18th century and one from 1819 (but that was a dictionary of Latin-writing poets, so the subject matter dictated the language of the book, I guess). That all the rest are in the vernacular testifies to the genre catering to an at least semi-popular audience from early on, at least from the middle of the 18th century. All the more interesting is that 93 out of these 115 titles I surveyed feature at least one of my protagonists, which amounts to 80.8 % of the sample, and was a lot more than I initially expected.

Some Charts for more Details

The work-in-progress charts I have given in my earlier posts on this subject (see here, here, and here) have not been rendered unusable by those I am now able to draw from the full set, which is a good thing because I don’t have to litter those blog posts with disclaimers now but most of all because this indicates that I really have captured a broader trend now, and that adding more dictionaries would perhaps add some details here or there but would not change the general message of the sample. So in breaking the somewhat unwieldy general graph for all my protagonists over the whole sample combined (as seen above) down into some more selective charts I can now throw these general trends into sharper relief than before. Alright, then, let’s have some colorful diagrams. [One disclaimer ahead: Since there are only six Latin dictionaries in the sample, I did not draw separate charts for them.]

Four National Diagrams

I have been hesitating a bit if this heading would be the right way to put it. But the longer I think of it the more I am convinced that it actually is. For what I did do in putting together the four graphs you will now see below was first of all assembling them into language groups irrespective of national delineations, which meant that French-language dictionaries from today’s Belgium or the Netherlands ended up in the French sample, and British and US dictionaries in the English sample, and – at least theoretically – dictionaries from all over central Europe in the German sample. It turned out that the last just was not the case, and that the others did not present much of a problem, with the only exception of two French-language Dutch dictionaries which took a very firm Dutch nationalist stance. In each of these graphs, therefore, the general trend is one that is points to that sharing a language obviously also meant to share certain points of view in 18th and 19th century biographical dictionary making.

German Dictionaries

My protagonists in German-language dictionaries from my sample

Let’s start with the German dictionaries, as they are chronologically the earliest. What’s interesting here is that there are three clearly separated periods visible in the diagram, each with its own peculiar characteristics. First there is a strong start in the early 18th century, and during this time all my protagonists do get quite an equal share of attention. This changes when, after a slump in the 1760s and 1770s, in the closing decades of the 18th and the opening decades of the 19th century Johannes Braun gets out of focus, and Adriaan Reland and Eusèbe Renaudot attract more attention than Thomas Gale. And finally, there is a rise towards the end of the 19th century, this time centering exclusively on Adriaan Reland, and re-introducing Eusèbe Renaudot who like Johannes Braun had disappeared from this sample since the 1810s (only that Braun did not make it back).

All three periods are most likely attributable to disciplinary rather than nationalist patterns. The first ties in with the German preeminence in the discipline called historia litteraria in the early 18th century, that is, learned biography and history of arts and sciences, as we would call it today. As the main criterion for inclusion into this was learning, not origin, all my protagonists stood a fair chance. The second seems connected to the rise of philology and Oriental studies in German universities, which focused attention on those two of my protagonists who had conducted most of their work in this direction, Reland and Renaudot; and the third is directly attributable (but this is a story for a post of its own) to the rise of Religionswissenschaft, religious studies, and the accompanying dictionaries, from the middle of the 19th century, which lead to an interest in Reland because of his Islamic studies, and to a renewed interest in Renaudot as an editor of sources from the Eastern churches. That German nationalism does not play much of a role in this part of the sample seems caused by the simple fact that none of my protagonists seemed to qualify as German to 19th century observers. In those dictionaries which had a clear focus on the German-ness of those portrayed, none of my protagonists is listed. Which is interesting as Johannes Braun was of German birth, but as he emigrated with his mother at the age of seven in 1635 and permanently settled in the Netherlands, this seems to have disqualified him from being taken into account in biographical works of this kind.

English Dictionaries

My protagonists in English-language dictionaries from my sample

English-language dictionaries are the next to rise, so they come in second. The pattern is visibly distinct from that of the German case, as it shows a steady and steep rise in the first half of the 19th century after a slow take-off in the late 18th century, with only a slight decline in the second half of the 19th century. This is connected to a characteristic of the British dictionary production which becomes pronounced in the 19th century, and that is a predilection for popular works on the one hand – or perhaps I should better say, works accessible to and catering to a broad audience – and a similar predilection for one-volume handbooks even if they frequently ran to 1000+ pages (it seems to have been important that you only needed to buy one volume). Of course there were larger series, too, titles with 10, 20, or 30 volumes, but alongside these there were plenty of their one-volume companions. That they catered to a broader audience meant that they were less oriented to specialists and more to the average educated and at least middle-class Englishman who would and could be interested in buying such a book. This in turn made them put a heavier accent on British nationals, since the average educated middle-class Englishman was supposed to be more interested in those then in reading about foreigners, however famous they might be. This explains the preponderance of Thomas Gale in this sample; and the focus on persons somehow connect with Britain explains why Johannes Braun is almost absent. He had no direct connections to anything British, whereas Adriaan Reland had been in contact with a range of British scholars and had been a member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and accordingly his works had been picked up by other British scholars in time. And Eusèbe Renaudot was, although this was a bit more indirect (which might serve to explain the lower figures for him), as a member of two French Royal Academies and thus part of the scholarly elite of the n°1 rival to Britain during most of the 19th century of interest to a British public, too. That Johannes Braun did make his way in, though, was due to the sheer size of the English-language market (which included the US after all), where there were niches for many bio-bibliographical dictionaries, including some more comprehensive in scope or more specialist in approach, which would feature him.

French dictionaries

My protagonists in French-language dictionaries from my sample

Now it’s time for the French dictionaries. The pattern is interestingly similar to the English case, but different enough to tell its own story. After a moderate peak in the late 18th century – the last days of the Ancien Regime – the great rise comes a bit later than for the English-language works and reaches its peak in the 1840s and 1850s before declining more visibly towards the end of the century. As in the English case this seems mainly to be due to the preeminence of a certain form of biographical dictionary on the French market, and that was the completely comprehensive all-encompassing multi-volume series. The prime exponent of these was the Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne of the brothers Michaud, who produced 56 volumes plus another 29 supplementary volumes of this dictionary between 1811 and 1858 in Paris; but there were other rivalling and not much smaller series, too. To me this seems to have been due to the greater marketabiilty in a pan-European context of a French-language against an English-language dictionary. The British and the Americans spoke English, but all of Continental Europe knew French as a second language. This made it lucrative not only to produce handbooks for domestic use but those larger series which would only net interesting returns if enough items sold; but if enough demand was there, they would net these profits over decades. One the one hand the universal scope and the enourmous breadth of these universal biographies made it likely that almost everyone who had ever distinguished himself had a chance of ending up there; but on the other hand the French language and the production in France made a national bias quite likely, and that frequently came to pass.

And this now is what explains the surprising high frequency of Johannes Braun, who largely was absent from the previous two samples. Although Braun had had almost no ties to his native Germany and even less to the British isles, he had lived in French-speaking Lorraine for a while before moving to the Netherlands and had for several years served as the preacher of the French Calvinist church of Nijmegen. He also had published some writings in French. All of this made him appear frequently in French dictionaries, although the question of his nationality was almost always discussed in the respective entries – was he German or Dutch?

That Eusèbe Renaudot figures prominently in the French dictionaries does not come as a surprise; it is rather surprising that he does not figure even more prominently, and that Adriaan Reland outstrips him towards the end of the century. I am not yet sure about the reason for the first, but the seconds seems to be connected to French Orientalism and the colonial conquests of Northern Africa which made anyone writing about Islam and Arabic interesting for political reasons; and although Renaudot had been knowledgeable on both these subjects, he had not written about them and rather edited Coptic liturgies, which were not so much in fashion in 19th century France (what of course cannot be blamed on him in any way).

Dutch Dictionaries

My protagonists in Dutch-language dictionaries from my sample

Last but not least: the Dutch case! Well, to be honest, the number of Dutch language dictionaries is fairly low in the sample compared to English and French; I found only 13 relevant titles (and one of them does not mention any of my protagonists). But these titles are interesting nevertheless as they exemplify every type of dictionary the other cases feature – from one-volume handbooks to large series to general encyclopaedias, from specialist to popular works – and as they, being produced solely for a domestic market, from the beginning had a very strong Dutch focus. This becomes instantly visible from the diagram where Gale and Renaudot are virtually absent and Braun and Reland are the only ones really in circulation. The Dutch had no problem in assimilating Braun. And even the rise in Braun and Reland being discussed in the middle of the 19th century is directly connected with this kind of nationally framed discourse: this period saw the rise of the national biographies of the Netherlands on the one hand and the extended treatment of the religious landscape of Dutch Calvinism as a (at least officially) national creed on the other hand. And in both respects Braun and Reland came to attention.

Conclusions

The conclusion that seems evident to me is two-pronged. First it obviously did matter if a scholar could be fitted into a nationally framed context of reference for him to be included into the dictionaries of a language family, which seem to have been aligned closer and earlier with national leanings than one might be tempted to assume (at least I can say that for me). But second this alone was not enough: To be circulated within such national framings did not suffice to be kept in general circulation, which becomes visible in the case of Johannes Braun who dropt out being referred to in the second half of the 19th century altough he had been kept (somewhat) current by such patterns before. What was necessary to stay around in a broader way was to allow for many different connections and identifications, and that is exemplified by the jack-of-all-trades Adriaan Reland, who had had personal connections to people everywhere and disciplinary and thematical connections to a large scope of subjects and topics and thus could be referred to in many different ways, much more than any of my other protagonists.


[1] Christian Gottlieb Jöcher: Compendiöses Gelehrten-Lexicon, Leipzig: Gleditsch 1715.

[2] Groome, Francis Hindes; Patrick, David (eds.): Chambers’s biographical dictionary; the great of all times and nations, Philadelphia (Mass.): Lipincott 1898.

[3] The full list will be available here soon.

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].

Transferring Structual Remembrances

John Nichols, Binding directions for Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, vol. 3, 1790

Friday n° 40, July 19th, 2019

“The plan of this Number was suggested by a valuable collection of Letters that passed between Mr. R. Gale and some of the most eminent Antiquaries of his time, which had been presented by his grandson to Mr. George Allan of Darlington. This gentleman, with the indefatigable diligence which distinguishes all his pursuits, transcribed them all into three quarto volumes, and communicated them to Mr. Gough, with a wish that in some mode or other they might be made public.”[1]

John Nichols, in: Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, No. 2, part 1, General preface (1781).

When in 1781 the learned printer and editor John Nichols printed the first of three parts of Reliquiae Galeanae as the second volume of his Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, this marked a point which is seldom observed and communicated as detailed as in this case: the point where references to a certain body of information, in this case the learned members of the Gale family, are no longer a private phenomenon but are taken up by an institution.

Institutional connections

The quote given above does in itself not convey any sense of an institution at work here: All people referred to are mentioned as individual persons without any affiliations clearly visible. By having a closer look at the matter however it becomes clear that the Society of Antiquaries served as the common denominator uniting them all.

Roger Gale (1672–1744) had been, together with his brother Samuel Gale (1682–1754) among those who re-founded the Society in 1717/18 and had been acting as its first vice-president, while Samuel had been its first treasurer (for 21 years, until 1739/40) – and it was their letters that formed the “valuable collection” reprinted by Nichols. George Allan (1736 – 1800) , who had acquired these letters, had for long carried out his antiquarian interests privately in his native county of Durham when he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1774, so that he at the time No. 2, part 1 of the Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica went off the press had been a member of that illustrious body for seven years already. Richard Gough (1735–1809), to whom he had communicated the papers, had been elected into the SAS already in 1767 and since 1771 served as its director.

