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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

English Editions of Shaftesbury's "Characteristicks"

Over the years this blog has served many purposes for me, one of which has been as a space to play the curmudgeon and gripe about current events and how the world (or just my city) is going to hell in a handcart. Given late events in Paris, I have felt a very strong compulsion to use The Spectacled Avenger for just this purpose. However, I have refrained from this, until such time as I can do so without intemperate language, and without expressing a view I will come to regret.

Another purpose of this blog is to act as a repository for those trivial little scraps of learning I come across in my scholarly pursuits that lack other outlets, a sort of waste book, if you like. It is here that The Spectacled Avenger is most open to the charge of boring the reader, for I am often the only person who could possibly find these things interesting.

I am afraid that this post shall be an example of this. So, you have been duly warned. Please feel free to spend your time more productively somewhere else. This post, Dear Reader, is mainly for Yours Truly.

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I recently re-read William E. Alderman’s paper, “English Editions of Shaftesbury’s Characteristics” (Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 16.4 (1967), 315-334.). It’s just what its title would lead you to believe: a bibliographic tally of all editions of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, which repeat readers of this blog will know is one of my favourite works of all time. For we few happy souls with an interest in Lord Shaftesbury, Alderman’s paper is an old classic. However, even making allowances for its age — it requires some updating — there are a few things that need revision. But before I do so, I first need to give some context for Characteristicks, since I presume most readers will be unfamiliar with it.

In its first incarnation, in 1711, Characteristicks comprised three volumes containing mostly works that had been published separately on previous occasions, referred to somewhat misleadingly as “treatises”. Hence, it was intended to be a kind of “collected works” of the author, though with many additions and revisions. There were three treatises in the first volume and two in the second. The third volume consisted of one treatise that was entirely new. Called “Miscellaneous Reflections”, it was written in the voice of a purported third person commenting on the foregoing two volumes. It was meant to give unity to the whole, and in this sense Characteristicks was something more than just a “collected works”. The voice in “Miscellaneous Reflections” is often ironic, playful, and quite subversive, there being many treasures of controversy buried in its footnotes.

The second edition, published posthumously in 1714, was important. Besides revisions that Shaftesbury raced to complete before his death, and the inclusion of a frontispiece portrait of the author (and not authorized by him), he designed and commissioned a set of fascinating emblematic engravings done by Simon Gribelin to be included in the work (Gribelin had also done the medallion emblem on the title page of the 1711). Here's an example of one of the smaller headpieces beginning a treatise:

These were not mere ornament. They explicitly referred to certain pages of the text, to illustrate them. This of course meant that the pagination of subsequent editions had to more or less remain the same in order to preserve the pleasurable pastime of interpreting the engravings through the text, and vice versa. Most of the editions in the first third of the 18th century did so. But at some point, publishers sacrificed the engravings, partly due to expense, partly due to changing format (a shift from octavo to cheaper duodecimo editions meant the pagination changed), and partly due to the fact that people — or publishers at least — had ceased to attribute any deeper meaning to the engravings.

I should note that the 1714 edition had on its title page a round emblematic “medallion” engraving by Gribelin that had also appeared in the 1711 edition. Not including this, the portrait frontispiece, and a headpiece for the Preface featuring the Shaftesbury coat of arms, there were, altogether, nine engravings: one larger plate for the title pages of each of the three volumes, plus a smaller headpiece for each of the six treatises.

Also worth mentioning is that later editions of Characteristicks added two posthumous treatises of Shaftesbury’s to the third volume: “The Judgment of Hercules” and “A Letter concerning Design”. The former also was accompanied by an engraving by Gribelin after the painting by Paolo de Mattheis.

So, there you have a brief overview of the published form of the work as it appeared in the early 18th century. Much more could be said, but that’s enough for present purposes.

Now back to Alderman. I mentioned that his paper required updating in light of subsequent events. He counted 17 editions: 1711, 1714, 1723, 1727, 1732, 1733, 1737, 1743-45, 1749, 1757, 1758, 1773, 1790, 1870*, 1900, 1963, and 1964. So far as I can tell, this accounting is complete. I have asterisked the 1870 edition because it is not whole; only one volume was published before the editor’s premature death. A few of them I have never seen first hand, though I have no reason to doubt their existence, since they appear in various library catalogues (although, as Alderman narrates from his own experience, library catalogues are not always trustworthy).

