BY CHAELES KXIGHT.
' Plus on lit, plus on lira ; plus il faut, plus il faudra des i
Histoire des Franqais des divers etats.
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.
LONDON : FHINTEU BY AV. CLOWES AND SONb, STAMi'OUb .-JTJiEF.T,
AND CHARING CKOSS.
O.N'K OF THE MOST EARNEST LABOURERS IN THAT POPULAR
LITERATURE WHICH ELEVATES A PEOPLE,
IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED.
April \3th, 1854.
IN 1844 I wrote, and published in my series
of 'The Weekly Volume/ WILLIAM CAXTON, A
BIOGRAPHY. That little work sold as largely as
any of the collection. It will not be reprinted, as
I have cancelled the stereotype plates.
In the present work I have remodelled that
biography ; rendering it a more compact narrative
of the state of knowledge before the invention of
printing, of the personal history of the man who
brought the invention to England, and of the na-
ture of his efforts to diffuse information amongst
his countrymen. This account forms the FIRST
PART of this volume.
The SECOND PART embraces a very broad view
of the PROGRESS OF THE PRESS to our own day,
especially in relation to the important subject of
CHEAP POPULAR LITERATURE.
In treating of the remarkable revolution of our
times in the prices of books, I cannot avoid in-
cidentally noticing some of my own labours in that
direction. I have done so as slightly as possible ;
and, I trust, in the impartial spirit of an honest
The Weald of Kent Caxton's School-days French disused
English taught Variations in English Books before Printing
Libraries Transcribers Books for the Great Book Trade
No Books for the People Changes produced by Printing . Page 1
The Mercer's Apprentice His Book-knowledge Commerce in
Books Schools in London City Apprentices City Pageants
Spread of English Language English Writers Chaucer
Gower Lydgate The Minstrels National Literature . 19
Caxton abroad Caxton's mercantile pursuits Restrictions on Trade
Caxton's Commission Merchants' Marks Be^inni ngs of 1 "rint-
ing Playing Cards Wood-engraving Block-books Moveable
Types Guttenberg Guttenberg's Statue Festival at Montz . 44
The Court of Burgundy Caxton a Translator Literature of Chivalry
Feudal Times Caxton at the Ducal Court Did Caxton print
at Bruges Edward the Fugitive The new Art 62
Rapidity of Printing Who the first English Printer Caxton the
first English Printer First English Printed Book Difficulties
of the first Printers Ancient Bookbinding The Printer a
Publisher Conditions of Cheapness in Books 85
The Press at Westminster Theological Books Character of Caxton's
Press The Troy Book The Game of the Chess . . Page 109
Female Manners Lord Rivers Popular History Popular Science
Popular Fables Popular Translations The Canterbury Tales
Statutes Books of Chivalry Caxton's last days . . 125
The Chapel The Companions Increase of Readers Books make
Readers Caxton's Types Wynkyn's Dream The first Paper-
Cheap Popular Literature Conditions of Cheapness Popular Lite-
rature of Elizabeth's reign Who were the Readers . . . 179
Imperfect Civilisation Reading during the Civil Wars Reading
after the Restoration French Romances First London Catalogue,
1680 Authors and Booksellers Subscription Books Books in
Numbers The Canvassing System 197
Periodical Literature Prices of Books 18th Century Two Classes
of Buyers The Magazines Collections of the Poets The Cir-
culating Library Cheap Book-Clubs 218
Continued clearness of Books Useful Knowledge Society Modern
Epoch of Cheapness Demand and Supply The Printing-machine
The Paper-machine Revival of Woodcutting . . Page 238
London Catalogue, 1816-1851 Annual Catalogues, 1828, 1853
Classes of Books, 1816-1851 Periodicals, 1831, 1853 Aggre-
gate amount of Book-trade Collections and Libraries Inter-
national Copyright Readers in the United States Irish National
Cheap Fiction Penny Periodicals 277
Degrees of Readers General Improvement Newspaper Press
Newspaper Press National Agricultural Readers General desire
for Amusement Supply of real Knowledge 286
Libraries In Towns In Rural Districts Influences of the
best Books . . 303
THE OLD P R 1 N T L II.
THE OLD PRINTER,
Weald of Kent Caxton's School-days French disused
English taught Variations in English Books before Printing
Libraries Transcribers Books for the Groat Book Trade
No Books for the People Changes produced by Printing.
IN the first book printed in the English language,
the subject of which was the 'Histories of Troy,'
William Caxton, the translator of the work from
the French, in his prologue or preface, says, by
way of apology for his simpleness and imperfect-
ness in the French and English languages, "In
France was I never, and was born and learned
mine English in Kent, in the Weald, where I
doubt not is spoken as broad and rude English as
in any place of England/' The Weald of Kent is
now a fertile district, rich in corn-land and pasture,
with farm-houses and villages spread over its sur-
face, intersected by good roads, and a railway run-
ning through the heart of it, bringing the scattered
inhabitants closer and closer to each other. But
at the period when \Villiam Caxton was born, and
learnt his English in the Weald, it was a wild dis-
trict with a scanty population ; its inhabitants had
2 THE WEALD OF KENT. Part I.
little intercourse with the towns, the affairs of the
busy world went on without their knowledge and
assistance, they we're more separated from the
great body of their countrymen than a settler in
Canada or Australia is at the present day. It is
easy to understand therefore why they should have
spoken a " broad and rude English " at the time of
Caxton's boyhood, during the reign of Henry Y.
and the beginning of that of Henry VI. William
Lambarde, who wrote a hundred and fifty years
after this period, having published his ' Perambu-
lation of Kent' in 1570, mentions as a common
opinion touching this Weald of Kent, " that it was
a great while together in manner nothing else but
a desert and waste wilderness, not planted with
towns or peopled with men as the outsides of the
shire were, but stored and stuffed with herds of
deer and droves of hogs only ;" and he goes on to
say that, "although the property of the Weald
was at the first belonging to certain known owners,
yet it was not then allotted into tenancies." The
Weald of Kent came to be taken, he says, " even
as men were contented to inhabit it, and by peace-
meal to rid it of the wood, and to break it up with
the plough." In some lonely farm, then, of this
wild district, are we, upon the best of evidence, his
own words, to fix the birth-place and the earliest
home of the first English printer.
The father of William Caxton was in all proba-
bility a proprietor of land. At any rate, he de-
sired to bestow upon his son all the advantages of
education which that age could furnish. The
honest printer, many years after his school-days,
looks back upon that spring-time of his life with
feelings that make us honour the simple worth of
his character. In his ' Life of Charles the Great/
inted in 1485, he says, " I have emprised [un-
rtaken] and concluded in myself to reduce
anslate] this said book into our English, as all
ong and plainly ye may read, hear, and see, in
is book here following. Beseeching all them
that shall find fault in the same to correct and
amend it, and also to pardon me of the rude and
simple reducing. And though so be there no gay
terms, nor subtle nor new eloquence, yet I hope
that it shall be understood, and to that intent I
have specially reduced it after the simple cunning
that God hath lent to me, whereof I humbly and
with all my heart thank Him, and also am
bounden to pray for my father's and mother's
souls, that in my youth set me to school, by which,
by the sufferance of God, I get my living I hope
truly. And that I may so do and continue, I be-
seech Him to grant me of His grace ; and so to
labour and occupy myself virtuously, that I may
come out of debt and deadly sin, that after this
life I may come to His bliss in heaven." Caxton
seems to have had the rare happiness to have had
his father about him to a late period of his
life. According to a record in the accounts
of the churchwardens of the parish church of St.
Margaret's, Westminster, in which parish the first
4 FRENCH DISUSED. Part I.
printer carried on his business, it appears that
one William Caxton, who is conjectured to have
been the father, was buried on the 18th of May,
Some time before the period of Caxton's boy-
hood, a great change had taken place in the gene-
ral system of education in England. In the time
of Edward III,, about half a century before the
period of which we speak, the children in the
grammar-schools were not taught English at all.
It was the policy of the first Norman kings, long
continued by their successors, to get rid of the old
English or Saxon language altogether ; and to
make the people familiar with the Norman French,
the language of the conquerors. The new statutes
of the realm were written in French ; so were the
decisions of the judges, and the commentaries on
the laws in general. Ralph Higden, in a sort of
chronicle which Caxton printed, says, " Children in
schools, against the usage and manner of all other
nations, be compelled for to leave their own lan-
guage, and for to construe their lessons and their
things in French ; and so they have since Nor-
mans came first into England. Also gentlemen be
taught for to speak French from the time that they
rocked in their cradle, and can speak and play
with a child's brooch [stick or other toy], and up-
landish men [countrymen] will liken themselves
to gentlemen, and delight with great business
for to speak French, to be told of." John de Tre-
visa, the translator of Higden 's ' Polychronicon,'
Chop. I. ENGLISH TAUGHT. 5
writing some forty years later, "This manner
was much used before the Great Plague, and is
since some deal changed; for Sir John Corne-
waile, a master of grammar, changed the teaching
in grammar-schools, and construction in French;
and other schoolmasters use the same way now,
in the year of our Lord 1385, the ninth year
of King Richard II., and leave all French
in schools, and use all construction in English.
