A Curious Miscellany of Items Philosophical, Historical, and Literary

Manus haec inimica tyrannis.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Moonlight Mackerel

John Randolph of Roanoke
It is reported of John Randolph of Roanoke (1773-1833) that he once described Henry Clay thus: “He is a man of splendid abilities but utterly corrupt. He shines and stinks, like a rotten mackerel by moonlight.” Though there seems to be some disagreement as to whether it was not actually said of Edward Livingston (1764-1836), it is nevertheless a wonderful image to evoke in connection with those remarkable persons whom we know to possess that uneasy combination of intellectual brilliance and moral vacuity.

Of those stamped with this character, some apply their great talents to execrable ends, while others apply them to admirable ends and achieve great things, but from the rottenest of motives. And sadly, I am of that cynical cast, in that I believe it would not be edifying to look too closely into the motives of even the greatest of men. Reserving the epithet “greatness” only for those who were also reputedly good, I suspect that most of history’s great figures would, upon close inspection, turn out to be such moonlight mackerels.

Hence, despite the fact that I generally find the eccentric Randolph an unpleasant figure, he earns my grudging admiration for that fine quip. History is littered with moonlight mackerels, as is the typical workplace. However, I recently discovered that the image does not originate with him, for I came across the following lines of satyrical verse, from a poem reprinted in Rachel Trickett, The Honest Muse: A Study in Augustan Verse (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), p. 295:

On the Countess of DORCHESTER, 
Mistress to KING JAMES the Second. Written in 1680.

                          So have I seen in Larder dark
                             Of Veal a lucid Loin;
                          Replete with many a brilliant Spark,
                          As wise Philosophers remark,
                             At once both stink and shine.

Here, the shining flesh is veal rather than mackerel, but it’s the same idea.

Or is it? I almost never pollute myself with the filth that is The Daily Mail (or The Daily Fail, as it is referred to in our household). Usually, I would rather drink my own urine than read it. However, I did come across an online article there from February 2016, which carried the following sensational headline: “There’s something fishy going on here! Dead herring glows ‘a scary green light’ that has left the internet baffled”. Apparently a woman in Kazakhstan was frightened to find that the fish she was preparing for dinner glowed in the dark.

Now, I know from experience that the internet is easily baffled. And I do have an ongoing pet peeve with media outlets publishing dubious tales of monster fish. I also know that Kazakhstan is a landlocked country, the world’s largest, in fact. Hence, its people may not be entirely familiar with seafood. And an ocean herring would necessarily have travelled a long way to reach her particular dinner plate, and might therefore have smelled a little “high” by the time it reached its destination. The article made suggestions that the fish was radioactive. However, “local health inspectors say the fish was healthy and fit for human consumption and that the supposed glowing, if even true, was nothing to worry about.” The article failed to follow up on why the health inspectors might be so cavalier, and the story immediately returned to the “radioactive fish” angle (pardon the pun). With John Randolph of Roanoke in mind, I decided to use the Google machine to follow up.

Well, according to many reputable sources, including The New Scientist and the Food and Drug Administration, it is not uncommon for dead fish to glow in the dark. The phenomenon — bioluminescence — is caused by certain kinds of bacteria. There seem to be many queries on internet forums by aquarium owners, wondering why their dead fish glow in the dark and whether they need to be worried about it. And it occurs not just in fish. I came across one story where someone was frightened by a glowing object he almost stepped on when he got up in the night. Turns out it was a beef bone which his dog had left lying on the floor. So presumably, it can happen to veal. I don’t know if it happened to the Countess of Dorchester.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Spectacled Avenger's Reading List, 2017

In keeping with a tradition of long standing on this blog, the first post of the new year is devoted to the list of books I’ve read over the course of the previous year. As usual, if the entry is in bold, it means I particularly enjoyed that book (no reasons provided). If an entry appears more than once, it’s not a mistake; it means I read the book more than once.

One of the joys of this exercise accrues more to me than to you, dear reader. It offers me the opportunity to step back and look at what I was interested in, discern any patterns therein, and compare see how these may have differed from earlier lists.

