Thursday 24 December 2009

A View of the Rotunda, ca. 1750

Here is something pretty to look at over the holidays: "Vue de l'Interieur de la Rotonde dans le Jardins de Ranelagh" in Ranelagh Gardens, Chelsea (at the time, outside of London). The title is left-right reversed so that it could be viewed in a zograscope: "a device with a lens and mirror … used to give an illusion of depth to hand colored engravings called vue d’optique prints" (see here for more on zograscopes).

As you can see below, even if you use Photoshop to do a Horozontal flip of the heading, the lettering is still "wrong."

The Rotunda at Ranelagh was painted by Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697–1768)—a Venetian landscape painter—in 1754. This undated engraving—said to be after "Canaletto"—was engraved by F. Leizelt and sold at Augsburg. The caption reads (in German and French) "Prospect Von dem in[n]ern de la Rotonde in den Garten zu Ranelagh in London. Vüe de l'Interieur de la Rotonde dans le Jardins de Ranelagh." The imprint and copyright details are in French only: "Se vend à Augsbourg dans le negroce comun de l'Academie Imperiale d'Empire sous son Privilege et avec défense de n'en faire ni vendre de copies."

The hand-coloured engraving measures 320 x 430mm (12½ x 17 inches). If you have £280.00 you can buy your own copy here. I picked this one up on eBay for a lot less.

The centrepiece of Ranelagh Gardens, the rotunda had a diameter of 37 metres (120 feet) which was designed by William Jones, a surveyor to the East India Company. The central support housed a chimney and fireplaces for use in winter. In 1765, the nine year old Mozart performed in this showpiece, which figured prominently in views of Ranelagh Gardens taken from the river. Canaletto painted the gardens, and painted the interior of the Rotunda twice, for different patrons. The rotunda was closed for good in 1803 and demolished two years later (see Wikipedia for more).

It is not hard to imagine how the lens on a zograscope would give an illusion of depth: the part of the engraving in the centre of the lens would be heavily magnified, and as you move the lens over the image details would enlarge as they came into view and then shrink away as you moved on. You can also see how the zograscope would work to heighten the curves that dominate this particular composition, allowing a viewer to immerse themselves beneath the vast arching ceiling and within the endless curving walls of the rotunda. Without a zograscope on hand—no home should be without one—the following enlargements will have to do.

[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.]

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Monash Library Disposals

Monash University is a member of the Group of Eight (Go8) Australian universities. It is the youngest, in fact. The other members are The Universities of Sydney (est. 1850), Melbourne (1853), Adelaide (1874), Queensland (1909), Western Australia (1911), New South Wales (1949) and The Australian National University (1946).

(BTW: The Group of Seven (G07) Australian universities excluded The Australian National University. The only Sandstone University missing from the Go7 and Go8 is The University of Tasmania, my Alma Mater.)

The Group of Eight have a series of committees. One of which is the Go8 Librarians. The representatives are Vic Elliott (ANU; Chair of the Committee), John Shipp (USyd), Ray Choate (UAdel), Philip G Kent (UMelb), Cathrine Harboe-Ree (Monash), Andrew Wells (UNSW), Keith Webster (UQ), John Arfield (UWA).

At some point in their recent (and seemingly secret) history—the Go8 have only been in existence since 1999—the Librarians "signed an agreement that between them they would preserve a complete set of the OUP print journals. Each University library having responsibility for a designated group of titles. The journals [Monash] are committed to keeping are being moved to off-site store and any we weed will first be offered to G07 libraries [sic] to fill their gaps."

On 13 October staff in my school were asked to look at a list of journals flagged for "possible weeding" and let library administrators know whether "there are any titles that you consider we should definitely continue to have available in paper. Unfortunately we have been given until Friday 23rd October to decide on the future of these titles and I do realise that this does not give you much time to consult with colleagues, but I felt that you would be in a far better position to elicit opinions that would I."

Ten days certainly wasn't long, and mid-October is just about the busiest time of year for academics: exam period. Nevertheless, I responded as follows:

I strongly oppose the removal of hard copies of these—and any other—journals.

I also strongly object to being given less than ten days to mount an argument to prevent journals such as these from being given away/sold/pulped. (Especially, given the time of year, when most academics have their attention fully occupied by end of term assessment.)

Regarding the G07 university libraries policy to "preserve a complete set of the OUP print journals": if this policy means that all-but-one copy of each OUP print journal is to be given away/sold/pulped then this is an extremely foolish policy, unworthy of a research institution.

It assumes

[1] that the access we presently enjoy to OUP journals will never ever be attenuated in any way: that the cost of access will not rise prohibitively (which cannot be guaranteed; prices rose so steeply last year that at least one GO7 university had to suspend its entire monograph acquisition program. If the AUD had continued to fall, it would have had to start winding back its digital periodicals access)

[2] that the existing digital copy of the OUP journals is faultless (it isn't; reading the low-res scans online is migraine inducing, plates are impossible to view, or missing etc)

[3] that the sole surviving exemplar will never ever be lost or damaged (which cannot be guaranteed).

[4] that there are significant cost-savings from giving away/selling/pulping the OUP journals (I do not believe that this is true. Technology is yodelingly expensive compared to off-site storage).

[5] That this decision could actually be reversed if a new policy were ever to considered. It won't be: have you any idea what it would cost to buy a replacement set of Mind? The Monash run is complete from 1876 to 1991. These one hundred volumes would cost a fortune to replace, if, indeed, they could be obtained.

I can't help but wonder what level of academic input—if any—that this policy had. Did nobody point out that a digital copy is not—and should not be viewed as—a replacement for a hard copy, it is a very, very useful adjunct, just as a facsimile is a very useful adjunct to an original edition.

Surely somebody read Nicholson Baker's Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (2001) and followed the arguments that followed it. Do these arguments need to be rehearsed now?

As I one of the few people to object to this policy in any way I was asked to meet—on 15 October—a senior librarian and my subject librarian to discuss my objections. Both women were very courteous, and were anxious to explain the benefit that had accrued to Monash by acquiring perpetual rights to scans of the OUP journals for only a couple of hundred dollars. The librarians talked up the utility of electronic copies of OUP journals, the accessibility of "last resort" copies within the Go8 libraries, and the costs of keeping "duplicates."

I explained that I was delighted that Monash had acquired these scans of OUP journals, and had done so cheaply, but that these scans could in no way be considered a substitute for original copies (because of their myriad faults, as I had explained in my email), that "last resort" copies were vulnerable precisely because they are the "last copies" and that the cost of preserving originals was actually very low (certainly when compared to the cost of obtaining them in the first place, which Monash had done soon after it was founded in 1958). I might also have mentioned that, if librarians could not plan for, and deal with, the natural growth of their collections then something was seriously wrong with the management of those collections.

Well, the conversation went in a series of overlapping circles. The only thing new in our conversation was the detail I provided them (why hard copies are actually necessary, the ways in which they are useful) and an explanation of why inter-library loans are not a substitute for keeping hard copies (i.e., most institutions won't lend journals at all).

I also think it was news to them that careful scholarship always requires scores, often requires hundreds, and sometimes requires thousands of separate references to journals such as those they were going to throw away. Consequently, it would be an intolerable burden to request all those journals via inter-library loans.

(In fact, I left the University of Tasmania and moved to Melbourne precisely because I soon realised that it is impossible to undertake the research I had begun if one has to rely on inter-library loans. I loved Hobart, and I was very comfortable there, but I uprooted myself from my home of ten years so that I could have access to the journals and reference books I needed.)

When I was asked to meet with these librarians I said that I was not sure what the point would be, given I had explained my objections at some length in my email and given that the policy document has already been agreed on, unless there was any scope for changing/modifying the disposal policy.

As it happens, I was right to be skeptical about the usefulness of the meeting. The librarians wanted me to agree that a scan of a journal is a "duplicate" and see the need to dispose of duplicates. I wouldn't, because this is simply not true. They wanted me to chose for preservation the most important titles from the list they had prepared. I refused, on the basis that they should all be preserved (and even if this were not so, I am in no position to judge whether The Musical Quarterly (1915ff) is more worthy than French Studies (1947ff)).