Wherein they have advantage one way : that is,
that they learn the sooner their grammar ; and in
another, disadvantage, for now they learn no
French, which is hurt for them that shall pass the
sea." It was this change of system, operating
upon his early instruction, which caused Caxton,
as a translator, to be so diffident of his own capa-
city to render faithfully what was before him out
of French into English. Indeed from his earliest
youth to the close of his literary career, the Eng-
lish language was constantly varying, through the
introduction of new words and phrases ; and there
was a marked distinction between the courtly dia-
lect and that of the commonalty. We have seen
how he speaks of the broad and rude English of
his native Weald. But towards the close of his
life, in a book printed by him in 1490, he men-
tions the difficulty he had in pleasing " some gen-
tlemen, which late blamed me, saying, that in my
translations I had over curious terms, which could
not be understood of common people, and desired
me to use old and homely terms in my transla-
6 VARIATIONS IN ENGLISH. Part I.
tions. And fain would I satisfy every man ; and
so to do, took an old book and read therein ; and
certainly the English was so rude and broad that I
could not well understand it. And also my Lord
Abbot of Westminster did show to me late certain
evidences written in old English, for to reduce it
into our English now used, and certainly it was
written in such wise that it was more like to Dutch
than English ; I could not reduce nor bring it to
be understood. And certainly our language now
used varieth far from that which was used and
spoken when I was born : for we Englishmen be
born under the domination of the moon, which is
never stedfast, but ever wavering, waxing one sea-
son, and waneth and decreaseth another season ;
and that common English that is spoken in one
shire varieth from another. Insomuch that in my
days happened that certain merchants were in a
ship in Thames, for to have sailed over the sea into
Zealand, and for lack of wind they tarried at Fore-
land, and went to land for to refresh them ; and
one of them named Sheffelde, a mercer, came into
an house and asked for meat, and especially he
asked after eggs ; and the good wife answered, that
she could speak no French ; and the merchant was
angry, for he also could speak no French, but
would have had eggs, and she understood him not.
And then at last, another said that he would have
eyren ; then the good wife said that she understood
him well. Lo, what should a man in these days
now write, eggs or eyren ? certainly it is hard to
Chap. I. VARIATIONS IN ENGLISH. 7
please every man, by cause of diversity and change
of language. For in these days, every man that is
in any reputation in his country will utter his
communication and matters in such manners and
terms that few men shall understand them. And
some honest and good clerks have been with me,
and desired me to write the most curious terms
that I could find. And thus between plain, rude,
and curious, I stand abashed ; but in my judg-
ment, the common terms that be daily used be
lighter [easier] to be understood than the old and
ancient English." In these days, when the same
language with very slight variations is spoken from
one end of the land to the other, it is difficult to
imagine a state of things such as Caxton describes,
in which the " common English which is spoken
in one shire varieth from another," and there was
a marked distinction between plain terms and
curious terms. Easy and rapid communication,
and above all the circulation of books, newspapers,
and other periodical works, all free from provincial
expressions, have made the "over curious terms
which could not be understood of common people "
more familiar to them than the " old and homely
terms " which their forefathers used in their several
counties, according to the restricted meanings
which they retained in their local use. When
there were no books amongst the community in
general, there could be no universality of language.
Of this want of books we may properly exhibit
some details, chiefly to show one of the most re-
8 BOOKS BEFORE PRINTING. Part I.
markable differences which the lapse of four cen-
turies has produced in our country.
We shall find it, we think, a more agreeable, as
well as more instructive course, to look at the
general subject of the supply of books in connexion
with the orders of people who were to use them,
rather than presenting a number of scattered facts,
to exhibit the relative prices and scarcity of books
in what are called the middle ages. We will first
take the clergy, the scholars of those days. The
mode in which books were multiplied by tran-
scribers in the monasteries is clearly described by
Eichard de Bury, bishop of Durham, in his ' Phi-
lobiblon,' a treatise on the love of books, written
by him in Latin in 1344? : " As it is necessary for
a state to provide military arms, and prepare plen-
tiful stores of provisions for soldiers who are about
to fight, so it is evidently worth the labour of the
church militant to fortify itself against the attacks
of pagans and heretics with a multitude of sound
books. But because everything that is serviceable
to mortals suffers the waste of mortality through
lapse of time, it is necessary for volumes corroded
by age to be restored by renovated successors, that
perpetuity, repugnant to the nature of the indi-
vidual, may be conceded tc the species. Hence
it is that Ecclesiastes significantly says, in the
12th chapter, 'There is no end of making many
books.' For as the bodies of books suffer continual
detriment from a combined mixture of contraries
iu their composition, so a remedy is found out by
Chop. I. BOOKS BEFORE PRINTING. 9
the prudence of clerks, by which a holy book pay-
ing the debt of nature may obtain an hereditary
substitute, and a seed may be raised up like to the
most holy deceased, and that saying of Ecclesiasti-
cus, chapter 30, be verified, ' The father is dead,
id as it were not dead, for he hath left behind
dm a son like unto himself.' ?: The invention of
iper, about a century and a half before Richard
le Bury wrote, and its general employment instead
of vellum for manuscripts in ordinary use, was a
great step towards the multiplication of books.
Transcribers necessarily became more numerous ;
but for a long period they wholly belonged to the
monastic orders, and the books were essentially for
the use of the clergy. Richard de Bury says, with
the most supreme contempt for all others, whatever
be their rank, " Laymen, to whom it matters not
win-tin T they look at a book turned wrong side
upwards or spread before them in its natural order,
are altogether unworthy of any communion with
books." But even to the privileged classes he is
not sparing of his reproach as to the misuse of
books. He reprobates the unwashed hands, the
dirty nails, the greasy elbows leaning upon the
volume, the munching of fruit and cheese over the
open leaves, which were the marks of careless and
idle readers. With a solemn reverence for a book
at which we may smile, but with a smile of respect,
he says, " Let there be a mature decorum in open-
ing and closing of volumes, that they may neither
be unclasped with precipitous haste, nor thrown
10 LIBRARIES. Parti.
after inspection without being duly closed."
The good bishop bestowed certain portions of his
valuable library upon a company of scholars re-
siding in a Hall at Oxford ; and one of his chapters
is entitled ' A provident arrangement by which
books may be lent to strangers,' meaning, by
strangers, students of Oxford not belonging to that
Hall. One of these arrangements is as follows :
"Five of the scholars dwelling in the aforesaid
Hall are to be appointed by the master of the same
Hall, to whom the custody of the books is to be
deputed. Of which five, three, and in no case
fewer, shall be competent to lend any books for
inspection and use only ; but for copying and
transcribing we will not allow any book to pass
without the walls of the house. Therefore, when
any scholar, whether secular or religious, whom
we have deemed qualified for the present favour,
shall demand the loan of a book, the keepers must
carefully consider whether they have a duplicate of
that book ; and if so, they may lend it to him,
taking a security which in their opinion shall
exceed in value the book delivered/' Anthony
Wood, who in the seventeenth century wrote the
lives of eminent Oxford men, speaks of this library
which was given to Durham College (now Trinity
College) as containing more books than all the
bishops of England had then in their custody. He
adds, " After they had been received they were for
many years kept in chests, under the custody of
several scholars deputed for that purpose." In the
Chap. I. LIBRARIES. 11
time of Henry TV. a library was built in that
college, and then, says Wood, "the said books
rere put into pews, or studies, and chained to
lem." The statutes of St. Mary's College, Oxford,
the reign of Henry VI., are quoted by Warton,
his ' History of English Poetry/ as furnishing a
larkable instance of the inconveniences and im-
liments to study which must have been produced
a scarcity of books : " Let no scholar occupy a
book in the library above one hour, or two hours
at most, so that others shall be hindered from the
use of the same." This certainly shows the scarcity
of books ; but not such a scarcity as at an early
period of the Church, when one book was
out by the librarian to each of a religious fraternity
at the beginning of Lent, to be read diligently
during the year, and to be returned the following
Lent. The original practice of keeping the books
in chests would seem to indicate that they could
not be very frequently changed by the readers ;
and the subsequent plan of chaining them to the
desks gives the notion that, like many other things
tempting by their rarity, they could not be safely
trusted in the hands of those who might rather
covet the possession than the use. It was a very
common thing to write in the first leaf of a book,
"Cursed be he who shall steal or tear out the
leaves, or in any way injure this book."
We have abundant evidence, whatever be the
scarcity of books as compared with the growth of
scholarship, that the ecclesiastics laboured most
diligently to multiply books for their own establish-
ments. In every great abbey there was a room
called the Scriptorium, where boys and novices
were constantly employed in multiplying the ser-
vice-books of the choir, and the less valuable books
for the library ; whilst the monks themselves laboured
in their cells upon bibles and missals. Equal pains
were taken in providing books for those who received
a liberal education in collegiate establishments.