In looking at the 2017 list, at least two things remain unchanged from 2016: First, relatively little of what I read dates from later than the 19th century. Second, I have continued to read more fiction that has historically been the case. Conspicuous here is my Jane Austen binge. I would include under “fiction” the plays I read, Jacobean or otherwise (Sophocles, Jonson, Shakespeare, Middleton, Ford, Etherege, Vanbrugh). And of course, there’s the poetry (Lydgate, Carew, Rochester, and plenty of Pope).

In terms of differences from previous years, I suppose there are fewer classical authors, though Homer, Horace, Martial, and Sallust are represented. New to the list are the early travelers’ accounts of America (Chastellux, Hamilton, Trollope). I also read a fair amount of Coleridge’s prose, which is passing strange, since I can’t honestly say I enjoyed much of it.

*        *        *        * 

ADAIR, Douglass. Fame and the Founding Fathers. Trevor Colbourn (ed.). New York: W. W. Norton, 1974.

ADAMS, Abigail. Letters. Edith Gelles (ed.). New York: Library of America, 2016.

ADAMS, John Quincy. Diaries (Vol. I: 1779-1821). David Waldstreicher (ed.). New York: Library of America, 2017.

ADAMS, John Quincy. Diaries (Vol. II: 1821-1848). David Waldstreicher (ed.). New York: Library of America, 2017.

AUSTEN, Jane. Emma. London: Folio Society, 1975.

AUSTEN, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. London: Folio Society, 1975.

AUSTEN, Jane. Persuasion. New York: Everyman's Library, 1992.

AUSTEN, Jane. Mansfield Park. New York: Everyman's Library, 1992.

AUSTEN, Jane. Northanger Abbey. New York: Modern Library, 1995.

BACON, Francis. The Essayes or Counsels Civill and Morall. Norwalk, CT: The Heritage Press, 1972.

BEVERLEY, Robert. The History and Present State of Virginia. Susan Scott Parrish (ed.). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

BROWN, Charles Brockden. Edgar Huntly, or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker. Norman S. Grabo (ed.). London: Penguin Books, 1988.

BROWN, Charles Brockden. Wieland, or, The Transformation. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997.

BRUNI, Leonardo. History of the Florentine People (Vol. I). James Hankins (trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

BRUYÈRE, Jean de La. Characters. Henri Van Laun (trans.). London: Oxford University Press, 1963.

BURKE, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France and Other Writings. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2015.

BURKE, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France (Select Works, Vol. 2). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999.

BURNEY, Frances. Evelina, or The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World. Edward A. Bloom (ed.). London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

BUTLER, Joseph. Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel and a Dissertation upon the Nature of Virtue. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1953.

CALHOUN, John C. A Disquisition on Government and A Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States. Charleston, SC: Walker and James, 1851 (facsimile, New York: Legal Classics Library, 1993).

CAREW, Thomas. The Poems of Thomas Carew. Rhodes Dunlap (ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949.

CHASTELLUX, François-Jean, Marquis de. Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782 (Vol. I). Howard C. Rice, Jr. (Trans.). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1963.

CHASTELLUX, François-Jean, Marquis de. Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782 (Vol. II). Howard C. Rice, Jr. (Trans.). Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1963.

CLARKE, John. An Examination of the Notion of Moral Good and Evil. London: A. Bettesworth, 1725.

COLERIDGE, Samuel Taylor. Collected Works, Vol. 2: The Watchman. Lewis Patton (ed.). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970.

COLERIDGE, Samuel Taylor. Collected Works, Vol. 4: The Friend. Barbara E. Rooke (ed.). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969.

COLERIDGE, Samuel Taylor. Collected Works, Vol. 10: On the Constitution of the Church and State. John Colmer (ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976.

DONNE, John. Donne's Sermons: Selected Passages. Logan Pearsall Smith (ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932.