Many of these editions were in Alderman’s own possession at the time he wrote, and we are indebted to him for knowledge of the 1757 edition, which did not appear in any bibliographies, but which serendipitously came into his own possession through a generous colleague. He also offers the tantalizing prospect that somewhere there may be a copy of a pirated 1743 Dublin edition mentioned at one time in the catalogue of a London bookseller but now untraceable. Like the Loch Ness monster, we must consider it fabulous until a copy turns up. Hence it does not make Alderman’s official list.

I personally own the 1773, 1743-45, and 1964 editions — along with several editions that came out after Alderman’s list. To brag a bit, I am also the proud owner of the extremely rare first edition of Shaftesbury’s Letter concerning Enthusiasm (1708), which forms the first treatise of volume I of Characteristicks.

Now, since Alderman wrote, new editions have been published. They are:

  1. Farnborough, UK: Gregg International, 1968. Three volumes (this is a facsimile reprint of 1714 edition).
  2. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1978. Three volumes (a facsimile reprint of 1711 edition).
  3. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999. Two volumes, edited by Philip J. Ayres.
  4. Cambridge University Press, 2000. One volume, edited by Lawrence E. Klein. 
  5. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. Three volumes, edited by Douglas Den Uyl.
I possess all of these editions except the Gregg one, so if you’re thinking of getting me a Christmas present…. As I said, I’m obsessive about this book. All of these modern editions have their strengths and weaknesses, but my personal preference in terms of fidelity, usability, and price, is the Liberty Fund edition. It includes the engravings in high-quality reproductions, it preserves the pagination of the early editions in the margins (keyed to references in the engravings), the text hasn’t been modernized (a big thing for me), and it is affordable. It also contains "The Judgment of Hercules" and the "Letter concerning Design", which do not appear in the Georg Olms, Cambridge, or Clarendon editions.

I have not included any print-on-demand facsimile versions that may be available out there. Nor have I included the Standard Edition of Shaftesbury’s works (Stuttgart: frommann-holzboog Verlag, 1991- ), on the grounds that it separates the various treatises into different volumes — it’s all there, but it’s not Characteristicks as the reader was meant to experience it. As I see it, what Lord Shaftesbury hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

That brings Alderman’s list up to date. Now I’d like to explore some areas where he requires correction, addition, or qualification.

My first observation concerns the first edition of 1711. No printer is identified for it. Alderman surmises that it was John Darby, Jr., who produced the second edition. No doubt he is correct. Scholarly consensus has since settled this. My quibble is rather with his reasoning than with his conclusion. In the preface, Shaftesbury refers to “his Honest Printer”. Since this reference is preserved in the second edition, for which we know Darby was the printer, we can therefore assume, says Alderman, that he also printed the first edition.

Now, there would be little wrong with this reasoning, if it had been left as it is. But for some reason, Alderman also felt compelled to make the case that Darby was indeed honest, or was viewed as such by Shaftesbury. For example, he notes that Darby was generous, donating three guineas to a fund to support a fellow printer fallen on hard times. Be this as it may, it made no impression on Shaftesbury, who repeatedly mentions Darby in most unflattering terms in his correspondence. To give a taste, at one point he is referred to as that “niggard and insensible Wretch” (letter to Thomas Micklethwaite, 19 January 1712). The consistent picture of Darby offered therein is one of a person who must be watched like a hawk, else he’ll cut corners on materials; he has no conception of the value of the work he is printing, nor of its aesthetics. In other words, in keeping with much of Shaftesbury’s literary posing, the reference to his “honest printer” is meant to be ironic. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a practical joke: He insulted his own printer and had him print the insult.

Alderman did not get the joke. Instead, in explaining why Darby’s name does not appear on the first edition, besides the mention of Darby’s generosity, he goes into a rather convoluted and unnecessary digression on the antagonistic political relationship between Shaftesbury and Bolingbroke, and how the latter had recently had Darby arrested for libel: “He [Shaftesbury] may have felt also that it was more favorable to the promulgation of his ideas to shun direct mention of the printer who had recently offended the regime.”