Warton says, "At the foundation of Winchester
College, one or more transcribers were hired and
employed by the founder to make books for the
library. They transcribed and took their commons
within the college, as appears by computations of
Transcriber at Work.
expenses on their account now remaining." But
there are several indications that even kings and
nobles had not the advantages of scholars by pro-
fession ; and, possessing few books of their own,
Chap. I. BOOKS FOR THE GllEAT. 13
had sometimes to borrow of their more favoured
subjects. We find it recorded that the Prior of
Christ Church, Canterbury, had lent to King
Henry Y. the works of St. Gregory, and he com-
dns that after the king's death the book had
?n detained by the Prior of Shene. The same
ig had borrowed from the Lady Westmoreland
ro books that had not been returned, and a
jtition is still extant in which she begs his suc-
cessors in authority to let her have them back
again. Lewis XL of France wishing to borrow a
book from the Faculty of Medicine at Paris, they
would not allow the king to have it till he had
deposited a quantity of valuable plate in pledge,
and given a joint bond with one of his nobles for
its due return. The books that were to be found
in the palaces of the great, a little while before the
invention of printing, were for the most part highly
illuminated manuscripts, and bound in the most
expensive style. In the wardrobe accounts of
King Edward IV. we find that Piers Bauduyn is
paid for "binding, gilding, and dressing" of two
books, twenty shillings each, and of four books,
sixteen shillings each. Now twenty shillings in
those days would have bought an ox. P>ut the cost
of this binding and garnishing does not stop here ;
for there were delivered to the binder six yards of
velvet, six yards of silk, laces, tassels, copper and gilt
clasps, and gilt nails. The price of velvet and silk
in those days was enormous. We may reasonably
conclude that these royal books were as much for
14 BOOKS FOR THE GREAT. Part I.
show as for use. One of the books thus garnished by
Edward IV. 's binder is called ' Le Bible Historiaux'
(The Historical Bible), and there are several copies
of the same book in manuscript in the British
Museum. In one of them the following paragraph
is written in French : " This book was taken from
the King of France at the battle of Poitiers ; and
the good Count of Salisbury, William Mountague,
bought it for a hundred marks, and gave it to his
lady Elizabeth, the good Countess Which
book the said Countess assigned to her executors
to sell for forty livres." We learn from another
source that the great not only procured books by
purchase, but employed transcribers to make them
for their libraries. We find, from the manuscript
account of the expenses of Sir John Howard, after-
wards Duke of Norfolk, that in 1467 Thomas
Lympnor, that is, Thomas the Limner, of Bury,
was paid the sum of fifty shillings and twopence
for a book which he had transcribed and ornamented,
including the vellum and binding. The Limner's
bill is made up of a number of items, for whole
vignettes, and half vignettes, and capital letters,
and flourishing, and plain writing. This curious
account is printed in the 'Paston Letters.' A
letter of Sir John Paston, who is writing to his
mother in 1474, shows how scarce money was in
those days for the purchase of luxuries like books.
He says, " As for the books that were Sir James's
(the Priest's), if it like you that I may have them,
I am not able to buy them, but somewhat would I
Chap. I. BOOK-TRADE. 15
give, and the remainder, with a good devout heart,
by my troth, I will pray for his soul If
any of them are claimed hereafter, in faith I will
restore it." The custom of borrowing books and not
returning them was as old, we see, as the days of
the Red and White Roses. John Paston left an
inventory of his books, eleven in number, although
ie of the eleven contained various little tracts
md together. One of the items in this catalogue
"A Book of Troilus, which William B-
bh had near ten years, and lent it to Dame Wing-
Id, and there I saw it."
But, even in the days before printing, there was
a small book-trade ; and schemes were devised for
making books of some general use. In Paris, in the
middle of the 14th century, the booksellers were
commanded to keep books for hire ; and, in a regis-
ter of the University of Paris, Chevillier found a list
of the books so circulated, and the price of reading
eadi. The hire of a Bible was ten sous. That the
ecclesiastics and lawyers constituted the great bulk
of readers, and that the addition of a book, even to
the private library of a student, was a rare occurrence,
is evident from the absolute necessity for manuscript
books being dear. If the number of readers had
increased if there had been more candidates for
the learned professions if the nobility had dis-
covered the shame of their ignorance if learning
had made its way to the franklin's hall manu-
script books could never have been cheap. But
from the hour when a first large expense of trans-
16 NO BOOKS FOR THE PEOPLE. Part I
ferring the letters, syllables, words, and sentences
of a manuscript to moveable type was ascertained
to be the means of multiplying copies to the extent
of any demand, then the greater the demand the
greater the cheapness.
If the nobles, the higher gentry, and even the
lawyers and ecclesiastics, were indifferently provided
with books, we cannot expect that the yeomen had
any books whatever. The merchants and citizens
were probably somewhat better provided. The la-
bourers, who were scarcely yet fully established in*
their freedom from bondage to one lord, were pro-
bably, as a class, wholly unable to use books at all.
Shakspere, in all likelihood, did not much exagge-
rate the feelings of ignorant men, who at the same
time were oppressed men, when he put these words
in the mouth of Jack Cade when addressing Lord
Say : " Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the
youth of the realm, in erecting a grammar-school :
and whereas, before, our forefathers had no other
books but the score and the tally, thou hast caused
printing to be tied ; and, contrary to the king, his
crown and dignity, thou hast built a paper-mill."
The poet has a little deranged the exact order of
events, as poets are justified in doing, who look at
history not with chronological accuracy, but with
a broad view of the connexion between events and
principles. The insurrection of Cade preceded the
introduction of printing and paper-mills into Eng-
land. Although during four centuries we have yet
t lament that the people have not had the full
Chap. I. CHANGES PRODUCED BY PRINTING. 17
benefit which the art of printing is calculated to
bestow upon them, we may be sure that during its
progress the general amelioration of society has
been certain, though gradual. There can no longer
be any necessary exclusiveness in the possession of
books, and in the advantages which the knowledge
of books is calculated to bestow on all men. The
late Mr. Southey, a just and liberal thinker, but,
like many others of ardent feelings, sometimes mis-
taken and oftener misrepresented, has truly pointed
tmt the difference between the state of society when
William Caxton was raised up to do his work
amongst us and the present state. The following
is an extract from his ' Colloquies on the Progress
and Prospects of Society :' " One of the first effects
of printing was to make proud men look upon
learning as disgraced, by being thus brought within
reach of the common people. Till ttja,t time learn-
ing, such as it was, had been confined to courts and
convents, the low birth of the clergy being over-
looked, because they were privileged by their order.
But when laymen in humble life were enabled to
procure books, the pride of aristocracy took an
absurd course, insomuch that at one time it was
deemed derogatory for a nobleman if he could read
or write. Even scholars themselves complained
that the reputation of learning, and the respect due
to it, and its rewards, were lowered when it was
thrown open to all men ; and it was seriously pro-
posed to prohibit the printing of any book that could
be afforded for sale below the price of three soldi.
18 CHANGES PRODUCED BY PRINTING. Part I.
This base and invidious feeling was perhaps never
so directly avowed in other countries as in Italy,
the land where literature was first restored ; and
yet in this more liberal island ignorance was for
some generations considered to be a mark of dis-
tinction by which a man of gentle birth chose, not
unfrequently, to make it apparent that he was no
more obliged to live by the toil of his brain, than
by the sweat of his brow. The same changes in so-
ciety, which rendered it no longer possible for this
class of men to pass their lives in idleness, have
completely put an end to this barbarous pride. It
is as obsolete as the fashion of long finger-nails,
which in some parts of the East are still the dis-
tinctive mark of those who labour not with their
hands. All classes are now brought within^ the
reach of your current literature, that literature
which, like a moral atmosphere, is, as it were, the
medium of intellectual life, and on the quality of
which, according as it may be salubrious or noxious,
the health of the public mind depends."
THE MERCER'S APPRENTICE.
Mercer's Apprentice His Book-knowledge Commerce in
)ks Schools in London City Apprentices City Pageants
Spread of English Language English ^'ritei-s Chaucer
: \ver Lydgate The Minstrels National Literature.
a book which Caxton printed in 1483, 'The
>ke callyd Cathon,' he says in his prologue or
preface, " Unto the noble, ancient, and renowned
city, the city of London in England, I, William
Caxton, citizen and conjury [sworn fellow] of the
teme, and of the fraternity and fellowship of the
Mercery, owe of right my service and good will ;
and of very duty am bounden naturally to assist,
aid, and counsel, as farforth as I can to my power,
as to my mother of whom I have received my nur-
ture and living; and shall pray for the good pros-
perity and policy of the same during my life. For
as me seemeth it is of great need, by cause I have
known it in my young age much more wealthy,
prosperous, and richer than it is at this day ; and
the cause is, that there is almost none that in-
tendeth to the common weal, but only every man
for his singular profit." It is the usual habit of
the aged to look back upon the days of their youth
as a period of higher prosperity and more exalted
virtue, public and private, than they witness in
their declining years. This is in most cases merely
20 THE MERCER'S APPRENTICE. Part i.
the mind's own colouring of the picture. But it
is very possible that London, in the first year of
Richard III., when Caxton wrote this preface, was
really less prosperous, and its citizens less devoted
to the public good, than half a century earlier, when
Caxton was a blithe apprentice within its walls.