ETHEREGE, Sir George. The Man of Mode. W. B. Carnochan (ed.). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

FERRIER, Susan. Marriage, a Novel. Herbert Foltinek (ed.). London: Oxford University Press, 1971.

FIELD, P. J. C. The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1999.

FIELDING, Sarah. The Adventures of David Simple. Malcolm Kelsall (ed.). London: Oxford University Press, 1969.

FITZGERALD, F. Scott. The Beautiful and Damned. New York: Modern Library, 2002.

FORD, John. ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. Martin Wiggins (ed.). London: Bloomsbury, 2003.

FORDYCE, David. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1754 (facsimile, Bristol: Thoemmes, 1990).

HAMILTON, Alexander, John JAY, and James MADISON. The Federalist (The Gideon Edition). George W. Carey and James McClellan (eds.). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001.

HAMILTON, Thomas. Men and Manners in America (Vol. I). Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1833.

HAMILTON, Thomas. Men and Manners in America (Vol. II). Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 1833.

HOMER. Odyssey (Books 13-24). A. T. Murray (trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

HORACE. A Poetical Translation of the Works of Horace (Vol. I). Philip Francis (trans.). London: W. Strahan et al., 1778.

HOUELLEBECQ, Michel. The Elementary Particles. Frank Wynne (trans.). New York: Vintage Books, 2000.

JOHNSON, Samuel. The Works of Samuel Johnson (Vol. II). London: F. C. and J. Rivington et al., 1823.

JOHNSON, Samuel. The Works of Samuel Johnson (Vol. III). London: F. C. and J. Rivington et al., 1823.

JONSON, Ben. Volpone. Alvin B. Kernan (ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1962.

KAMES, Henry Home, Lord. Elements of Criticism (Vol. II). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005.

LOVECRAFT, H. P. Tales. Peter Straub (ed.). New York: Library of New York, 2005.

LUTTRELL, Narcissus. A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs from September 1678 to April 1714 (Vol. I). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1857.

LYDGATE, John. Poems. John Norton-Smith (ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966.

MACKENZIE, Henry. The Man of Feeling. Brian Vickers (ed.). London: Oxford University Press, 1967.

MALTHUS, Thomas Robert. An Essay on the Principle of Population (Vol. I). London: J. Johnson, 1806 (facsimile, Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1996).

MALTHUS, Thomas Robert. An Essay on the Principle of Population (Vol. II). London: J. Johnson, 1806 (facsimile, Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1996).

MARTIAL. Epigrams (Vol. II). D. R. Shackleton Bailey (trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

MIDDLETON, Thomas. Selected Plays of Thomas Middleton. David L. Frost (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

MONTESQUIEU. Charles de Secondat, Baron de. The Spirit of Laws (Vol. I). Thomas Nugent (trans.). Dublin: G. and A. Ewing, 1751.

MONTESQUIEU. Charles de Secondat, Baron de. The Spirit of Laws (Vol. II). Thomas Nugent (trans.). Dublin: G. and A. Ewing, 1751.

NORTON, Andrews. A Review of “Men and Manners in America”, Reprinted from the North American Review. London: John Miller, 1834.

OSTADE, Ingrid Tieken-Boon van. The Two Versions of Malory’s “Morte Darthur”: Multiple Negation and the Editing of the Text. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1995.

PALEY, William. The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (Vol. I). London: J. Faulder et al., 1814.

PALEY, William. The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (Vol. II). London: J. Faulder et al., 1814.

POPE, Alexander. The Dunciad (Twickenham Edition, Vol. V). James Sutherland (ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963.

POPE, Alexander (trans.). The Iliad of Homer. Steven Shankman (ed.). London: Penguin, 1996.

POPE, Stephanie et al. Cambridge Latin Course, Unit 1 (4th edition). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

ROBERT III, Henry M. et al. Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised in Brief (2nd edition). Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2011.

ROBERTSON, William. The History of America (Vol. I). London: Cadell and Davies, 1808.

ROCHESTER, John Wilmot, Earl of. The Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. Keith Walker (ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984.