Alderman also claims that the reference to his “honest printer” was intended as a rebuke to Bolingbroke (p. 321). I am unconvinced by this latter claim. After all, what better way to rebuke the regime than to proudly print your work with the honest printer’s name on it, if that’s what you're aiming at? In any case, the supposed rebuke seems so esoteric that it is difficult to imagine readers getting it. And how exactly was the rebuke supposed to work if the reader had no way of knowing that the book’s printer was Darby? It just seems far-fetched.

I frankly don’t know why Darby’s name is not on the first edition. If I were forced to guess, I might say it had to do with shielding the printer from risk of prosecution for the book’s contents — and with shielding the author. After all, Shaftesbury’s name did not appear in the first edition either. By the time of the second edition, Shaftesbury’s agent and the printer knew that there was no risk of prosecution, so both names appear on it, with a picture of the author, who by that time was dead and hence beyond the threat of prosecution.

I have already mentioned one more bit of circumstantial evidence favouring Darby as the printer of the 1711 edition, though oddly it goes unremarked by Alderman. I mean the circular “medallion” engraving by Gribelin, which appeared on the title page of both the 1711 and 1714 editions (and subsequent ones). Of course, this on its own is no proof, since it could be that Shaftesbury paid for it and could therefore hand it over to whichever printer he chose to print his works. But it creates a presumption in favour of a continuity of printers.

I should like to say a few more things about this curious medallion engraving that weren’t mentioned by Alderman. First, it was either redone or retouched for the second edition. In its 1711 state, in the outer area containing the scrollwork, the background was composed of horizontal lines only. In the 1714 version, cross-hatching lines have been added over the horizontal ones. I don’t believe this has been noted by anyone before.

Second, in 1711, only the engraver’s name was inscribed, at the bottom: “Sim: Gribelin  sculps:”. In 1714, in the corners, page references have been added (“Vid. Inf. Vol. III P. 198, 199.”), as it appears here:

Was the 1714 version of the medallion entirely redone, or is it the same plate retouched? Although I’m not expert enough to say for sure, I’m inclined to believe it’s a retouch, for the simple fact that in all other respects the 1714 plate is so faithful to the original that, if it is a copy, it’s a damn near perfect one. It’s easier for me to believe it’s the same plate than that it is such a perfect facsimile of the original.

I only have two things to add about the 1714 second edition. One is to note that in discussing the commission of Gribelin’s engravings, Alderman mentions the treatise headpieces but not the larger volume plates. The other is that he mentions an obscure advertisement in another 1716 publication, listing books sold by Darby, including Characteristicks, “Adorn’d with variety of Hieroglyphical Sculptures, all design’d by his Lordship, and engraved by Mr. Gribelin.” This is useful and interesting, at least for me, because it tells against something I have contended elsewhere, namely that 18th-century readers were unlikely to be aware of Shaftesburys’ role in the design of the plates, unless they happened to read the biographical entry on Shaftesbury in Thomas Birch’s A General Dictionary, Historical and Critical (Vol. IX, 1739). After all, Shaftesbury was dead when they appeared, and in any case it was not typical for an author to design plates, which were normally commissioned and owned by the publisher. Despite this interesting advertisement, I still contend that, as a matter of fact, most readers did not know of Shaftesbury’s design role, but it does show that the knowledge was theoretically available.

Of the 1732 edition, Alderman does not relate the lore that this edition was brought out by Shaftesbury’s son, the 4th Earl. I have come across this claim before, but presented without good authority, so I class it as spurious. The 4th Earl would have been 21 or so at the time. Therefore, Alderman is perhaps justified in leaving the story out.

Alderman describes the 1743-45 edition as “the most baffling of them all” and “the most careless and inconsistent” (p. 324). This is a fair assessment. For instance, volume I is dated 1744, volume, II is dated 1743, and volume III is dated 1745. It is a duodecimo edition with no city or publisher on the title page.

