W. (William) Roberts.

The earlier history of English bookselling online

. (page 6 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

honest stitching bookseller.'

In 1597, Humfrey Hooper, whose shop was at
the ' blacke Beare in Chauncery Lane,' brought out
the first edition of the famous ' Essays.' There were
only ten subjects dealt with in this extremely quaint
volume of 32 leaves (excepting the title-page and
dedication). ' To labour the staie of them/ observes
Bacon in the address to his brother, ' had bin trouble-
some, and subject to interpretation ; to let them passe
had beene to adueture the wrong they mought



Bookselling in the Time of Shakespeare. 73

receiue by vntrue coppies, or by some garnishment,
which it mought please any that should set them
forth to bestow upon them.' The second edition
appeared in the following year, and, like the first,
it bore the imprint of Hooper, who, from the very
few examples of his publications now existing, we
may assume was a young publisher that Bacon
wished to assist. In 1596 he had published Dr. John
Wood's 'Practicae Medicinae.' Editions of the
' Essays ' followed upon one another with compara-
tive rapidity, at least one appearing in 1604 and
another in 1606, and then again in 1612 and 1624.
Spedding doubted whether Bacon had anything to
do with either of the issues of 1598, 1604, and
1606, which are said to be merely reprints without
additions or alterations, except some changes in the
spelling and the substitution of an English translation
of the ' Meditationes Sacrae ' from the original Latin.
Whether John Beale's issue of 1606 was authorized
or not we have no means of determining, but it is
quite certain that Isaac Jaggard published pirated
editions in 1606, 1612, and 1624. Jaggard's shop
was at the sign of the ' Hand and Starre, near Temple
Bar, Fleet Street,' and for a quarter of a century
there were few more prolific booksellers than he.
His publications include Carew's ' Survey of Cornwall '
(1602), Fairfax's translation of Godfrey of Bulloigne '
(1600), the first volume of an English version of
Boccaccio, and the famous first folio of Shakespeare
(1623). In the last instance, as we have already seen,
Blount, another bookseller, divided the undertaking,
and in most other cases the pecuniary responsibilities



74 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

were shared by friendly rivals. The first and only
complete edition of the ' Essays ' published in Bacon's
lifetime was printed for Hanna Barret and John
Whittaker (1625), whose shop was at the sign of the
King's Head in St. Paul's Churchyard. Hanna
Barret was probably the widow of William Barret,
who published several works notably the produc-
tions of Montaigne, Bishop Hall, Sandys, and Bacon
between the years 1608 and 1624. Hanna Barret
either retired from business or died in 1625, for we
do not after that date meet with any examples of her
publications.

'A Briefe Discourse, touching the Happie Union
of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland' (1603),
was printed for Fcelix' Norton, whose shop was 'at
the signe of the Parot ' in St. Paul's Churchyard,
and were also to be sold by William Apsley. Apsley
published books between 1599 and 1630, including
the productions of Decker, Casaubon, Chapman, and
Shakespeare. The year 1604 saw two more books
of Bacon brought forth, each by a different book-
seller. First, the 'Certain Considerations touching
the better pacification and edification of the Church
of England,' bore the imprimatur of Henrie Tomes
surely an appropriate surname for a bookseller!
and secondly, ' Sir Francis Bacon : his Apologie/
was entrusted to Matthew Lownes, whose shop was
situated in that happy hunting-ground of booksellers,
St. Paul's Churchyard. The first edition of the former
book is described as excessively rare ; and of Henry
Tomes nothing more is known than that his shop
was 'over against Graies Inne Gate, in Holburne,'



Bookselling in the Time of Shakespeare. 75

and that he published some books between 1604 and
1607, the most interesting and curious of which is
perhaps ' The Commendation of Cocks and Cock-
fighting, wherein is shewn that cock-fighting was
before the coming of Christ' (black letter, 1607).
Matthew Lownes sold many books, often in conjunc-
tion with Isaac Jaggard, from 1596 to 1625 ; he was
the son of Hugh Lownes of Rode, in Astbury,
Cheshire, and was born about 1568. He died pro-
bably in 1625, in which year his widow gave io/.
to the Stationers' Company as a remembrance of the
departed Matthew.

The ' Advancement of Learning,' or as it was first
called, ' The Twoo Bookes of Francis Bacon, of the
proficiencie and advancement of Learning, divine
and humane' (1605) was also printed for Tomes.
The first part consists of 45 leaves, and the second
of 118; as was then sometimes the custom, each
leaf had only one number, instead of two, as at the
present time. An edition of this book was printed
in 1629 for W. Washington, and another in 1633
for T. Huggins, of Oxford, neither of whom was
particularly noted as a bookseller.

