A Curious Miscellany of Items Philosophical, Historical, and Literary

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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?