Hodgson and Co.

One hundred years of book auctions, 1807-1907. Being a brief record of the firm of Hodgson and Co. (commonly known as Hodgsons) online

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300IC Arrrr!o«6










BeirxO a Brief Record
of Ihe firm of










1807— 1907



(commonly known as "hodgsons")





Mr. Robert Saunders 1807 to 1825

Messrs. Saunders and Hodgson . 1825 to 1828

Mr. Edmund Hodgson 1828 to 1867

Messrs. B. B. and H. H. Hodgson . 1867 to 1871
Mr. H. H. Hodgson (under the style

of H. H. Hodgson and Co.) . . . 1871 to 1900
Messrs. J. E. and S. Hodgson (under

the style of Hodgson and Co.) . . Jan. 1901


14, Old Compton Street 1807 to 1808

39, Fleet Street 180S to 1829

192, Fleet Street 1829 to 1854

2, Chancery Lane 1854 ^o 1863

115, Chancery Lane 1863





Edmund Hodgson to face title

Henry Hill Hodgson 9

Exterior of Premises, 115, Chancery Lane . 14

The Auction Room 18

Compiling a Catalogue (First Floor Room) . 22

Unpacking a Library (Basement) .... 26




iNE hundred years ! Only a brief
period it is true, as time is accounted
in history, and yet one which mark-
ing- the age or commemorating the
foundation of a business firm, is worthy of note.
It is, moreover, a period in the world of Book-
collecting and Bookselling significant of great
changes and many developments. How strange
have been the vicissitudes in book-prices, how
varied and oftentimes how rapid the changes
which have taken place since 1807! On the one
hand what treasures remained unknown and
even uncared for one hundred years ago, whilst

9 B

on the other, how many books which were then
greatly esteemed and eagerly acquired, have
since faded into a past of complete indifference
or neglect! How many precious volumes that
to-day the wealthy bibliophile alone may hope
to acquire, might then have been purchased at
modest sums; whilst others, which have since
taken their place in the highest realms of Eng-
lish Literature, had not yet been given to the
world ! Sheridan, Madame D'Arblay, Blake,
Scott, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Landor, Lamb,
De Quincey, and Jane Austen — to mention only
the more famous authors living in 1807 — had
but recently produced, or indeed were actually
writing, those works which were to earn for
them immortal fame. Byron, Shelley, Keats,
Carlyle, Macaulay, and Borrow were then in
early youth or childhood, while the great Victor-
ian writers — Fitzgerald, Tennyson, Browning,
Ruskin, Thackeray, Dickens, and the Brontes
— were not yet born. In the world of Art and
Book-Illustration, Bartolozzi, Rowlandson, Gill-
ray, Turner, Stothard, and Smirke were pro-
ducing those illustrations which have never since
ceased to interest or to charm, and some of
which are now valued by the collector at many


times the prices obtaining in 1807; whilst
George Cruikshank, who was born in 1792 and
whose works have attained such a wide vogue
amongst collectors, had not yet begun his great
career as artist and caricaturist.

In the sphere of bibliography — and it may be
mentioned in passing, that in 1807 the word
''bibliography" was not known in its present
sense — the great Dibdin had hardly commenced
the publication of those elaborate bibliographical
works which, though often inaccurate, contain
so much curious and amusing information about
"books and printers, book-collectors and sales
by auction." The second edition of "Biblio-
mania," which appeared in 181 1, had no small
share in exciting that interest in rare books and
early editions, which appeared to reach a climax
at the famous Roxburghe sale in 181 2, but
which, if prices are any criterion, is still growing
in intensity. One saying alone of Dr. Dibdin's,
amply suffices to show the distance we have
travelled with regard to prices since he lived.
Referring in 181 2 to the sumof;^i2i 165-. paid for
a copy of the First Folio Shakespeare, he said it
was "the highest price ever given, or likely to
be given for the book " — yet, only recently,