'De Sapientia Veterum,' better known as the
' Wisdom of the Ancients ' (1609), next calls for
notice, and this very carefully and beautifully printed
little duodecimo was produced by Robert Barker,
who enjoyed the honour of being his Majesty's
printer, was granted, on July 19, 1603, a special
licence for printing all statutes, and who, moreover,
was one of a large family of printers. A translation
of ' De Sapientia Veterum,' was printed in 1619 for



76 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

John Bill, who, from 1604 to 1630, had something
more or less to do with a great number of books, and
whose assigns continued in business until 1642. In
addition to this, John Bill was the 'sponsor' of
Bacon's greatest work, viz., the ' Instauratio Magna,'
which appeared, in folio, during 1620. This book
embodied an attempt to build up a new philosophy,
and, as the ' Novum Organum ' is but one part of a
stupendous whole, it is therefore only a fragment, but
it is the most carefully written of all Bacon's philo-
sophical works. In 1622, the ' Historia Ventorum '
the first published part of the ' Historia Naturalis,'
which was to be the third division of the ' Instauratio '
was printed for Matthew Lownes and William
Barret ; and in the following year the ' Historia
Vitae et Mortis ' was printed for Lownes solely, to
both of whom reference has already been made. The
' History of the Reign of Henry VII.' was another of
Bacon's works that came out in 1622, in folio, and this,
like the ' Historia Ventorum,' was printed for Lownes
and William Barret.

Bacon's ' Translation of certaine Psalmes into
English Verse,' a quarto of 22 pages, or 1 1 leaves,
dedicated to Herbert of ' The Temple ' fame,
appeared during the year 1625, under the auspices
of Hanna Barret and Richard Whittaker, as did
also^ in the same year, the ' Apophthegmes, new and
old.'

William Lee, of the Turk's Head, Fleet Street,
appears to have obtained the right of publishing
' Sylva Sylvarum ' in perpetuity, for not only does
the first edition (1627) bear his name, but the fifth



Bookselling in the Time oj Shakespeare. 77

of 1639, and the seventh of 1658. In 1629 appeared
the 'Advertisement Touching an Holy Warre,'
which, although written seven years previously,
came forth with the name of Humphrey Robinson ;
and the next year the ' Assigns of John More, Esq.,'
published ' The Elements of Common Law.' The
history, from our standpoint, of Bacon's posthumous
publications is naturally unimportant when com-
pared with that of the books which appeared during
his lifetime.



78 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.



CHAPTER IV.

BOOKSELLING IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.

THE history of mankind is said to be made up of
continuous generations : each possessing, where it is
really alive, its separate characteristics. The history
of bookselling, strictly speaking, has also such a
sequence, but the claim to homogeneity can only
be admitted when the subject is viewed as a whole.
From the earliest times, booksellers sprang up with
mushroom uncertainty and irregularity, and, again
like fungoid growth, they passed into nothingness.
In many instances their very names are buried in
the depths of obscurity, and no amount of delving
amid the strata of literary rubbish will bring them
to the surface. In other cases, again, their names
and the parts they played stand out clear and distinct
in the records, not merely of literary by-paths, but of
the broader and greater literature whose importance
is national in character and universal in scope.
Here and there we shall find instances of a son
and occasionally of a grandson carrying on the
business without break, but as a general rule the
connections formed by one man either died with him
or were transferred to a stranger. Still, the primary



Bookselling in the Seventeenth Century. 79

chain, whose links commenced with Caxton, is un-
broken, for the great stream of books, in spite of
foreign complications and internal dissensions, knows
of no stoppage.

Leaving the first dozen years or so out of the
question, the Restoration must be regarded as a
radiating point of literary enterprise. The contri-
butions of the later dramatists, such as Massinger
and Ford, were followed up by Milton's, and later on
by Dryden's. These two men practically span the
cycle of the seventeenth century, for Milton was born
in 1608, and the prolific pen of Dryden ceased in
1701. They are the two most distinct portraits in
the whole gallery of the period, and beside them all
others fade into insignificance.

