Sunday 30 June 2013

Good Paper, Crappy Paper, Large Paper etc

I have been examining eighteenth-century auction catalogues and was puzzled by an abbreviation I found in one of them: "Ch. opt." After a lot of faffing about online I established only that this was an abbreviation of "Chart. opt."—which my little Latin suggested was Paper + Best [optima/optimal].

What isn't clear is what exactly this implied beyond "best." Thomas Frognall Dibdin writes (here), of different editions, that "the chart, opt. is barely as good as the common paper of the Latin Bipont classics" (93), “The charta optima is only a better sort of charta cacata” (297) and “The charta optima is little better than ballad paper” (511).

Having looked into this a little further—with the help of Jane Wickenden, Boris Bruton, Donald W. Krummel and John P. Chalmers from the EXLIBRIS list—I have compiled a very short list of some of the Latin abbreviations used concerning different types/grades of paper. I am publishing it here in the hope that, if anyone else on the planet were to Google "Ch. opt."—they will find the answer to their query on this page.

Charta optima [Ch. opt. or chart. opt.] = best paper
Charta maxima [Ch. max. or chart. max.] = large paper
Charta cacata = crappy paper or toilet paper
Charta scriptoria = fine paper
Charta velina = vellum
Charta membranacea = vellum

* * * * *

Charta optima is glossed as papier supérieur [superior paper] here.

The British Magazine 30 (1 October 1846): 362: “The small-paper leaf measures eleven inches and three-eighths by seven; and many of the leaves are marked with an obelus †, which is not seen in either the large paper or the charta maxima, nor can I explain the cause of this variation.”

Max Brod, Tycho Brahe's Path to God (2007), 92: “Perhaps that would have been better; for, if I may say so, the book is a collection of refuse, a charta cacata.”; Joseph William Moss, Manual of Classical Bibliography (1827), 1.205: “There are copies on large paper, which are very rare and beautiful; those on common paper cut a very indifferent figure; the paper is extremely bad, and, to use Dr. Harwood’s words, truly is ‘Charta cacata’”; Thomas Fuller, The Church History of Britain (1837), 159: “Nor stops he here, but useth so slovenly an expression, (it is well it is in Latin,) calling his book Charta cacata, which, saving reverence to the reader may be returned on the foul mouth of him who first uttered it”; George Richard Crooks et al., A new Latin-English school-lexicon (1861), 131 sv Cado: "to emit from one's self at stool, odorem: … to besmear with excrement, charta cacata”

Moss, Manual of Classical Bibliography (1827), 1.[ix]: “It has not, in general, been deemed necessary to cite the varieties of fine and vellum paper copies, because it may be taken as a rule, that all the principal German editions are printed on three kinds of paper, of which the second in quality, called charta scriptoria, is usually published at a third or fourth more than the common, and the best or charta velina (i. e. membranacea,) at about double.”

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.]