And two weeks later, on 2 November, it was made clear that there was no scope for reconsidering/changing/modifying the disposal policy. I was informed that, as a result of our meeting, the library had "taken a more conservative approach" and that six of the fifteen journals on the weeding list were going to be "offered to an overseas charity in the first instance."

This decision reminded me of a passage in Thomas Love Peacock's Nightmare Abbey (1818) in which Mr Flosky describes the "fashionable method of administering a mass of vice, under a thin and unnatural covering of virtue, like a spider wrapt in a bit of gold leaf, and administered as a wholesome pill." All of the journals would still be "weeded," but some of them would go to charity.

As I have said, this is an extremely foolish policy, unworthy of a research institution, formulated without academic input, and carried out—in haste—and in the face of academic objection. It is also a decision that will be well-nigh impossible to reverse. It brings to mind this comment in a recent essay by Paul Eggert in Script & Print 33:1–4 (2009): 254–5:

Like most Australian academics in the 1990s and 2000s I sat through—and, as I became more senior, chaired—all too many morale-sapping institutional meetings; this period was not a good one for the traditional humanities, and academics were quickly losing effective control of the institutions with which they had idealistically identified and previously thought of as their own.

Or, as Sirius Black puts it "the devils are inside the walls."

Collation Software for Editing

A query came up on the Exlibris List about "Collation Software," by which the person posting the query meant the computer equivalent of a Hinman Collator: a devise that allows the close comparison of type features of multiple copies of the same page. Famously, Hinman used his Collator to compare multiple copies of the First Folio of Shakespeare's works to identify many slightly different impressions of each sheet and page.

As is often the case on academic lists, the answers to this query veered off in a slightly different direction. This was partly because there is no Hinman-style collation software, but it was also because "Collation Software" can mean the collation (i.e. comparison) by textual editors of multiple copies of the same text.

Comparing different editions/issues/states of the same text is necessary if one is to create a single text from multiple—and conflicting—texts (or witnesses). This sort of comparison is also necessary because it establishes what differences exist between texts, which enables an editor to establish the relationships between them (whether Text C is a reprint of Text A or Text B) and the importance of these differences (whether Text B was corrected by the Author or by the printer). These differences are usually accounted for, and evaluated in, the critical apparatus of a critical edition, specifically in the list of variant readings, in a series of lemma, stemma and sigla. (See here for more on Copy-text editing.)

As it turns out, there is a free, open-source collation tool called Juxta that will generate a list of variant readings (i.e., a full list of lemma and stemma) from any number of witnesses. The software allows users to set any of the witnesses as the base text, to add or remove witness texts, to switch the base text at will. The primary collation gives a split-frame comparison of a base text with a witness text. Juxta can also display a "heat map" of all textual variants, or a "histogram" to display the density of variations.

I tested the software out very briefly on a few texts that I am editing and was delighted both with the split-frame comparison and the "lemmatized schedule" (the list of variant readings, in a series of lemma, stemma). My only concern thus far is that it seems that the texts must be stripped of all font-formatting before they can be compared and "lemmatized." So, every instance of italics or small caps being added, removed or reversed is lost. This is a huge loss, because the difference between "bite me" and "bite me" is just as important as that between "bite me" and "boot me."

Nevertheless, the software will come in very handy when I am trying to establish the relationship between the twelve editions of the text I am working on. And it will be great to be able to generate a "lemmatized schedules" against which I can check the list of variant readings I have compiled the old way. And, at the price, who can complain?

Monday 14 December 2009

The Fall of Mortimier, Wilke's Editions

The Fall of Mortimer (1731) is a revision of an anonymous play King Richard the Third, with the Fall of Mortimer, Earl of March. An Historical Play (London: J. Hindmarsh, 1691), based on the life of Roger de Mortimer (1287?–1330). Mortimer fell from power during the regency of Edward III (b.1312, ruled 1327–37), being stripped of his position, hanged, drawn and quartered in 1330.

In the 1731 play Mortimer’s period of misrule is presented as a parallel to contemporary politics, thereby suggesting that the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole ought to face Mortimer’s fate. The many parallels between the two treacherous Prime Ministers must have been obvious to contemporary play-goers and readers. It was certainly clear to the government, which acted to suppress it, and it was made perfectly clear to anyone who may have had any doubt about the application in Remarks on an Historical Play, called, The Fall of Mortimer (1731).

The play’s attack on corrupt ministers, originally aimed at Walpole, was redirected by John Wilkes (1725–97) at the then Prime Minister, John Stuart, Third Earl of Bute (1713–92). The dedication to Bute is dated 15 March 1763; the play was published within two weeks of this date, and Bute resigned as Prime Minister on 8 April 1763.

Actually, 1763 was a pretty busy year for Wilkes. As Wikipedia explains Wilkes was charged with seditious libel over his attack on George III in issue 45 of The North Briton. The King ordered general warrants to be issued for the arrest of Wilkes and the publishers on 30 April 1763.

The combination of Wilkes’ dedication, Bute’s resignation, and the general warrants issued for the arrest of Wilkes and the publishers, probably contributed greatly to the success of the 1763 editions. Of these editions there are four. In my Bibliography (2004), 728–29, they are numbered"

De.1.4 The Fall of Mortimer: An Historical Play, Dedicated, to the Right Honourable John Earl of Bute, &c. &c. &c … (London: G. Kearsly, 1763). [ESTC: n63360].

De.1.5 The Fall of Mortimer: An Historical Play, Dedicated, to the Right Honourable John Earl of Bute, &c. &c. &c … (London: G. Kearsly, 1763). [ESTC: t35252].

De.1.6 The Fall of Mortimer: An Historical Play, Dedicated, to the Right Honourable John Earl of Bute, &c. &c. &c. The Second Edition … (London: G. Kearsly, 1763). [ESTC: t35253].

De.1.7 The Fall of Mortimer. An Historical Play. Revived from Mountfort, with Alterations. Dedicated to the Right Honourable John Earl of Bute, &c. &c. &c. … (Dublin: Printed for Peter Wilson, 1763). [ESTC: t56756].

I have had copies of all of these now. In a moment of penury I sold three of them—De.1.4, De.1.5 and De.1.7—to the Swift Collection at Monash University (i.e., the Matheson Library Rare Books collection). But I recently bought a copy of De.1.6 to keep my remaining copy of De.1.5 company. (Getting replacement copies of De.1.4 and De.1.7 is not a very high priority. Which is just as well really, since I only know of two copies of De.1.4!)

Anyway, I thought I'd post a few images of the two editions I have side-by-side to show the similarities and subtle differences in type-setting.

Note that this diamond-shaped tailpiece is made up of thirty-three separate type ornaments (click on the image for an enlargement). Either the printer of De.1.5 (left) kept this group of type ornaments bound together for re-use on De.1.6 (right), or he went to a lot of trouble to duplicate exactly the group used on De.1.5.

It is curious then that the printer didn't also reproduce the factotum—the decorative surround for the initial letter on page five (second image above)—that was used on De.1.5 when they printed De.1.6, because it is made up of almost as many separate type ornaments (twenty-eight on De.1.5 (left), twenty on De.1.6 (right)) as the tailpiece.

[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.]

Amazing NZ Book Council Video

This amazing video has been doing the rounds online. It is a reading of Maurice Gee's Going West (1993) animated by Andersen M Studio, which was produced for the New Zealand Book Council by Colenso BBDO.

18C Book History Studentship

Details of the following appeared on the SHARP list:

Applications are invited from eligible candidates for a University of Leicester fees-only PhD Studentship “National identity, popular culture and eighteenth-century chapbooks.” The successful candidate will be based in the School of Historical Studies.

Applications are encouraged from candidates with a background in eighteenth-century studies, book history, or any field of early modern social or cultural history. Applicants will be expected to have completed a relevant Masters degree by 1 October 2010. This studentship offers an exciting opportunity for research in eighteenth-century cultural history through an analysis of eighteenth-century chapbooks.