The accession of James I. marks the commence-
ment of a new and very much inferior era in English
literature, which is in striking contrast to that which
immediately preceded it. The state of bookselling
in the seventeenth century is necessarily analogous to
its foster-parent, literature. It made but very little
advancement, and contributed not one iota to the
amelioration of authorship by profession, which, if
anything, retrograded. The howl of the author may
be reckoned in an inverse ratio to the comfort and
opulence of the tradesman.

We get a little insight into the proceedings of
certain booksellers from George Wither's ' The
Schollers Purgatory discovered in the Stationers
Commonwealth, Imprinted for the honest Stationers '
(1625). It seems that the stationers opposed the
publication of the ' Hymns and Songs of the Church '



8o The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

(which was issued for the ' Assignes of G. Wither ' in
1623), in spite of the interesting fact that publication
was commanded by the king. Wither likens some
of the booksellers to the silent Smith of Ephesus,
and in commenting on the Marge expense in this
work/ he observes 'the bookseller hath not only
made the printer, the binder, and the claspmaker a
slave to him ; but hath brought authors, yea, the
whole commonwealth and all the liberal sciences into
bondage.' If there is any truth at all in his charges,
the Stationers' Company was a conglomeration of
corruption, but the animadversions of an avowed
satirist cannot always be accepted as gospel truth.
From his shewing, however, the Company could
settle upon any of its members a perpetual interest
in books registered by them, even if the first copies
were purloined from the author and printed without
his leave. ' They annex additions to old books, and
increase the price,' though the ' matter be altogether
impertinent.' ' Good God,' exclaims the disgusted
and somewhat profane author, ' how many dung-
botes full of fruitless volumes doe they yearely foist
upon his Majesty's subjects, by lying Titles, insinua-
tions and disparaging of more profitable books ! How
many hundred reames of foolish prophane and sense-
less ballads do they quarterly disperse abroade?
And how many looo/.'s do they yearly pick out of
the purses of ignorant people, who refer the choice
of their books to the discretions and honesties of
these men ! ' Wither, like so many other authors,
rarely employed one publisher twice. F. Bnrton
issued the first two editions of 'Abuses Stript and



Bookselling in the Seventeenth Century. 8 1

Whipt/ 1613 and 1614, whilst T. Snodham, Geo.
Norton, N. Okes and J. Budge, were publishers at
one time or another for Wither.

John Lilburne, who was by trade a bookbinder,
played the part of hero with quite a creditable dignity.
He was found guilty of publishing numerous seditious
books, notably one of Prynne's. Not content with
having him whipped at a cart's tail from the Fleet
Prison to Westminster, the authorities placed him in
the pillory for two hours, and from this undignified
position he was thrown into the Fleet Prison, where
he was kept until he conformed to the rules of the
court. Further, he had to pay 5OO/. to the king, and
give security for his behaviour. But ' Freeborn
John/ as his friends nicknamed him, was not to be
put down, for he not only underwent the sentence
'with undismayed obstinacy/ but uttered many
speeches against the bishops, circulated innumerable
pamphlets, from the pillory, and, last of all, when the
Star Chamber ordered him to be gagged, he defied
them. Indeed, Judge Jenkins is reported to have
declared, 'if there was none living but he, John
would be against Lilburne, and Lilburne against
John.' He died August 29, 1657. Prynne was not
much more fortunate than Lilburne, for a contem-
porary writer alludes to Prynne being in the pillory
at Cheapside, and that while he stood there ' they
burnt his huge volume under his nose, which had
almost suffocated him.' Michael Spark, in and about
the year 1644, sold most of Prynne's books at ' the
Blue Bible in Green Arbour/ Spark was fined
5<x>/., and for ever prevented from selling books

G



8 2 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

through his connection with Prynne's ' Histrio-
mastix,' a stupendous quarto of over 1000 pages.

The industrious operations of Mr. Nathaniel
Butter, ' the great newspaper-monger ' (to whom
reference has already been made), and others of the
trade who scrupled not at utilizing another man's
idea, gave no inconsiderable impetus to the book-
selling trade. Their trashy, stale, and almost invari-
ably inaccurate news served a certain purpose, even
if that purpose were antagonistic to enlightenment.
It fostered and encouraged a taste for a higher class
of literature, and so created, or rather extended, the
desire for pamphlets and treatises on the burning
topics of the day. The newspaper press, such as it
was, was foully inferior. In reflecting upon the
anomalies of the 'newspaper' news, Ben Jonson, in
'The Staple of News' (1625), makes an interesting
reference to stationers.