The country had passed through the terrible con-
vulsion of the wars of the Roses; and it is the
nature of civil wars, especially, not only to waste
the substance and destroy the means of existence
of every man, but to render all men selfish, grasp-
ing at temporary good, suspicious, faithless. The
master of Caxton was Robert Large, a member of
the Mercers' Company, who was one of the Sheriffs
in 1430, and Lord Mayor in 1439-40. The date
of Caxton's apprenticeship has not been ascer-
tained ; but it is considered by several of his
biographers to have commenced about 1428. At
this period, the sixth of Henry VI., a law was on
the statute-book, and rigorously enforced, whose
^object was to prevent the sons of labourers in hus-
bandry, and indeed of the poorer classes of the
yeomanry, from rising out of the condition in which
they were born, by participating in the higher gains
of trade and handicraft. A law of the seventh of
Henry IV., about two-and-twenty years before this
conjectural period of Caxton's apprenticeship, re-
cites that, according to ancient statutes, those who
labour at the plough or cart, or other service of
husbandry, till at the age of twelve years, should
continue to abide at such labour, and not to be put to
Chap. II. THE MERCER'S APPRENTICE. 21
any mystery or handicraft; notwithstanding which
statutes, says the law of Henry IV., country people
whose fathers and mothers have no land or rent are
put apprentices to divers crafts within the cities and
boroughs, so that there is great scarcity of labourers
and other servants of husbandry. The law then
declares, " That no man nor woman, of what estate
or condition they be, shall put their son or daugh-
ter, of whatsoever age he or she be, to serve as ap-
prentice to no craft or other labour within any city
or borough in the realm, except he have land or
rent to the value of twenty shillings by the year at
least, but they shall be put to other labours as their
estates doth require, upon pain of one year's im-
prisonment." This iniquitous law was necessarily
as demoralizing and as injurious to the national
prosperity as the institution of castes in India.
Yet, by a most extraordinary blindness to cause
and consequence, the makers of the law provided
in the most direct way for its overthrow ; for the
statute goes on to say, that, although the husbandry
labourer is always to be a labourer, " every man
or woman, of what estate or condition they be,
shall be free to set their son or daughter to take
learning at any manner school that pleaseth them
within the realm." The citizens of London, much
to their honour, procured a repeal of this act in
'"the eighth of Henry VI., about the period when
Caxton was apprenticed. The probability is, that
he would not have been affected by the exclusive
character of this law ; for his master was a rich
22 HIS BOOK-KNOWLEDGE. Part I.
and distinguished mercer a member of that asso-
ciation which has always had pre-eminence amongst
the livery companies of London. The dignified
gravity, the prudence, and the prosperity of the
citizens of that day have been well described by
" A Merchant was there with a forked beard ;
In motley, and high on horse he sat,
And on his head a Flaundrish beaver hat.
His bootes clasped fair and fetisly ; *
His reasons spake he full solemnely,
Sounding alway the increase of his winning:
He would the sea were keptf for any thing,
Betwix^n Middleburgh and Ore'well.
Well could he in exchanges shieldie'sjsell,
This worthy man full well his wit beset ;
There wiste no wight that he was in debt,
So stedfastly did he his governance
With his bargains, and with his chevisance.||"
When we look at William Caxton as the ap-
prentice to a London mercer, his position does not
at first sight appear very favourable to that cul-
tivation of a literary taste, and that love of books,
which was originally the solace, and afterwards the
business, of his life. Yet a closer insight into the
mercantile arrangements of those days will show
us that he could not have been more favourably
placed for attaining some practical acquaintance
with books, in the way of his ordinary occupation.
When books were so costly and so inaccessible to
the great body of the people, there was necessarily
* Neatly. t Guarded.
J French crowns, which were stamped with a shield.
Employed. || An agreement for borrowing money.
Chap. II. HIS BOOK-KNOWLEDGE. 23
no special trade of bookselling. There were in-
deed stationers, who had books for sale, or more
probably executed orders for transcribing books.
Their occupation is thus described by Mr. Hallam,
in his ' Literature of Europe :' " These dealers
were denominated stationarii, perhaps from the
open stalls at which they carried on their business,
though static is a general word for a shop, in low
Latin. They appear by the old statutes of the
university of Paris, and by those of Bologna, to
have sold books upon commission ; and are some-
times, though not uniformly, distinguished from
the librarii; a word which, having originally been
confined to the copyists of books, was afterwards
applied to those who traded in them. They sold
parchment and other materials of writing, which,
with us, though, as far as I know, nowhere else,
have retained the name of stationery, and naturally
exercised the kindred occupations of binding and
decorating. They probably employed transcribers."
The mercer in those days was not a dealer in small
wares generally, as at an earlier period ; nor was
his trade confined to silken goods such an one as
Shakspere describes, " Master Threepile, the mer-
cer." who had thrown a man into prison for " some
four suits of peach-coloured satin." The mercer
of the fifteenth century was essentially a merchant.
The mercers in the time of Edward III. were the
great wool-dealers of the country. They were the
merchants of the Staple, in the early days of our
woollen manufacture; and the merchant adven-
24 COMMERCE IX BOOKS. Part I.
turers of a later period were principally of their
body. In their traffic with other lands, and espe-
cially with the Low Countries, they were the
agents by which valuable manuscripts found their
way into England ; and in this respect they were
something like the great merchant princes of Italy,
whose ships not unfrequently contained a cargo of
Indian spices and of Greek manuscripts. John
Bagford, who wrote a slight Life of Caxton about
1714, which is in manuscript in the British Mu-
seum, says, " Icings, queens, and noblemen had
their particular merchants, who, when they were
ready for their voyage into foreign parts, sent their
servants to know what they wanted, and among
the rest of their choice many times books were
demanded, and there to buy them in those parts
where they were going." Caxton tells us in the
'Book of Good Manners/ which he translated
from the French and printed in 1487, that the
original French work was delivered to him by a
" special friend, a mercer of London, named
William Praat." This commerce of books could
not have been very great ; but it might have been
so far carried on by Robert Large, the wealthy
master of Caxton, that a lad of ability might thus
possess opportunities for improvement which were
denied to the great body of his fellow-apprentices.
At this particular period there appear to have
been but few opportunities even for the sons of
parents of some substance to obtain the rudiments
of knowledge. There is a petition presented to
Chap. II. SCHOOLS IX LOXDOX. 25
parliament in the twenty-fifth year of Henry VL,
1446, which exhorts the Commons " to consider
the great number of grammar-schools that some-
time were in divers parts of this realm, besides
those that were in London, and how few there are
in these days." The petitioners, who are four
clergymen of the city, go on to say that London is
the common concourse of this land, and that many
persons, for lack of schoolmasters in their own
country, resort there to be informed of grammar ;
and then they proceed thus : " Wherefore it were
expedient that in London \v-ere a sufficient number
of schools and good informers in grammar ; and
not, for the singular avail of two or three persons,
grievously to hurt the multitude of young people
of all this land. For where there is great number
of learners and few teachers, and all the learners
be compelled to go to the few teachers, and to
none others, the masters wax rich of money, and
the learners poorer in cunning, as expi-ririire
openly showeth, against all virtue and order of
weal public/' These benevolent clergymen accom-
plished the object of their petition, which was that
in each of their parishes they might "ordain,
create, establish, and set a person sufficiently
learned in grammar to hold and exercise a school
in the same science of grammar, and there to teach
to all that will learn." One of the schools thus
established exists to this day, in connexion with
the Mercers' Company, and is commonly known
as the Mercers' School. We are a little anticipat-
26 SCHOOLS IX LONDOX. Part I.
ing the period of our narrative, for this petition
belongs to Caxton's mature life ; but we mention
it as an evidence of the extreme difficulty which
must have existed in those days for the children of
the middle classes to obtain the rudiments of know-
ledge. It is evident that Caxton belonged to the
more fortunate portion, upon whom the blessings
of education fell like prizes in a lottery. The evil
has not been wholly corrected even during four
centuries ; but it is devoutly to be hoped that the
time is not far distant when, to use the words of
the benevolent clergymen who knew the value of
knowledge at that comparatively dark period, there
shall be in every place a school, and a competent
person " there to teach to all that will learn."
Oldys, the writer of the Life of Caxton in the
' Biographia Britannica,' says, speaking of Eobert
Large, the master of Caxton, " The same magistrate
held his mayoralty in that which had been the man-
sion-house of Robert Fitzwalter, anciently called
the Jews' Synagogue, at the north corner of the
Old Jewry/' This Old Jewry appears to have been
in earlier times an accustomed place of residence
for the mercers ; for there are records still extant
of legal proceedings in the time of Henry III.
against four mercers of that place, for a violent
assault upon two Lombard merchants, whom they
regarded as rivals in trade. In the days of their
retail dealings they occupied a portion of Cheap-
side which went by the name of the Mercery. In
the fourteenth century their shops were little better
Chap. II. CITY APPRENTICES. 27
than sheds, and Cheapside, or more properly
Cheap, was a sort of market, where various trades
collected round the old Cross, which remained
there till the time of the Long Parliament. When
the mercers became large wholesale dealers in
woollen cloths and silk, the haberdashers took up
their standing in the same place. In the ballad of
1 London Lickpenny/ written in the time of
Henry VI., the scene in the Cheap is thus de-
" Then to the Cheap I began me drawn.
Where much people I saw for to stand ;
One offered me velvet, silk, ami lawn,
Another he taketh me by the hand,
' Here is Paris thread, the finest in the land.' ''
The city apprentice in the days of Caxton was a
staid sober youth, who, although of gentle blood
(as the regulations for the admittance of freemen
required him to be), was meanly clothed, and sub-
jected to the performance of even household drudg-
ery. We learn from a tract called the * City's
Advocate,' printed in 1628, that the ancient habit
of the apprentices was a flat round cap. hair close
cut, narrow falling bands, coarse side -coats (long
coats), close hose, close stockings, and other such
severe apparel. They walked before their masters
and mistresses at night, bearing a lantern, and
wearing a long club on their necks. But the mer-
cer's apprentice had some exceptions which set him
above his fellows : " Anciently it was the general
use and custom of all apprentices in London (mer-
28 CITY PAGEANTS. Part I.
cers only excepted, being commonly merchants and
a better rank as it seems) to carry water- tankards
to serve their masters' houses with water fetched
either from the Thames or the common conduits."