Chapbooks were small, cheap, publications aimed at a popular market, sold by booksellers but also distributed by chapmen and pedlars. They were generally printed on poor paper, often with old type and woodblocks, cost 6d or less and were highly ephemeral. Their survival rate is low, but they were consumed by a far broader section of the population than other more expensive forms of print culture in this period. Their subject was wide-ranging, including ballads, city cries, dreadful, fables, fairy tales, garlands, nursery rhymes and primers and abridgements of novels and works of history or natural history.

Their purpose could be moralising, entertainment, didactic or a combination. Chapbooks have already been used by historians such as Tessa Watt and Margaret Spufford in studies of seventeenth-century popular culture, and in particular, popular religious belief, but they have been largely neglected as a genre by historians of eighteenth-century culture.

This PhD will build upon an interdisciplinary pilot project on chapbooks undertaken in 2009, funded by the Bibliographical Society, led by Prof Roey Sweet (Historical Studies), Dr Kate Loveman (English) and Dr John Hinks (Historical Studies).

The PhD will investigate the ways in which chapbooks articulated a sense of national identity (for example, through recounting historical narratives, or the celebration of national achievements) or reflected themes such as naval or maritime traditions which have already been strongly identified with the expression of eighteenth-century national identity.

This research will make an important contribution to the study of national identities in the eighteenth century and, more broadly, the extent of mediation between elite and popular culture during this period.

The successful applicant will be guaranteed teaching in the School of Historical Studies for which a fee is paid. They will also be encouraged to able to apply for funds to cover research expenses from external sources, for example, the Bibliographical Society or the Economic History Society.

The studentship will cover tuition fees (at the UK/EU rate only) for three years starting in October 2010. International students will need to pay the difference between this and the international tuition fee rate.

Details here; Further information: Prof Roey Sweet,

Tuesday 1 December 2009


I have started a new blog (here) to gauge interest in reviving the Australasian and Pacific Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

[UPDATE 11 Feb 2015: I have now deleted this blog to avoid any confusion with the Australian and New Zealand Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (ANZSECS) launched at the XVth David Nichol Smith conference at the University of Sydney in December 2014]

Haywood Bibliography Note 4

Ab.70.5 The Wife (1806) is one of the last works by Eliza Haywood to be published before the modern revival of interest in her as an author. As I set out in Appendix J, Table V, of my Bibliography, among works in English only Ab.30 The Distress'd Orphan and Ab.36 The Fruitless Enquiry appeared after 1806. Of these, only the latter—Ab.36.7 The Fruitless Enquiry (1819)—was dated. (Among works in other languages, only the German translations of Ab.69 The Invisible Spy appeared after 1806.) Ab.70.5 The Wife (1806) is also the only American edition of any work by Haywood.

Both Ab.70.5 The Wife (1806) and Ab.36.7 The Fruitless Enquiry (1819) are bowdlerised versions of Haywood's original text. In the case of The Wife the edition has been reworded, the phrasing "modernised," and Book III Section viii "Sleeping in different Beds" (Ab.70.1 TWi, 239–50) is omitted altogether. The rewording often heightens the religious sentiments.

In my Bibliography I listed two issues of Ab.70.5, but I recently bought a third (photos below). All three issues appeared in Boson in 1806 with slight differences in the imprint.

Ab.70.5a "BOSTON: | Printed and published by A. NEWELL. | 1806."

Ab.70.5b "BOSTON: | Printed by A. NEWELL, for A. MARCH, | No. 13 Market Square—Newburyport. | 1806."

Ab.70.5c "BOSTON: | Printed by A. NEWELL, and for Sale by | THOMAS & WHIPPLE, Newburyport. | 1806."

Conveniently, the third one—the one I recently acquired and which was previously unknown and unrecorded—does seem to belong in third position. I have updated by Bibliography accordingly attached a pdf of the new entry on my Haywood Bibliography, Addenda and Corrigenda page.

[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 (usually 500px, but 400px here), which Blogger is prepared to host.]

Monday 16 November 2009

Books as Social Markers

There was an article by Peter Munro in The Age on Sunday under the title Lost in Cyber Space in which Prof. Bob Cummins (Deakin University, convener of the Australian Centre on Quality of Life) lamented that he had "lost a social marker" after he emptied his shelves of books.

The fact is that I just never read those books and was never going to read them again—they were just academic props. But maybe they filled a function as that—as a prop for who Cummins is … probably shouldn't have done it … I guess walking into an academic's office and finding a wall of earnest books is quite consoling; it means at face value you look like the real deal. Someone sitting in their office with bare shelves—how odd, what's wrong with them?

It is surprising that Prof. Cummins, who has a Personal Chair in the School of Psychology uses words like maybe, guess and probably in the above quote. I would have thought it was reasonably obvious that he would lose not only his social markers but some of his academic credibility.

The article goes on:

Possessions help define us, brand us, but what happens when they start to hide away in boxes in top cupboards—CD stacks supplanted by iPod docks, film collections by downloads, libraries by wireless reading devices

It is an interesting question, but the answers proposed by the article are not very convincing. Sharing playlists, reading lists etc are not really the equivalent of letting someone look over your shelves or your cds. And for a true collector, or the conspicuous consumer, it isn't remotely the same. To know someone is "listening to" The Beatles (when, in fact, they are a collector of first pressings, and the singles and LPs on their shelves are worth more than your house) or that they have Dracula on their shelf of "favourite books" (when, in fact, they have a first edition in a dust-wrapper which is worth more than your house) tells you nothing. This is because, records or CDs and books are material objects which encode a myriad of social markers in their very materiality.

I recently helped sort through some of the books left behind by a retired academic. Many of the books had the name of the academic concerned, a date and a place neatly written in pen on the front free fly-leaf. Collectively, these "earnest books" were not just "academic props"—though that was undoubtedly part of their function—they marked the progress of an academic life over five decades and on three continents. Battered, filled with marginalia, with ticket-stubs and call-slips as place-markers, sorting through them was like reading a biography of their owner.

How anyone could leave so much of themselves behind is a mystery to me—I tend to be quite sentimental about such things—because the owner of these books left behind a substantial part of their own personal history, not just "a social marker."

Biblio-sentimentality aside, the article seems to ignore the fact that as an increasing number of the things in our life (books, music, film, photos) make the transition from physical to virtual we accumulate an increasing number of new things that store, use or manipulate our virtual books, music, films and photos: digital cameras, photo frames, mobile phones, PDAs and hybrid devices like PDA-phones, ipod-cameras, etc.

It is these objects that now carry social markers, and are the evidence of our conspicuous spending. So, if Bob Cummins really wants to impress his colleagues and students he need only install two side-by-side Macs on a long and spartan black desk, a wall-mounted ipod doc sound system, and a 46 inch flat-screen to display album-covers on or to display a virtual fish-tank. Easy-peasy.

Oh, and he can send me his book cases. Because I always need more of them.

Monday 2 November 2009

The Chevalier D'Eon

While I was on leave over the last few weeks I watched Le Chevalier D’Eon (2006–7), a twenty-four episode anime series.

The series begins in Paris, when the body of a woman named Lia de Beaumont is found in a casket floating along the Seine. The only clue regarding her death is the word "Psalms," which is written in blood on the lid of the casket. D'Eon de Beaumont, Lia's younger brother and a knight in service of King Louis XV, takes it upon himself to investigate his sister's mysterious death, along with the strange disappearances of a number of French women.

The scriptwriter, Shotaro Suga, explains, "the intended atmosphere [was] of a cathartic drama of people who were and were not loyal to their country 'on the eve of the French Revolution'." Most of the action occurs in Versailles, Paris, Moscow and London and involves a range of historical figures appropriate to these locations: Louis XV, Robespierre, Cagliostro, Empress Elizabeth and Catherine II of Russia, Princess Caroline of Great Britain, Sir Francis Dashwood, Lord Sandwich etc.