' P.jun. See divers men's opinions ! unto some
The very printing of them makes them News ;
That ha' not the heart to believe anything,
But what they see in print.

Fitt. I, that's an error
Has abus'd many ; but we shall reform it,
As many things beside (we have a hope)
Are crept among the popular abuses.

Cymb. Nor shall the stationer cheat upon the time,
By buttering over again

Fitt. Once in seven years,
As the age doats

Cymb. And grows forgetful o' them
His antiquated pamphlets, with new dates,
But all shall come from the mint.

Fitt. Fresh and new-stamp'd



Bookselling in the Seventeenth Century. 83

Cymb. With the office-seal, staple commodity.

Fitt. And if a man will assure his News, he may ;
Twopence a sheet he shall be warranted,
And wave a policy for't.

* * ' * * *

P.jun. What are your present clerk's habilities ?
How is he qualified ?

Cymb. A decay'd stationer
He was, but knows News well ; can sort and rank 'em.

Fitt. And for a need can make 'em.

Cymb. True Paul's bred,
I' the churchyard.'

Much commotion was caused in England during
1629 by the want of large folio Bibles. To meet
this the Cambridge printers printed an edition which
they sold at ten shillings in quires. The king's
printers at once set six printing-houses at work, and
printed the folio Bible in the same manner, and sold
it with 500 quarto Roman Bibles and 500 quarto
English at five shillings each, so as to overthrow the
Cambridge printers, and keep it entirely in their own
hands. This, with a great quantity of other valuable
information respecting the state of bookselling during
the earlier half of the seventeenth century, we learn
from a very remarkable and noteworthy pamphlet,
' Scintilla; or, A light broken into dark Warehouses
of some Printers, sleeping Stationers, and combining
Booksellers' (1641). It contains certain observations
upon the monopolists of seven several patents and
two charters. Their proceedings are declared to be
' anatomised and laid open in a breviat, in which is
only a touch of their forestalling and ingrossing of
books in patents and raising to excessive prices.' The
imprint is not the least curious fact in connection

G 2



84 The Earlier History of English Bookselling .

with this book, which declares itself to be printed
' not for profit, but for the common weles good : and
no where to be sold, but somewhere to be given.'
The ' epistle to the reader ' is emphatic and brief.
' Courteous Reader (or otherwise), if thou lookest for
the reason of writing this book, here it is, and so
Anonimous leaves thee. Non Nobis Solum, nati
summ, sed partim patriae.' The writer complains
that the Church Bibles, which in former times were
sold (in quires) for thirty or even twenty-five shillings,
had been raised to forty, and that, from the impres-
sion of 3000, the booksellers netted an extra profit of
1 5oo/. ' Those of a thinner sort have been sold at
i/. in quires ; Partners have bought them cheaper
buying a quantity, and those partners sold them
severally at seventeen and six, not stocking or com-
bining as they do now.' The Cambridge large folio,
of the best paper, sold at \l. ios., was raised to 2/. ;
the medium folio from I/. 2s. 6d., or even less, was
surcharged with an extra 73. 6d., whilst the thin
paper edition, usually sold at i6s., was raised to I/.
The London quarto Bible, in Roman type, with notes,
had formerly been sold for Js., 'but now with no
notes ios.' ' There hath been at least 12,000 of these
Bibles with notes printed in Holland and sold very
reasonably ; and many brought from thence hither,
and they have been seized by the King's printers, and
the parties that imported them not only lost them,
but were put in purgatory, and then glad to lose
their Bibles and all cost to get off; and then the
monopolists sold them again, and so kept all others
in awe.' The London octavo edition was raised from



Bookselling in the Seventeenth Century. 85

3-r. $d. (in quires) to 4^., whereas the cheaper issue
had nine more sheets than the more expensive one.
Of this edition 'there have been 10,000 printed in a
year.' The duodecimo Holland Bible, sold at 2s. in
quires, was better than the London one of 1639, sold
at double the price.

