[Ab.1.4a Love in Excess (1722)]
So I did a Google search, and then an ECCO search, for references to copies of Love in Excess that had been sold in the eighteenth century and found quite a respectable number of copies turning up before 1800, suggesting that it may have been in the nineteenth century that most copies of this book disappeared.
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Of the thirty-eight catalogues that appear on ECCO a few had particularly interesting entries. In A Catalogue of the Library of the Rev. John Pitts … (20 January 1794), 290, for instance, the following entry appears:
9373 Mrs. Haywood's Love in Excess, Morocco, gilt leaves, and ruled with red lines, 5s — — — 1722
(This is Ab. 1.4a.) A very similar entry appears in A Catalogue of an Extensive and Valuable Collection of Books; Containing Many Recent Purchases of Rare and Valuable articles … (12 January 1795), 287:
9106 Mrs. Haywood's Love in Excess, Morocco, gilt leaves, and ruled, 5s — — — 1722
Both catalogues are by the same booksellers (Benjamin and John White) and so it seems that, although the Rev. John Pitts appears to have valued Haywood's Love in Excess very highly indeed—going to the expense to have such an elaborate, beautiful and costly binding, put on a copy of the "Fourth Edition" of the novel—Messrs. White nevertheless struggled to find anyone who shared his enthusiasm in the 1790s.
A much earlier catalogue suggests why, and possibly when, the Rev. Pitts thought so highly of the novel. In A Catalogue of the Library of the Ingenious Mr. Delpfuch (1738), 17, Olive Payne gave the following description:
467 Secret Histories Novels and Poems, with that Celebrated Novel, Love in Excess, written by the Ingenious Mrs. Haywood, 4 Vol. compleat, gilt, &c. 10s 6d—— 1732
As you can see, I do like that phrase: "that Celebrated Novel." One final, notable, catalogue entry appears in A Catalogue of Books the Library of the Rev. Dr. Thomas Sheridan (1739), 34,
729 Love in Excess, or the fatal Enquiry Dublin 1724
This is my Ab.1.6, a very rare volume. It did not—and still does not—appear on ESTC, though I found a copy at Wellesley College, Massachusetts.
The remainder of the catalogues are interesting primarily for their titles, which may or may not reflect the actual owners of the copies of Love in Excess listed, since it was as common to "salt" catalogues in the eighteenth century as it was in the twentieth. But even if the named collectors were not the original owners of these books, it does suggest that Love in Excess could pass in such collections.
Here are five of the first ten examples: Bibliotheca Antiquaria & Politica: Being a Catalogue of the Library of a Very Great Statesman Deceased (1723), A Catalogue of the Libraries of Edward Marshall Esq; And of a Very Eminent Prelate Lately Deceased (1724), Catalogus librorum in omni genere literaturæ præstantium: Being a Catalogue of the Library of the Late Learned Samuel Gibbes Esq. (1726); A Catalogue of the Libraries of the Reverend and Learned Thomas Brathwaite, D. D. Late Warden of Winchester-College, and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford. And His Late Nephew, Tho. Brathwaite, Surgeon and Anatomist (1731), A Catalogue of the Library of Sir John Darnall, Knight, Serjeant at Law, Late Judge of the Marshalsea-Court, Deceased (1736) etc.
Here we have a "Very Great Statesman," a "Very Eminent Prelate," "the Reverend and Learned … Vice-Chancellor of Oxford," a "Learned" esquire, a "Surgeon and Anatomist" and a "Serjeant at Law." Not exactly the swooning, light-headed maids that have been popularly supposed to be the readers of novels concerning love, especially in excess.
[UPDATE: 2 July 2016: After all my pictures disappeared (again) I decided to give up on external hosts for large versions (1000px) of my image files and, for now on, will stick with the smaller images (500px), which Blogger is prepared to host.]