But, with all his restraints, the city apprentice was
ever prone to frolic, and too often to mischief. The
apprentices were a formidable body in the days
of the Tudors, sometimes defying the laws, and
raising tumults which have more than once ended
in the prison and the halter. Chaucer, writing
some few years before the term of Caxton's service,
describes the love of sight-seeing which was cha-
racteristic of the London apprentice :
" When there any ridings were in Cheap,
Out of the shop thither would he leap ;
And till that he had all the sight yseen,
And danced well, he would not come again."
Cheap was the great highway of processions ; and
London was the constant theatre of triumphs and
pageants, by which the wealthy citizens expressed
their devotion to their ruling authorities. In the
fifteenth century, when the very insecurity of the
tenure of the crown demanded a more ardent
display of public opinion, the London apprentice
had "ridings" enough to look upon, where the
pageantry was a real expression of power and
magnificence, and not a tawdry mockery, as that
which now disgraces the city of London once a
year. Froissart describes the riding of Henry IV.
to his coronation. The entry of his illustrious son
into London after the battle of Agincourt was
Chap. II. SPREAD OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE. 29
another of these remarkable ridings. This, which
was an occasion of real enthusiasm, took place
in Caxton's childhood. But in 1432, when he is
held to have been an apprentice, the boy king,
Henry VI., upon his return from being crowned
King of France, entered London with a magnifi-
cence which chroniclers and poets have vied in re-
cording. Robert Fabyan, an alderman of London,
who wrote in the reign of Henry VII., describes
this ceremonial with such an admiration of the
pomp, as only one could be supposed to feel who
was born, as Chaucer says,
" To sitten in a guildhall on the dais."
To look forward to such occasions of pomp was a
satisfaction to the people, who knew nothing of the
real workings of public affairs, and saw only the
outward indications of success or misfortune. The
reign of Henry VI. was an unhappy one for the
citizens of London. Violent contests for authority,
insurrections, battles for the crown, left their fear-
ful traces upon the course of the next thirty years.
But during Caxton's boyhood the evil days seemed
In the books of the Brewers' Company, which,
like all other records, were for the most part in
Norman French, there is a curious entry in the
reign of Henry V., which records a great change in
the habits of the people. The entry is in Latin, and
is thus translated: "Whereas our mother-tongue,
to wit, the English language, hath in modern days
30 ENGLISH WRITERS. Part I.
begun to be honourably enlarged and adorned, for
that our most excellent lord King Henry the Fifth
hath in his letters missive, and divers affairs touch-
ing his own person, more willingly chosen to de-
clare the secrets of his will ; and for the better
understanding of his people hath, with a diligent
mind, procured the common idiom (setting aside
others) to be commended by the exercise of writ-
ing ; and there are many of our craft of brewers
who have the knowledge of writing and reading in
the said English idiom, but in others, to wit, the
Latin and French, before these times used, they do
not in any wise understand ; for which causes, with
many others, it being considered how that the
greater part of the lords and trusty commons have
begun to make their matters to be noted down in
our mother-tongue, so we also in our craft, follow-
ing in some manner their steps, have decreed in
future to commit to memory the needful things
which concern us, as appeareth in the following."
The assertion of the Brewers' Company, in the
reign of Henry V., that "the English language
hath in modern days begun to be honourably en-
larged and adorned," rested, we apprehend, upon
broader foundations than the " letters missive " of
the king in the common idiom. Great writers had
arisen in our native tongue, with whose productions
the nobler and wealthier classes at any rate were
familiar. The very greatest of these, the greatest
name even now in our literature, with one excep-
tion, must have furnished employment to hun-
Chap. II. CHAUCER. 31
dreds of transcribers. The poems of Geoffrey
Chaucer. were familiar to all well-educated men,
however scanty was the supply of copies and dear
their cost. That Caxton himself was acquainted
in his youth with these great works we cannot have
a doubt. When it became his fortunate lot to
multiply editions of the Canterbury Tales, and to
render them accessible to a much larger class of
the people than in the days when he himself first
knew the solace and the delight of literature, he
applied himself to the task with all the earnestness
of an early love. In his preface to the second edi-
tion of the Canterbury Tales he thus delivers him-
self, with more than common enthusiasm : " Great
thanks, laud, and honour ought to be given unto
the clerks, poets, and historiographs that have
written many noble books of wisdom of the lives,
passions, and miracles of holy saints, of histories,
of noble and famous acts and faits [deeds], and of
the chronicles sith [since] the beginning of the
creation of the world unto this present time ; by
which we are daily informed and have knowledge
of many things, of whom we should not have known
if they had not left to us their monuments written.
Amongst whom, and in especial before all other,
we ought to give a singular laud unto that noble
and great philosopher Geoffrey Chaucer, the which,
for his ornate writing in our tongue, may well have
the name of a laureat poet. For before that he,
by his labour, embellished, ornated, and made
fair our English, in this royaume [kingdom], was
32 CHAUCER. Part I.
had rude speech and incongrue [incongruous], as
yet it appeareth by old hooks, which at this day
ought not to have place nor be compared among
nor to his beauteous volumes and ornate writings,
of whom he made many books and treatises of many
a noble history, as well in metre as in rhyme and
prose ; and them so craftily made, that he compre-
hended his matters in short, quick, and high sen-
tences ; eschewing prolixity, casting away the chaff
of superfluity, and shewing the picked grain of sen-
tence, uttered by crafty and sugared eloquence."
Again, in his edition of Chaucer's ' Book of Fame '
he says, " Which work, as me seemeth, is craftily
made, and worthy to be written and known : for
he toucheth in it right great wisdom and subtle
understanding ; and so in all his works he ex-
celled in mine opinion all other writers in our
English ; for he writeth no void words, but all his
matter is full of high and quick sentence, to whom
ought to be given laud and praising for his noble
making and writing. For of him all other have
borrowed sith, and taken in all their well saying
and writing." There is another passage in the
second edition of the Canterbury Tales which we
quote here, not for the purpose of showing Caxton's
honourable character as a printer, for that belongs
to a subsequent period, but to point out that
manuscripts of Chaucer were in private hands,
varying indeed in their text, as books must have
varied that were produced by different transcribers,
but still keeping up the fame of the poet, and
Chap. II. CHAUCER. 33
highly valued by their possessors : "Of which
book so incorrect was one brought to me six year
passed, which I supposed had been very true and
correct, and according to the same I did imprint
a certain number of them, which anon were sold
to many and divers gentlemen : of whom one gen-
tleman came to me, and said that this book was
not according in many places unto the book that
Geoffrey Chaucer had made. To whom I an-
swered, that I had made it according to my copy,
and by me was nothing added nor diminished.
Then he said he knew a book which his father had
and much loved, that was very true, and according
unto his own first book by him made ; and said
more, if I would imprint it again, he would get me
the same book for a copy. How be it, he wist well
his father would not gladly part from it ; to whom
I said, in case that he could get me such a book
true and correct, that I would once endeavour me
to imprint it again, for to satisfy the author:
whereas before by ignorance I erred in hurting and
defaming his book in divers places, in setting in
some things that he never said nor made, and
leaving out many things that he made which are
requisite to be set in. And thus we fell at accord ;
and he full gently got me of his father the said
book, and delivered it to me, by which I have cor-
rected my book."
There was another poet of considerable popu-
larity who was contemporary with Chaucer. With
the works of Gower, Caxton must have been fami-
34 GOWER. Part I.
liar. His principal poem, 'Confessio Amantis,'
was printed by Caxton in 1483, and is said to have
been the most extensively circulated of all the
books that came from his press. The poem is full
of stories that were probably common to all Europe,
running on through thousands of lines with wonder-
ful fluency, but little force. He was called the
" moral Gower " by Chaucer. The play of Pericles,
ascribed to Shakspere, is founded upon one of
these stories. Gower himself shows us what was
the general course of reading in those days :
Full oft time it falleth so,
Mine ear with a good pittance
Is fed of reading of romance,
Of Idoyne, and of Amadas,
That whilom* werenf in my case,
And eke of other many a score,
That lovedenj long ere I was bore."
The romances of chivalry, the stories of ''fierce
wars and faithful loves/' were especially the delight
of the great and powerful. When the noble was
in camp, he solaced his hours of leisure with the
marvellous histories of King Arthur or Launcelot
of the Lake ; and when at home, he listened to or
read the same stories in the intervals of the chace
or the feast. Froissart tells in his own simple and
graphic manner how he presented a book to King
Richard the Second, and how the king delighted
in the subject of the book : " Then the king desired
to see my book that I had brought for him ; so he
saw it in his chamber, for I had laid it there ready
* Formerly. f Were. + Loved. $ Born.
Chap. II. GO WEE. 35
on his bed. When the king opened it, it pleased
him well, for it was fair illumined and written, and
covered with crimson velvet, with ten buttons of
silver and gilt, and roses of gold in the midst, with
two great clasps, gilt, richly wrought. Then the
king demanded me whereof it treated, and I
showed him how it treated matters of love, whereof
the king was glad, and looked in it, and read it in
many places, for he could speak and read French
very well." Froissart was a Frenchman and wrote
in French ; but even Englishmen wrote in French
at that period, and some of Gower's early poems
are in French. According to his own account, the
long poem of the ' Confessio Amantis/ which was
written in English, was executed at the command
of the same King Richard :
" He hath this charge upon me laid,
.And bad me do my business,
That to his high worthiness
Some new thiniT I should book,
That he himself it might look,
After the form of my writing."