Now Gough also had been a follower of the work of William Stukeley (1687–1765) since his studies at Cambridge, who had been a close friend of both Roger and Samuel Gale, had also been one of the re-founders of the Society of Antiquaries, and in 1739 had married their sister Elizabeth Gale as his second wife. Moreover, Gough was a close friend of John Nichols (1745–1826), the printer, to whose major journal, the Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, he contributed frequently, as well as developing editorial projects with him (such as, for instance, the Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica). This was nothing accidental also, as Nichols’s printing house had served the Society of Antiquaries as its official printer since 1736. Nichols himself was only admitted as a fellow into the Society in 1810, but throughout his career avidly pursued antiquarian interests and printed corresponding publications.

Leaving the family circles…

The only one falling out of this raster is Roger Gale’s grandson, Henry Gale (1744–1821), who, like his father Roger Henry Gale (1710–1768), does not seem to have shared the antiquarian interests of his ancestors. When – as I detailed here recently – Roger Henry Gale sold at least some of the books his grandfather and father left him in 1759, he obviously still kept the manuscript letters of his father and uncle, which his son Henry Gale could then, at some point after his father’s death, present to George Allan. In the fourth generation counted from Thomas Gale, the first and major learned member of the family, virtually all the materials needed for references to him and his sons had left the narrow circles of family ownership and had become dispersed among institutions, collectors, and other private owners. With the family displaying no interest in frequently referring to its learned predecessors, this would now likely be the point in time at which structural forgetting would set in. From the perspective of Thomas Gale, one of my protagonists, this unfortunate event took place a good sixty years after his own death in 1702.

…and passing into institutional channels

At this point, the letters came – via George Allen and Richard Gough – into one of the publications printed by John Nichols, changing the medium the information incorporated in this body of correspondence circulated in and, at least potentially, offering them to a wider public. The Society of Antiquaries itself cannot be credited with having initiated this development though, as Nichols’ publication was a commercial enterprise devised by Gough and him, and not commissioned by the corporate body as such. But it provided the necessary platform to connect the relevant actors responsible for putting Roger and Samuel Gale’s correspondence out in print, and it supplied them with a motive to do so. As Nichols in 1790 put it in the General Preface to the complete version of all three parts the 1781 issue had been the first of:

“Among the various Labours of Literary Men, there have always been certain Fragments whose Size could not secure them a general Exemption from the Wreck of Time, which their intrinsic Merit entitled them to survive; but having been gathered up by the Curious, or thrown into Miscellaneous Collections by Booksellers, they have been recalled into Existence, and by uniting together have defended themselves from Oblivion, Original Pieces have been called in to their Aid, and formed a Phalanx that might withstand every Attack from the Critic to the Cheesemonger, and contributed to the Ornament as well as Value of Libraries.”[2]

ohn Nichols, Antiquities in Lincolnshire, General Preface (1790).

Fighting Oblivion

This was exactly what Roger and Samuel Gale had aimed at in re-founding the Society of Antiquaries: fighting oblivion, and rescuing as many vestiges of bygone times as possible; in 1726 Roger Gale had written to John Clerk that in the meantime they had succeeded in that “a great many old seals, ruins, and other monuments of antiquity have been preserved from oblivion, and the danger of being intirely [sic] lost in a little time”[3], and Samuel Gale had in 1712 addressed Thomas Hearne (1678-1735) in a letter as that “[t]he Learned World is indebted to you for your sedulous Preservation of so many antient [sic] Monuments which otherwise in a little Time must have utterly perished.”[4] The remaining question is whether they achieved these goals, and if they did, for which period of time.

To which effect?

I would doubt that the institutional framework within which these references were now made and within which information about the Gale family circulated contributed little to rescuing them from becoming structurally forgotten. The communication circuit Nichols’ publication created via the audience it targeted was larger than the family or even the Society of Antiquaries as a whole, but it still remained a limited number of persons who took an interest in such matters. The predominant media products for the circulation of reference to the Gales – Thomas Gale first and foremost – since the middle of the 18th century were dictionaries, as I already hinted at; and even within their circuits there was no escape from becoming structurally forgotten. Even if scholars would were so lucky as to have an institution to care about their memory after their death, to really preserve that memory it needed a special kind of institution, which the Society of Antiquaries unfortunately was not.  


[1] Nichols, John (ed.): Bibliotheca topographica Britannica. No II. Part I. Containing Reliquiae Galeanae; or miscellaneous pieces by the late brothers Roger and Samuel Gale. In which will be included their Correspondence with their learned Contemporaries, Memoirs of their Family, and an Account of the Literary Society at Spalding. Printed by and for J. Nichols, Printer to the Society of Antiquaries: and Sold by All the Booksellers in Great-Britain and Ireland, London 1781, General Preface, p. [i].

[2] Nichols, John (ed.): Antiquities in Lincolnshire; being the third volume of the Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica. London: Printed by and for J. Nichols, 1790, General Preface, p. [i].

[3] Roger Gale to John Clerk, 26 April 1726, Bodleian Library MS Top Gen D 74, pp. 178–186; here p. 185.  

[4] Samuel Gale to Thomas Hearne, London 15 November 1712, Bodleian Library MS Rawl Letter 15/16 (Letters to Thomas Hearne Vol. 15–16, Letters G–T), p. 11.  

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

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.

Travelling Notes

Snippet of the announcement of William Whiston’s Works of Flavius Josephus, 2nd ed., 1758

Friday n° 38, July 5th, 2019

Printed never before?

The Reverend William Whiston, from his memoirs (1753).

The London booksellers Benjamin White (c.1725–1794) and John Whiston (1711-1780), who kept a flourishing trade in used books, in their catalogue for the first half of 1758 not only gave a detailed description of their stock in second-hand literature but on the closing pages also advertised some “Books printed for J. Whiston and B. White”,[1] among them the second edition of the English theologian of questionable orthodoxy and classical scholar William Whiston’s (1667-1752) 1737 translation of the works of Flavius Josephus.[2]

The subtitle of this second edition now really went as in this advertisement: “with notes of the learned Reland, Cellarius, Dean Aldrich, and Dr. Bernard, none of which are in any other translation.”[3]

A claim which had not been in the title page of the first edition, and a bold one to make. Now, as we all know, advertising is one thing, delivering another. So had William Whiston really delivered on his claim to these exclusive notes?

Printed amongst many others

Now what makes Whiston’s claim a bit difficult to examine is that editing and translating Flavius Josephus had become a bit of a sport amongst early 18th century philologists. There were many other competing Latin, German, French, Dutch, and English translations of Josephus around against which Whiston’s edition had to compete on the book market. The decade before Whiston’s first Josephus edition of 1737 alone had seen at least seven similar publications in ten editions.[4] Of these, none claimed to have had access to Reland’s materials but one, that of Siwart Haverkamp (1684–1742), professor of Greek at Leiden university since 1720, which had been printed in 1726.[5]

Snippet from the title page of Siwart Haverkamp’s Flavii Josephi quae reperiri poterunt opera omnia (1726)

Haverkamp claimed in his subtitle to have used the notes of  “Edward Bernard [1638-1697], Jacob Gronovius [1645-1716], François Combefis [1605-1679], Joan Sibranda [1668-1696], Henry Aldrich [1648-1710], and, as [of yet] unedited in all of Flavius Josephus’s works, Johannes Coccejus [1603-1669], Ezechiel Spanheim [1629-1710], Adriaan Reland [1676-1718] & selected others”. But unlike Whiston, who did not care to discuss his sources neither in his text nor in a preface, and who also in his memoirs only would say about his edition that “[i]n the same year, 1737, I published, The genuine Works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish Historian, in English. Translated from the original Greek, according to Havercamp’s accurate edition,”[6] Haverkamp was quite explicit as to where he got his manuscript notes from. In the case of Reland, he said that

“Reland’s [copies of the] works of Josephus really contain no small merit; for they are inserted with blank leaves wherever he had collected many and laborious notes and observations piling up, when oh! too early he succumbed to the fate of all men. There are many among these [notes] which I am eager to confirm though, shedding very much light on the Greatest of Authors, or explaining the meaning or doctrine of the writers wonderfully. We are indebted to the praiseworthy benevolence of his heirs.”[7]

Haverkamp (ed.), Flavii Josephi quae reperiri potuerunt opera omnia (1742), p. 7.

So assuming this passage to be correct for want of evidence to the contrary, it seems that Haverkamp had sometime between Reland’s death and 1726, when his own edition went to print, approached Reland’s widow and acquired the annotated edition(s) of Josephus from amongst his papers – which explains why such an item is neither found in the auction catalogue of Reland’s library nor in that of his son. Most likely this would have taken place after 1720, when Havercamp was called to the post of professor of Greek at Leiden, and a few years after, because he inserted Reland’s notes into his edition on a quite frequent basis. The first volume alone contains more than 65 of them.[8]

Printed never before [in this context]

What Whiston’s claim thus boils down to if compared with his own acknowledged sources is that his work contained “notes of the learned Reland, Cellarius, Dean Aldrich, and Dr. Bernard, none of which are in any other [English] translation.”[9] The notes of Reland, Aldrich, and Bernard had already been included in Havercamp’s edition of Josephus, and from a first preliminary cross-check it seems to me that Whiston just translated them from Havercamp’s text, so that he would likely not have had access to manuscript material. This has however to be verified more closely, because Whiston only started advertising it for his second edition, which was published posthumously in 1755 (Whiston died in 1752). As Havercamp had already died in 1742, Whiston might still have acquired Reland’s copy of Josephus from Havercamp’s library. As to Christoph Cellarius (1638-1707), Whiston did nothing than Havercamp had already done, who had quoted extensively from Cellarius’s Geographia antiqua iuxta et nova, which had seen print for the first time in 1686 already.[10]

Printed never again?

Now the question of course is: What’s the point? How is this related to my protagonists (in this case Reland) being structurally remembered or forgotten? Well, there are two interesting observations connected to William Whiston’s edition of Flavius Josephus. First, it soon became the standard English version of Josephus for almost two centuries, reprinted, re-issued and re-edited over and over again. And second, from quite early on the reference to Reland was dropped from the title page. The 1770 Birmingham edition already did not mention it anymore and said only “with notes critical and explanatory”.[11] So while Reland’s notes still travelled on in disguise in the body of the text, the fact itself was rarely mentioned, and despite the enormous popularity of Whiston’s edition not circulated anymore. And that’s what structural forgetting is like.

Snippet from the title page of the 1770 Birmingham edition of William Whiston’s Works of Flavius Josephus, with no reference to Reland anymore.

[1] Cf. John Whiston and Benjamin White: Bibliotheca elegans & utilis. A catalogue of the libraries of a noble peer, deceased, William Rutty, M. D. F. R. S. &c. With some Books imported from Abroad, … In Various Languages, and in all Arts, Sciences and Polite Literature. Many in elegant Condition, on Royal Paper, and in Morocco Bindings. […]  Also a choice Collection of Reports and other Law Books, which will be sold very cheap (the Price printed in the Catalogue) on Thursday, January 26, 1758, and continue on Sale till July next. By John Whiston and Benjamin White, Booksellers in Fleet-Street. Catalogues may be had (price 6d) of Messrs. Dodsley, Pall-Mall; Mr. Chapelle, Grosvenor Street; Mr. Millar, in the Strand; Child’s Coffee-House, St. Paul’s Church-Yard; Mr. Henderson, Royal-Exchange; of the Booksellers, at Cambridge, Oxford, and the principal Towns in England. And at the Place of Sale. [London]: n.p. [1758]

[2] William Whiston (ed., transl.): The genuine works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian. Translated from the original Greek, according to Havercamp’s accurate edition; Containing twenty books of the Jewish antiquities, with the appendix, or Life of Josephus, written by himself: seven books of the Jewish war; and two books against Apion […] To this book are prefixed eight dissertations […] With an account of Jewish coins, weights, and measures, London: Whiston 1737.

[3] William Whiston (ed., transl.): The genuine works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian: translated from the original Greek, according to Havercamp’s accurate edition: with notes of the learned Reland, Cellarius, Dean Aldrich, and Dr. Bernard, none of which are in any other translation: illustrated with new plans and descriptions of the Tabernacle of Moses, the Temples of Solomon, Herod, and Ezekiel, and with correct maps of Judea and Jerusalem : together with large notes and observations, contents, parallel texts of Scripture, and compleat indexes : also the true chronology of the several histories, adjusted in the margin, and an exact account of the Jewish coins, weights, and measure, London: Whiston et al., 1755.

