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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

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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.