;^3»6oo ^^^ been paid for this most famous
book, and he would be a bold man who would
say, even now, that the highest limit has been
reached. That this interest in the early edi-
tions of famous and rare books centred largely
round the auction sales, was shown indeed by
the fact that Dibdin, in his second and much en-
larged edition, added a new chapter on ''The
Auction Room." By this addition he resolves,
as explained in the preface, to gratify a cer-
tain " Book-Auction-Loving Bibliomaniac" and
similar collectors, whose approbation also he
hopes to gain, by the motto prefixed to the chap-
ter in question from Clavell's "Catalogue of
Books for 1680" — a catalogue of no small in-
terest in the early history of book-auctions.
Robert Watt had hardly commenced in 1807 his
great '* Bibliotheca Britannica," which despite
untiring industry was not completed until after
his death ; while Lowndes was not to publish the
original edition of his "Bibliographer's Manual"
— a work w^hich has the oft-forgotten merit of
being the first systematic bibliography of the
kind in England — until nearly thirty years later.
It is to the year 1807 that the firm whose his-
tory is briefly recorded in these pages traces its


origin. The earliest catalogue now in their pos-
session is that of the sale of a library — duly an-
nounced in the ** Reading Mercury " of 7th Sep-
tember — held at Reading by the founder, Mr.
Robert Saunders, on 9th September and two
following days. It is perhaps significant that
whereas this sale of a *' Most Valuable and Se-
lect Library of Books, the principal part of
which are in superb Bindings, and forming in
the whole, one of the most choice and elegant
Collections ever submitted to Public Sale," took
place at the "Upper Ship Inn," Duke Street,
Reading, it is specifically stated on the next
catalogue (dated 23rd September of the same
year) that this latter collection has been ''Trans-
mitted to town for sale." Moreover, almost
every subsequent sale was held in London, a fact
which seems clearly to point to the conclusion
that London — which is still the greatest book-
market in the world — was at once recognized as
the best centre for sales. The second sale was
held at the rooms of Mr. Saunders at 14, Old
Compton Street, Soho, where the business was
continued until May, 1808, and where, as it is
stated on the catalogues, ''everything connected
with Literature will find a ready and advan-


tageous sale. " Occasionally, however, the sales
were effected either at "Tom's Coffee House"
in Cornhill — a famous tavern which was fre-
quently used for auctions, and which had become
a rendezvous for merchants during" the latter
part of the eighteenth and early part of the nine-
teenth centuries — or at the "London Tavern." It
was here that the third auction was held on ist
October and two following days, and it is inter-
esting to observe that the advertisement of this
sale which appeared in "The Times" for 30th
September, was the first of many hundreds of
the firm's announcements which have since ap-
peared, and still continue to appear, in that

In May, 1808, the firm moved to premises at
No. 39, Fleet Street, almost immediately oppo-
site the old church of St. Dunstan. This situa-
tion was recalled by W. H. Ireland in his
scurrilous poem, " Chalcographimania " (pub-
lished in 1814), where, in the second book, de-
scriptive of an imaginary tour through the well-
known auction rooms of the day, he refers to
Mr. Robert Saunders:

Last worthy to be rank'd the friend
Of Catalogiis, I'll unbend


Forwarding a consignment for Cana(J:i and the States.

My Muse, that from Pall Mall meanders,
To halt at Auction-room of S — nd — ers ;
Whose heavy head leaves in the lurch,
His neighbours of St. Dunstan's Church;
I mean the wooden brace that tell,
The fleeting hours by striking bell.

— the reference in the last three lines being to the
two great clockwork figures, which struck the
hours on the bells placed above the overhanging
clock, and which were objects of much interest
up to the time of their removal in 1830. No. 39
had long been known under the name of "The
Poets' Gallery," and was a house with many
interesting associations. On this site formerly
stood the " Mitre Tavern," which is said to have
dated back to Shakespeare's day, and of which
mention is made by Pepys in the early pages of
his famous Diary, on the occasion of a visit
in January, 1659. It is unnecessary to recall
the many meetings which took place here in later
times between Dr. Johnson and Boswell, and
other celebrities of their day — doubtless amongst
them David Garrick, whose library was destined
to be sold here in 1823. Boswell himself records
that the " Mitre Tavern " was a favourite resort
of Dr. Johnson, " where he loved to sit up late,"
while the great biographer himself, sometimes in