[4] An overview in chronological order, without any claim to completeness:

  • Jackson, H. (ed.): A compleat collection of the genuine works of Flavius Josephus faithfully translated from the original Greek, and compared with the translation of Sir Roger L’Estrange, Knight. Containing, I. The Life of Josephus, written by himself. II. The Antiquities of the Jews. In Twenty Books. III. Josephus’s Book against Apion, in Defence of the Antiquities of the Jews. In Two Parts. IV. The Wars of the Jews with the Romans. In Seven Books. V. The Martyrdom of the Maccabees; And, VI. Philo’s Embassy from the Jews of Alexandria, to Caius Caligula. With Explanatory Notes, and Marginal References. To which are prefix’d, several remarks and observations upon the writings of Josephus. By H. Jackson. Gent. The Whole illustrated with Maps and Cuts, curiously engraven on Copper-Plates, with an Addition of a new Plate of the Elevation of the Tower of Babel, taken from Calmet, London: Henry 1732, 2nd ed. Brindley et al. 1736
  • Willem Sewel (ed.): Alle de werken van Flavius Josephus, behelzende twintig boeken van de Joodsche oudheden, het verhaal van zyn eygen leeven, de histori van den oorlóg der Jooden tegen de Romeynen, de twee boeken tegen Apion, en de beschryvinge van den marteldoodt der Machabeen. Waarby komt het gezantschap van Philo aan den keyzer Kaligula, Amsterdam: Schagen 1732
  • Court, John (ed.): The works of Flavius Josephus which are extant. Containing, I. The history of the antiquities of the Jews. In twenty books. II. The life of the author, Flavius Josephus. Written by himself. III. The wars of the Jews. In seven books. IV. The defence of the Jewish antiquities against Apion. Two books. V. Of the Maccabees. One book. Translated from the original Greek, according to Dr. Hudson’s edition. By John Court; Gent. To which are added, a dissertation on the writings and credit of Josephus, and Christopher Noldius’s history of the life and actions of Herod the Great, never before rendered into English. With explanatory notes, tables, maps, and a large and accurate index, London: Penny, Janeway 1733
  • L’Estrange, Roger (ed., transl.): The works of Flavius Josephus: translated into English by Sir Roger L’Estrange knight. Viz. I. The antiquities of the Jews: in twenty books. II. Their wars with the Romans: in seven books. III. The life of Josephus: written by himself. IV. His book against Apion, in defence of the antiquities of the Jews . In two parts. V. The martyrdom of the Maccabees. VI. Philo’s embassy from the Jews of Alexandria to Caius Caligula. All carefully revised, and compared with the original Greek. To which are added, two discourses, and several remarks and observations upon Josephus. Together with maps, sculptures, and accurate indexes. The fifth edition. With the Addition of a New Map of Palestine, the Temple of Jerusalem, and the Genealogy of Herod the Great, taken from Villalpandus, Reland, &c., London: Knapton, Osborne, Longman et. al. 1733
  • Johann Baptist Ott (ed., transl.): Des vortrefflichen Jüdischen Geschicht-Schreibers Flavii Josephi Sämtliche Wercke; Nemlich: Zwantzig Bücher von den Jüdischen Altersthümern, zwey von dem alten Herkommen der Juden wider Apion, Eins von dem Martyrthum der machabeer, samt seiner von ihm selbst verfaßten Lebens-Beschreibung, Wie auch Desselben Sieben Bücher von dem Krieg der Juden mit den Römern, und beygefügte Beschreibung Egesippi von der zerstöhrung Jerusalems; Alles mit dem Griechischen Grund-Text sorgfältig verglichen und neu übersetzet, auch überdis mit einer weitläufigen Vorrede […] versehen und ausggezieret, 2 vols., Zürich: Geßner 1734, 2nd ed. 1736
  • Arnauld d’Andilly (ed.): Histoire des Juifs écrite par Flavius Joseph sous le titre de “Antiquités judaïques”, traduite sur l’original grec revu sur divers manuscrits, par M. Arnauld d’Andilly. Tome I [-III]. – Histoire de la guerre des Juifs contre les Romains par Flavius Joseph et sa vie écrite par lui-même, traduite du grec par M. Arnauld d’Andilly. Tome IV. – Histoire de la guerre des Juifs contre les Romains ; Réponse à Appion ; Martyre des Machabées, par Flavius Joseph et sa Vie écrite par luy mesme, avec ce que Philon, juif, a escrit de son ambassade vers l’empereur Caïus Caligula, traduite du grec par M. Arnauld d’Andilly. Tome V, Paris: Caillau, 1735-1736.

[5] Haverkamp, Siwart (ed.): Flavii Josephi quae reperiri potuerunt opera omnia Graece et Latine, cum notis & nova versione Joannis Hudsoni … : accedunt nunc primum notae integrae, ad Graeca Josephi et varios ejusdem libros D. Eduardi Bernardi, Jacobi Gronovii, Francisci Combefisii, Jo. Sibrandae, Hendr. Aldrichii ut & ineditae in universa Flavii Josephi opera, Joannis Coccei, Ezechielis Spanhemii, Hadriani Relandi, & selectae aliorum ; adjiciuntur in fine Caroli Daubuz Libri duo pro testimonio Flavii Josephi de Jesu Christo ; et ejusdem argumenti Epistolae XXX. virorum doctorum, ut Reinesii, Snellii, Jo. Fr. Gronovii aliorumque philologicae & historicae ; ut & Petri Brinch Examen chronologiae et historiae Josephicae ; Jo. Baptist. Ottii Animadversiones ad Josephum & Specimen lexici Flaviani ; Christ. Noldii Historia Idumaea seu de vita et gestis Herodum, &c. &c., quorum syllabus exstat ante initium libri primi antiquitatum, Amsterdam: R. & G. Wetstein; Leiden: Sam. Luchtmans; Utrecht: Jacob Broedelet, 1726.

[6] John Whiston (ed.), William Whiston: Memoirs of the life and writings of Mr. William Whiston. Containing, memoirs of several of his friends also. Written by himself, 2nd. ed., London: Whiston & White, 1753, p. 303.

[7] Haverkamp, Flavii Josephi opera omnia 1726, vol. 1, 1726, praefatio p. 7: “Relandi vero meritum haud exiguum quoque erga Josephum exstitit; inserta enim charta pura, ubique Notas suas & Animadversiones seminaverat, in numerum molemque majorem excreturas, si per acerba, heu! tanti viri fata licuisset. Sunt tamen illae tales, ut adfirmare ausim, plurimam Auctori Maximo lucem affundere, atque ingenium scribentis doctrinamque mirifice commendare. Debemus illas haeredum laudatissime benevolentiae.“

[8] Cf. Haverkamp, Flavii Josephi opera omnia 1726, vol. 1, 1726, pp. 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 16, 17, 18, 20, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 40, 47, 58, 82, 83, 95, 108, 134, 137, 141, 158, 183, 204, 209, 215, 232, 244, 250, 252, 283, 345, 352, 409, 433, 434, 445, 484, 490, 528, 539, 554, 563, 612, 646, 647, 684, 686, 699, 737, 768, 818, 864, 876, 877, 964; sometimes multiple notes per page.

[9] William Whiston (ed., transl.): The genuine works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian: translated from the original Greek, according to Havercamp’s accurate edition: with notes of the learned Reland, Cellarius, Dean Aldrich, and Dr. Bernard, none of which are in any other translation: illustrated with new plans and descriptions of the Tabernacle of Moses, the Temples of Solomon, Herod, and Ezekiel, and with correct maps of Judea and Jerusalem : together with large notes and observations, contents, parallel texts of Scripture, and compleat indexes : also the true chronology of the several histories, adjusted in the margin, and an exact account of the Jewish coins, weights, and measure, London: Whiston et al., 1755.

[10] Christoph Cellarius: Christophori Cellarii Smalcaldiensis Geographia Antiqva iuxta & Nova : Recognita & ad veterum nouorumque scriptorum fidem, historicorum maxime, idemtidem castigata, & plurimis locis aucta ac immutata.  Geographia antiqua, Ad veterum Historiarum, siue à principio rerum ad Constantini Magni tempora deductarum, faciliorem explicatonem adparata : Paemissa est in omnium temporum Geographiam brevis Introductio, Zeitz: Bielke 1686.

[11] [William Whiston (ed.)]: The genuine works of Flavius Josephus: faithfully translated from the original Greek. Containing I. The Life of Josephus, written by himself. II. The Antiquities of the Jews, in twenty Books. III. The Wars of the Jews with the Romans. IV. Defence of the Antiquities of the Jews against Appion. and V. The Martyrdom of the Maccabees. With notes critical and explanatory. The whole illustrated with a beautiful set of copper-plates, 58 installments, Birmingham: Christopher Earl [1770], title page.

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.

A disputed legacy? The shadow of Renaudot vs. Baile

Voltaire: Le siècle de Louis XIV., tome premier (1785, p. 136).

Friday n° 28, April 19th, 2019

 “Voltaire blaims him for having prevented Bayle’s dictionary from being printed in France. This is very natural in Voltaire and Voltaire’s followers; but it is a more serious objection to Renaudot, that, while his love of learning made him glad to correspond with learned Protestants, his cowardly bigotry prevented him from avowing the connection.”[1]

Chalmers’s general biographical Dictionary, vol. 26, 1816

Bad press, good press

As it is Good Friday, I wanted to get this week’s post out early as an advance Easter surprise. Fittingly, this piece will cover an issue with a confessional nature. And as I until now managed to avoid big names in my study of forgetting quite well, I thought I’d deal with a rather well-known episode this time, because it was connected – at least by Alexander Chalmers’s (1759–1834) dictionary, as you just have read – to a quite big name also. In fact, to two of them: Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) and François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire (1694-1778). Until now, both have only appeared in the margins of my project – Bayle because he died before three of my protagonists, and Voltaire because there were no direct connections between him and my four scholars, although he was something of a contemporary to all of them. He was eight years old when Thomas Gale died, and 26 at the death of Eusèbe Renaudot.

And it is precisely Renaudot who is in the center of today’s issue, as the polemic between him and Pierre Bayle concerning the Dictionnaire historique et critique might have had an impact on his posthumous reputation. At least in Chalmer’s dictionary it left a mark in the entry concerning him. The question now is: What does that mean in the context of forgetting? Isn’t bad press always good press? Should the connection to a work as prominent as Bayle’s Dictionnaire not be sufficient to hold a name in circulation, let alone if supplicated by Voltaire? Well, let’s have a bit of a look at that.

What happened …

In 1697, Eusèbe Renaudot submitted a memoire concerning Pierre Bayle’s Dictionnaire on behalf of the court, because some Paris printers had applied for a royal printing privilege for a second edition of the book. Renaudot was called upon to examine whether there was anything suspicious in it; and he found enough things not to his liking that he advised against such an edition. Pierre Bayle, who already had been provided with a copy of the draft memoire by Pierre Jurieu, replied to Renaudot’s points, while Jurieu got the memoire printed.[2] In the meantime, Renaudot’s advise had been followed, and there had been no second French edition of the Dictionnaire historique et critique.

… and what was reported …

The entry on Renaudot in Chalmer’s The general biographical Dictionary I started from is closely modelled on French sources, however, most notably the entries on Renaudot in Jean-Pierre Niceron’s (1658–1738) Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres[3] and in the later edition of Le grand dictionnaire historique originally edited by Louis Moreri (1643–1680),[4] as he duly acknowledged. Now Le grand dictionnaire historique – ‘the Moreri’, how it was commonly called – itself had Chalmers relied on a third source also, but I’m going into this only a bit later. First, let’s check the dictionaries he made use of.