RORABAUGH, W. J. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

SALLUST. The War with Catiline, The War with Jugurtha, Orations ad Letters. J. C. Rolfe (trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

SHAFTESBURY, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of. Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (Vol. I). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001.

SHAFTESBURY, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of. Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (Vol. II). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001.

SHAFTESBURY, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of. Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (Vol. III). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001.

SHAKESPEARE, William. King Lear. Kenneth Muir (ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959.

SHIELDS, Jon A. and Joshua M. DUNN Sr. Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

SIDNEY, Sir Philip. Prose Works (Vol. III). Albert Feullerat (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963.

SMITH, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie (eds.). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982.

SOPHOCLES. Ajax, Electra, Œdipus Tyrannus. Hugh Lloyd-Jones (trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

SPINGARN, J. E. (ed.). Critical Essays of the Seventeenth Century (Vol. III: 1685-1700). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968.

TROLLOPE, Frances. Domestic Manners of the Americans. London: Folio Society, 1974.

VANBRUGH, Sir John. The Relapse. New York: W. W. Norton, 1986.

VINOGRADOFF, Paul. Roman Law in Mediæval Europe. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1909.

WIDDOWSON, Frances and Albert HOWARD. Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry: The Deception Behind Indigenous Cultural Preservation. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2008.

WINDHAM, William. Speeches in Parliament, of the Right Honourable William Windham (Vol. I). London: Longman, Hurst, et al., 1812.

WINDHAM, William. Speeches in Parliament, of the Right Honourable William Windham (Vol. II). London: Longman, Hurst, et al., 1812.

WINDHAM, William.
Speeches in Parliament, of the Right Honourable William Windham (Vol. III). London: Longman, Hurst, et al., 1812.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The "Dublin 1743" Edition

Detail from John Brooks' portrait
In his 1967 paper “English Editions of Shaftesbury’s Characteristics” (mentioned previously), William Alderman compiled a list of editions of Shaftesbury’s book, from which he excluded ones that were merely apocryphal, ones for which he could not track down and examine a physical specimen. Among these was a “Dublin 1743” edition. What he wrote of that edition is worth quoting at length: 

“Some years ago a reputable London bookseller offered me a ‘Fourth Edition. Dublin. 1743 (Vol. 2 and 3 dated 1723) 3 Vols. 8vo.’ In reply to a questioning letter that I sent him, he confirmed the claim that Vol. I was dated ‘Dublin 1743’ and that it was described on the title page as ‘The Fourth Edition.’ I ordered it immediately, but was told that this item had already been sold. I then asked that the sale be traced, but was told that not a private collector but another bookseller had purchased it. This second company could not trace the resale. I then wrote the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, but was told that neither it nor the National Library of Ireland owned a ‘Dublin. 4th edition. 1743.’ The reply went on to suggest that the 1743 edition ‘is a pirated edition.’ That was finis to that pursuit. Perhaps on someone’s library shelf there is an edition whose title page to the first volume says ‘Dublin 1743’; but I do not feel justified in including it with the other editions of which I am certain…. Only editions that I own or that I have examined elsewhere have been included. This means that I have disregarded the doubtful 1750, 1761, 1767, 1789, and the ‘Dublin 1743’ editions.” (pp. 317-318)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I ordered from Ebay a 1743 octavo edition of Characteristicks from a seller in Cheshire, England. As with Alderman’s attempt to purchase the Dublin edition, this bookseller’s listing was for Volume I only. The bookseller listed the location of publication as London (as we’ll see, this is only partially true).

The book has now arrived and I’ve had a chance to subject it to some examination. Its binding is probably original, though it is in rough shape. There is some damp staining and the book is in an overall condition a bookseller might plausibly rate as “fair”. In terms of provenance, the ownership markings do not go very far back in time. There is a tiny strip of an ownership label pasted into the gutter on page 7, which says “CHARLES POYSER, Summer-hill, Wrexham”. There is a very faint inscription on the title page, which I can barely make out: “From Antonio [Joze?] Sale March 30th 1858 Charles Poyser”. The same Charles Poyser’s name appears in an inscription on the inside front cover, along with that of “Sidney Poyser 1871”.

