W. (William) Roberts.

The earlier history of English bookselling online

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Owen Rogers is not only worthy of note from the
fact that he printed and published ' The Vision of
Pierce Plowman, newlye imprynted after the authours
olde copy' (1561), but also because he appears to
have been an obstreperous member of the Company,
and was often fined for printing other men's copies
without licence. Anthony Scoloker, who printed,
about 1548, several books in conjunction with
William Seres, such as ' A brefe Chronycle concern-
ing Sir Johan Oldcastell,' resided in St. Botolph's
parish, without Aldersgate. At about this time also,
Richard Lant, who became one of the Stationers'
Company in 1547, dwelt in the Old Bailey, and also
in Aldersgate Street. Lant appears to have been
another of those who had peculiar and convenient
notions relative to the sacred rights of property. A
contemporary speaks of him as setting his name to
that notable work, ' The Rescuynge of the Romishe

Bookselling in Little Britain. i [9

Fox' (1545), 'not as the maker, but as the putter
forth of it by hys prynt,' and adds, ' He is well con-
tented to be under that vengence which hangeth
over Babylon, to get a little money. And whereas
he hath joyned his prynces auctoryte unto that, ad
imprimendum solum, to bring hym also under the
same curse of God, he hath playd no honest mannys
part, no more than hath some other of his fellowes.'
John Audeley lived in ' Little Britain-street without
Aldersgate-street,' and in 1575 he issued ' A godly
Sermon/ which he declares to have been made in
1338, 'and found out, being hyd in a wall, which
sermon is here set forth from the old copy.' Nearly
ten years before this, however, i.e. June 29, 1566,
he printed certain ordinances decreed by the Court
of the Star-chamber, for ' the reformation of divers
disorders in printing and uttering of books.'

One of the most interesting figures in the annals
of Little Britain is that of Richard Smith, the book-
hunter. He was one of the ' Secondaries ' of London
from 1644 to 1655, an office worth to him 7oo/. a
year, which he resigned to devote himself entirely
to book-collecting. Was there everanother such a
man ? Anthony a Wood describes him as ' infinitely
curious and inquisitive after books/ and that ' he was
constantly known every day to walk his rounds
amongst the booksellers' shops (especially in Little
Britain).' He left an interesting obituary list of
certain of his bibliopolic friends, which is reprinted
in Willis 1 Current Notes, February 1853 ; and of
these Cornelius Bee who, in 1660, issued 'Critici
Sacri/ and who dwelt in Little Britain is perhaps the

1 2 o The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

only one of any importance : he died, according to
Smith, on January 2, 1671, and was 'buried at St.
Bartholomew's, without wine or wafers, only gloves
and rosemary.'

Three years before the Great Fire of London, in
1663, Sorbiere made the following observation: 'I
am not to forget the vast number of booksellers'
shops I have observed in London ; for besides those
who are set up here and there in the City, they have
their particular quarters, such as St. Paul's Church-
yard and Little Britain, where there is twice as many
as in the Rue Saint Jacque in Paris, and who have
each of them two or three warehouses.' 1 The book-
selling zenith of Little Britain was attained in the
seventeenth : century ; it may be said to have com-
menced with the reign of Charles I., and to have
begun a sort of retrogression with the Hanoverian
succession. Its importance may be inferred from a
newspaper published in this district in 1664, which
states that no less than 464 pamphlets" were published
here during four years. It was a sort of seventeenth
century combination of the Paternoster Row and
Fleet Street of the present day. It is the place where,
according to a widely circulated tradition, an Earl
of Dorset accidentally discovered, when on a book-
hunt in 1667, a work hitherto unknown to him,
entitled ' Paradise Lost/ He is said to have bought
a copy, and the bookseller begged him to recom-
mend it to his friends, as the copies lay on his hand
like so much waste paper. The noble Earl (so runs
this same tradition) showed his copy to Dryden
1 'Journey to England,' p. 16.