Chaucer and Gower lived some time before the
period of Caxton's youth in London, But there
was a poet very popular in his day, whom he can
scarcely have avoided having seen playing a con-
spicuous part in the high city festivals. This was
John Lydgate, monk of Bury, who thus describes
" I am a monk by my profession,
Of Bury, called John Lydgate by my name,
And wear a habit of perfection,
Although my life agree not with the same."
36 LYDGATE. Part I.
Thomas Warton has thus exhibited the nature of
his genius : " No poet seems to have possessed
a greater versatility of talents. He moves with
equal ease in every mode of composition. His
hymns and his ballads have the same degree of
merit: and whether his subject be the life of a
hermit or a hero, of Saint Austin or Guy Earl of
Warwick, ludicrous or legendary, religious or ro-
mantic, a history or an allegory, he writes with
facility. His transitions were rapid from works
of the most serious and laborious kind to sallies of
levity and pieces of popular entertainment. His
muse was of universal access, and he was not only
the poet of his monastery, but of the world in
general. If a disguising was intended by the com-
pany of goldsmiths, a mask before his majesty at
Eltham, a May game for the sheriffs and aldermen
of London, a mumming before the lord mayor, a
procession of pageants from the creation for the
festival of Corpus Christi, or a carol for a corona-
tion, Lydgate was consulted and gave the poetry."
A fine illuminated drawing in one of Lydgate's
manuscripts, now in the British Museum, repre-
sents him presenting a book to the Earl of Salis-
bury. Such a presentation may be regarded as
the first publication of a new work. The royal or
noble person at whose command it was written
bestowed some rich gift upon the author, which
would be his sole pecuniary recompence, unless he
received some advantage from the transcribers, for
the copies which they multiplied. Doubtful as the
Lydgate presenting a book to the Earl of Salisbury.
rewards of authorship may be when the multiplica-
tion of copies by the press enables each reader to
contribute a small acknowledgment of the benefit
which he receives, the literary condition must have
been far worse when the poet, humbly kneeling
before some mighty man, as Lydgate does in the
picture, might have been dismissed with contumely,
or his present received with a low appreciation of
the labour and the knowledge required to produce
it. The fame, however, of a popular writer reached
38 THE MINSTRELS. Part I.
his ears in a far more direct and flattering manner
than belongs to the literary honours of modern
days. There can be little doubt that the narrative
poems of Chaucer and Gower and Lydgate were
familiar to the people through the recitations of
the minstrels. An agreeable writer on the Rise
and Progress of English Poetry, Mr. George Ellis,
says, " Chaucer, in his address to his Troilus and
Cressida, tells us it was intended to be read 'or
elles sung/ which must relate to the chanting reci-
tation of the minstrels, and a considerable part of
our old poetry is simply addressed to an audience,
without any mention of readers. That our English
minstrels at any time united all the talents of the
profession, and were at once poets and reciters and
musicians, is extremely doubtful ; but that they
excited and directed the efforts of their contem-
porary poets to a particular species of composition,
is as evident as that a body of actors must influence
the exertions of theatrical writers. They were, at
a time when reading and writing were rare accom-
plishments, the principal medium of communica-
tion between authors and the public ; and their
memory in some measure supplied the deficiency of
manuscripts, and probably preserved much of our
early literature till the invention of printing/' We
may thus learn, that, although the number of those
was very few whose minds by reading could be
lifted out of the grovelling thoughts and petty cares
of every-day life, yet that the compositions of
learned and accomplished men, who still hold a
Chap. II. THE MINSTRELS. 39
high rank in our literature, might be familiar to
the people through the agency of a numerous body
of singers or reciters. There has been a good deal
of controversy about the exact definition of the
minstrel character whether the minstrels were
lemselves poets and romance-writers, or the de-
sitaries of the writings of others and of the tra-
itional literature of past generations. Ritson, a
riter upon this subject, says, " that there were in-
dduals formerly who made it their business to
wander up and down the country chanting ro-
mances, and singing songs and ballads to the harp,
fiddle, or more humble and less artificial instruments,
cannot be doubted." They were a very numerous
body a century before Chaucer ; and most indefa-
tigable in the prosecution of their trade. There is
a writ or declaration of Edward the Second, which
recites the evil of idle persons, under colour of
minstrelsy, being received in other men's houses
to meat and drink ; and then goes on to direct that
to the houses of great people no more than three
or four minstrels of honour should come at the
most in one day, "and to the houses of meaner
men that none come unless he be desired, and such
as shall come to hold themselves contented with v
meat and drink, and with such courtesy as the master
of the house will show unto them of his own good-
will, without their asking of anything/' Nothing
can more clearly exhibit the general demand for the
services of this body of men ; for the very regula-
tion as to the nature of their reward shows clearly
40 THE MINSTRELS. Part I.
that they were accustomed to require liberal pay-
ment, approaching perhaps to extortion ; and then
comes in the State to say that they shall not have
a free market for their labour. They struggled on,
sometimes prosperous and sometimes depressed,
according to the condition of the country, till the
invention of printing came to make popular litera-
ture always present in a man's house. The book
of ballads or romances, which was then to be bought,
was contented to abide there without any "meat and
drink." In the words of Richard de Bury, whom
we quoted in the first chapter, books " are the
masters who instruct us without rods, without hard
words and anger, without clothes and money. If
you approach them, they are not asleep ; if in-
vestigating you interrogate them, they conceal
nothing ; if you mistake them, they never grumble ;
if you are ignorant, they cannot laugh at you."
One of the later ministrels, to whom is ascribed the
preservation, and by some the composition, of the
old ballad of Chevy Chase, thus humbles himself
in a most unpoetical and undignified manner to
those who fed him for his services :
' ' Now for the good cheer that I have had here
I give you hearty thanks with bowing of my shanks,
Desiring you by petition to grant me such commission
Because my name is Sheale that both for meat and meal
To you I may resort some time for my comfort.
For I perceive here at all times is good cheer,
Both ale, wine, and beer, as it doth now appear ;
I perceive, without fable, ye keep a good table.
I can be content, if it be out of Lent,
A piece of beef to take, my hunger to asl;\ke ;
Both mutton aud veal is good for Richard Sheale.
Chap. II. THE MINSTRELS. 41
Though I look so grave, I were a very knave
If I would think scorn, either evening or morn,
Being in hunger, of fresh salmon or congar.
I can find in my heart with my friends to take a part
Of such as God shall send ; and thus I make an end.
Now, farewell, good mine host ; I thank you for your cost,
Until another time, and thus do I end my rhyme."
But even such a humiliated ballad-maker, or ballad-
singer, as poor old Richard Sheale, was the de-
positary of treasures of popular fiction, many of
hich have utterly perished, but of which a great
rtion of those which are still preserved are delight-
ful even to the most refined reader. For, corrupted
as they are by transmission from mouth to mouth
through several centuries, they are full of high and
generous sentiments, of deep pathos, of quiet
humour ; they carry us back into a state of society
wholly different from our own, when knowledge
was indeed scanty, and riches not very plentiful, but
when the feelings and affections were not so wholly
under the direction of worldly wisdom, and men
were brave and loving, and women tender and con-
fiding, with something more of earnestness tliau
belongs to the discreeter arrangements of modern
social life. The minstrels had indeed something to
call up the tear or the smile in every class of audi-
tor. For the earls and barons, the knights and
squires, there were romances and songs of chivalrous
daring, such as moved the noble heart of Sir Philip
Sidney, even in the days when the minstrel was a
poor despised wanderer : " Is it the Lyric that most
displeaseth, who, with his tuned lyre and well-
accorded voice, giveth praise, the reward of virtue,
42 NATIONAL LITERATURE. Part I.
to virtuous acts ? who givetli moral precepts and
natural problems? who sometimes raiseth up his
voice to the height of the heavens, in singing the
lauds of the immortal God ? Certainly I must con-
fess mine own barbarousness, I never heard the
old song of Percy and Douglas, that I found not
my heart moved more than with a trumpet, and
yet it is sung but by some blind crowder, with no
rougher voice than rude style." For those of
meaner sort there were the ballads of Robin Hood,
" of whom the foolish vulgar make lewd entertain-
ment, and are delighted to hear the jesters and
minstrels sing them above all other ballads." So
wrote a Scottish historian in the middle of the
We have thus briefly recapitulated the popular
modes of acquiring something of a literary taste in
the early days of William Caxton. Books were
rare, and difficult to be obtained except by the
wealthy. The drama did not exist. The preachers,
indeed, were not afraid to address an indiscriminate
audience with the conviction that, although the
majority were unlettered, they had vigorous under-
standings, and did not require the great truths of
religion and of private and of social duty to be
adapted to any intellectual weakness or infirmity.
The national poetry, which was heard at the high
festivals of the city traders, and even descended to
as lowly a popularity as that of the village circle
upon the ale-bench under the spreading elm on
& summer's eve, had no essentials of vulgarity or
Chap. II. NATIONAL LITERATURE. 43
childishness, such as in later days have been
thought necessary for general comprehension. We
were ever a thoughtful people, a reasoning people,
and yet a people of strong passions and uncon-
querable energy. A popular literature was kept
alive and preserved, however imperfectly, before the
press came to make those who had learnt to read
self-dependent in their intellectual gratifications ;
and what has come down to us of the old mm-
relsy, with all its inaccuracy and occasional feeble-
jss, shows us that the people of England, four or
re centuries ago, had a common fund of high
lought upon which a great literature might in
time be reared. The very existence of a poet like
Chaucer is the best proof of the vigour, and to a cer-
tain extent of the cultivation, of the national mind,
even in an age when books were rarities.