The central character is loosely based on the extraordinary historical figure Chevalier d'Eon (Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d'Éon de Beaumont, 1728–1810), a French diplomat, spy, soldier etc who lived as a man until 1777, but as a woman thereafter. (See the Wikipedia entry here.)

The Chevalier d'Eon's lived in London from 1763–77 and from 1785–1810. Questions about the Chevalier's sex started circulating reasonably quickly. Not surprisingly, a number of works about the Chevalier appear in my Checklist of Eighteenth-Century Erotica:

An Elegy on the Lamented Death of the Electrical Eel … as placed on a Superb Erection, at the Expence of the Countes of H---------, and Chevalier-Madame d’Eon de Beaumont, by Lucretia Lovejoy, sister to Mr. Adam Strong, author of the Electrical Eel (London: Printed for Fielding and Walker, 1777).

An Epistle from Mademoiselle D'Eon to the Right Honourable L[or]d M[ansfiel]d, C[hie]f J[ustic]e of the C[our]t of K[in]g’s B[enc]h, on his determination in regard to her sex (London: Printed for M. Smith, 1778).

A Sapphick Epistle, from Jack Cavendish to the Honourable and most Beautiful Mrs D['Eon] ([London]: Printed for M. Smith, and sold by the booksellers near Temple-Bar, and in Paternoster-Row, [1778]).

When the Chevalier died in London in 1810, doctors examined the body and discovered that the Chevalier-Madame had been anatomically male (the Chevalier had previously stated that such an examination would be dishonouring, whatever the result). Whether the Chevalier had a hormonal condition that prevented the function of his sexual organs, or the development of other sexual characteristics, is unknown. Consequently, it is impossible to know whether the Chevalier was an intersex individual or a cross-dressing male. Given the lack of evidence, and the Chevalier's preference that the subject be left unexamined, the less said the better.

* * * * *

When I saw this DVD on the shelves—knowing what I did of the real Chevalier-Madame—I found it impossible to resist, even at the thumping price of $70.00. Having watched it, I am not sure I'd recommend the expense to anyone less interested in the real Chevalier-Madame than I am.

The animation is okay, in fact some of the backdrops and effects are great, but the plot is pretty confusing, most of the characters are not very appealing, and some of the few who appealing at the outset do not stay that way. The stand-out character, the Madame D'Eon, does not get anywhere near enough screen time. I liked the magics but there was no real exposition, or explanation, about them: the source of the power of the Psalms or the powers of those who wield the magic.

It is also obviously difficult to escape the depressive atmosphere that results from depicting a large number of frivolous, stupid, ambitious, duplicitous and disloyal characters who are "on the eve of destruction" (i.e. revolution).

Of course, now that I am clear about the plot-line and the motivations of the major characters I am tempted to watch the series again and see if I enjoy it any more, but there is so much else to watch and read and do … so it might have to wait at least until I reach my vampire movie target (two hundred. Forty to go.).

Thursday 8 October 2009

ESTC to add Title Pages

Patricia Hargis from ESTC North America has circulated an email to the EXLIBRIS-List suggesting that ESTC will soon add images of title-pages to its records. Not surprisingly, bibliographers, eighteenth- centurists etc are excited by this development and each has their own priority. (One scholar has called for the broadsides to be first: a fair call.)

Here is the text of Patricia's email:

We have long had the practice of saving the photocopies of title pages and other pages you have sent us and attaching them to printouts of the appropriate on-line records, thereby creating a paper file of almost every item in the ESTC from 1701-1800. This "manual file" now occupies nearly an entire room. Remarkable isn't it?

After much thought and discussion, we have decided to digitize this 18th century manual file. We will scan your title pages to create image files and then link those files to the appropriate ESTC records, thereby making images of the materials you have been sending us for 35 years publicly accessible.

Digitizing the manual file will greatly increase the value of the ESTC as a bibliographical tool. Users tell us that having pictures attached helps to ensure that they are matching correctly. It is often not possible to articulate in a bibliographic record every small discrepancy that enables one to identify separate imprints. A picture is worth a thousand words!

Of course, ESTC needs permission to do this from all contributing libraries. I hope they co-operate.

In fact, I'd like to see this record>artifact link extended. ESTC already lists Eighteenth Century microfilm numbers, details of facsimiles and ECCO references in its records. But ECCO is a subscription service and it is not possible to follow a link in ESTC to ECCO image files. As long as Gale had a monopoly on digitised eighteenth century texts, this stalemate persisted. One of the beauties of this proposal is that it cuts out ECCO.

Of course, Gale (who owns ECCO) does not have a complete monopoly on digitised texts any more, and it would be nice to see links to eighteenth-century texts on Google Books and elsewhere listed on ESTC.

As I have mentioned before, some people are compiling this sort of information, but—just as it is a pain to separately log into ECCO and search for an item you have already located on ESTC—it is a pain to have to search for the text on Google Books or even on a list of digitised eighteenth-century texts.

Linking Google Book texts to ESTC records would also help Google overcome one of the strongest criticisms leveled at it, the dodgy cataloguing of their digital texts. No doubt the clear benefit to all parties will make such a development inevitable. And in the meanwhile, we can look forward to seeing at least a single page of the texts catalogued on ESTC!

Monday 5 October 2009

Haywood Bibliography Note 3

Ab.35 Cleomelia (1726) was not Eliza Haywood's successful work, but it is one of her more interesting works from a bibliographical point of view. It was only printed once, but it was translated into French in 1751 and it was revised, re-titled, and reprinted in 1788 as The History of Miss Leonara Meadowson. This latter edition was lost for over two hundred years; my discovery of a copy in the Fales library in New York was one of the highlights of my research. (My essay on this discovery was published in the BSANZ Bulletin in 1999.)

The French translation is particularly interesting because it appeared in a collection—Mélange de différentes pièces de vers et de prose translates as A Mix of Various Pieces of Poetry and Prose—with works by Susanna Centlivre (A Bold Stroke for a Wife), Alexander Pope (Eloisa to Abelard) and Thomas Southerne (Oroonoko).

Happily for Haywood scholars the Bodleian copy of Mélange is now on Google Books. The Bodleian copy is one of nine I know of. I now have two copies of my own; one from an incomplete set (vol. 1, 2 of 3), one not.

Just as the high-grade paper, crisp printing and wide margins of this book suggest an upper-market product, the elaborate gold-tooled bindings on my copies suggest that the buyers of these books were—economically speaking—just as select. I am sure Haywood would have been delighted.

The images below shouldn't need any further introduction. However, if you'd like any more information, I have added a corrected entry for Mélange de différentes pièces de vers et de prose to my Haywood Bibliography, Addenda and Corrigenda page.

[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.]

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Bawdy Songbooks Online

Below are links to any early nineteenth-century bawdy songbooks—such as we will include in our Bawdy Songbooks of the Romantic Period (2011)—that are on Google Books, The Internet Archive, or anywhere else. There are very, very few online, but I'll add whatever items I can find, as I find them.

Fanny Hill's Bang-up Reciter, Friskey Songster (1835)

Friday 25 September 2009

Transcribing Eighteenth-Century Texts

A colleague at Monash asked me if I knew of a commercial transcription service that could transcribe a 450-page early eighteenth-century English text into a Word document. The text would serve as the basis for an edited version of the text. It would be compared, word for word, punctuation mark for punctuation mark, a number of times over.

This sort of textual editing is tedious, but it would be even more tedious to type the whole thing first, and still have this job ahead of you. Transcription is also very, very time-consuming for all but the fastest and most accurate typists. Which is why she wanted to pay someone else to do it. Unfortunately, the conditions of the grant she has received rule out paying a research assistant to do the job; but she can pay a business to do it.

I should explain, that the text had never been reprinted, and no version of the text was available in digital form. So, not on Google Books, not on ECCO, no substantial excerpts in recent editions. Zip. She was going to have to create the text ex nihilo.