Bookselling in Little Britain. 121

who is reported to have exclaimed, ' This man cuts
us all out, and the ancients too.' Though this
anecdote, like a great many others, has been proved
to be apocryphal, certain it is as we have seen
the poem is in a way connected with the neighbour-
hood, inasmuch as Simmons' shop was in Aldersgate

Roger North, in his 'Life of the Right Hon.
Francis North,' - has an oft-quoted reference to Little
Britain. From this interesting account we learn that
during the latter part of the seventeenth century it
was a plentiful and perpetual emporium of learned
authors, and that men went thither as to a market.
The trade of the place was, in consequence, an impor-
tant one, the shops being large, and much resorted to
by literary personages, wits, men-about-town, and
fashionable notabilities generally. The booksellers
then were men of intellect. But referring, by way of
contrast, to the place during the earlier half of the
eighteenth century, he laments that ' this emporium
is vanished, and the trade contracted into the hands
of two or three persons, who, to make good their
monopoly, ransack, not only their neighbours of the
trade that are scattered about the town, but all over
England, ay, and beyond sea, too, and send abroad
their circulators, and in this manner get into their hands
all that is valuable. The rest of the trade are content
to take their refuse, with which, and the fresh scum of
the press, they furnish one side of the shop, which
serves for the sign of a bookseller, rather than a real
one ; but instead of selling, deal as factors, and pro-
- Edit. 1826, iii. 293, ct seq.

122 The Earlier History of Eng lish Bookselling .

cure what the country divines and gentry send for;
of whom each hath his bookfactor, and, when wanting
anything, writes to his bookseller and pays his bill.
And it is wretched to consider what pickpocket work,
with the help of the press, these demi-booksellers
make. They crack their brains to find out selling
subjects, and keep hirelings in garrets, at hard meat,
to write and correct by the groat ; and so puff up
an octavo to a sufficient thickness ; and there is six
shillings current for an hour and half's reading, and
perhaps never to be read or looked upon after. One
that would go higher, must take his fortune at blank
walls, and corners of streets, or repair to the sign of
Bateman, Kings, and one or two more, where are best
choice, and better pennyworths. I might touch
other abuses, as bad paper, incorrect printing, and
false advertising ; and all of which and worse are to be
expected, if a careful author is not at the heels of them/
The house of Bateman is worthy of an important
chapter in the bookselling annals of Little Britain, and
the best-known member (Christopher) of the family
is described in the usual sugared style of John Dunton :
' There are few booksellers in England (if any) that
understand books better than Mr. Bateman, nor does
his diligence and industry come short of his know-
ledge. He is a man of great reputation and honesty.'
Nichols states that Bateman would allow no person to
look into books in his shop, and when asked a reason
for this extraordinary rule, he answered, ' I suppose
you may be a physician or an author, and want some
recipe or quotation ; and, if you buy it, I will engage
it to be perfect before you leave me, but not after, as

Bookselling in Little Britain. 123

I have suffered by leaves being torn out, and the
books returned, to my very great loss and pre-
judice.' Bateman's shop was a favourite resort of
Swift, who several times speaks of it in \us Journal to
Stella : ' I went to Bateman's, the bookseller, and
laid out eight and forty shillings for books. I bought
three little volumes of ' Lucian,' in French, for our
Stella, and so, and so' (January 6,1710-11); and
again: 'I was at Bateman's, the bookseller, to see a fine
old library he has bought, and my fingers itched as
yours would do at a china-shop' (July 9, 1711).
Saturday, when Parliament was not sitting during
the winter, was the market-day with the booksellers
of Little Britain; and at the time of Swift's writing
the above, the frequenters of this locality included
such worthies as the Duke of Devonshire, Edward
Earl of Oxford, and the Earls of Pembroke, Sunder-
land.and Winchelsea. After the 'hunt' they often
adjourned to the ' Mourning Bush ' in Aldersgate,
where they dined and spent the remainder of the
day, in bookish gossip, no doubt.

Another famous Little Britain bookseller was
Robert Scott, whose sister was the Hon. and Rev.
Dr. John North's ' grandmother's woman.' Scott was
a man of ' good parts,' and was in his time, says
Roger North, the ' greatest librarian in Europe ; for
besides his stock in England, he had warehouses at
Frankfort, Paris, and other places, and dealt by
factors/ When an old man, Scott ' contracted with
one Mills, of St. Paul's Churchyard, near io,ooo/.
deep, and articled not to open his shop any more. But
Mills, with his auctioneering, atlasses, and projects,

124 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

failed, whereby poor Scott lost above half his means.
. . . He was not only an expert bookseller, but a very
conscientious, good man, and when he threw up his
trade, Europe had no small loss of him.'