company with Goldsmith, enjoyed the conversa-
tion of his still greater hero — conversations in
which Goldsmith '* endeavoured with too much
eagerness to shine ^"^ and which have been pre-
served by Boswell with such unique and inimit-
able skill. The ''Mitre Tavern" having been
used by the Society of Antiquaries up to 1753
(when they removed to a house of their own in
Chancery Lane) ceased to exist in 1788, and
the name of "The Poets' Gallery" had been
given to it by Thomas Macklin, the publisher,
well known for his magnificent edition of the
Bible. The first sale of importance held at these
premises was the library of John MacDiarmid,
author of the "Lives of British Statesmen,"
offered on 4th June and six following days, and
in the years following many interesting and im-
portant sales of the libraries of eminent men
were conducted here, several of them extending
to as many as sixteen days' sale. A few prices
gleaned from a sale in 18 18, show that the
amounts realized for fine books in these early
years of the nineteenth century, were consider-
ably higher than is sometimes thought. For
instance, a copy of Granger's " Biographical
History of England," in 16 volumes, realized


520 guineas; Pennant's ''Account of London,"
in 7 vols., 125 guineas; Macklin's Bible, 7
vols., 70 guineas; Daniell's " Oriental Scenery,"
100 guineas; Bowyer's edition of Hume's " Eng-
land," in 10 vols., ;^i68; Boydell's Shake-
speare, II vols., no guineas; while a collection
of Chinese drawings realized as much as 500
guineas. But of all these sales, one, of the high-
est interest, overshadows the others. This was
the sale of "the Library, Splendid Books of
Prints, and Poetical and Historical Works, of
David Garrick, lately removed from his villa at
Hampton and house on the Adelphi Terrace."
The sale commenced on Wednesday, 23rd April,
1823, and was continued during the nine follow-
ing days. Perhaps the most interesting lot in the
catalogue— which, it may be added, is now diffi-
cult to obtain — was a copy of Hogarth's works,
which realized just over ;^ioo, and respecting
which a note (added to the catalogue descrip-
tion) states, that "from the intimacy which ex-
isted between Garrick and Hogarth this is, as
may be naturally expected, a very superior
copy." In connection with this sale it may be
mentioned incidentally, that a few of the books
from the library were again sold by the firm

17 c

in February, 1902, when, amongst others, the
copy of Paul Hentzner's ''Journey into Eng-
land," presented to the great actor by Horace
Walpole (by whom the book was printed at
his private press at Strawberry Hill), realized
^g los. as against ;^2 35-. in the original sale.
There were, of course, other notable features
in the catalogue which cannot however be re-
marked on here; indeed, the sale was one of
the chief events of the year, and the fine library
— the collection of early quarto plays from which
had been previously presented by Garrick to
the British Museum — was worthy of the famous

The sales continued to be held at No. 39,
Fleet Street, until Lady Day 1829, when this
interesting old building passed into the hands
of Messrs. Hoare, the bankers, who had been
established in the adjoining house for several
generations, and who now pulled the building
down to extend their own premises. The new
rooms, which still retained the name of "The
Poets' Gallery," were situated at 192, Fleet
Street, at the east corner of Chancery Lane, a
site which also has its literary and historic
associations, for it is said that the father of



•2* "ri

Abraham Cowley, the poet, kept a grocer's shop
here; whilst the opposite corner is memorable as
having been the site of a house occupied for
many years by Izaak Walton. A few months
before moving, the entire control had passed
into the hands of Mr. Edmund Hodgson, who
for some years previously had been associated
with Mr. Saunders. He developed the business
— whicn he continued to direct for nearly forty
years — in many ways, and raised it to a high
standard of prosperity. In particular, he devel-
oped a large connection with the publishing trade,
and for nearly the whole time he was in busi-
ness he conducted, with few exceptions, the chief
Trade-Sales. In this connection his most famous
transaction was the sale at the '' London Coffee
House" (which, in common with the "Albion
Tavern," was frequently used for such purposes)
of the entire copyrights and stock of the novels
and poems of Sir Walter Scott, together with
the Life by Lockhart, an event which is said to
have brought together the largest trade gather-
ing that has ever been witnessed. It is not
necessary here to make further reference to the
practice of Trade-Sales, of which many hundreds
were held, but which practically ceased to exist