Niceron’s 43 volume series on illustrious scholars featured a rather large entry on Renaudot, which also covered the issue of the memoire. Niceron stressed that Renaudot had drawn it up at the explicit request of the minister, had found things against religion in it, and had advised against a reprint. The memoire had fallen into the hands of Jurieu, Bayle had been furious, but after a fierce polemic both contrahents – as was quite usual in the late 17th century Republic of Letters – were reconciled again, and Bayle did not comment on the whole thing in the second edition of the Dictionnaire printed outside of France.[5] So far, the story closely matches Chalmers’s depiction of the events, only that he skipped the happy ending. Moreri’s dictionary, which had been especially designed to champion Catholicism, skipped the whole episode however; the entry on Renaudot makes no mention of it.

… and how it evolved …

This already predicted a pattern to be followed throughout the paper trail Renaudot left in the dictionaries. Some of these dictionaries would mention it, others would not; and most of them – as was quite customary at the time – would not indicate their sources. Even Chalmers did not fully disclose his sources for his entry, for it is more than likely that he copied at least the Voltaire part from the predecessor dictionary to his work, the New and general biographical dictionary : containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons in every nation, particularly the British and Irish, from the earliest accounts of time to the present period, which appeared in London in eleven volumes from 1761 to 1762. The anonymous author of the Renaudot entry could, this time, draw upon a source which had not been yet available as Niceron and Moreri’s editors had compiled their entries: Voltaire’s Le siècle de Louis XIV., which had first been printed in 1751, and which the New and general biographical dictionary now cited: “Mr. Voltaire says that ‘he may be reproached with having prevented Bayle’s dictionary from being printed in France.’ [Siecle [sic] de Louis XIV. tom. II.] »[6] Much more than that Voltaire really had not said about the whole affair (see snippet above).[7]

This might explain while other dictionary entries up to 1800 did not say much more about it, if they said anything about the episode at all. Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts (1744–1810) kept silent about in his Siècles littéraires de la France,[8] although it would likely have been the best place to put it. In John Watkins’ An universal biographical and historical dictionary, nothing about it was said in the Renaudot entry,[9] but only in the entry on Bayle Watkins wrote:

“The same year he formed the plan of his celebrated dictionary, the first volume of which appeared in 1695, and was uncommonly well received, though some parts of it were attacked by M. Jurieu, and the abbé Renaudot. […] He [Baile] was undoubtedly a man of brilliant parts, and of an acute intellect; but his religious principles appear to have leaned towards infidelity.”[10]

John Watkins: An universal biographical and historical dictionary, London 1800

… and why it was told that way

Precisely this – that Bayle was in orthodox circles, Catholic as well as Protestant, still suspected of the most dreadful crime imaginable, atheism – might have been the case not to refer on Renaudot stopping a reprint of the Dictionnaire historique et critique which would have proliferated Bayle’s ungodly sentiments, or if, to refer to it in a rather neutral way. As Voltaire sometimes was suspected to be guilty of the same sin as Bayle, it might have seemed prudent not to refer to him as an authority in the matter also.

But shortly after 1800 this changed, at least for a while, and now one could read other entries in other dictionaries, as that on Renaudot of Thomas Morgan (n.d.) in the General biography, the 8th volume of which was printed in 1813, three years before Chalmer’s 26th volume went off the press in 1816, and which said: “It’s a circumstance which reflects no honour on his memory, that the unfavourable representations which he gave to the ministry, of Bayle’s “Dictionary”, were the means of preventing that work from being printed in France.”[11]

A shadow thrown on memory…

By now, suppressing Bayle had obviously become a stain on Renaudot’s memory. Morgan only did not elaborate upon how he came to that conclusion. But Chalmers did, and now it pays to have a look at the third of his sources, and that is Leonard Twell’s (+1742) The Live of the rev. and most learned Dr. Edward Pocock of the same year 1816 as the entry on Renaudot. To have a look at it means to read a – I am sorry to admit – really very long quote from this biography of the Oxford orientalist Edward Pococke (1604-1691), where Twell gave an account of the correspondence between Renaudot and Pococke in the preparation of Renaudot’s Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio[12]:

“In this epistle the writer professes a very high esteem for our author, desires the liberty of consulting him in all the doubts, that should occur in preparing the works above-mentioned, and promises, in return for this favour, to make a public acknowledgement of it, and to preserve a perpetual memory of the obligation. It is highly probable, that death prevented Dr. Pocock from giving any assistance to Renaudot in these designs; but I am sorry to say, that the treatment that learned person has given to the memory of our author has not been consistent with the expressions of respect for him, with which this letter abounds. For when he came to publish his Collection of Eastern Liturgies, forgetting his own professions, and the duty of a gentleman, a scholar, and, above all, of a Christian, he goes out of his way, in the end of his preface, to reproach him with a mistake, which, perhaps, was the only one which could be fastened upon his writings, though Renaudot, as above-mentioned, had, without good grounds, charged him with another; but the Abbot’s zeal against the Protestants got the better of his candour, and though he could treat the learned amongst them with civility in a private way, it was not, as it should seem, adviseable to observe such measures with them in the eye of the world.”[13]

Leonard Twell: The Live of the rev. and most learned Dr. Edward Pocock, 1816, pp. 339-340.

…or not?

The problem with Renaudot now became that he seemed to have been a model fanatic Catholic, dismissing protestant authors out of sheer bigotry regardless of their results, and that this was now used by Chalmers to explain why Renaudot had voted against Bayle: not for any scholarly reason but for blind (and most probably misguided) faith only. Fittingly, Chalmers had been the editor of Twell’s Life of Pocock. But the religious issue obviously only became pressing when it was used to throw a shadow on the memory of an English scholar – Pococke – and only then turned into something that could be used against Renaudot’s memory in return. At least theoretically. For obviously at least in the world of dictionaries this episode – although it was connected to famous persons, writings, and contained a juicy religious element – only spread in English-language ones, and only for a while, until the middle of the 19th century as I have been able to establish so far. In French-language dictionaries on the other hand, if the affair was reported, it was reported closely matching Niceron, and thus neutralized. But most of the time it was just left out altogether. So in this case bad press was not good press in the end, but no press after all; it failed to significantly boost Renaudot’s frequency of reference in any way. This might have been due to the complex entanglement of religion, language, and national sentiments at play here; but this is something I have to have a closer look at still.

Happy Easter!


[1] Anon: Renaudot (Eusebius), in: Alexander Chalmers (ed.): The general biographical Dictionary containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons, particularly the English and Irish, from the earliest accounts to the present time (32 vols.), vol. 26, London: J. Nichols 1812-1816, pp. 140-141.

[2] [Pierre Jurieu (ed.)], [Eusèbe Renaudot]: Jugement du public et particulierement de M. l’abbé Renaudot, sur le Dictionnaire critique du sr Bayle, Rotterdam : Acher 1697.  

[3] Anon: Eusebe Renaudot, in : Niceron, Jean-Pierre (ed.): Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres (43 vols.), vol. 12, Paris : 1733, pp. 25-41, and vol. 20, Paris: Briasson 1733, pp. 35.

[4] Anon: Renaudot (Eusebe), in: Moreri, Louis (Founder): Le grand dictionnaire historique ou Le mélange curieux de l’histoire sacrée et profane. Nouvelle et derniere édition revûe, corrigée et augmentée (6 vols.), vol. 5, Paris : Vincent 1732, pp. 481–482.

[5] Anon: Eusebe Renaudot, in : Niceron, Jean-Pierre (ed.): Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres (43 vols.), vol. 12, Paris : 1733, pp. 25-41 ; here p. 39-41.

[6] Anon: Renaudot (Eusebius), in: A New and general biographical dictionary: containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons in every nation, particularly the British and Irish, from the earliest accounts of time to the present period : wherein their remarkable actions or sufferings, their virtues, parts, and learning are accurately displayed : with a catalogue of their literary productions (11 vols.), London: Owen/Johnston 1761-1762, vol. 10, pp. 136-137; here p. 137.

[7] Jean-Jacques Tourneisen (ed.), Voltaire: Le siècle de Louis XIV. Tome premier (=Oeuvres completes de Voltaire. Tome vingtieme), Basel : Tourneisen 1785, p. 136.

[8] Anon: Renaudot, Eusebe, in: Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts (ed.): Les Siècles littéraires de la France, ou nouveau dictionnaire, historique, critique, et bibliographique, de tous les Ecrivains français, morts et vivans, jusqu’à a la fin du XVIIIe. Siècle (6 vols.), Paris: Des Essarts 1800-1803, vol. 5, pp. 372-374.  

[9] John Watkins: Renaudot (Eusebius), in: —: An universal biographical and historical dictionary. Containing a faithful account of the lives, actions, and characters, of the most eminent persons of all ages and all countries; also the revolutions of states, and the successions of sovereign princes, ancient and modern. Collected from the best Authorities, By John Watkins, A.M. L.L.D., London: Philipps 1800, p. [760].

[10] John Watkins: Bayle (Peter), in: Ibid., p. [136].

[11] Thomas Morgan: Renaudot, Eusebius, in: John Aikin, Thomas Morgan, William Johnston: General biography; or lives, critical and historical, of the most eminent persons of all ages, countries, conditions, and professions, arranged according to alphabetical order (10 vols.), London: Robinson 1799-1815, vol. 8, pp. 506-507; here p. 507.

[12] Eusèbe Renaudot (ed.): Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio : Adjunctae sunt Rubricae rituales ex variis codicibus Mss. collectae, & suis locis appositae (2 vols.), Paris: Coignard 1716.

[13] Leonard Twells: . The Live of the rev. and most learned Dr. Edward Pocock, in: Alexander Chalmers (ed.): The Lives of Dr. Edward Pocock, the celebrated orientalist, by Dr. Twells; of Dr. Zachary Pearce, bishop of Rochester, and of Dr. Thomas Newton, biship of Bristol, by themselves; and of the Rev. Philip Skelton, by Mr. Burdy, vol. 1, London: Rivington / Gilbert, 2 vols., 1816, pp. 1-356; here pp. 340-341.

For Knowledge and Country II

Richard A. Davenport: A dictionary of biography : comprising the most eminent characters of all ages, nations, and professions, London: Tegg 1831, title page.

Sunday, March 31st, 2019, for Friday n° 25

Two weeks ago I announced here that I would devote a bit more attention to the interplay between the national provenance of biographical dictionaries and their content matter in the 19th century. I do have to start this post with an excuse because I could do only half this task. I only did the early 19th century for starters (52 years to be exact, 1800-1851), and this already got me behind schedule again.

But at least some things have become visible in paying closer attention to biographical dictionaries from this half-century. The first, and hardly surprising, observation to be made is that the content matter, the biographical information as presented within these works, is fairly stable. At least concerning my protagonists these entries are not the fruit of original research but are copied, sometimes verbatim, from 18th century dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Given that these works were aimed at a wider public, this was a completely rational and economic way to proceed. In most cases this means that the size of a particular dictionary was not so much determined by the length of the individual entries but by their number. Only in very condensed works, those which only featured one or two volumes, a biography would be heavily pruned. Much more often it was the selection of biographies, and not the selection of passages within biographies, which made the difference between a four- and a twenty-volume dictionary. That in turn means that any conscious framing of the complete edition would again rest on the selection of the biographies to be included rather than on rewriting the biographical materials themselves.

There are exceptions from this general rule, of course. In Alexander Chalmers’ “The general biographical Dictionary containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons, particularly the English and Irish”, published in London between 1812 and 1817, Chalmers not only selected a larger share of English and Irish biographies as common in general biographical dictionaries to keep his promise from the title but also added to them in length. At least this might be concluded from the sample of my protagonists he featured: While the dictionary included Thomas Gale, Adriaan Reland, and Eusèbe Renaudot, it devoted four pages to Gale and two pages each to Reland and Renaudot.[1] On average their respective entries do all have roughly the same length within the same dictionary. But Chalmer’s work ran to 32 volumes in the end, so there was no need to be economic in terms of print space.  