44 CAXTON ABROAD. Part I
Caxton abroad Caxton's mercantile pursuits Restrictions on Trade
Caxton's Commission Merchants' Marks Beginnings of Print-
j n ,r Playing Cards Wood-engraving Block-books Moveable
Tvpes Guttenberg Guttenberg's Statue Festival at Mentz.
ROBERT LARGE, the master of Caxton, became
Lord Mayor of London in 1439-40. He died in
1441. That he was a man of considerable sub-
stance appears by the record of his bequests, in
Stow's Survey of London : " Robert Large, mer-
cer, mayor 1440, gave to his parish church of St.
Olave, in Surrey, two hundred pounds ; to St.
Margaret's, in Lothbury, twenty-five pounds ; to
the poor, twenty pounds ; to London-bridge, one
hundred marks ; towards the vaulting over the
watercourse of Walbrook, two hundred marks ; to
poor maids' marriages, one hundred marks ; to
poor householders, one hundred pounds."* By his
last will he bequeathed to his servant, William
Caxton, twenty marks, a considerable sum in those
days. From this period it would seem that Caxton
resided abroad. In the first book he translated,
the " Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye," which
bears upon the title to have been "ended and
* We believe that the text of Stow, " St. Olave in Surrey" is a
mi.->take for "St. Olave in Jewry" for Robert Large was buried in
St. Olave in the Jewry, where a plated stone in the ground, in the
south aisle, recorded his death on the 24th of April, 1441.
Chap. III. CAXTOX'S MERCANTILE PURSUITS. 45
finished in the holy city of Cologne, the 1 9th day of
September, the year of our Lord one thousand,
four hundred, sixty, and eleven," he says, " I have
mtinued by the space of thirty year for the most
:t in the countries of Brabant, Flanders, Hol-
id, and Zealand." The Rev. John Lewis, who
>te the Life of Master William Caxton, about a
itury ago, says, " It has been guessed that he
abroad as a travelling agent or factor for the
>mpany of Mercers, and employed by them in
business of merchandise." Oldys adds, but
jrtainly without any authority, " It is agreed on
by those writers who have best acquainted them-
selves with his story, he was deputed and intrusted
by the Mercers' Company to be their agent or
factor in Holland, Zealand, Flanders, &c., to
establish and enlarge their correspondents, nego-
ciate the consumption of our own, and importation
of foreign manufactures, and otherwise promote the
advantage of the said corporation in their respec-
tive merchandise." This, indeed, was a goodly
commission, if we can make out that he ever re-
ceived such, an employment which seems to speak
of free and liberal intercourse between two coun-
tries, each requiring the commodities of the other,
and conducting their interchange upon the sound
principles of encouraging mutual consumption, and
thus producing mutual profit. Doubtless, we may
believe, upon a superficial view of the matter, that
the agent of the Mercers' Company was conducting
his operations with the full authority of the govern-
46 RESTRICTIONS ON TRADE. Part I.
ment at home, and with the hearty support of the
rulers of the land in which he so long lived. The
real fact is, that for twenty of those years in which
Caxton describes himself as residing in the coun-
tries of Brabant, Holland, and Zealand, there was
an absolute prohibition on both sides of all com-
mercial intercourse between England and the
Duchy of Burgundy, to which those countries were
subject ; and for nearly the whole period, no Eng-
lish goods were suffered to pass to the continent,
except through the town of Calais ; and " in
France," says Caxton, " I was never." If Caxton
had any mercantile employment at all from his
Company, it was, in all probability, for the purpose
of finding channels in trade that were closed up
by the blind policy of the respective governments.
He could not have conducted any mercantile
operation in those countries, except in violation of
the absurd commercial laws which would not allow
the people to seek their own interest in their own
way. It is by no means improbable, however, that
by the connivance of the royal personages who
wanted for themselves rich commodities which they
could only obtain by that exchange which they
denied their subjects, William Caxton was in truth
an accredited smuggler for law-makers who at-
tempted to limit the wants, and the means of satis-
fying the wants, of the people they governed, in
deference to the prejudices of those who thought
that trade could only exist under a system of the
most stringent prohibition.
Chap. in. CAXTON 's COMMISSION. 47
While Edward the Fourth, and Charles the
Good, Duke of Burgundy, were launching against
each other ordinance and enactment to prevent
leir subjects becoming exchangers for the better
>ply of their respective wants, some politic un-
jrstanding between these princes led them even-
lly to adopt a wiser system. It is pretty clear
William Caxton was one of the agents, and a
dncipal one, in putting an end to a policy which
the Duke of Burgundy said was " evermore to
endure." In 1464 Edward the Fourth issued a
commission to his trusty and well-beloved Richard
Whitehill and W T illiam Caxton, to be his especial
ibassadors, procurators, nuncios, and deputies to
most dear cousin the Duke of Burgundy for
the purpose of confirming an existing treaty of com-
merce, or, if necessary, for making a new one. In
1466, this commission being dated in October, 1464,
a treaty was concluded with the Duke of Burgundy,
by which the commerce between his dominions and
England, which had been interrupted for twenty
years, was restored ; and a port of Flanders was
subsequently appointed to be a port of the English
staple, as well as Calais. It is pleasant to us to be-
lieve that this extension of a principle which must
eventually bind all nations in a common brother-
hood was effected by the good sense of a mercer
of London ; who was afterwards to bestow upon
his country the blessings of an art which has been
the great instrument of that country's progress in
real greatness and prosperity, and before which all
48 MERCHANTS' MARKS. Part i.
impediments to the continued course of that pros-
perity all prejudices amongst her own children,
or amongst other peoples, that make the great
family of mankind aliens and enemies, and keep
them from the enjoyment of the advantages which
each might bestow upon the other will utterly
perish. It is pleasant to us to believe that William
Caxton, the first English printer, in his day opened
the ports of one great trading community to another
great trading community. When he, the mercer's
apprentic% stamped the merchant's mark upon his
master's bales, he knew not, he could not have di-
vined, that by this process of stamping, carried for-
ward by the ingenuity of many men into a new art,
there would arise consequences which would change
the face of the world. He could not imagine that
he, whose education had consisted in learning to
buy wool and measure cloth, should, by the natural
course of his commercial life, be thrown into a so-
ciety where a great wonder was to fill the minds of
all men with astonishment the multiplication of
manuscripts by some new and secret process, as if
by magic ; and which some men, and he probably
amongst the number, must have regarded with a
Chap. III. IMXIINNINGS OF PRINTING. 49
higher feeling than wonder, with something like
that prophetic view of its consequences which have
been described by the novelist, who, perhaps more
than any man, has employed that art to the delight
of all classes in every country. We refer to the
passage in Sir Walter Scott's Quentin Durvvard,
where Louis the Eleventh of France, and Marti-
valle Galeotti the astrologer, speak of the invention
of printing, and the sage predicts " the lot of a
succeeding generation, on whom knowledge will
descend like the first and second rain, uninterrupted,
unabated, unbounded, fertilizing some grounds, and
overflowing others ; changing the whole form of
In a list of foreign goods forbidden to be im-
ported into this country by statute of 1464, the
reader might be surprised to find that playing-
cards were of sufficient importance, from their
general use, to require that the native manufac-
tories should be protected in the production of
them. Playing-cards were known in France for
more than a hundred years before this statute of
Edward IV. ; so that the common notion that
they were invented to furnish amusement to an
insane king, Charles VI. of France, about 1393,
is a popular error. It is clear that both in France
and Spain at that period cards were the amuse-
ment not only of the royal and noble inmates of
palaces, but of the burghers and the working
people. The King of Castile, in 1387, prohibited
cards altogether ; and they appear, with other
50 PLAYING CARDS. Part I.
\games of skill and chance, to have interfered so
much with the regular labour of the artificers of
Paris, that the provost of that city, in 1397, for-
bade all working people to play at tennis, bowls,
nine-pins, dice, or cards, on working-days. The
earliest cards were probably painted by means of
a stencil, by which name we call a piece of paste-
board or plate of thin metal pierced with aper-
tures, by which a figure is formed upon paper or
other substance beneath it when fluid colour is
smeared over its surface with a brush. But it has
Blocks and Stencil Instruments.
also been conjectured, from their being in the
hands of the working-people, that their cheapness
must have been produced by some rude application
of a wood- en graving to form the outline which the
stencilling process filled up with colour. There
can be no doubt that cards were printed before the
middle of the fifteenth century ; for there is a peti-
tion extant from the Venetian painters to their ma-
gistracy, dated 1441, setting forth that the art and
mystery of card-making and of printing figures,
which were practised in Venice, had fallen into
total decay, through the great quantity of foreign
playing-cards and coloured printed figures which
were brought into the city. The Germans were
the great card-makers of this period ; and the name
which a wood-engraver is still called in Ger-
ly, Formschneider, meaning figure-cutter, oc-
in the town books of Nuremburg as early as
<1. Some of the early cards were very rude,
is the Knave of Bells for spades, diamonds,
Knave of Bells.
hearts, and clubs were not then the universal
symbols. Others called forth the skill of very
clever artists, such as he who is known as " the
Master of 1466," whose knave is a much more
Knave, of Master of 1466.
human knave than the traditionary worthy whom
we look upon to this hour. When Caxton, there-
fore, was abroad for thirty years, he would unques-
tionably have seen every variety of these painted
bits of paper ; some rich with crimson and purple,
oftentimes painted on a golden ground, and calling
forth, like the missals, the highest art of the limner ;
others impressed with a rude outline, and daubed
by the stenciller. It appears that the impressions
of the engraved cards, as well as of most of the ear-
Chap. III. WOOD ENGRAVING. 53
Her block-prints, were taken off by friction. This
is the mode by which, even at the present day,
wood-engravers take off the specimen impressions
of their works called proofs. The Chinese produce
their block-books in a similar manner, without the
aid of a press.