In a copy of Volume I of Characteristicks, one would expect to see a main title page by way of introduction to all three volumes, followed by a volume-specific title page. In the earlier “official” editions, this main title page would also contain Gribelin’s circular medallion engraving. My 1743 copy lacks such a main title page. Instead, the frontispiece portrait of Shaftesbury faces the volume title page, with its larger plate, and lists no publisher, only stating “Printed in the Year M.D.CC.XLIII.”

Some things to note about the two engravings in the above picture. First, the volume plate is not by Gribelin. Instead, it bears the inscription of John Brooks, as do two of the other engravings in the volume. Brooks was an engraver who worked in Dublin until 1747, when he moved to London. In 1743, his business would have been struggling, after his talented assistant, Andrew Miller, left him to set up shop on his own. In 1747 Brooks folded his Dublin business and moved to London. Interestingly, the best catalogue of Brooks’ work I can find does not list this job.

Inscription of John Brooks

Brooks' 1743 copy
Second, the portrait of Shaftesbury does bear the inscription of Gribelin. However, upon close examination, I can tell that it is a very well-executed copy. First, take a close look at the following two details:

Original Gribelin
Note that the loop on the initial “T” extends beyond the portrait border in the 1743 version. Also, Closterman’s name is taller and “loopier” in the 1743 version. Finally, the overall alignment of lettering with portrait differs between the two versions. There are also more subtle differences that I’m not sure can adequately be illustrated here. For instance, in looking at Shaftesbury’s head, the facial features seemed more rounded and the wig piled a little higher in Gribelin’s version than in the 1743 one. So, despite what it says, the 1743 portrait plate is not by Gribelin, though it is a quite good copy.

In all, there are three engravings in the volume that bear Brooks’ name: (i) the volume plate, (ii) the headpiece for the “Preface” picturing Shaftesbury’s coat of arms, and (iii) the headpiece to the Letter concerning Enthusiasm. There are three engravings in the volume bearing Gribelin’s name: (iv) the portrait of Shaftesbury, (v) the headpiece for Sensus Communis, and (vi) the headpiece for Soliloquy. For reasons already discussed (and one more to be mentioned), the portrait cannot be attributed to Gribelin; in the absence of any better evidence, I will hereafter assume that it too is Brooks’ work. Aside from that one, all plates bearing Gribelin’s name are indistinguishable from the originals and must be presumed to be genuine.

A “Dublin” Edition? 

Given that the majority of the plates in the 1743 volume were executed by an engraver known to have been based in Dublin at the time of printing, is it safe to assume that this is a Dublin printing of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks? The answer is yes — and no.

For the most part, the volume is printed on a relatively high-quality paper; the stock is thick, with a smooth finish. However, a few pages here and there are printed on a thinner stock of inferior quality. These few pages are precisely the ones containing Brooks’ plates. The Gribelin plates always appear on the thicker stock. One other anomaly appears on page 3, which contains the headpiece to the Letter concerning Enthusiasm engraved by Brooks, there is no page number, whereas in all the early editions published with Gribelin’s engravings, this page contains the page number.

In attempting to explain these anomalies, my first hypothesis was that in 1743, some owner of an earlier edition of Characteristicks who was based in Dublin or environs was missing a few pages from his copy and had the missing pages privately printed. He chose to put the 1743 date on the new title page instead of whatever the original date was. Why? Well, perhaps he simply bought an odd (and damaged) volume and, because it was missing the title page, he had no way of knowing precisely which edition he had. (Incidentally, this would also explain the missing main title page. After all, why have that printed when you don’t actually own all three volumes?) As implausible as all of this sounds, it would at least have explained:

  • the fact that this job of Brooks’ does not appear in the catalogues of his works, and
  • the fact that there only seems to be the one example of this so-called “Dublin edition” of Characteristicks (i.e. mine. This presupposes that the one Alderman was tantalizingly offered for sale is the very same one that wound up in my hands).