The next thing that struck me was that so many of these dictionaries were of British origin. Of the 21 dictionaries surveyed for this post, 12 were written in English, compared to four in French, three in Dutch, one in German and one in Latin. This might well just be a bias in the sample that was caused by me following the references in those dictionaries and publications I had already collected for the last post, but it may also just point to the fact that in the early 19th century Great Britain presumably would have had more people willing and able to buy such a book, or series of books, than continental Europe which first had to cope with the impact of the Napoleonic Wars and then with its lagging behind in industrializing. But although the selections of biographies presented by dictionaries of the sample so far looked at here do not seem to have been much impacted by this provenance. At least Thomas Gale does not pop up with a frequency which seems over-exaggerated in proportion to half the dictionaries being English ones.

My protagonists as referred to in biographical dictionaries and encyclopaedic works, 1800-1851

So what does this tell me? First of all that there seem to have been long-time cycles on the book market, and what is captured by this graphic would be the cycle between roughly 1790 and 1840, with a peak in the 1830ies. The second half of the century would bring the national biographical dictionaries undertaken as state projects, and show a somewhat similar pattern reaching its apogee around the 1880ies. In the 18th century there are quite similar patterns, at least judging from my current state of research.

And, second, that national framings became more closely entangled with the framings – and selections thus prompted – of the content matter these dictionaries presented to their readers. The year I started with, 1800 (yes, that is the last year of the 18th century in proper reckoning), quite symbolically contributed two titles to the list: Francis Godolphin Waldron’s “The biographical mirrour, comprising a series of ancient and modern English portraits” on the British and Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts’s “Les Siècles littéraires de la France, ou nouveau dictionnaire, historique, critique, et bibliographique, de tous les Ecrivains français, morts et vivans, jusqu’à a la fin du XVIIIe. siècle” on the French side of the channel, both clearly framed to accommodate a ‘national’ selection of biographies. Fittingly, Waldron of my protagonists featured only Thomas Gale,[2] while Des Essarts in turn showcased only Eusèbe Renaudot.[3] This tendency in turn directly influenced the chances of certain types of scholars to be referred to, and thus being structurally remembered, through works of this kind.

A case in point is Johannes Braun, who only belatedly begins to make an appearance in these dictionaries at all, compared to the other three. This might well be at last partly due to problems in filing him adequately within a national reference system: Born in Kaiserslautern in 1628, he fled from the city with his mother in 1635 during the Thirty Years War, became preacher of the French Reformed Church in Nijmegen for quite a while, and finally got the post of professor of Theology and Hebrew at Groningen University in 1680; he wrote in French and Latin. Was he now to be considered German, French, or Dutch? A bit of everything, or nothing at all? In Mathieu Delvenne’s 1829 “Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, ancienne et moderne”, Braun was not included (while Reland was[4]).

This was due to the fact that Delvenne, although he nowhere stated it explicitly, only acknowledged persons in his dictionary who had been born on soil which now was part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And this in turn was due to his explicit intention, as stated in his preface, to instill a love for this their fatherland into Belgians, particularly young students, by presenting them examples from their glorious past.[5] Delvenne’s attempt at nation-building obviously came a bit too late, as in 1830 the Kingdom of the Netherlands broke apart into nowadays Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg, but it captures quite well the overall spirit of these collections. Even those which called themselves “General” or “Universal” still privileged a certain nationally framed point of view, with the sometimes implicit, but more often quite explicit, aim to create patriotic sentiments and promote national honour and glory.


[1] See Chalmers, Alexander: The general biographical Dictionary containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons, particularly the English and Irish, from the earliest accounts to the present time, vol. 15, London: J. Nichols 1814, pp. 221-224 (Thomas Gale); vol. 26, London: J. Nichols 1816, pp. 131-133 (Adriaan Reland) and pp. 140-141 (Eusèbe Renaudot).   

[2] Francis Godolphin Waldron: The biographical mirrour, comprising a series of ancient and modern English portraits, of eminent and distinguished persons, from original pictures and drawings, Vol. 3, London: Harding 1800, pp. 18-20.

[3] Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts: Les Siècles littéraires de la France, ou nouveau dictionnaire, historique, critique, et bibliographique, de tous les Ecrivains français, morts et vivans, jusqu’à a la fin du XVIIIe. siècle, Paris: Des Essarts 1801, Vol. 5, pp. 372-374.

[4] Mathieu Delvenne: Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, ancienne et moderne, ou Histoire abrégée, par ordre alphabétique, de la vie publique et privée des Belges et des Hollandais qui se sont fait remarquer par leurs écrits, leurs actions, leurs talens, leurs vertus, ou leurs crimes, extraite d’un grand nombe d’auteurs anciens et modernes, et augmentée de beaucoup d’articles qui ne se trouvent rapportés dans aucune biographie, Vol. 2, Liege: Desoer 1829, pp. 290-291.

[5] Delvenne, Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, Vol. 1, Liege: Desoer 1829, p. [ii] : “Il [le rédacteur, i.e. Delvennes] se trouvera assez récompensé dans ses longs efforts, si son livre contribue à inspirer aux Belges, et surtout à la jeunesse studieuse qui peuple nos écoles, l’amour d’un pays qui a tant de droits à notre reconnaissance. Il a cru qu’il ne pouvait mieux employer ses loisirs qu’à la composition d’un ouvrage vraiment national.”

For Family, Knowledge, and Country

Philip Sydenham to Thomas Hearne, Brympton St Every, 23 May [1725?] (Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 15, f. 473-474)

Friday N° 24, March 22nd, 2019

I have been writing about the entanglements between lexicographical biographic memoralization and national ideas in my last post and had originally announced going further in this direction only in next week’s post. As I was in Oxford for archival research at the Bodleian library to consult correspondences I had not awaited to find anything in there fitting this thread of investigation of my sources. But sometimes one’s in for a bit of a surprise, and so I might try to connect some of my findings in these letters to the theme of national framings of knowledge.

Last week I already observed that British dictionaries and encyclopaedias where going for the national label early in the 19th century. This of course provokes the question whether this was a new development, coming out of the blue, or something which might be connected to longer-running developments. 

The introductory clipping from Philip Sydenham’s (c.1676-1739) letter to Thomas Hearne (1678-1735) points in the latter direction. In his letter, Sydenham complements Hearne to his edition of the itinerary of John Leland (c.1506-552);[1] the full passage runs:

“I hope y[ou]r publick Services for ye Honor & good of this Nation will receive publick approbation. this will be one m[anu]s[cript] to preserve & recover our old Noble Constitution many very valuable M[anu]s[cript]s deserv ye publick reading & encouragment & I hope y[ou] will proceed. ye more ancient ye more brave & Noble.”[2]

Sydenham thus entangled the antiquarian pursuits of Hearne’s, who was an avid editor of medieval manuscripts besides being librarian to the Bodleian library, with the national “Honor” in two ways, on the one hand by the scholarly value of his results and their potential of contributing to a better “publick” understanding of the nation’s past, and on the other hand by linking this more directly to the conditions for being a nation, to “our old Noble Constitution” to be retrieved this way. While this way of searching the origin and the primordial good laws of a community in the past was entirely in keeping with early modern conceptions of how time and historical research operated, the appeal to “publick approbation […] reading & encouragment” is somewhat more unusual and already seems to point to later developments in constructing national identities on a larger scale.

But Sydenham had more to offer still. In the next paragraph, he directly linked Hearne’s other professional activities, that as a librarian, both to the advancement of learning in general – as was a fairly common topos – and – a less common inflection –, to national honour also:

“I am glad [that] y[ou]r Library (=the Bodleian) is daily improving. it is so much for ye Honor of ye Nation, & interest of Learning.[3]

The three intersecting topoi of interest here, from the perspective of my project, are 1) ‘Fighting Oblivion’, 2) ‘Advancement of Learning’, and 3) ‘National Glory’. To see how this affects my protagonists, of whom there has been no mention yet in this post, I’ll have to take you to another of Hearne’s editions, the development of which was indeed coupled to the Leland volumes Sydenham already praised.

In 1716, Roger Gale (1672-1744), eldest son of Thomas Gale, approached Thomas Hearne in the same way as Sydenham would do nine years later, by complementing him on his just published Leland edition. The real aim of the letter was something else, though. Gale wanted to secure Hearne’s editorship for a manuscript in his possession, the Scotichronicon of John of Fordun (or Ffordun, c.1320-c.1386), which already had been partly edited by his father.[4] Hearne willingly accepted Gale’s offer of providing him with the manuscript and every assistance necessary for the edition and publication of the chronicle.[5] Both entered a long-drawn out process of working on the edition in which Roger Gale was constantly checking on Hearne to ensure the progress of the work, to provide him with colligations from other manuscripts, and helping him to gain enough subscribers for publication, he himself taking 20 copies.[6] When in 1722 the Fordun edition finally went to the press,[7] the Gale family was highly pleased with the result.

First, it represented a success in the endeavours of both Roger and his younger brother Samuel Gale, who both had been founding members of the Society of Antiquaries in 1718, in fighting oblivion. To do so represented a recurrent thread in their discussions of all fields of research they were actively engaged in, and print seemed a convenient way of doing it. When on February 25th, 1723, Samuel Gale held a speech before the Society of Lincoln, he spoke about the benefits of engraving:

“Give me Leave, Gentlemen, to Congratulate ye latter age on this Noble Invention, this Beneficial Discovery, and which alone seems to surpass all the great Things the Ancients ever did. Since eben the mouldring Fragments of theire proudest Structures, ye Temples of ye Gods, ye Statues of ye Heroes, ye Hippodromes ye Amphitheatres the Triumphal Arches, Aquaeducts, Military Ways, Baths, Colums, Medals, and Inscriptions, which yet, feebly beare up against ye power of corroding Time: even these Remaines I say of Athens, Corinth, and of Rome can be, and are now, only by this diffusive Art, triumphantly rescu’d from that total Havock, ye everlasting oblivion: Which a few more revolving years must inevitably bring on, and that of the Poet, then be too sadly verified: etiam periere Ruinae.”[8]

In 1726, Roger Gale took recourse to almost the same words in a letter to John Clerk to explain the purpose of the Society of Antiquaries, only with less rhetorical flourish:

“Besides the ½ guinea payd upon admission, one shilling is deposited every month by each member, and this money has been hitherto expended in buying a few books, but more in drawing and engraving, whereby a great many old seals, ruins, and other monuments of antiquity have been preserved from oblivion, and the danger of being intirely lost in a little time.”[9]

 Second, it was connected to the advancement of learning, which Samuel Gale not only connected to printing, but also to the scholars who had been paragons of learning. At the end of his speech, he made the connection quite explicit and directed it not only to the memory of the past, but also to the future.

“These [engravers] are They who by an uncommon Genius have almost outdone Nature, and have given Life & Spirit to Good Men after Death, Who is there yet Beholds ye Aspects of the Great & Learned, and Burns not with secret Æmulation to imitate their High Example.”[10]

And this connection might have been the driving force behind Roger Gale playing the driving force behind putting the manuscript inherited and already partly edited by his father to the press through Thomas Hearne although it costed him time, labour, and money. Samuel Gale put this into words in his letter congratulating Hearne on finishing the Fordun edition, thanking him because:

“Ye Hon[o]r You have done my Father, in mentioning him so often in It, is a great Satisfaction to Me in particular […].”[11]

And thus the history of knowledge, scholarly biographies, and – following Philip Sydenham – national honour which could be derived from both seem to have become entangled in Britain already in the early 18th century. The question is only to what end?


[1] Thomas Hearne (ed.): Joannis Lelandi antiquarii de rebus Britannicis collectanea ; Ex autographis descripsit ediditque Tho. Hearnius, 6 vol., Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1715.

[2] Philipp Sydenham to Thomas Hearne, Brympton St Every 23 May [1725?], Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 15, f. 473. Orthography as in the original, ligatures in [].

[3] Ibid.

[4] Roger Gale to Thomas Hearne, London 24 July 1716, Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 6, N° 14a, f. 311–312.

[5] Thomas Hearne to Roger Gale, [Oxford 1716 – Concept, no dates], Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 6, N° 15a, f. 313–314.