But the monopolists did not stop at enhancing the
prices of Bibles. They advanced Rclton's ' Statues '
from i/. los. to I/. iSs. 6d. The Oxford and Cam-
bridge ' Grammars ' were raised from $d. to &/., the
yearly impression being 20,000. Camden's ' Greek
Accedence ' ' by chance a year ago broke loose from
the stake of the monopolist, and was sold at 6s. in the
pound cheaper than they sell them, but they have by
a combination tied him to the stake again.' The
monopolists prevented the printing of the Concord-
ance, and seized the imported copies, which, however,
they sold again, and pocketed the profit. 'But a
touch of this ; for it is too tart, and I verily believe
picks the subjects pockets, that eats brown bread to
fill the sleeping stationers belly with venison and
sacke, and robs the commonwealth.' The writer
urged that the Statute of 25 Henry VIII., c. 15, con-
cerning prices be put into force, and that there be at
least 20 or 24 Assistants to the Company, and that
none be twice Master. As things were then, some six
or eight of the eldest members of the Company com-
bined and carried everything their own way, aiming
solely at furthering their own interests. A sort of
sequel to this valuable pamphlet was published, but
the earlier is that of most particular interest.

On September 30, 1647, it was enacted that no person



86 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

should make, print, or sell, publish or utter, or cause
to be made, &c., any book, pamphlet, treatise, ballad,
libel, or sheet of news whatever unless licensed. For
infringement, the printer would be fined 20^., or in
default as many days, and the bookseller just half
that amount. Early in the following year a Scot-
tish Act was passed which dared printers, under the
penalty of death, to print unlicensed books. A new
era, which had been formulating since 1640, began,
and the War of Pamphlets had established itself in
dead earnest. The battle raged loud and fierce, and
nearly every one who could write at all joined in the
fray. ' Diurnals ' and ' Mercuries ' came into exist-
ence, first occasionally, then weekly, and then bi-
and tri-weekly. The law of which an abstract has
just been given called into existence a new and
formidable, if scurrilous and unscrupulous, army of
scribblers, whose very raison-d? etre was to controvert
that which every one knew to be an infamous and
tyrannical law. The following example is a scornful
protest : ' The Kentish Fay re, or the Parliament
sold to their best worth/ which was ostensibly
' printed at Rochester, and are to be sold to all
those that dare to buy them.' The vital questions
of the day engrossed the sole attention of the
pamphleteers, and a great deal of that of the book-
seller, who knew the class of literature most likely
to go down, and who had very many means of
getting rid of his stock. Then, as now, an author
tried the experiment of publishing his own books,
and the result was not a satisfactory one. The
trouble, however, appears to have been not so much



' Bookselling in the Seventeenth Century. 87

a matter of getting purchases as one of obtaining the
money for those sold. No better example could be
instanced than John Taylor's 'The Carrier's Cosmo-
graphy' (1637), the full title of which is a matter of
146 words. Three reasons are given for publishing
this book, the first of which is the benefit which it
would confer upon the general public, the second to
express gratitude to those who paid for his previous
books, and the third because of those who could pay
him, but would not : ' I am well pleased,' Taylor
candidly admits, 'to leave them to the hangman's
tuition, as being past any other man's mending, for
I would have them to know, that I am sensible of
the too much loss that I do suffer by their pride and
cousenage ; their not being so many and my charge
so great, which I paid for paper and printing of those
books, that the base dealing of those sharks is in-
supportable.' The famous N. Butter issued several
of Taylor's books, and H. Gosson issued a few
also.

The year 1648 is a landmark both in political and
in literary history, for on December 23 of that year
(according to tradition) Richard Royston, the royal
bookseller, of the Angel, Ivy Lane, received the
manuscript of ' Eikon Basilike ; the Pourtraioture
of his Sacred Majesty in his Solitude and Sufferings/
which was published before the 3Oth of the follow-
ing month, when his Majesty was beheaded. Nearly
50 editions appeared by the end of 1649. Another
book may be here mentioned, not only because it
appeared a few years afterwards, but because of a
similarly unbounded popularity and the impene-



88 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

trable uncertainty surrounding its authorship. We
refer to * The Practice of Christian Graces, or the
Whole Duty of Man/ which was printed by 'T.
Garthwait at the little North door of S. Paul's,
1658.' In 1659 Garthwait issued another edition
with a new engraved title, inscribed ' The Whole
Duty of Man.'

The publication of London's Catalogue forms an im-
portant incident in the annals of bookselling. It is en-
titled ' A Catalogue of the most vendible Books in
England, orderly and alphabetically digested ' (1658).
There are nearly 30 sections. It is dedicated ' to
the gentry, ministers of the Gospel, and others of a
peculiar choice, to the wise, learned and studious in
the northern counties of Northumberland, bishop-
prick of Durham, Westmoreland and Cumberland.'
There is a very interesting introduction relative to
the use of books ; and the ' Epistle to the Reader '
concludes thus : ' And though the wise man saies,
that of writing books there is no end (which I think