When she first discussed this problem with me I suggested that, if the text were clear, she could scan the text and run OCR software over it herself. She would have a lot of f/s substitutions to make, but you can get a fairly useable text this way. Nowhere near as good as a transcription service, but usable. But she would have to spend quite a while getting nice clean copies and then either scanning them all herself or send these to a bureau to be scanned and OCR'ed.

I also suggested voice-recognition software, which I use all the time for transcribing chunks of eighteenth-century texts. You get better results than with OCR, but still, a lot of copy-editing is required.

We also discussed just sending it to a secretarial service for typing. You might end up with a lot of f/s substitutions, but, as I said, that really isn't too difficult to do. But once you are sending it out to be done you start to think of commercial transcription services who have handled eighteenth-century texts before.

I had heard of a number of large projects that have sent material to be transcribed in India or in Asia: I am pretty sure that the British Library Catalogue was transcribed in Asia (with predictable results). And I figured, other people must have wanted a commercial transcription service before, for the same reason. But, looking online, the only transcription services my colleague could find were for legal and medical records. What she wanted was someone with experience handling eighteenth-century texts.

So I sent a query to the 18C-List. The answers I got, on and off-list, were (1) offers by individuals to undertake the transcription, (2) suggestions that the she didn't need a transcription (that the text might already be available in some form), (3) suggestions that her publisher might do the transcription for her and (4) details of a transcription service. (There was also a reply that contained an attack of Obama's health insurance legislation (!?!), which implied the question was off-topic, or warning that the answer was. I am not sure which.)

I gathered from the answers I got that most editors transcribe their own texts, even very lengthy ones. It is seen as part of the job. The textual editor might take over responsibility (in a larger project) but the volume editor, the editor of an individual text in a series or multi-volume set, actually does the typing. It is called keystroking. Which suggests something much more pleasurable than the RSI-inducing activity that is transcribing.

The next most common arrangement—no. 3 above—is that the press does it in-house. I know Pickering & Chatto do this, they are transcribing the texts of 2000 bawdy songbooks right now for a collection I am editing with Paul Watt. But apparently it is not just Pickering & Chatto. It seems some of the larger presses, like Cambridge, farm out this transcription, but I couldn't find out who they were sending their texts to.

This brings us to no. 4 above: one scholar with experience in this area told me that,

We outsource practically all our transcription to India. The only transcription we tend to do ourselves is unique manuscript material. The companies we use are Planman Technologies (good, but slightly uneven) and Acogent.

How this works is that we sign a contract with the companies for a certain volume of transcription work (this gives us a bulk discount), and then we fill this using our own internal budget to cover the costs. We either ship books physically via courier to India, or, if they’re fragile or rare, scan them here and send the page scans to India via FTP server.

What we do is somewhat different from what your colleague wants, in that we do bulk digitization and we get our transcription encoded in TEI XML rather than as a Word document.

A New Zealand scholar also suggested that it would be worth getting in touch with digital humanities centres that deal with early modern and eighteenth-century works (such as The Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King's College London and the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria) to see who they outsource their transcription to.

Both of these answers suggested what is now obvious.

Thinking of the texts as special (they are almost three hundred years old!) is misleading. Transcribing eighteenth-century texts is just data-entry and data management: "Acogent provides data entry and data management services …"

Also, thinking of single-author, single-volume, painstakingly edited texts is also misleading (i.e., it leads you in the wrong direction). The digital world is full of text collections created in digital humanities centres, all of whom outsource transcription. (The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, to take an example that never occurred to me, contains the text of The Travels of Hildebrand Bowman, Esquire (1778). Texts like this are all over the net). So, asking a bunch of scholars who prepare one-off, minutely collated texts, is really unlikely to elicit a useful answer. I am just lucky—and so is my colleague—that 'online, everyone hears you scream' (for help).

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Fear-mongering for FREE! 1724

In The Weekly Journal; or, Saturday’s Post, 22 February 1724, an advertisement for the 9th ed. of Onania (a work on the evils of onanism—i.e. masturbation) concludes:

N.B. As the Pamphlet lately published on this Subject, under the Title of ERONANIA, is made up only (as by comparing them will be seen) of Paragraphs, Sentences, and many Bits and Scraps stolen from ONANIA, abovementioned, by one notorious for pyrating other Mens Works; the Bookseller thought proper to give Notice thereof, that the Publick may not be imposed upon by it.

What this note doesn't mention is that Eronania was being given away; so whether or not the "Paragraphs, Sentences, and many Bits and Scraps" were "stolen from ONANIA," the price was pretty attractive. (BTW only two copies of Eronania survive to verify the claim that it was made up of "Bits and Scraps.")

Clearly, the publisher "at the Sign of Dr. Chamberlen’s Anodyne Necklace" was making his money from the cures he offered to the "Nine miserable Consequences" of masturbation, which he spells out in his advertisement in The Weekly Journal; or, British Gazetteer, 1 February 1724:

Publish’d this Day the Particulars of, ERONANIA on the Crimes of those two unhappy Brothers ER and ONAN Judah’s two Sons, who for defileing their Nuptial Bed, and frustrating the end of Marriage, were punish’d with immediate Death. Gen. 38. Or the hainous Crime of Self-Defilement, with all Nine miserable Consequences; SELF-EMASCULATION, Impotency, Senility, unfitness to Marry, deprivation of Manhood, Seminal Gleets, and the other Three wretched Miseries of it in both Sexes, (whom it generally Initiates in Wickedness) laid open to all Persons ever guilty of this Vice, whether Single, Married, Widdowers, WOMEN-HATERS, or Molles: And why this infamous Word MOLLES made English is applied to the Doers of this ill Action.[1]

Felix quem faciunt Aliena pericula Cautum.[2]

Also of the Use, Abuse of, frustrating, and defileing the Marriage Bed: With all Doubts thereunto belonging (as also of Retentio Seminis, and it’s Consequences in the Body, where the Debitum Conjugale cannot be) solved.[3]

Hoc nihil esse putas? Scelus est, mihi crede, sed Ingens.
Quantum vix animo concipis ipse tuo:
Ipsam tibi crede Naturam dicere rerum.
Istud quod … Pontice
Perdis, HOMO est. Martial.[4]

With the Particulars of a scarce Tract cited by a late Author pag. 25 on this Crime; entituled Letters of Advice from two Reverend Divines to a young Gentleman about a weighty Case of Conscience[5], viz of Defileing himself, to which he was so greviously addicted, that he had well nigh bereft himself of his Manhood, and almost EMASCULATED himself by this wretched Practice of Self-Conversation[6], but was quite cured by these Letters, which being printed some Years ago, and now out of Print, and not to be had for any Money, and therefore are here Reprinted along with this Treatise.

Sometimes the Sin does us o’ertake,
  And on
OUR SELVES our Ruin make,
  And We o’ertake the Sin.
O save us, Lord from all such Darts,
  That seek our Souls to slay;
  Lest WE OUR SELVES betray. Aust. Dev.[7]

GIVEN GRATIS up one Pair of Stairs, at the Sign of Dr. Chamberlen’s Anodyne Necklace, next to the Rose-Tavern without Temple-Bar. Where the SCHEME on the Secret Disease, Gleets, Broken Constitutions, and the GOUT is given Gratis.


[1] Molly: An effeminate man or boy; a male homosexual.
[2] "Fortunate the man who learns caution from the perils of others."
[3] Retentio Seminis, retention of semen; Debitum Conjugale, the duty of married couples to have sex with each other.
[4] Martial, Epigrams 9.41:

Pontice, quod numquam futuis, sed paelice laeva
  uteris et Veneri servit amica manus,
hoc nihil esse putas? scelus est, mihi crede, sed ingens,
   quantum vix animo concipis ipse tuo.
nempe semel futuit, generaret Horatius ut tres
  Mars semel, ut geminos Ilia casta daret.
omnia perdiderat si masturbatus uterque
  mandasset manibus gaudia foeda suis.
ipsam crede tibi naturam dicere rerum:
   "Istud quod digitis, Pontice, perdis, homo est."