[6] Roger Gale to Thomas Hearne, London, 20 February 1722, MS Rawls letters 6, N° 35a, f. 355–357.

[7] Thomas Hearne (ed.): Johannis de Fordun Scotichronicon genuinum, una cum ejusdem supplemento ac continuatione. E codicibus Mss. eruit ediditque Tho. Hearnius, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1722.

[8] Samuel Gale, Oratio Habita coram Societate Lincolniensi vicesimo quarto Die Februarii Anno C. 1723, Bodleian Library, MS Eng Misc E 147, f. 61, r.

[9] Roger Gale to John Clerk, [no place] 26 April 1726, Bodleian Library, MS Top Gen d 74, pp. 178–186; p. 184.  

[10] Ibid, f. 65, v.

[11] Samuel Gale to Thomas Hearne, London, 26 May 1722, Bodleian Library MS Rawls letters 6, f. 376–377.

For Knowledge and Country

Title plate of Jean-Pierre Niceron’s “Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres” (1729-1742)

Saturday, March 16th, 2019, for Friday no. 23

Late again

This time the delay in posting this text is only partially my fault. I can blame some of it on the Biographisch portaal van Nederland, from which I wanted to draw some information but which just was not available for the last days. So I decided to do without these data for a first go, which I think will also do. I do have got enough material to present some first conclusions.

When knowledge went national

Or, as the headline for this paragraph should perhaps better have been, when did knowledge go national? Because it seems to have been fragmented and compartmentalized into ‘national’ units which, to be frank, only make sense on a technical, not on a content level. Framing knowledge in national terms may serve to portion a bit of it to make it manageable, to get it between the covers of a book – or several books of a series, as was much more frequently the case – more easily. But when did such a framing start to impact how knowledge was ordered? As this is of course a question too huge to be answered in a few paragraphs, I’ll focus on a special branch of knowledge and of knowledge stores today, and that is what in the 18th century was called Historia Litteraria. This was the study of the history of knowledge, most often with an arts and humanities focus, but not restricted to it. It was laid down in dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and it was usually biographical in nature, because heavily person-centred. Over time, this genre thinned out and became more and more specialized, while many of its more general contents were merged into the national biographical dictionaries which became popular in the 19th century. During these processes, somewhen between the 18th and the 19th century national categories became the dominant frames for laying out knowledge stores in this field, for both the specialized and the generalized forms of it. And this, at least this is my hypothesis for these materials, impacted if and how dead scholars where referenced, and so the references to my protagonists also.

How it began

But to return to the question from the preceeding paragraph: When did this happen? The obvious answer ‘it is complicated’ seems not to be very helpful here, so it may be best to first of all look at examples which may show when it did not have happened yet to be able to posit a terminus post quem. For those of these works written in German, the first half of the 18th century still was free from being dominated by the national gaze. The omnivorous Universal-Lexicon initally edited by Johann Heinrich Zedler (1706-1763) referred to all my four protagonists between the years 1733 and 1742,[1] and the more specialist dictionary of scholars by Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (1694-1758), the Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, did likewise in 1750/51.[2] Both applied national classifications, but neither consistently nor very prominent; the focus was on the scholarly achievements of those portrayed as learned rather than on their share of the learning their nation was supposed to have achieved.

This is interesting in so far as it was no longer completely usual. The large series of Jean-Pierre Niceron (1685-1738), the Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres, contemporary with the Universal-Lexicon and a bit earlier than Jöcher, mentioned only Reland and Renaudot, skipping Gale and Braun.[3] A cautionary approach is warranted here: One of the criteria for being included in such a dictionary of course always was scholarly excellence and/or fame, and they might have just been dropped for being of too little interest. For Niceron did reference non-French scholars, as for instance Reland. But – in keeping with the special attention Niceron programmatically devoted to illustrious scholars of the French nation – it may also be seen as telling that, in contrast to the Universal-Lexicon and Jöcher were both were quite on a par, in Niceron’s volumes Renaudot’s entries total 18 pages while Reland’s total 10. Such weightings and omissions – or selections – one might also meet with elsewhere, and according to different criteria. In David van Hoogstraten’s (1658-1724) and Matthaeus Brouërius van Nidek’s (1677-1743) Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek Braun and Reland received about the same share of attention, half a page each, whereas Gale was mentioned only in seven lines, and Renaudot was dropped altogether.[4] In this case, the selection might have been facilitated by the fact that the only Catholic was left out, and the Anglican Gale received less attention than the Calvinists Braun and Reland. Be that as it may, the main editor of the Groot algemeen […] woordenboek, Brouërius van Nidek – Hoogstraten had died in 1724 already, and the first volume went to print in 1725 – had edited another encyclopaedic work with a very clear national focus before, the Tooneel der Vereenigde Nederlanden (Theatre of the United Netherlands), the author of which, François Halma (1653-1722), also had died before seeing his work in print. And to make the full round, when Thomas Gale was referred to in an encyclopaedic work for the next time (since the Groot algemeen […] woordenboek), it was in volume three of Andrew Kippis’ (1725-1795) Biographia Britannica: Or The Lives Of The Most eminent Persons Who have flourished in Great Britain And Ireland, so that it was out of the question to refer to any other of my protagonists within this work.[5]

How it went on

References to my protagonists in encyclopaedias and dictionaries, 18th to 21st centuries

So although these were just a few spotlights on the situation in the first half of the 18th century, it seems that a national paradigm in constructing the history of learning was one way to do it but not the predominant. The question then must be, when did this change, and to which effect?

In respect to my protagonists, I am currently drawing up a list of such encyclopaedic references to them, and although it is not complete yet, the overall statistics you see to the left provide an indication when and how knowledge – at least of these people – became nationally framed.

Afirst phase of interest in my protagonists which lasted until the 1750s – which was, as also indicated by other materials, the phase after which when they entered a state of being structurally forgotten.  Then the references become sparse, until a renewed phase of interest begins which covers the 1830s to 1880s, and which is different for each of them. And this is, I would like to argue, due to the national framework having now become the predominant pattern of reference to scholars. Thomas Gale marks the first one to be referenced again in this way, in publications such as George Godfrey Cunningham’s (no dates, sorry) Lives of eminent and illustrious Englishmen (Glasgow, 1834-1842) and John Francis Waller’s The imperial dictionary of universal biography (London, 1857-1863) – although the last, to be fair, at least advertised itself as “a series of original memoirs of distinguished men, of all ages and all nations”. Yet the British focus was clear. Next come Johannes Braun and Adriaan Reland, in works like, Hendrick Collot d’Ésuery van Heinenoord’s (1773-1845) Holland’s Roem in Kunsten en Wetenschappen (Holland’s Glory in Arts and Sciences, Den Haag/Amsterdam 1825-1844) and Herman Verwoert’s (1801-1865) Handwoordenboek der vaderlandsche geschiedenis  (Nijmegen 1851), and of course the huge dictionary of national biography, the Biographisch woordenboek der Nederlanden (Amsterdam 1858-1874). References to Reland are still being made in the 1880s, which is due to him also being referenced in the German dictionary of national biography, the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (Berlin, 1875-1912), as I already pointed out in an earlier blogpost.

And, last but not least, Eusèbe Renaudot is being re-referenced from the 1860s onwards, but – and that makes his case perhaps the most interesting in here, but this is a topic I cannot say very much about right now (scheduled for in two weeks!) – he is referred to mostly in works without a direct French national connotation, such as Louis-Gabriel Michaud’s (1773-1858) Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne which appeared, in different editions, through almost all of the 19th century. What does this say about the connections made between scholarship and nation in 19th century France (if it does say anything about it)?


[1] Anon.: Braun (Joann.), in: Johann Heinrich Zedlers Grosses Vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Vol. 4, Halle & Leipzig 1733, col. 1130-1131; Anon: Gale (Thomas), in: Grosses Vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Vol. 10, Halle & Leipzig 1735, col. 98; Anon.: Reland (Hadrian), in: Grosses Vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Vol. 31, Halle & Leipzig 1742, col. 420-422; Renaudot (Eusebius), ein Gottesgelehrter, in: Ibid., col. 581-584.

[2] Braun (Johannes), in: Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (ed.): Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, Vol. 1, Leipzig 1750, col. 1344-1345; Gale (Thomas) in:  Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (ed.): Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, Vol. 2, Leipzig 1750, col. 830-831; Reland (Adrian), in: Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (ed.): Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, Vol. 3, Leipzig 1751, col.2002-2004; Renaudot (Eusebius), in: Ibid., col. 2012-2013.

[3] Niceron, Jean-Pierre: Reland, Adrien, in: —: Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres, Vol. 1, Paris 1729, pp. 335-342, and vol. 10, Paris 1730, pp. 62-63 ; Niceron, Jean-Pierre: Renaudot, Eusèbe, in : —: Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres, vol. 11, Paris 1732, pp. 25-41, and vol. 20, Paris 1732, pp. 35.

[4] Anon: Braun (Johannes), in: David van Hoogstraten/ Mathaeus Brouërius van Nidek (eds.): Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek, Vol. 2, Den Haag/Asterdam/Utrecht 1725, pp. 378-379 ; Anon : Gale (Thomas), in : David van Hoogstraten/ Mathaeus Brouërius van Nidek (eds.): Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek, Vol. 5, Den Haag/Asterdam/Utrecht 1729, p. 11 ; Anon : Reland (Adriaan), in : David van Hoogstraten/ Mathaeus Brouërius van Nidek (eds.): Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek, Vol. 9, Den Haag/Asterdam/Utrecht 1732, p. 54.

[5] Kippis, Andrew: Biographia Britannica, Vol. 3, London 1750, p. 2075-2077.

Recollection by pupils, done properly

Heading of Karl Gottfried Woide’s Mémoir from the Journal des Savants, June 1774, p. 333-343.

Friday No. 18, February 1st, 2019

In one of my last posts I have been questioning if having pupils is indeed conducive to being remembered as a scholar and ended on a somewhat sceptical note. But there is no end to learning, and so I would like to take the opportunity today to shed some light on an example of a pupil’s network that really efficiently did so.

1704 – 1716: A triangular correspondence

To make clear how the following connects to my overall project, let’s first have a look at a (perhaps) somewhat unusual kind of correspondence.

Communication between Cuper, de la Croze, and Reland: Persons in red, letters in yellow, printed publications mentioned in green, and institutions mentioned in black.

This depicts the correspondences between Adrien Reland, Gijsbert Cuper (1644-1716) and Mathurin Veyssière de la Croze (1661-1739) between 1704 and 1716 as far as I have already been able to incorporate them into my database. As it looks like, they were all three very much connected, be it indirectly by way of referring to the same people (red dots), publications (green dots), institutions (black dots) or letters (yellow dots), or by relating to each other directly.  But this picture is a bit misleading, one might say, because if only sender-receiver relations are visualized without taking the content of the letters into account, it looks like this.

Letters (yellow) exchanged between Cuper, de la Croze, and Reland (red); the only three letters between Reland and de la Croze highlighted in blue

There seems to have been almost no direct epistolary connection between de la Croze and Reland; at least, I have only found three letters until now. But as they were taken from the selected edition of de la Croze’s letters, published between 1742 and 1746 (fully digitized by Mannheim university), which includes none of the Cuper-la Croze letters, presumably because they were written in French, it may be assumed that there were some more.

Be that as it may, there was a huge amount of indirect communication going on between de la Croze and Reland by way of Cuper. Both would ask Cuper to deliver questions or answers to the other, and Cuper did so. What emerged was a strange triangular correspondence pattern between these three scholars. Now two of the three letters between Reland and de la Croze mention a certain David Wilkins (Wilke, 1685-1745), and that will become interesting in a minute.