The only thing I have to add to Alderman’s very good account of it is that in my copy, volume I is bound with (and after) a 1746 edition of Shaftesbury’s letters, which looks like it was by the same printer. Alderman does not attempt to identify the printer, but Philip Gaskell, in his Bibliography of the Foulis Press (London, 1964), attributes it to that famous Glasgow firm, along with the 1746 Letters. If so, it is not one of their better efforts.

The 1773 Baskerville edition

I have more to say about Alderman’s account of the Baskerville edition (Birmingham, 1773). First, his account is based mainly on a description of his own copy, which is so idiosyncratic as to be almost useless for the purpose of a general description (though it’s very interesting in its own right). For instance, it sounds as if at some point the pages containing plates had been removed from his copy. To remedy this, a previous owner had pasted in ones he had found elsewhere, some of them from earlier editions. Some missing pages were even reprinted at the owner’s own expense, likely sometime in the early 19th century.

Usually one would expect quality from Baskerville’s press, and indeed in this edition one finds the best paper and ink was used. It is large, crisp, and elegant. But the proofreading could have been better. Thankfully, most of the problems are to be found in misnumbered pages and misspelled page headings rather than in Shaftesbury’s own text. But still, it mars an otherwise beautiful book. Alderman notes that about a quarter of the copies contain an “errata” sheet in either volume I or III. Mine does not.

Also not noted by Alderman: Shaftesbury’s marginal headings in volume II are not reproduced here, which to my mind is a drawback, since they offer clues to Shaftesbury’s thinking and organization. (For example, one looking for the famous but little used phrase “moral sense” in Shaftesbury’s writings will find it in a marginal header.)

Baskerville’s was the first edition since 1737 to reproduce all of Gribelin’s engravings. Alderman does not know whether Baskerville “had these redone at great expense, or whether by some arrangement the originals had come into his possession” (p. 326). I have examined and measured them and compared them in every way to the originals, and there is absolutely no difference. Everything is the same, right down to the “hollow capitals” in the textual references on the plates, which are barely distinguishable to the naked eye. I have no doubt they are original. This is not to say that Baskerville didn’t have them retouched, since it’s reasonable that they would have been “tired” from repeated use in various editions over the years.

If the plates were redone, then to have copied them so faithfully and in such detail would have been such a marvel as to make the anonymous artisan’s name worthy of appearing alongside Gribelin’s. It would have been typical for a new engraver to add his name to his plate, even in the case where it is a copy. For instance, Ravenet did so when he miniaturized the medallion and Shaftesbury coat of arms for the 1749 duodecimo edition. That Gribelin’s is the only name on them favours the view that the plates are originals. The real interesting question, then, is how Baskerville acquired them. I don’t have an answer to this.

Like most post-1714 editions, the Baskerville contains “The Judgment of Hercules” and the “Letter concerning Design”. In the case of the latter, my copy lacks the title page, the page numbering going from 391 of the preceding treatise to page 395 of the “Letter”. Another curiosity about the “Letter” in my copy is that it was printed on different — and clearly inferior — paper. In the photograph below, you may just be able to make out the browning of the paper in the “Letter” on the right, contrasted with the crisp whiteness of the preceding treatise on the left.

The little ornamental rule above the title in the photograph also differs from the ones throughout the rest of the edition, which are formed of little egg-shaped elements. My suspicion is that, for whatever reason, the “Letter” was not originally intended to be included. This suspicion is verified by fact that the title page of volume III, which lists the treatises contained therein, does not list the “Letter”. This decision being repented of, the “Letter” was hastily printed up as an afterthought, either before publication, or afterwards, so that customers who felt shortchanged could have it bound in with their copies. This might explain the inferior paper: if its production was not part of the publication budget, or if it was essentially being given out gratis to maintain customer goodwill, the cheaper stuff would have to do.

As I said, my copy lacks a title page for the “Letter”, while other copies have it. I don’t have an explanation for this. But it is notable that of copies I’ve examined, whether my own, or online, or through bibliographies and catalogues, copies lacking the title page also seem to lack the above-mentioned errata sheet. I would be curious to know if all of them have the “letter” printed on cheaper paper, something I cannot tell without examining them in hand.