The Mad-Latinist translates this as follows (here)

Ponticus, the fact that you never fuck, but use your left hand as a concubine
  and your girlfriend-hand serves Venus,
do you think that this is no big deal? It's a crime, believe me, and a huge one at that,
  so big that even you can hardly conceive it in your mind.
I mean, Horatius fucked just once to father three,
  and Mars just once, to give chaste Ilia twins.
Either of them would have ruined everything if he had masturbated,
  and entrusted his shameful pleasures to his own hands.
You had better believe that it is Nature herself that tells you:
  "That mess which you waste on your fingers, Ponticus, is a human being."

[5] Only a single copy survives of Letters of Advice from Two Reverend Divines … (London: J. Collins and D. Newman, 1676) Wing (2nd ed.), L1782B.
[6] i.e., criminal-conversation with yourself: "criminal-conversation" being adultery.
[7] John Austin, Devotions in the ancient way of offices: with psalms, hymns and prayers for ...‎ (Paris, 1668); Wing (2nd ed.), A4248A; "John Austin" is a pseudonym for William Birchley.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Selling Content vs Selling Paper

Paul Graham has published an essay on his site (here) that was picked up by Cory Doctorow on A colleague (Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario) thought I might be interested in it. She was right.

Graham starts:

Publishers of all types, from news to music, are unhappy that consumers won't pay for content anymore. At least, that's how they see it. In fact consumers never really were paying for content, and publishers weren't really selling it either. If the content was what they were selling, why has the price of books or music or movies always depended mostly on the format? Why didn't better content cost more? […]

Almost every form of publishing has been organized as if the medium was what they were selling, and the content was irrelevant. Book publishers, for example, set prices based on the cost of producing and distributing books. They treat the words printed in the book the same way a textile manufacturer treats the patterns printed on its fabrics.

Economically, the print media are in the business of marking up paper. We can all imagine an old-style editor getting a scoop and saying "this will sell a lot of papers!" Cross out that final S and you're describing their business model.

Graham's argument isn't exactly news to book historians. In 1932, W. W. Greg wrote: "what a bibliographer is concerned with is pieces of paper or parchment covered with certain written or printed signs. With these signs he is concerned merely as arbitrary marks; their meaning is no business of his." ("Bibliography—an Apologia," (W. W. Greg, “Bibliography—An Apologia.” The Library, 4th ser. 13 (1932): 113–43).

Those who believe that Greg is right can feel a bit like the the "flappers" of Laputa, who must constantly remind star-struck literary historians that the books that have captured their attention are, basically, unimportant. Eighteenth-century book history does not begin and end with Pope, Swift, Fielding, Sterne or Haywood and Burney, nor are the works of these authors particularly important. As I have said before, more "ordinary" books are almanacs, tables of interest and other practical books, then, perhaps, sermons etc. With such books, it is more obvious that "words [are] printed in the book the same way a textile manufacturer treats the patterns printed on its fabrics."

Graham continues: "Now that the medium is evaporating, publishers have nothing left to sell. Some seem to think they're going to sell content—that they were always in the content business, really. But they weren't, and it's unclear whether anyone could be." The remaining option is to focus on the physical object, printing "magazines" and books that are "made lush in a way that would be hard to match digitally" (coffee-table books, food-porn: books as prestige wallpaper).

Regarding authors, with the advent of digital books,

Whoever controls the device sets the terms. It's in their interest for content to be as cheap as possible, and since they own the channel, there's a lot they can do to drive prices down. Prices will fall even further once writers realize they don't need publishers. Getting a book printed and distributed is a daunting prospect for a writer, but most can upload a file.

This is put a little clumsily, and Cory Doctorow criticises this, but Graham's point seems to be, that, as the device-makers are likely to maintain a monopolistic control of the market for digital books, they will have the power to pay author's such small sums, that the authors would be better off not playing the game at all. And just as musicians "give music away and make money from concerts and t-shirts" and small academic journals are now publishing articles for free and "make money from one of a dozen permutations of advertising"; so authors may be better off publishing their works for free and trying to cash-in on their "books" in new ways.

Of course, what is left out of all of this is the second-hand and antiquarian market, where good books have always cost more; where literature is valued, where the market remains strong, and where the meaning of certain written or printed signs is the business of the bookseller."

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Monash ECPS Blogs and Websites

I thought it might be useful to start a list of the blogs and websites of my colleagues and graduates, starting with my immediate colleagues in English.

Department of English

Assoc. Prof. Chandani Lokugé: Chandani Lokugé [website; 8 pages; ©2009]

Dr Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario: Doc-in-Boots [blog; 285 posts; started 2 Sept. 2008]

HDR students, recent graduates in English etc

Dr Kim Edwards Arts House [blog; 1 post; 17 May 2009]

Zachary Kendal Silk for Caldé [blog; 82 posts; started 4 September 2009]

School of English, Communications and Performance Studies

Dr Thomas Ford: Climate change and contemporary fiction [blog; 3 posts; started 1 June 2010]

Dr Virginia Lowe: Create a Kids Book [website; 12 pages; ©2001–2010]

Assoc. Prof. Peter Murphy: website [1 page]

Mr Felix Nobis: Felix Nobis [website; 1 page]

Assoc. Prof. Kate Rigby: ecological humanities [website; 1 page]

[Last update 21 July 2011]

Monday 14 September 2009

What do we do with our Books?

Shelley Cox posted an interesting query on the ExLibris-List on Tuesday. As she explained, she has "several thousand" books, and her partner has "over 6000":

I am not talking about very rare or specialized collections, which might have some considerable monetary value, individually or as a collection. I am talking about the general collection that any booklover of any kind might accumulate over 60-80+ years of life. Most of these books might have been bought at a general interest bookstore, and … include best sellers, general non-fiction, popular science, how-to books, cook books, and books on special topics like literature, economics, psychology, etc.

Having reached the stage of planning wills and trying to figure out where these books might go, Shelley and her partner "have no idea of how to proceed."

Our local library heavily weeds its shelves and would take only a tiny percentage, relegating the rest to the book sale at $.50-$1.00. As far as I can tell, even the largest research libraries are no longer interested in these titles, even if they do not have them on the shelf. The kind of bookstores that sell used books like this are slipping away, and few bookdealers have the time, energy, transport, etc., to wrangle a large book collection. Is there some organization that would help struggling libraries who do want books? … I've been asked variants of this question a hundred times or more and have never known how to answer this. Surely someone here would have some ideas?

Well, a few people did have ideas—dealers, charities—which you will find if you look in the exLibris List (just Google a chunk of the above text).

Having been a book-collector for a long time I have also "been asked"—and asked myself—"variants of this question a hundred times." Like Shelley, I have not really known how to answer.

For more than a decade I worked in a series of second-hand bookshops in Hobart and Melbourne; as a result I knew almost everyone in the "Trade" in these cities. And as a result of constant traveling, exploring and systematic book-shopping, book-catalogue-reading, etc, I was familiar with almost every bookshop of any pretension from Adelaide to Brisbane.

But times have changed. I haven't worked in a bookshop in years, many of the shops I knew have closed, and these days I buy almost everything online. So what I was particularly interested by about this query was the comment: "The kind of bookstores that sell used books like this are slipping away …" They certainly are.

In fact, even when I was working, cataloguing stock for the internet, the rot had already set in. And the rot—as far as the dealers are concerned—was caused by amateur dealers on the internet. For book buyers, especially for collectors like me, with interests that are not parochial, this last decade has been a paradise of new buying opportunities. I bless the internet every time another Eliza Haywood volume turns up (like today). But for the dealers … the last decade has been cruel.

When I first visited the bookshops of Melbourne, Prahran was the Mecca. It took two days for me to do the rounds. Now it is all-but deserted and, for me, there isn't a single shop there I'd want to visit. I spend just as much now as then, but not locally. I keep hearing about more shops closing, and every time I do I feel a little guilty.

(The latest very sad loss was a tiny place in Cheltenham full of cheap sci-fi paperbacks, with a mix of other books. I never knew the name of the shop, there was no point remembering it because the proprietor didn't have a phone or a web-page to look up. That was the beauty of the place: no margin added to cover such things. Well, without warning, it is gone. And no indication of where.)

