Thursday, 25 August 2016

Brief instructions on how to lose a chapbook

Two eighteenth century chapbook editions of a Brief instructions for the pious Christian; or, a sure guide to Heaven. By the late Bishop Beveridge appear on ESTC: both records are based on a single copy; both copies appear to be mis-dated on ESTC. I bought my copy of Brief instructions (ESTC t166937) off eBay six years ago, for a very modest sum, and for the shallowest of reasons: I noticed that it had some very pretty type and woodcut ornaments! (For which, see below.)

The publishers, not clearly identified in the imprint, and not mentioned on ESTC are Cleur Dicey and Richard Marshall, whose famous, and much-studied, 1764 wholesale trade Catalogue of chapbooks, songs, prints, maps etc. is now available online here. Brief instructions appears, rather incongruously it seems—as R. C. Simmons notes—on page 92, as “Godly” eight-page “Patter” no.30.

Although Dicey and Marshall continued in business until the end of the century there seems no reason to accept the date suggested for ESTC t166937 of “1780?”: the 1760s seems much more likely.

My copy has survived folded, as issued; not sewn, bound or trimmed. It probably survived, forgotten, between the pages of a book. I can vouch for the likelihood of this. I put my copy between the pages of a large paperback to protect it while carrying it to my office, and promptly forgot about it. Six years later, idly leafing through the book—to see if there was any reason I shouldn’t get rid of it to make room for something else—I was shocked to rediscover Beveridge’s Brief instructions tucked under the cover!

Having come so close to throwing away this exceptionally rare chapbook, I thought I should make amends by posting a few photos of it. When photographing the skull and crossbones printers’ ornament, and the woodcut of hell-mouth, I was taken in by the texture of the paper, and so a few of the photos below are intended to highlight this, but the lighting has given a sepia colour to the photos.

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