A posthumous publication

In June 1774, the Journal des Savants announced the upcoming publication of the Lexicon ægyptiaco-latinum, to be printed in Oxford at the Clarendon Press in 1775,[1] in a short piece entitled Mémoire de M. Woide, sur le Dictionnaire Cophte qu’il va publier à Oxford, & sur les Sçavans qui ont étudié la Langue Cophte. Adressée à Messieurs les Auteurs du Journal des Sçavans.[2] This piece was remarkable insofar as its author, Karl Gottfried Woide (Charles Godfrey, 1725-1790), the editor of the announced work, not only gave a detailed account of the state of the field of Coptic studies as he perceived it, but also of the genesis of the book itself, which at the time had become something like a lost learned heirloom. It was based on a manuscript that Maturin Veyssière de la Croze had compiled until 1721, but never published, and left to his former pupil Charles-Étienne Jordan (1700-1745) when he died in 1739 together with his library. After Jordan’s death in 1745, the manuscript was sold together with Jordan’s library by Jordan’s brothers, and acquired by Leiden University. In 1750, Woide had gone there to copy the manuscript, and this copy now formed the basis for the printed edition.[3] This would have been less remarkable where it not for the interconnections between the persons entangled in this research action. For, Woide maintained, he originally copied the manuscript for his use and that of Christian Scholtz (1697-1777) from whom he had learned his Coptic. Scholtz, who may have commissioned the copy,[4] was second court preacher in Berlin and had himself learned his Coptic from his brother-in-law Paul Ernst Jablonski (1693-1757), who in turn had learned his Coptic from Maturin Veyssière de la Croze, and who had supplied de la Croze with many of the primary materials needed for the compilation of the dictionary in question. Karl Gottfried Woide thus was, if I may put it that way, a fourth-generation scholarly descendant of de la Croze, working within a net of other former pupils or connections of his teacher’s teacher’s teacher.

As Woide now brought the copy of de la Croze’s manuscript back to Berlin, Scholtz started working on it, preparing it for print and adding annotations of his own. But it fell to Woide to actually secure an opportunity for publication through his contact with Oxford university, where he found a printer willing to publish de la Croze’s Coptic dictionary as edited by Scholtz and revised by Woide.

Back to the beginning

And now the circle closes back to the beginning of this post, for Woide in his Mémoir not only referred to de la Croze and his scholars but also to those other savants of note who had been working on the subject of Coptic. In doing so, he not only mentioned Adrien Reland but also David Wilkins, both of which had collaborated with de la Croze to establish a Coptic version of the Lord’s prayer to be included in John Chamberlayne’s (1668/9-1723) Oratio dominica in diversas omnium fere gentium linguas of 1715,[5] which is precisely what the edited Reland-de la Croze letters I mentioned touch upon. Wilkins in turn had offered de la Croze to print his dictionary in England at some point in time, but de la Croze had denied the offer.[6] Woide also mentioned, although on short notice, Eusèbe Renaudot as one among the number of learned scholars of Coptic; perhaps on short notice as Renaudot had always maintained good relations with the Maurists of St.-Germain-des-Pres whom de la Croze had fled in 1696 to become a Calvinist.

And, last but not least, Woide provided the additional detail that another scholar reoccurring rather often throughout my last posts here also was in on it, for when the proofs for the dictionary were at Oxford they were given to John Swinton (1703-1777), “known for his research in antiquities”,[7] to be seen through and corrected.

Proliferation by pupils

So this seems to be a point in time when at least two of my protagonists were posthumously reunited for a brief moment through their scholarly endeavours. Yet this had only become possible through the collective endeavours of de la Croze’s pupils over a period of more than three decades after his death. This might indicate that if pupils shall benefit a scholar’s posthumous memory, this may only happen through emergent effects from a working network of pupils at the time of the individual scholar’s death, focusing on a collective goal – as the study of Coptic in de la Croze’s case. One more hypothesis to test!


[1] Charles Godfrey Woide (ed.), Christian Scholtz (contr.), Mathurin Veyssière de la Croze: Lexicon ægyptiaco-latinum : ex veteribus illius linguæ monumentis summo studio collectum et elaboratum a Maturino Veyssiere la Croze. Quod in compendium redegit, ita ut nullae Voces Aegyptiacae, nullaeque earum significationes omitterentur, Christianus Scholtz: Aulae Regiae Borussiacae a concionibus sacris, et Ecclesiae Reformatae Cathedralis Berolinensis Pastor. Notulas quasdam, et indices adjecit Carolus Godofredus Woide, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1775.

[2] Charles Godfrey Woide: Mémoire de M. Woide, sur le Dictionnaire Cophte qu’il va publier à Oxford, & sur les Sçavans qui ont étudié la Langue Cophte. Adressée à Messieurs les Auteurs du Journal des Sçavans, in : Journal des Savants 109, June 1774, pp. 333-343.

[3] Ibid., p. 335.

[4] Cf. C. Siegfried: Scholtz, Christian, in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 32 (1891), pp. 228–229 [Online-Version], p. 228. URL: https://www.deutsche-biographie.de/pnd101488637.html#adbcontent

[5] John Chamberlayne: Oratio dominica in diversas omnium fere gentium linguas versa et propriis cujusque linguae characteribus expressa, una cum dissertationibus nonnullis de linguarum origine, variisque ipsarum permutationibus. Editore Joanne Chamberlayno anglo-britanno, Regiae societatis Londinensis & Berolinensis socio,

[6] Charles Godfrey Woide: Mémoire de M. Woide, sur le Dictionnaire Cophte, p. 334.

[7] Ibid., p. 337: „connu par ses recherches dans les antiquités ».

Who is John Swinton?

Adrien Reland, Inscriptiones duae Palmyrenae, in: Palaestina Illustrata, Vol. 2, 1714, p. 526.

Friday No. 9, Devember 7th, 2018

And what does Swinton do around here? Well, to tell this story let me begin anew, this time from another starting point.

My basic assumption was that structural forgetting can be observed by looking atreference patterns. When they fall into an intermitting cycle of referencing and non-referencing, that’s where forgetting comes in.  To be able to detect this means browsing through a lot of potential reference sources to unearth patterns of actual references. To provide a not completely random selection, I took my tour through the major learned journals of the 18th century first of all. And that is where today’s story really starts, for in the course of doing so I finally also came to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 

A pattern of nothing?

Now the problem with the reference pattern in the 18th Philosophical Transactions was that there simply was none, or so it seemed. In the firstcouple of volumes neither Adrien Reland nor Johannes Braun nor Eusèbe Renaudot nor, to my surprise, even Thomas Gale (the English scholar in the sample) where referenced once. This continued during the 1710s, 1720s, 1730s, and 1740s, until I began to wonder whether it was not simply the case that the Philosophical Transactions just had ignored them, as the journal had only infrequently published humanities research at all.

I was already considering to skip going through all issues and sample only one every five years from the Transactions as this was obviously a useless pursuit, when all of a sudden John Swinton popped up and made my day. In volume 48, 1753/54. Doing dull work has its advantages.

Hooray for Swinton!

Enter John Swinton (1703–1777), philologist, numismatist, and antiquarian searching for obscure inscriptions.[1] His hour came when in 1753 Robert Wood (1716/17–1771) published “The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor in the Desart”,[2] his account of the journey undertaken by James Dawkins (1722–1757) and himself into Ottoman territory in the Syrian desert to re-re-discover the ancient Graeco-Roman city of Palmyra, (which has recently been devastated by the so-called “Islamic State” much more efficiently than seventeen centuries of desert climate had been able to do before). Swinton was most of all interested in the inscriptions transcribed and added as illustrated plates to Wood’s Ruins of Palmyra because they enlarged the corpus of known bilingual Greek-Palmyrene inscriptions sufficiently to decipher the Palmyrene alphabet and language, an extinct Semitic tongue. And that was exactly what Swinton claimed to have accomplished in his first contribution to Philosophical Transactions, the “Explication of all inscriptions in the Palmyrene language and character hither to publish’d. In five letters from the Reverend Mr. John Swinton, M. A. of Christ-Church,Oxford, and F. R. S. to the Reverend Thomas Birch, D. D. Secret. R. S.”[3] Although Swinton had been admitted into the Royal Society already in 1729, thiswas his first printed contribution to the Transactions.

Who’s first?

It must, of course, be noted that Swinton’s discovery was not unparalleled, as PeterDaniels has shown in 1988 already, and that it is much more likely thatJean-Jacques Barthélemy (1716–1795) of the Academie des Inscriptions in Pariswas actually faster than Swinton in deciphering and translating Palmyrene.[4] Swinton and Barthélemy moreover were not working in isolation but were in correspondence already.[5] Swinton’s previous work on had on Roman and Etruscan inscriptions,[6] and only from the 1750s onwards taken to Phoenician and Samaritan inscriptions also,[7] which provided the basis for his Palmyrene research. In his Explication of all inscriptions in the Palmyrene language and character hither to publish’d Swinton nevertheless took care to style things it in a way as to indicate that not only he had the claim to primacy in the discovery but also that Barthélemy had not really comeas far as he had.[8] I suppose Swinton did so for good reason. This does not necessarily mean that thestory he told about his discovery was not true; it is reasonable to suppose that he was capable to do as he claimed to have done. It just was not the whole story. The reason why it was good for Swinton to tell it in a, so to say, condensed way was that this was his chance to get back into the scientific discussion of his day, and he took it when he saw it.

Swinton’s way back in

Swinton’s track record had been quite good until 1737; he had studied in Oxford, graduated MA in 1726 and priest in 1727, had been admitted as a probationer fellow to Wadham College (and into the Royal Society) in 1729, and from 1730 to1734 had been appointed chaplain to the English factory in Leghorn (Livorno), which gave him the opportunity to travel through Portugal, upper Italy, and through Vienna and Hungary on the way back to England. It might be that in 1733, while he was in Florence, he laid the grounds for his later acceptance into the learned societies of the Accademia degli Apatisti of Florence and the Accademia Etrusca Delle Antichità ed Iscrizioni of Cortona.[9] Back in Oxford, he took the post of humanities lecturer, until in 1737 he was involved into a scandal about homosexual relations at the college which sparked at least three publications[10] and two lawsuits until 1740 and at the end of which Swinton was de facto found guilty of “sodomy”, as male homosexual intercourse was legally framed at thetime. He resigned his fellowship and left the college for a church post. In 1745 he joined Christ Church College, Oxford, this time as a student of theology, and in 1750 published the first edition of his largest publication ever, the “Inscriptiones citiae”. This was the situation he was in when in 1754 his first Transactions piece got published. In the following twenty years he submitted another 37 pieces to the Transactions, almost two per year, besides also publishing several of his smaller pieces for the print market and putting out a second revised edition of his Inscriptiones citiae in 1755.  That he was elected keeper of the Oxford University Archives in 1767 might well have been facilitated by this steady stream of publications since 1753/54.

An old acquaintance

Now the interesting thing for me was that I had already stumbled over Swinton before when I cameacross his only major book publication, the Inscriptiones citiae of 1750, during my Eighteenth Century Collections Online search for references to Adrien Reland; and a closer look revealed that Swinton had citedReland as early as 1738 already in his De lingua Etruriæ regalis vernacular dissertatio.[11]He therefore obviously was already familiar with Reland’s oeuvre, which tied into the Palmyrene case as in his description of ancient Palestine Reland had also given an illustration of a Palmyrene inscription – unfortunately one which, as Swinton claimed, neither he nor Barthélemy had been able to put togood use because of its bad likeness until Barthélemy somehow acquired a better copy.[12]

John Swinton, Reland’s Inscriptiones duae, quoted in PT 48, 1754, p. 691.

A pattern of re-use and recurrence

 The pattern which becomes visible here is one that connects several developments which lead to an – albeit not completely flattering – modest resurgence of the writings of Adrien Relands in the hands of John Swinton. On a structural level Swinton is exemplary for the enhanced standing of Antiquarianism as a discipline since the middle of the 18th century, and he was directly connected to the Oxford group of Orientalist scholars. He moreover profited from the growing influence of European powers in the Levant region, which facilitated expeditions into the ancient sites there, and the risen interest for all matters oriental connected to this, exemplified by the enormous success of Woods Ruins of Palmyra. On a dynamic level it was exactly this unforeseeable event provided the chance for Swinton to position himself with his Antiquarian interests in the centre of the current academic discourses of his time and place, and with this to en passant reintegrate his literature back into that discussion.