And as each shop closes, there are fewer dealers left to help sift and recycle Shelley's general books for another generation of readers. And as the numbers decrease, the remaining dealers are so over-supplied by all the would-be sellers that they can be more and more selective about what they take and what they pay, that the situation becomes increasingly desperate for dealers and sellers alike.

So, what will become of all the gzillions of general books that Shelley mentions? Nine-tenths of them will probably be pulped. There is not, in fact, anything useful, uplifting, worthwhile, or satisfying to be done with them.

Ten years ago a standard $20.00 book—what was standard shelf-filler—was worth about $2.00 to a dealer. Now it is worth nothing, a liability. You can still sell such a book on eBay, and you can get your $2.00, but you have to ignore what you paid for the book, all your time, and your overheads (mortgage anyone?). In other words you have to ignore the fact that you loose money on every sale. You'd be better sending them to be pulped. (That people, nevertheless, keep selling books for $2.00 is great for the remaining buyers, at least until they have to consider what they will do with their books when they die …)

Funnily enough, there is a "lesson from history" on this subject. One of the reasons so few eighteenth-century books survive is that paper was quite expensive. If you needed a fire-lighter, or a pie-base, or a piece of paper to stop your curling iron burning your hair, or if you need something to use in the toilet, you used whatever scrap-paper you had at hand, and that "scrap" included books. Just consider a world in which toilet-paper was not to be had at your local grocer and you will understand why so few books survive. Although we pulp our paper before re-using it, the principle is much the same.

So enjoy your books while you have them, but you might just have to accept the fact that, when you are dead, your books are likely to become bum-fodder.*

*Public Advertiser, Tuesday, 17 April 1753: "This Day at Noon will be published, Price 6d. Bum-Fodder for the Ladies. A Poem, upon soft Paper. Printed for the Author, and sold at the Pamphlet-shops at Westminster-Hall, Charing-Cross, Temple-Bar, and the Royal Exchange."

Wednesday 9 September 2009

The Society of Booksellers, 1741

The following extraordinary advertisement appears in The Country Journal; or, The Craftsman, Saturday, 18 July 1741 [Issue 785]. Although no copy of The Publisher’s Magazine is listed on ESTC, this "Society" did publish nine works.

To the Authors and Proprietors of Manuscripts, or other Copies design’d for the Press.

  The Booksellers in general having the Unhappiness to lie under the Imputation of making Properties of learn’d and ingenious Men, and enriching themselves by the Fruits of their Study and Labours, whilst they allow them but scanty Premiums, and make use of all Artifices to deceive and Impose upon them, to the great Discouragement of Learning and Detriment to the Publick, who are thereby deprives of many valuable Pieces; in order to remove these or any other Prejudices, several Booksellers have form’s themselves into a Society, and offer the following Proposals to all whom it may concern.
  1. That they will give ready Money to any Author or Proprietor of a Work which shall be approved of by two Persons of Judgement to be nominated one by the Author, the other by the Society, who shall also fix the Price to be given, on the Author’s conveying to the said Society his Right and Interest in such Copy.
  2. That if the Author chuses not to part with his whole Interest in the Copy, and had rather wait the Event of its Sale, he shall receive the full Moity of the Profits arising from its Sale of the first and all future Editions of it, freed of all Risque, (the Expenses of Paper, Print, and other incident Charges, being first deducted) the other Moity to vest in the Society for the Hazard they will run, the Money they must expend, and for their Skill and Care of Management &c.
  3. That the Paper shall be bought at the best Hand, the Work printed on the neatest Types, at the Rate Booksellers pay for both, and proper Vouchers procured to justify such Payments; and none but Persons of Credit, either Stationers or Printers, to be dealt with; and the Rates of Publication to be the same as Publishers usually reckon to Booksellers.
  4. That all Pamphlets, from three Sheets (which are usually sold for Six Pence) to books of any Size or Price, shall be received if approved, on and Subject in the whole Circle of Learning; nor shall Political Pieces be excluded on either Side of Questions, whee not offensive to good Manners; for one establish’d Rule of the Society will be, not to be of any Party themselves, but to observe a strick Impartiality; and Names to be conceal’d, and the utmost Secrecy obcserved, if required.
  5. That a reasonable Price shall be paid for such small Pieces as will not make three Sheets as above, in Order to be inserted in a Twelve penny Pamphlet, to be publish’d under the Title of the Publisher’s Magazine, by which Means the Publick may receive a curious Miscellany, in one, two, or more Volumes annually, and many beautiful small Pieces will be thereby preserved, and handed down to Posterity.
  So many Advantages will accrue to Authors from these Proposals, besides the Security of the Copies from Piracy, (as the Society will be able to make Reprisals on such as shall invade their Property) that no more need be said on that Head.
  And to the Publick in general this Design will be no less advantageous, as it will be the Means, at an easy and reasonable Rate, to bring to light many curious Pieces in every Branh of Science.
  Gentlemen therefore who incline to take Advantage of and encourage this Undertaking, are desired to apply to James Crockatt, at the Society’s-Office in Fleet street, near St. Bride’s Church; or to Messieurs Osbourne and Smith, in Grey’s-Inn.
  The said Messieurs Osbourne and Smith gives ready Money for any Library or Parcel of Books.

This advertisement re-appeared one week later, in The Weekly Miscellany, Saturday, 23 May 1741, but James Crockatt and the Mr "Smith" disappear, leaving only Thomas Osbourne to "transact the necessary Business."

This second version of the advertisement was reprinted in The London Daily Post and General Advertiser of 25 May, but on 10 June Crockatt and Smith reappear. On 13 and 27 June the advertisement is reprinted (in The Weekly Miscellany ) and the first of the titles "Publish'd, By the Society of Booksellers for promoting of learning." Another eight followed within the year, then nothing.

The full list of titles, in alphabetical order, is:

[1] Anon., The Christian Philosopher
[2] Anon., An Essay on the Divine Paternity, or, God the Father of Men
[3] Robert James, M.D., Proposals for Printing a Medicinal Dictionary [ESTC explains that A medicinal dictionary was published in three volumes, 1743-45].
[4] Robert James, M.D., A New Method of Preventing and Curing the Madness Caused by the Bite of a Mad Dog
[5] John Kelly, The Levee. A Farce
[6] James Nihell, M.D., New and Extraordinary Observations Concerning the Prediction of Various Crises by the Pulse
[7] Benjamin Parker, The Divine Authority of the Scriptures Philosophically Prov’d
[8] Charles de Saint-Yves, A New Treatise of the Diseases of the Eyes
[9] J. Shortess, Harmonic Architecture. Exemplified in a Plan, Elevations and Sections, &c. of a Building

I wonder what reflections can be made on the sort of manuscripts that were being held up by the "Imputation" that "Booksellers in general" were "making Properties of learn’d and ingenious Men … enriching themselves by the Fruits of their Study and Labours" while offering "but scanty Premiums" and using "all Artifices to deceive and Impose upon them"?

To me, the publication of this "Imputation" is more interesting than the titles this learned Society published; that, and the fact, that Thomas Osbourne was spruiking for manuscripts by acknowledging such criticisms. Advertisements like this tell us a great deal about the Trade in mid-1741 (at much the same time that Eliza Haywood was trying to establish herself at the Sign of Fame in Covent Garden).

Monday 7 September 2009

Google Books, a Disaster for Scholars?

On Friday Beatrice Fink posted a link to a 31 August news item from The Chronicle of Higher Education by Geoffrey Nunberg titled "Google's Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars" (2009) with the comment "To laugh or to cry, that is the confusion!" (here) Actually, to scream seems more appropriate.

After forwarding it to a colleague and fuming about it for a few hours, I decided to reply. I did this on the 18C-List, rather than on the The Chronicle of Higher Education for two reasons, [1] I try to avoid supporting any organisation that calls itself The [anything] (as if The Chronicle of Higher Education could speak to, or for, Higher Education everywhere on the planet) and [2] I figured that I would get a more interesting discussion on the 18C-List than in the feedback on the article itself. Although a few people wrote in to support my comments, it turns out I was wrong about no. 2.

