Saturday, 1 June 2013

A Volume To Be Delivered Every Month

Late last December I found on Google Books a curious advertisement (below) for Haywood’s Betsy Thoughtless (1751) and Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy (1753). The advertisement in question appears only twice on Google: on 27 March and 3 April 1762 in The London Chronicle. I went looking on the Burney Newspaper textbase, to see if I could find any similar advertisements elsewhere, but failed: I could only find these two. In fact, no other advertisements appear between 1761 and 1767 for either novel.** [UPDATED]

There are a number of noteworthy facts about this advertisement: Haywood’s early works appeared in three collections: The Works of 1724, Secret Histories, Novels and Poems of 1725 and Secret Histories etc. of 1727 (in my Bibliography, these are Aa.2, Aa.3, Aa.4); four collections if you include Aa.1 The Danger of Giving Way to Passion, planned in 1720, but not issued as a collection. This is the only other attempt I can think of, by an original publisher of one of Haywood’s works, to gather together any of her publications.

(After the copyrights to three of her novels expired between 1775 and 1779, they appeared in Harrison’s The Novelist’s Magazine: Ab.67.9 Betsy Thoughtless in 1783; Ab.68.6 Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy in 1785; and Ab.69.7 The Invisible Spy in 1788. All of these are available online—see here.)

The fact that Thomas Gardner had tried to interest readers in a seven-volume collection of Haywood’s first long, realist novels is very interesting indeed. It had been almost a decade since Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy was first published and it was yet to be reprinted; and it was more than a decade since the second edition of Betsy Thoughtless had appeared. Clearly, Gardner thought the time was ripe to revive these novels.

The fact that he was, apparently, unsuccessful in eliciting enough interest from novel-buyers to get all seven volumes out is also interesting. Because, although the third edition of Betsy Thoughtless was published, a volume-per-month, from April to July 1762, Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy did not appear between August and October. Indeed, a new edition of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy was not issued for another seven years, and then only after another (the fourth) edition of Betsy Thoughtless appeared.

Another noteworthy fact here is that Gardner tried to issue these in serial form, at the easy price of “Two Shillings and Sixpence” per month, rather than ten shillings in one go for the four volumes. I was unable to find any newspaper advertisements for the earlier Dublin editions of Betsy Thoughtless (Ab.67.3 and Ab.67.4) or Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy (Ab.68.2 and Ab.68.3), so I do not know if this was a ploy to make his editions more price-competitive, but Gardner’s serial-publishing approach was pre-empted by Robert Main in Dublin.

The first volume of Main’s Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy of 1753 (Ab.68.3) contains an advertisement advising buyers that, due to the success of his edition of Betsy Thoughtless (Ab.67.4; online here and here), he “proposes publishing it [Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy] in Volumes,” which will be sold by “Hawkers.” It isn’t clear whether his Betsy Thoughtless had been sold “in Volumes” too, but it certainly is possible if he regularly used hawkers (chapmen) to distribute his publications.

It is not clear whether Main’s volumes were issued monthly; we are simply told that “the remaining Two [volumes will be] publish’d with all Expedition.” But it is clear that the volumes were issues sewn (as Gardner did), which is why Main warns his buyers to “be careful in preserving them, that they may be afterwards bound up together.” (Since there is only one complete set of this edition of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy known, it seems that very few of his Lady and Gentlemen readers were careful in preserving them!)

Gardner’s serial publication of Betsy Thoughtless nine years later seems to have attracted Lady and Gentlemen readers who were slightly more inclined to preserve their sewn sets. ESTC still only records five sets (the ones I reported in 2004), to this can be added a set of my own (the provenance of which I discuss at enormous length here), and an odd volume, all of which, by a mysterious quirk of fate, are without title-leaves! So I am still on the lookout for a complete set!

(The odd-volume has a first-edition title-leaf instead of its original title-leaf, and was sold to me as a first edition: I was very disappointed when I realised the deception error.)

* * * * *

**It is good to see eighteenth-century newspapers on Google. I don’t know if this is part of a new initiative, evidence of new scanners, or new material being made available, but I haven’t seen many newspapers until now. The Burney Newspaper textbase has gaps and it would be nice to think that, in the fullness of time, these gaps will be filled by Google. Also, the OCR software run over these direct scans (especially from a newspaper) are always much more successful than those run over old microfilms and, even if that weren’t true, having a second or third or fourth, independent scan and OCR transcript,†† significantly increases our chances of finding interesting items like the above, because there is a different set of OCR errors made in each case.

††Having multiple OCR transcripts readily available, for free, is a pretty recent phenomenon—and it raises an intriguing possibility. For years, one of the most reliable ways of getting an accurate transcript of a text was to double-key it (have two people, separately, transcribe the text), and then compare the transcripts. Where the same “error” appears in both transcripts, it is likely an error in the original. Every other error, is likely a transcription error and can be auto-corrected or corrected without reference to the exemplar. (Studies verifying the accuracy of double-keying are discussed of here.)

Since I have now located on Google Books a number of Haywood texts that have been scanned multiple times, from separate exemplars (see here), it is now possible—I imagine—that one could feed the duplicate OCR transcripts into a program to rapidly produce a more accurate OCR transcript. In the one case where there are three separate exemplars/scans available (such as Ab.69.7), I imagine that this would/could produce an even more accurate transcript.

I guess that, since this intriguing possibility is also a very obvious one, it is either being done already or it can’t be done yet...

[UPDATE 15 August 2013: I found one more advertisement, identical to the others, in the St. James's Chronicle, 27 March 1762.]

[UPDATE: 2 July 2016: After my pictures disappeared again, I decided to give up on external hosts for large versions (1000px) of my images, and stick with the smaller ones (500px) that Blogger is prepared to host.]

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