Tag Archives: Samuel Gale

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].

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.