So, for the record, what I wrote was:

Even though I have repeatedly pointed out the failings of ECCO, Google Books, etc, in a series of articles and papers, I think it is a bit rich to described Google Books as a "Disaster for Scholars." It is no such thing, it is one of the greatest developments in the history of scholarship: I'd place the printing press first, and email a close third.

I spent ten years working on Eliza Haywood, systematically trawling two centuries of scholarship, and the Rare Books collections of three continents. I thought I had been everywhere and seen everything. But five minutes on Google Books peeled my eyelids back. I still mourn the time I lost—not having Google Books earlier.

And the research I have done since simply could not have been undertaken without Google Books. Yes, it has failings, yes, the OCR is dodgy, the dating is dodgy, and it can be very frustrating knowing a reference appears in a work without being able to pin it down to a page, or even a volume, as has been rehearsed on this list many times over. But most of the criticisms carry very little weight for me, because they are easy to work round, or will inevitably be fixed.

No self-respecting scholar should accept a date of 1899 or 1999, or any other date for that matter, for Raymond Williams's Culture and Society (as the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education mentions). We teach our students how to cite a book, what details to use and where to find them. If we want to know the details of an edition we are quoting from Google Books, then we simply have only to scroll up to the imprint page and read it, which is exactly what we do every time we cite a book, regardless of how plausible the catalogue date is.

So, even if a subscription cost as much as that for ECCO, or EEBO, or the Burney Newspaper archive, I'd lobby my University to subscribe. But, instead, is free, fast, and vast.

Yes, Google have a market-leading position, but to grudge them that, given what they have invested and what they offer, seems pretty feeble; and to claim that Google will never have any competition is just ridiculous. Every market leader faces competition, eventually.

There really seems very little grounds for this sort of catastrophising.

It occurred to me after I posted this that I should have asked how many Edison light bulbs Geoffrey Nunberg happens to use, but the joke would probably have only amused me.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Associational Reading in the 18C

Eleanor Shevlin is seeking proposals for a panel to be held at the annual meeting of the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) 18-21 March 2010, in Albuquerque, NM

"'Associational Reading': Libraries, Reading Societies, and Book Clubs in the Eighteenth Century”

“Associational Reading” is a term used to describe formal library activity defined by the association and sociability of the participants. It is used particularly to distinguish subscription and membership libraries, book clubs, reading societies and specialist societies that had libraries (medical societies, law societies, agricultural societies etc) from other book-lending institutions, especially the commercial circulating libraries (which were usually owned and managed by a single profit-oriented entrepreneur) and charitable foundations. Although profit-driven, commercial circulating libraries sometimes adopted associational language to promote their ventures many private libraries facilitating an associational (or at least sociable) form of reading, lending books to friends, neighbors and relatives in their area. This panel invites paper that explore various forms of “associational reading” in the long eighteenth century. Papers may focus on a particular library, reading club, society or reading group, or may focus on another aspect of as this phenomenon. Panelists may also wish to consider the ways that associational reading intersects with issues of race, class, gender, genre, or commerce.

Please send one page abstracts to Eleanor Shevlin, (or 2006 Columbia, NW, Apt. 42, Washington, DC 20009)

All panelists who are not members of the Bibliographical Society of America are kindly requested to join before the ASECS meeting in March.

The Eighteenth Century on Film: CFP

John H. O'Neill is accepting proposals—up to 15 September 2009—for the special session on "The Eighteenth Century on Film" at the 2010 Annual Meeting in Albuquerque. The session is sponsored by NEASECS, but participation is open to all members of ASECS.

John has said that he welcomes and encourages proposals for papers on any aspect of this topic, including film adaptations of eighteenth century narratives (e.g., Castaway, Tom Jones), films set in the period (e.g., Stage Beauty, The Libertine, Amazing Grace), and film explorations of eighteenth-century history (e.g., Peter Watkins' Culloden).

Please send proposals to John H. O'Neill, Dept. of English, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York 13323; Tel: 315/859-4463; Fax: 315/859-4390; E-Mail:

Tuesday 25 August 2009

The Future of OCR and 18C texts

Benjamin Pauley contributed to a discussion on the C18-List this morning about the difficulty of search the OCR output of 18C texts, a subject close to my heart. (I have presented a number of papers on the difficulties of searching ECCO for certain terms, and have just submitted an essay on the subject). Anyway, Pauley writes:

As best I understand it, the problem is that there currently isn’t any “good” OCR for eighteenth-century material (hence the shaky state of text searching even with resources like ECCO and the Burney Collection, let alone Google). So far, the long-s, as well as the all ‘round variability of eighteenth-century print have just been too hard for OCR to crack reliably: sometimes it’s pretty good, sometimes it’s almost comically bad, but it’s never so accurate as to avoid both false positives and false negatives.

This may be changing in the not-too-distant future, though. Laura Mandell recently announced that 18thConnect, the project she and Robert Markley are directing, has reached an agreement in which they will receive page images from Gale/Cengage (the proprietors of ECCO) and use them to develop an OCR system optimized for eighteenth-century print. She provides some of the details at The improved clean text that 18thConnect will create will get sent back to Gale/Cengage, so users of ECCO should see improvements in full-text searching when that happens.

The really exciting thing, though, as I see it, is that this improved “clean” text will be also be available for searching at 18thConnect, whether or not you have access to ECCO. Searching for a word or phrase against the new, cleaner textbase that 18thConnect will create will produce a link to the pertinent record in ECCO, another link for an ESTC record, and so on (18thConnect, like NINES, will aggregate peer-reviewed digital materials, so you might get a link to, say, a high-quality hypertext edition of a text, as well).

Subscribers to ECCO will be able to click on the link at 18thConnect and get access to the text through their institution’s subscription. Those who don’t have access to ECCO still get the benefit of knowing which texts they should examine the next time they’re at a research library. Or, armed with the ESTC number, you could try checking my web site, which David Mazella linked to the other day, to see if anyone’s found a copy of the text you want at Google Books, the Internet Archive, etc.

Modestly, Pauley doesn't provide a link to his site, but I will. Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker is here. The site is brilliant, and actually renders a little redundant my Haywood text link pages, but not my Erotica pages. If you look here you will see what I mean.

David Mazella actually links to a preview of Pauley's site on Anna Battigelli and Eleanor Shevlin's Early Modern Online Bibliography: EEBO, ECCO, and Burney Collection Online, which has a "Bibliography of Articles Pertaining to Early Modern Online Text-bases" (here). Discovering this site was both exciting and a bit disappointing, since—as I said at the outset—I have just submitted an essay on this subject and, although I located most of this material, there are a few articles I missed! Battigelli and Shevlin have actually posted on the individual essays in this Bibliography, so their site is a kind-of annotated bibliography of the subject.

As for Laura Mandell and Robert Markley's 18thConnect, well it sounds a very promising development. Mandell's online ALA talk explains that 18thConnect is to be a data aggregator that will allow users to access all the major 18C texts simultaneously. Importantly, 18thConnect has succeeded in getting Gale to hand over the scans of all of their ECCO pages to be re-processed by more sophisticated OCR software producing, it is claimed, better texts, which will be retuned to ECCO and be available to ECCO users.

The ECCO-Text Creation Partnership has manually created 2,418 very accurate (re-keyed texts) typed, which have been encoded for ECCO, but these texts are only accessible to ECCO-Text Creation Partners. So it is not clear how quickly the 18thConnect OCR will be available, and to whom.

Still, Mandell is undoubtedly right: proprietary but junk OCR of the variety that has been thus far generated by mass microfilm scanning projects is doomed. Only clean, open-access texts will be used, copied, swapped and survive the myriad hardware and software changes of the coming decades; changes that will inevitable consign ECCO to an even dingier corner of the library than that presently inhabited by microcard readers.