The most celebrated family of booksellers, perhaps,
who lived in Little Britain, was that of Balland, or
Ballard, as the original name appears by the auction
catalogues. The family was connected with the trade
for over a century, and was noted, says Nichols, ' for
the soundness of their principles in Church and State.'
One Henry Ballard lived at the sign of the Bear
without Temple-bar, over against St. Clement's
Church, in 1597, but whether he was an ancestor of
the family in question is not certain. Possibly he
was. Thomas Ballard, the founder of the booksell-
ing branch, was described by Dunton, in 1705, as 'a
young bookseller in Little Britain, but grown man
in body now, but more in mind :

" His looks are in his mother's beauty drest,
And all the Father has inform'd the rest." '

Samuel Ballard, for many years Deputy of the
Ward of Aldersgate Within, died August 27, 1761,
and his only son, Edward, January 2, 1796, aged
88, in the same house in which he was born, having
outlived his mental faculties. He was the last of the
profession in Little Britain.

Dorman Newman was a well-known bookseller,
whose shop was at ' The Chyrurgeons Armes,' near
the Hospital gates, and in 1667 he issued the * Life
and Death of Thomas Woolsey.' Some years later
1690 he published the Sfercurius Reformatus ;

Bookselling in Little Britain. 125

he is included in Dunton's ' picture gallery.' He
was, observes John, ' a considerable dealer, but has
been unfortunate,' and ' since his misfortunes is
turned preacher.' Hugh Newman served his time
with his relative Dorman, and his business relations
with Dunton were both extensive and cordial.

Moses Pitt, who published a book, in Latin, on
Logarithms in 1668 ; and John Williams, of the
Cross Keys Court, who published a great number of
funeral sermons in and about 1672, were two minor
lights during the latter part of the seventeenth cen-
tury. Few Little Britain booksellers and publishers
shared a wider popularity than George Conyers,
whose name is sometimes spelt ' Coniers/ and now
and then seen abbreviated into ' G. C.' He appears
to have removed from the Ring on Ludgate Hill,
where he was from 1685 to 1689, an d probably later,
to the Gold Ring in Little Britain. His aim was
to publish royal guides to nearly every subject under
the sun, and, as a much less costly expedient, instead
of engaging authors to write, he paid hacks to con-
dense standard works into a small compass. We
have now before us a quaint little i6mo, undated,
which is composed of four distinct examples of these
abridgements, three of which were sold at a shilling
apiece, and the fourth at eighteen pence. Their
titles sufficiently indicate their aim and scope : ' The
Way to Save Wealth, showing how a Man may
Live Plentifully for Twopence a Day ' (72 pp. ;
Markham's 'The Compleat Husbandman' (38 pp.) ;
'The Husbandman's Jewell* (52 pp.) ; and 'Every
Man his own Gauger' (68 pp.). The illustrations

126 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

are few, and of course rude. Those whose notions
are ultra-economic may be referred to the first-
named of these books, in which will be found at
all events directions how to make a hundred noble
dishes of meat ' without either flesh, fish, or fowl,'
how to make shoes and coals last long, how to save
soap in washing, and cloth in cutting out a shirt,
all of which must have been very valuable to the
poor people of the period, but a perusal of the
directions leads us to think that mystification
rather than enlightenment would ensue. Another
of Conyers' little books was ' 1000 Notable Things,
directing how to read and write, and indite letters,
to speak any language in a short time as fluent as
a native.' Among other books which this publisher
described and sold as ' so diverting and instructive
that they will help the meanest capacity to be able
to discuss on all subjects whatsoever,' may be named
the ' History of Winds and Storms,' the ' Florist's
Vade-Mecum, or Book for Gardeners,' ' Collins'
Arithmetick,' and the ' Compleat Fisher, with cuts.'
Conyers contributed a guinea to William Bowyer's
relief fund in 1712, and for 33/. he sold his shares
in certain books to Lintot (see p. 152, note). Dunton,
of course, has a reference to him, but it is in a very
off-hand fashion : he gives an eulogistic account of
one Harrison, and then declares ' this is also the
character of G. Conyers, in Little Britain.' Bowyer,
it may be mentioned, commenced his long and useful
career as a printer at the White Horse in Little
Britain, his first work being ' A Defence of the
Vindication of King Charles the Martyr/ 1699, but