some twenty years ago. The catalogues of these
sales (still in the possession of the firm), con-
stitute, however, a most interesting chapter in
the history of bookselling in England. Correctly
speaking, they were not public sales — that is to
say, they were usually held at the ' 'Albion Tavern ' '
(a landmark which has only recently disap-
peared), and were attended, on invitation, by
the Trade. Moreover, the books were offered
at reduced or ''liberal" prices, rather than sold
by auction.

In December, 1854, the firm removed for the
fourth time, to No. 2, Chancery Lane, into
rooms which were immediately adjoining the old
premises, and which were specially built for the
purpose. The first sale held here was the stock
of the splendid productions of the well-known
architect, Mr. Owen Jones, including a large
number of copies of his elaborate work on the
Alhambra. It is impossible in any way to
enumerate the many important sales of copy-
rights and publishers' stocks — sales which fre-
quently produced many thousands of pounds —
which took place on these premises. At the
same time, many extensive libraries of dis-
tinguished book collectors, as well as those of


eminent men of learning and science, were also
dispersed here. Probably the most important
was the library of the College of Advocates,
Doctors' Commons, which, commencing on 22nd
April, 1861, continued during the seven follow-
ing days, 2,456 lots being sold under the hammer.
From a legal point of view this library was, per-
haps, the most remarkable that had ever been
offered for sale. It included an unusually ex-
tensive collection of the works of celebrated
English and foreign writers on civil, canon, and
ecclesiastical law from the earliest time, as well
as many manuscripts of great interest. It may
here be added that both before and since this
great sale, the firm enjoyed practically a mono-
poly in the sale of law books by auction, and the
professional libraries of many eminent chief
justices, judges, and lawyers, have been sold at
their rooms. It is curious to remark that solicitors,
whose libraries were sold anonymously, were
invariably described in the old catalogues as
''respectable" — a practice which was discon-
tinued after about 1852, when the epithet
" eminent " was generally adopted.

In June, 1863, the firm again removed, this
time to the premises they now occupy at 115,


Chancery Lane, which were also specially built
for their business as book auctioneers. Advant-
age was taken of this move to issue a circular,
in which it was pointed out " to gentlemen who,
as executors or having libraries of their own for
disposal, as well as the public in general, desire
to find the most satisfactory mode of sale," that
"public sale by auction in London is, without
exception, the best means of realizing such
property." Others who had not tried this plan
of disposing of books, were assured " that every
attention is paid in its arrangement to the best
mode of introducing the property to the public,
as well as of securing a full realization of the
same." In 1867 Mr. Edmund Hodgson, who
took a leading part in the foundation of the
Booksellers' Provident Institution in 1839, and
who twice served the office of Master of the
Worshipful Company of Stationers in 1866-7,
retired in favour of his sons, Messrs. B. B. and
H. H. Hodgson, who had been associated with
him for some years. A few years later, on the
retirement of Mr. Barnard Hodgson in 187 1, Mr.
Henry Hill Hodgson assumed the entire man-
agement of the business, and continued in that
capacity up to 1900. By a fortuitous coincidence,


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Mr. H. H. Hodgson has himself in the present
year attained to the office of Master of the
Stationers' Company — a Guild which forms a
strong link with the history of printing and
bookselling in London for the past four hundred
years, and the interest of which is at once
brought to mind, by a mere recital of the names
of past Masters. Reginald Wolfe, Richard Tot-
tell, John Day, Christopher and Robert Barker,
John Smethwicke, Samuel Mearne, Robert
Clavell, Samuel Richardson, Jacob Tonson,
John Boydell, Thomas Cadell, John Walter, and
J. B. Nicholls, are only a few out of the total of
two hundred and forty-five famous printers,
stationers, or booksellers who have held this
ancient office since the incorporation of the
Company in 1556, but their names suffice to re-
call its historic interest.