On the other hand,  it is very hard to understand why someone would go through all that trouble and expense. Fortunately, before I fully signed on to such an improbable hypothesis, I wrote to Patrick Müller, who put me in contact with his colleague, Christine Jackson-Holzberg (both of them are involved with editing the “Standard Edition” of Shaftesbury’s writings, a project based at Friedrich-Alexander Universität). I simply inquired whether there was any other authority for the existence of a Dublin 1743 edition aside from Alderman.

Christine kindly directed me to at least one other copy (also Volume I only), residing in the library collection at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She also sent me a scan of its main title page (missing in my copy). It bills itself as “the fourth edition” and bears Gribelin’s medallion engraving, redone by Brooks. Although there is no publisher information, it reads “DUBLIN: Printed in the Year M.DCC.XLIII.” So my hypothesis of a unique and customized copy was incorrect. There was indeed a 1743 Dublin edition (though perhaps only the first volume was ever issued). However, the only parts of it that were actually printed in Dublin were the pages bearing Brooks’ engravings. The rest of the book is made up of sheets from an earlier London edition.

Which one? First of all, we can eliminate the first edition of 1711, as it did not yet include Gribelin’s plates (except for the medallion); and it contained generic woodcut ornaments that this edition lacks. Of the editions prior to 1743 that did contain Gribelin’s plates, we must choose between the 1714, 1723, 1727, 1732, and 1737-8 editions. Page 228 contains the smoking gun:

Vol. I, p. 228.
The sharp “s” (ß) in “Mildness” towards the bottom of the page occurs only in the 1711 and 1714 editions. In subsequent editions, it appears as a long “s” followed by a short one (ʃs). We can eliminate the 1711 edition, for reasons given above. We can also eliminate it for another reason: in the 1711 edition, the word carries over to the next line and is therefore hyphenated (“Mild-neß”). For additional evidence, look at the word “Absolute” near the top of the page. The “a” is upper-case; this occurs only in the 1711, 1714, and 1737 editions. But again, 1737 lacks the sharp “s”.

Therefore, by process of elimination, this “1743” edition is essentially the 1714 second edition, with a few pages containing missing plates recreated and inserted. These insertions are the only things entitling us to call this a “1743” edition. And the fact that the recreated plates are by John Brooks is the only thing entitling us to call this a “Dublin” edition. In all other respects, it’s not an “edition” at all: it is largely the 1714 London second edition.

All of this leads me to other questions for which I have no answers, such as:

  • How did a bunch of sheets of the 1714 edition, and missing precisely the same pages, end up in Dublin, to be re-issued after so many years?
  • Why did it call itself “the fourth edition”, an honour exclusive to the 1727 edition?
  • Were the second and third volumes ever published, or did publication cease after the first?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Addendum: English Editions of Shaftesbury

Back in November 2015 I wrote a post entitled “English Editions of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks”. In it, I reviewed William E. Alderman’s 1967 paper of the same name, bringing his otherwise excellent list up to date, and adding a few other scraps of knowledge of my own on the subject. I am taking this opportunity to add something else that has just come to light.

Among other things, I had claimed that Baskerville’s (1773) “was the first edition since 1737 to reproduce all of Gribelin’s engravings.” In making this claim, I also had the authority of Alderman (p. 326). I have just discovered (on October 31, 2017) that the claim is not entirely correct. In fact, there was a 1743 edition that reproduced those original engravings (or very convincing reproductions – see below).

Furthermore, even more interesting is that this edition is missing from Alderman’s list. I do not know who the printer was, but above is a photo of the Volume I title page as it appeared in the Ebay listing where I came across it.

The listing is for Volume I only. Since it’s an odd volume, I cannot be sure that the other volumes bear the same date — or even that there are other volumes, since this one seems to be unique. Alderman did list a 1743-45 edition, but that was a duodecimo edition sans engravings. I have seen it, and it looks nothing like this. Tantalizingly, he also mentioned an apocryphal “Dublin 1743” edition once listed in a bookseller’s catalogue, which he did not include in his official list because he could not track down a specimen to examine (it had been sold).