John Swinton’s position (red) in the overall epistemic network of the project

The smaller the fish that feed off you…

That this would happen was outside the horizon of calculation of those he cited, and that they would be referred to in this context not to be expected. A good point of illustration is that the Abbé Renaudot was not in the bundle of those Swinton referred to – because he as secretary of the Academie des Inscriptions had declared the Palmyrene inscriptions to be no field of research for the academy as there was no sufficient source corpus to reliably do so.[13] That he disqualified himself from being re-used as literature in an academic discussion starting 30 years after his death was something he could not know; and neither did Reland know that quoting the Palmyrene inscriptions he knew, albeit in an unsatisfactorily manner (to Swinton at least). Structural forgetting emerges once again as a phenomenon ruled much more by chance than by scientific results. And I would like to use Swinton to formulate a new measure criterion for being structurally forgotten: The smaller the fish that feed of you, the smaller you have become.


[1] See E. I Carlyle, Rictor Norton: Swinton, John (1703–1777), in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

[2] Robert Wood (ed.): The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor, in the Desart, London: n.p. 1753.

[3] John Swinton: “Explication of all inscriptions in the Palmyrene language and character hither to publish’d. In five letters from the Reverend Mr. John Swinton, M. A. of Christ-Church, Oxford, and F. R. S. to the Reverend Thomas Birch, D. D. Secret. R. S.”, in: Philosophical Transactions, Vol. 48, 1753/54, pp. 690–756.

[4] See Peter T. Daniels: “Shewing of Hard Sentences and Dissolving of Doubts”: The First Decipherment, in: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 108, No. 3 (Jul. – Sep., 1988), pp. 419-436.

[5] Daniels, “Shewing of Hard Sentences and Dissolving of Doubts”, p. 435.

[6] John Swinton: “De lingua Etruriæ regalis vernacula dissertatio. Authore Joanne Swinton A. M. Soc. Coll. Wadh. Oxon. & R. S. S.”, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1738; —: “De primigenio Etruscorum alphabeto dissertation”, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1746; —: “De priscis Romanorum literis dissertation”, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1746.

[7] John Swinton: “Inscriptiones citie : Sive in binas inscriptiones Phoenicias, inter rudera citii nuperrepertas, conjectur. Accedit de nummis quibusdam samaritanis & phoeniciis, vel in solitam per se literaturam ferentibus, vel in lucem hactenus non editis, dissertatio. Autore Joanne Swinton, A.M. ex de christi, Oxon. & R.S.S”, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1750; —: “De nummis quibusdam Samaritanis et Phoeniciis: vel insolitam prae se literaturam ferentibus, vel in lucem hactenus non editis, dissertatio”, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1750; —: “De nummis quibusdam Samaritanis et Phoeniciis : vel insolitam prae se literaturam ferentibus, vel in lucem hactenus non editis dissertatio secunda”, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1753;—: “Inscriptiones Citieae, sive, In binas alias inscriptiones Phoenicias interrudera Citii nuper repertas conjecturae”, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1753; —: “Inscriptiones citieæ: sive in binas alias inscriptiones Phoenicias, inter rudera citii nuper repertas, conjecturæ”, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1755.

[8] Swinton, Explication of all inscriptions in the Palmyrene language and character hither to publish’d, p.743: “Not long after I had finished my conjectures upton the Palmyreneinscription published by Gruter and M. Spon, I received a most obliging letter from M. l’Abbé Barthelemey […] wherein he informed me, that he had taken great pains to explain that inscription, and another drawn in the same character, published likewise by Mr. Spon. As he seemed to think, that he had not intirely [sic] deciphered those inscriptions, he recommended it to me to take them both into my consideration, and to what I could make of them.”

[9] Although this might also have beena later development as he flagged these memberships only from 1763 (Cortona) and 1764 (Florence) on in his publications.

[10] Anon.: “College-Wit sharpen’d: or, The Head of a house, with, a Sting in the Tail: being a New English Amour, of the Epicene Gender, done into Burlesque metre, from the Italian. Address’d to the Two Famous Universities of S-d-m and G-m-rr-h. London: printed for J. Wadham, near the Meeting-House in Little-Wild-Street, where the Supplement, which will shortly be published, may be had; and Sold at the Pamphlet-Shops of London and Westminster, M.DCC.XXXIX”, London: n. p. 1739; Anon.: “A faithful narrative of the life and character of the Reverend Mr.Whitefield, B. D. From his Birth to the present Time. Containing An Account of his Doctrine and Morals; his Motives for going to Georgia, and his Travels through several Parts of England”, London: Watson 1739; Anon.: “A faithful narrative of the proceedings in a late affair between the Rev. Mr. John Swinton, and Mr. George Baker, both of Wadham College, Oxford: wherein the reasons, that induced Mr. Baker to accuse Mr. Swinton of sodomitical practices, and the Terms, upon which he signed the Recantation, industriously publish’d in the Daily Advertiser, London Evening Post, &c. are circumstantially set down, and submitted to the Publick: To which is prefix’d, a Particular Account of the Proceedings against Robert Thistlethwayte, Late Doctor of Divinity, and Warden of Wadham College, For a Sodomitical Attempt upon Mr. W. French, Commoner of the same College”, London: n. p. 1739.

[11] Swinton, De lingua Etruriæ regalis vernacula dissertatio, p. 7.

[12] Swinton, Explication of all inscriptions in the Palmyrene language and character hither to publish’d, p.744.

[13] Daniels, “Shewing of Hard Sentences and Dissolving of Doubts”, p. 427.

Second-hand Science

Mears, William, Auction Catalogue (title page snippet) (1723)

Friday n° 8, November 30th, 2018

The early modern academic book is a used book. Of course new books were printed and put onthe market always and everywhere. But long is art, and life is short, and books frequently outlive their owners. In the 18th century this created a market which lived off second-, third-, fourth, x-th hand books which were sold and resold every so often: when their owners died, or when they were in especially dire need for money; when libraries where confiscated or scattered in war, revolution, or as punishment. And on the whole this market was rather larger than that for new books. The early modern printed book was a commodity made to endure and as such had a very long commercial lifecycle.

This is hardly a new insight, and a lot has already been said about used-book markets and practices (see the Book History and Print Culture Network). Now, apart from a few collectors who bought books just for the sake of collecting, most of these changes of hand of early modern academic books took place for reasons of research and teaching.They were bought because they were needed. Even though they were sold second-or-more-hand, these volumes were still costly items, and the average scholar did not buy them without good reason. So I may assume that if a book changed hands there possibly also was an intellectual reason behind this economic transaction.  

The Second-hand thesis

This means that ideas, notions, names and theories can not only travel openly by citationand quotation but also in a more hidden way along with the books they are contained in. In theory this opens new avenues for my quest to research processes of forgetting within science and learning, for the circulation of an author’s books might provide at least an indicator of his after-death impact.

Four first-hand problems

Practically this poses a whole bunch of new challenges to the project:

  • Figuring out how such indirect clues relate to direct ones and how they can be measured against each other. For it seems intuitively plausible that citing or quoting a scholar directly is stronger evidence of this scholar being structurally remembered than having a scholar’s book somewhere deep down in one’s library.
  • Coming to terms with indirect clues which can be directly referred to an individual person as well as indirect clues which are generic by their very nature. The difference is that of, say, the auction catalogue of a late owner’s library, which allows to ascribe the featured books to this owning individual, and the auction catalogue of the annual grand sale of a bookshop or store which gives no indication of the provenance of the volumes listed.
  • Accounting for the difference between books I know from such sources as the above-mentioned auction catalogues to have been offered for sale and books which I happen to know of being actually sold, and factoring this into the measure of ‘indirectness’ of the clue this gives me about the work in question being in circulation. Now this point mightseem to raise an issue a bit hair-splittingly, but it really poses a serious problem. Normally all that is left of such transactions are the auction catalogues some of which have survived – only a tiny fraction of those thereonce were, but that’s the same as with other sources. The problem is that these catalogues do allow me only to establish that at the time the sale was announced these books had been in the possession of the deceased or were in the possession of the offering entrepreneur. They normally do not allow to make any inference whether the books actually were sold at this event. Sometimes the catalogues carry annotations of certain items being underlined, check marked, or added prices which may point to someone at least being interested in buying them, but these are only very rarely conclusive evidence. So the question is, what happened to the leftovers? Were they sold off at a discount, given away, scrapped, recycled, or kept? For it would it certainly make a difference in estimating the value of an author’s name if the books announced under this name all sold highly after being battled over at the auction, or if they were all taken to the paper mill afterwards. (Which is quite unlikely unless indicated very clearly, to be honest, but to illustrate the possible spread let’s just assume it for the sake of argument).

    Mears 1723, p. 25

  • And, last but surely not least, how can the data to be drawn from the catalogues be integrated into my co-citation approach to the framing of bygone epistemic communities? For normally these catalogues do not just list some thousand books one after the other but structure their content in a manner accessible to the potential buyers, and that is, by formal criteria on the one hand (format, features, and condition) and by contextual criteria on the other hand, so that a rubric would read “Libri Miscellanei & Juridici, Octavo”[1]or “Theologici in quarto” for instance. But should I then add all other books from that rubric as being co-cited with, say, Johannes Braun’s “Vestitus sacerdotum Hebraeorum” of 1680 which might be found in the latter category?[2] This might seem an obvious choice, but unfortunately it is utterly impracticable because of the sheer number of entries I would have to process then. Should I, then, restrict myself to only recording those works appearing on the same page as, for instance, Adrien Reland’s “De religione mahomedica”, 2nd edition 1717[3] (see picture) as I would do for citations/quotations in a text? This might give a compromised picture because such rubrics tend to have an inner order – some reproducing that of the library’s former owner (which would be a good thing), some ordering the volumes alphabetically to facilitate browsing, or ranked by estimated value or anything else. So a consistent method might give me inconsistent results if I cannot process an amount of data large enough to even out such imbalances statistically.

So what to do now?

Already a while ago I tracked references to my protagonists in those auction cataloguesonline available via Eighteenth Century Collections Online. This provided me with a quite special sample because it is very much Britain-centred, but as the United Kingdom imported vast quantities of second-hand academic books from the continent during the 18th century, this is really not so bad at all. Here are the graphs for the frequencies I was able to establish for Adrien Reland and Johannes Braun through 81 catalogues between 1723 and 1796.

Reland’s books in the ECCO sample

Braun’s books in the ECCO sample

 

This surely looks nice, and it interestingly tells a story completely different (from what I know so far) from that told by the pattern of references to my protagonists in scholarly journals. To put it shortly, as the journal references decline, the mentions in auction catalogues rise. But what does that mean? Does it point to their ideas being in circulation through their circulating books even after they went out of fashion in the rather short-lived business of academic journalism? Or does it rather tell that as the authors went out of fashion in the journals, so did their books, being put on the second-hand market in something like a grand sell-out with a little delay?

This depends much on the answers I find to my four problems posed above, so I guess it’s fair to say that until now, this is still an open question. One hint might be that of the 81 relevant catalogues from between 1723-1796 I found, 56 may be counted as commercial, and 25 as owner-based (and 5 of these really are no sales catalogues but presence library catalogues and should only with care be included in the calculations). So what I have here is a very indirect picture – one that still has to be unravelled.


[1] Mears, William (seller): A catalogue of books in Greek, Latin, English, Italian, and French. Being a collection of trade, […] to be sold on Wednesday the 15th of this instant May, 1723, at W. Mear’s shop, the Lamb without Temple Bar; at Nine of the Clock in the Morning, [London]: n.p., [1723], p. 25.

[2] Johannes Braun: Bigdê kohanîm id est, Vestitus sacerdotum Hebræorum, sive Commentarius amplissimus in Exodi cap. XXVIII, ac XXIX. & Levit. cap. XVI., 2 vols., Leiden: Elzevier, Doude 1680.

[3] Adrien Reland: De religione mohammedica libri duo, 2 vols., 2nd enlarged edition, Utrecht: Broedelet 1717.