On retirement from active participation in the
work of the firm in 1900, Mr. H. H. Hodgson
was in turn succeeded by his two sons, Mr. John
Edmund and Mr. Sidney Hodgson, who had
joined the firm some years previously, having
first acquired practical knowledge and experience
of the bookselling trade, the former with Messrs.
Bickers and Son, of Leicester Square, and the


latter with Mr. David Nutt, the foreign book
seller and publisher, formerly of the Strand.

Mention has previously been made of the fact
that from about 1840 to 1890 the firm was largely
concerned in the sale of publishers' stocks and
plant, copyrights and remainders. During more
recent years, however, the trade in this direction
has become, for one reason or another, diverted
into other channels, and therefore Messrs.
Hodgson now chiefly specialize in dealing with
libraries of rare, valuable, or standard books.

Looking back over the history of the firm
during the past hundred years, it may be added
that they have conducted up to the present time
nearly 4,200 sales, varying in each year, from 10
in 1807, to between 40 and 50 in recent years, each
sale extending on an average to three days. The
file of catalogues of all these sales, priced prac-
tically throughout, and complete with the excep-
tion of a single year, forms the most interesting
feature in the archives of the firm, while the
names of the buyers are recorded in a series of
sale-books dating back nearly eighty years.

In the early days the catalogues were appar-
ently compiled with but one object in view, viz.,
a description of the utmost brevity. ''Vicar of


Wakefield, 2 vols, in i," ''Burns' Poems,"
" Dampier's Voyages, maps, rare," are a few
examples (taken at random from catalogues of
1807), of descriptions which, though admirably
brief, would be regarded in these days as quite
inadequate. The task of the cataloguer was still
further simplified by the fact that every book
was lotted separately, so that he was happily
saved from the necessity of exercising any judg-
ment in that direction! Indeed, the binding or
the plates seem to be the only two features which
ever called for comment — ''Macklin's Bible, 6
vols., most superbly bound" (^38), "Gay's
Fables, splendid edition, with fine plates," or
"Citizen of the World, 2 vols., calf double

The conditions of sale were practically the
same in 1807 as now; indeed, they may be said
to be identical with those originally adopted by
the earliest English book auctioneers at the end
of the seventeenth century. It is, however, in-
teresting to note, that although the printed con-
ditions of the first sale by Mr. Saunders state
that the books "will be sold with all faults," a
manuscript note is appended to the effect that
the auctioneer further undertakes "that, if upon

25 D

Collating at the place of sale any of the old and
of the new Books prove defective I will make
good the imperfections or return the money."
For the first few years in the firm's history, the
sales usually took place either at half-past five
in the evening or at eleven o'clock in the morn-
ing, whereas one o'clock is now the invariable
rule, while, in accordance perhaps with the more
leisurely methods of the period, not more than
about 150 lots were offered on each occasion in
the earlier catalogues — a number which has
increased latterly to an average of 330 — though
the sales seldom occupy more than two hours
and a half. The number of buyers at each sale
has likewise also largely increased, for whereas
in the old days those who attended were confined
chiefly to residents in or about town, at the
present time the actual buyers — averaging nearly
100 at each sale — are representative of book-
buyers and collectors throughout the United
Kingdom, as well as the more important book-
selling centres on the Continent and in the
United States, not to mention the occasional
visits of buyers from Canada, India, Australia,
and South Africa.

In conclusion, the present members of the

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firm take this opportunity of expressing the hope
that, with the aid of their efficient staff — whose
services, it is pleasing to record, show an aver-
age length of eleven years — they may maintain
and uphold the honourable traditions of the past
hundred years.




Los Angeles
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below.



32^ Hodgson, firm,
H6h8 auctioneers, Lon

1 907 don -

One hundred j-ears
of book auctions




Online LibraryHodgson and CoOne hundred years of book auctions, 1807-1907. Being a brief record of the firm of Hodgson and Co. (commonly known as Hodgsons) → online text (page 1 of 1)