Bookselling in Little Britain. 127

by the end of that year he had removed to White-

John Nicholson, of the King's Arms, Little Britain,
was another extensive bookseller whose name is
frequently found in conjunction with that of Robert
Knaplock, of St. Paul's Churchyard, and Samuel
Ballard. Their lists included a large number of quaint
and curious little books, such as Eachard's ' Gazet-
teer/ Rapin's critical works, Wiseman's ' Chirurgery,'
' all the novels of Mr. John Boccace/ with cuts, ' The
Solitary Gardener,' and ' The Life of Gusman de
Alfrache, done from a curious edition/ and so forth.
Perhaps the most important book in the lists of
Nicholson and Knaplock was Stebbing's edition of
Sandford's ' Genealogical History of the Kings and
Queens of England' (1707), a folio of nearly 900 pages.
The book was issued by subscription, and there
were large as well as small paper copies to be had.
He was, also, one of the booksellers who, in 1704,
contributed towards the production of John Harris'
' Lexicon Technicum.' Aaron Ward was publishing
books at the King's Arms in 1737, and T. Ward at
the same address in 1749. A. Ward and Daniel
Midwinter issued Peter Bayle's ' Dictionary ' in six-
penny parts. J. Ford, of the Angel, made a spe-
ciality, in a small way, of Isaac Watts' books ; and
Geo. Wilcocks, of the Green Dragon, J. Oswald, of
the Rose and Crown, J. Newton, of the Rose Tree,
Thos. Bickerton, and J. Sprint 3 were all eminent

3 There were three Sprints who acted as booksellers : Ben-
jamin, Samuel, and his son John. Samuel printed for Steele

128 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

Little Britain booksellers during the first quarter of
the eighteenth century. Nearly all the lanes and
alleys immediately contiguous to Little Britain had
its bookseller. In Duck Lane there were several,
one of the best known being J. Clarke, of the
Golden Ball, who was agent for the London Maga-
zine, and whose list appears in the Grub Street
Journal, of June I, 1732, and on other occasions.

It was from the Dolphin in Little Britain that
Samuel Buckley, with another, published the first
seven volumes of the original Spectator, faom. March i,
1711, onwards. The circulation at the outset
was 3000 daily, which increased as time went on,
but by the close of its career had dwindled down
to about 10,000 per week. A half-share of four
volumes, and three more, was assigned to Buckley
by Steele and Addison on November 10, 1712, for
575/. ; two years later Buckley reassigned his share
to Jacob Tonson, jun., for 5oo/. Buckley, who died
September 8, 1741, likewise printed and pub-
lished the Daily Courant, the Monthly Register, and
Steele's Englishman. He appears to have removed
from Little Britain about 1716 to Amen Corner,
whilst W. Wilkins, the printer of the Whitehall
Evening Post, the London Journal, and The English-
man, was living at Buckley's old address shortly
after this.

Little Britain is not only famous as a spot of pil-
grimage for all patriotic Americans for here Ben-
jamin Franklin obtained much of his technical

' and other eminent authors ; ' both are described by Dunton,
the last as ' the handsomest man in the Stationers' Company.'

Bookselling iu Little Britain. 129

knowledge but it has another sort of interest from
the fact that in it once resided Tom Rawlinson, the
' Tom Folio ' of the Tatler, No. 158, who stuffed four
chambers in Gray's Inn so full of books, that his bed
was removed into the passage.

Although a few years before Nichols published his
' Literary Anecdotes/ two booksellers, ' who used to
sport their rubric posts close to each other,' resided
in Little Britain, its glory as a bookselling locality
has departed nearly a century and a half. The
trade migrated to Paternoster Row then in-
habited in a great measure by mercers, haberdashers,
and lacemen and other quarters in the vicinity of
St. Paul's. At the present moment the place main-
tains an air of eminent respectability and business-
like sobriety, which is somewhat oppressive and
irritating to those who have associated the senti-
mental side of human progress with its history.


1 30 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.



LONDON BRIDGE, as it now stands, is not at all
suggestive of bookselling, which has nothing in com-
mon with the busy and crowded thoroughfare. For
convenience' sake, we may mention that the first
stone structure was commenced in 1176, the architect
being a priest of St. Mary Colechurch, in the Poultry,
named Pious Peter, who died before its completion,
and was buried in a fine chapel that stood thereon.
The most singular features of the old bridge, observes
Mr. Smiles, in his ' Lives of the Engineers/ were its
upper platform, consisting of two rows of houses with
a narrow roadway between, the chapel and draw-
bridge, and the turreted battlements at either end.
The length of the roadway was 926 feet, and from
end to end it was enclosed by the lofty timber
houses, which were held together by arches crossing
overhead from one range to the other, and thus
keeping the whole in position. The streets were
narrow, dark, and dangerous. There were only three
openings along it on either side, provided with
balustrades, from which a view of the river and its
shipping might be obtained, as well as of the rear of