In any case, according to the seller’s description, this is an octavo London edition, and from what I can tell at this point, its appearance bears this out: besides containing Gribelin’s engravings, it preserves the pagination of all the previous “official” London editions.

I have taken a gamble and ordered it. Once it arrives, I hope to be able to update this post with further information. In particular, I hope to confirm whether it is a London edition, and I hope to find out if there is any indication of a printer/publisher.

Up until 1732 the work was printed by John Darby. James Purser, who seems to have been successor to Darby’s business in Bartholomew Close, printed the 1737 edition. Was the 1743 edition also published by Purser? The latter was active into the 1740s, so it’s natural to assume so. However, confirming this may be difficult, since for each of the previous “official” editions of Characteristicks the publishing information appears only on the final page of the third volume, not in the first volume that is now on its way to me.

One thing that I should be able to confirm one way or the other is which edition appears on the main title page. The main title page of Purser’s 1737 publication described it as “The Sixth Edition”. Will the 1743 publication refer to itself as the 7th edition? Baskerville’s 1773 version (erroneously) advertised itself as the 5th edition. I have always held that the Baskerville is to be in some sense regarded as one of the “official” editions, for a few reasons:

  1. He somehow owned or had the sanction to use the original Gribelin plates.
  2. He did his best to restore the text and pagination as it had appeared in the earlier official editions from 1711 to 1737.
  3. He had the nerve to print “The Fifth Edition” on the title page, indicating that he regarded his new edition as something more than an act of piracy or clever imitation.
Of these facts, I believe the first is the most pertinent: the moral right to publication seems to have followed somehow the possession of the plates. Alderman points out that Baskerville’s claim to print the 5th edition was recognized as an error, for the errata sheet appearing in some copies — but not mine — corrects this to read “The Seventh Edition”, making it continuous with the 1737 Purser edition. This means that he regarded the 1733 edition and all others after 1737 to be unauthorized. What the “unofficial” 1733, 1743-45, 1749, 1757, and 1758 editions all lack are the Gribelin plates and the pagination corresponding to them.

If it turns out that the main title page of this 1743 edition says “The Sixth Edition”, then I would like to explore further whether it is simply a reissue of sheets from the 1737 edition with a new title page. If, on the other hand, it says “The Seventh Edition”, then this would be evidence that Baskerville — like Alderman — was unaware of its existence.

In any case, this 1743 edition, if it arrives as advertised and turns out to be on "official" edition, represents a small missing link in the rather large gap between 1737 and 1773, the period through which we must trace the hitherto mysterious route by which Baskerville acquired the Gribelin plates.

On the Other Hand… 

It may be that the plates are just very convincing knock-offs and that this is a hitherto unknown pirate edition. Despite the graininess of the above photo, I can already spot one difference from the Gribelin plates.

(HINT: It has to do with the location of Gribelin’s name on the volume plate above — assuming that name is even Gribelin’s, as I can't quite make it out. Similar problem with the plate pictured below.)

Also, the frontispiece portrait of Shaftesbury is not where one would expect to find it, which would be facing the main title page, not the volume title page.

Once my order arrives, I will be able to examine more closely the name on the plates. At the moment, despite the low resolution of the photos, it looks like it could be that of John Brooks, an engraver active in Dublin until 1747, when he moved to London. If that is the case, it would confirm my real suspicion, which is that the city of publication is not London, and that this is a specimen of Alderman’s fabled “Dublin 1743” edition.

Whatever the truth, it seems certain that this volume is unique. More to come…


ALDERMAN, William E. “English Editions of Shaftesbury’s CharacteristicsPapers of the Bibliographical Society of America 16.4 (1967), 315-334.

MEYER, H. E. “Correspondence: James Purser, Printer in Bartholomew Close, 1737,” The Library 27 (1972), p. 147.