Bookselling on London Bridge. 131

the houses themselves, which overhung the parapets
and completely hid the arches from sight. 1

The books exposed for sale on the bridge were
strictly special in form and size, but in point of
subjects there was scarcely any limit. ' There
appear to have been no tall folios, no heavy
classics, ancient and modern ' (writes a correspondent
of Notes and Queries], ' no brain-racking metaphysical
disquisitions, no political squibs. There was little
that rose above the chap-book. The slender duo-
decimo mostly contained " things easy to understand,"
suited to the taste of light readers and male learners
of all opinions ; but, due allowance being made for
the literary licence of those times, there does not
appear to have been much in these catchpennies
that was low or scandalous. . . . There were Cocker's
Dictionary and Arithmetic, 'A Treatise on Thistles/
Gervase Markham's 'Horse Leech' and 'Accom-
plished Jockey,' Lambert's 'Countryman's Treasure,'
and a handful of shabby abridgments of popular
romances to be read aloud at night in chimney
corners. For country girls in quest of service in
' Lunnon ' there was ' The Compleat Servant Maid,'
and for sailors about to embark at Pepper's-alley
stairs there were the ' Seaman's Kalender ' and the
4 Mariner's Jewel/ For the humbler clergy there
were an epitome of ecclesiastical history, a scrap or

1 Peter Cunningham refers to some ' capital views ' of London
Bridge by Norden in the time of Charles I. ; by Vertue, in
1747-8 ; by Boydell, in 1751 ; and by W. James (a picture at
Hampton Court), circa 1756. Hogarth has introduced the
ruinous old houses in his ' Marriage a la Mode ' (the view from
the window).

K 2

132 The Earlier History of English Bookselling.

two of acrid religious controversy, and a few books
on divinity, which, although of light and pocketable
bulk, afforded a great amount of heavy reading.
For visitors to town there were handbooks of London,
and various disquisitions upon criminals and London
cheating. Most of these publications must originally
have been of very low price, and must have been
published in large editions, as even now few of them
are very rare or costly.'

It is impossible to ascertain the exact or even
approximate date at which bookselling established
itself on London Bridge. The church built in 1209,
to which reference has already been made, was some
years afterwards turned into a dwelling-house, occu-
pied by tradespeople. In a patent roll of the ninth
year of Edward I. (1280) mention is made of innu-
merable people dwelling on the bridge. We are
justified, therefore, in assuming that so desirable a
coign of vantage would not be neglected by the
vendors of paternosters, and other religious para-
phernalia calculated to smooth the road to heaven.
The history of the bridge as a bookselling rendezvous
may be safely said to date back to a time long before
printing was introduced. But it is not until the
middle of the sixteenth century that we have record
of booksellers inhabiting this spot. Their numbers
were of course few, and their names are almost en-
tirely lost in oblivion. From the commencement of the
seventeenth century their numbers and names assume
a more definite, and their existence a more concrete,
form. But in no single instance does the celebrity of
a London-bridge bookseller in any sense compete

Bookselling on London Bridge. 133

with that of a Tonson or of a Lintot. The reason
of this has been already indicated : they issued no
works of any material importance ; they had no poet
in their ' employ ; ' they aspired to no ' original
translations by the most eminent hands ;' they sought
not the influential patronage of the great, and they
had no friends at the Court. If they published no
original work, they at least had no occasion for sub-
terfuge and lying to dispose of their wares. Most of
their ' editing ' and boiling down must have been
done by themselves, assisted occasionally, perhaps,
by a stray hack who knew a little Latin and less
Greek, and whose time was spent either in the beer-
shop, the sponging-house, or the jail. Deficient of
literary merit as are these little ' bridge books,' they
will always be worth collecting as literary curiosities,
whilst to the student of the times, manners, and
customs their value is very considerable.

The Looking Glass, the Three Bibles, and the
Angel are the signs most frequently seen on the
imprints of ' bridge books.' The first one appears to
have been a particular favourite, for, whilst it was
never unemployed, it was at one time used by two
distinct booksellers. One of these, Thomas Norris,
flourished on the bridge between 1690 and 1721,
when probably he removed to Little Britain, where
he or at all events a namesake was in 1724, as
appears from Samuel Negus' list of printers and
newspaper publishers, Norris being included among
those 'said to be High Flyers.' He subscribed to
William Bowyer's relief fund. His business was an
extensive and varied one, and his books were occa-

Online LibraryW. (William) RobertsThe earlier history of English bookselling → online text (page 9 of 26)