But there was another application of engraved
blocks, aoout the same period, which was approach-
still nearer to the art of printing. The repre-
itations of saints and of scriptural histories, which
limners in the monasteries had for several cen-
ies been painting in their missals and bibles,
jre copied in outline ; and being divested of their
brilliant colours and rich gilding, presented figures
exceedingly rude in their want of proportion, and
grotesque in their constrained and violent attitudes.
But they were nevertheless highly popular ; and as
the pictures were accompanied with a few sentences
from Scripture, they probably supplied the first
inducement to the laity to learn to read, and thus
prepared the way for that diffusion of knowledge
which was to accompany the invention of printing
from moveable types. In the collection of Earl
Spencer there is a very curious print from a wood-
block, representing St. Christopher carrying the
infant Saviour. This print bears the date 1423.
It is probably not the earliest specimen of the art ;
but it is the earliest undoubted document which
determines with precision the period when wood-
engraving was generally applied to objects of de-
votion. In a very few years from the date of this
54 BLOCK-BOOKS. Part I.
print the art was carried onward to a more im-
]fortant object, that of producing a book.
Several of such books are now in existence, and
are known as block-books. One of them is commonly
called ' BibliaPauperum/ the Bible of the Poor. But
an ingenious writer on the progress of woodcutting,
in the valuable book on that subject published by
Mr. John Jackson, has shown very clearly that this
was not the original title of the book ; and he adds
that it was rather a book for the use of preachers
than the laity : " A series of skeleton sermons
ornamented with woodcuts to warm the preacher's
imagination, and stored with texts to assist his
memory." This very rare book consists of forty
leaves of small folio, each of which contains a cut
in wood, with extracts from the Scriptures, and
other illustrative sentences. Of other block-books
the most remarkable is called ' Speculum Salutis/
the Mirror of Salvation. In this performance
the explanations of the text are much fuller than
in the ' Biblia Pauperum/ In addition to these
works, wooden blocks were also used to print
small manuals of grammar, called Donatuses,
which were used in schools. We present a fac-
simile of a woodcut from one of the early block-
The use of carved blocks for the multiplication
of copies of playing-cards and devotional pictures
gave birth to a principle which has effected, and
is still effecting, the most important changes in
the world. These devotional pictures had short
The Wise Men's Offering.
56 MOVEABLE TYPES. Part I.
legends or texts attached to them; and when a
text had to be printed, it was engraved in a solid
piece, as well as the picture. The first person who
seized upon the idea that the text or legend might
be composed of separate letters capable of re-
arrangement after the impressions were taken off,
so as to be applied, without new cutting, to other
texts and legends, had secured the principle upon
which the printing art was to depend. It was easy
to extend the principle from a few lines to a whole
page, and from one page to many, so as to form a
book ; but then were seen the great labour and
expense of cutting so many separate letters upon
small pieces of wood or metal, and another step was
required to be made before the principle was
thoroughly worked out. This step consisted in the
ready multiplication of the separate letters by cast-
ing metal in moulds. Lastly, instead of using the
old Chinese mode of friction to produce impressions,
a press was to be perfected. All these gradations
were undoubtedly the result of long and patient
experiments carried on by several individuals, who
each saw the importance of the notion they were
labouring to work out. It is this circumstance
which has given rise to interminable controversies
as to the inventors of printing, some claiming the
honour for Coster of Haarlem, and some for Gut-
tenberg of Mentz ; and, as is usual in all such dis-
putes, it was represented that the man to whom
public opinion had assigned the credit of the in-
vention had stolen it from another, who, as is
Chap. III. GUTTENBERG. 57
also usual in these cases, thought of it in a dream,
or received it by some other mysterious revelation.
The general consent of Europe now assigns the
chief honour to Guttenberg.*
During the summer of 1837 a statue of John
Guttenberg, by Thorwaldsen, was erected at Mentz
(or Mayence), and on the 14th of August and the
following days a festival was held there, upon the
occasion of the inauguration of the monument.
Abundant evidence has been brought forward of
late years to show that Guttenberg deserves all the
lours of having conceived, and in great part per-
an art which has produced the most signal
effects upon the destinies of mankind. At that
festival of Mentz. at which many hundred persons
were assembled, from all parts of Europe, to do
honour to the inventor of printing, no rival preten-
sions were put forward ; although many of the com-
patriots of Coster of Haarlem were present. The
fine statue of Guttenberg was opened amidst an
universal burst of enthusiasm. Never were the
shouts of a vast multitude raised on a more elevat-
ing occasion ; never were the triumphs of intellect
celebrated with greater fervour.
Passing his life amidst the ceaseless activity that
belongs to the commerce of literature in London,
the writer of this volume felt no common interest
in the enthusiasm which the festival in honour of
Guttenberg called forth throughout Germany ; and
he determined to attend that celebration. The fine
* See Appendix A.
58 GUTTEXBERG'S STATUE. Part i.
statue which was to be opened to public view on
the 14th of August had been erected by a general
subscription, to which all Europe was invited to
contribute. We apprehend that the English,
amidst the incessant claims upon their attention for
the support of all sorts of undertakings, whether of
a national or individual character, had known little
of the purpose which the good citizens of Mentz
had been advocating with unabated zeal for several
y ears ; and perhaps the object itself was not calcu-
lated to call forth any very great liberality on the
part of those who are often directed in their boun-
ties as much by fashion as by their own convictions.
Thus it is that we have monuments out of number
to warriors. Caxton has no monument ; neither
has Shakspere. Be that as it may, England
literally gave nothing towards the statue of a man
whose invention has done as much as any other
single cause to make England what she is. The
remoteness of the cause may also have lessened its
importance ; and some people, who, without any
deserts of their own, are enjoying a more than full
share of the blessings which have been shed upon
us by the progress of intellect (which determines
the progress of national wealth), have a sort of in-
stinctive notion that the spread of knowledge is the
spread of something inimical to the pretensions of
mere riches. We met with a lady on board the
steamboat ascending the Rhine, two days before
the festival of Mentz, who, whilst she gave us an
elaborate account of the fashionable dulness of the
Chap. III. FESTIVAL AT MEXTZ. 59
baths of Baden and Nassau, and all the other Ger-
man watering-places, told us by all means to avoid
Mentz during the following week, as a crowd of
low people from all parts would be there, to make
a great fuss about a printer who had been dead two.
or three hundred years. The low people did as-
semble in great crowds : it was computed that at
least fifteen thousand strangers had arrived to do
honour to the first printer.
The modes in which a large population displays
its enthusiasm are pretty much the same through-
out the world. If the sentiment which collects
men together be very heart-stirring, all the out-
ward manifestations of the sentiment harmonize
with its real truth. Thus, processions, and ora-
tions, and public dinners, and pageantries which in
themselves are vain and empty, are important when
the persons whom they collect together have one
common feeling which for the time is all-pervading.
We never saw such a popular fervour as prevailed
at Mentz at the festival of August, 1837. The
statue was to be opened on Monday the 1 4th ; but
on the Sunday evening the name of Guttenberg
was rife through all the streets. In the morning
all Mentz was in motion by six o'clock ; and at
eight a procession was formed to the Cathedral,
which, if it was not much more imposing than
some of the processions of trades in London and
other cities, was conducted with a quiet precision
which evidenced that the people felt they were en-
gaged in a solemn act. The fine old Cathedral was
CO FESTIVAL AT MENTZ. Part I.
crowded ; the Bishop of Mentz performed high
M ;ISS ; the first Bible printed by Guttenberg was
displayed. What a field for reflection was here
opened ! The first Bible, in connexion with the
imposing pageantries of Roman Catholicism the
Bible, in great part a sealed book to the body of the
people ; the service of God in a tongue unknown
to the larger number of worshippers ; but that
first Bible the germ of millions of Bibles that have
spread the light of Christianity throughout all the
habitable globe ! The Mass ended, the procession
again advanced to the adjacent square, where the
statue was to be opened. Here was erected a vast
amphitheatre, where, seated under their respective
banners, were deputations from all the great cities
of Europe. Amidst salvos of artillery the veil was
removed from the statue, and a hymn was sung
by a thousand voices. Then came orations; then
dinners balls oratorios boat-races processions
by torchlight. For three days the population of
Mentz was kept in a state of high excitement ;
and the echo of the excitement went through Ger-
many, and Guttenberg ! Guttenberg ! was toasted
in many a bumper of Rhenish wine amidst this
cordial and enthusiastic people.
And, indeed, even in one who could not boast of
belonging to the land in which printing was in-
vented, the universality of the mighty effects of
this art, when rightly considered, would produce
almost a corresponding enthusiasm. It is difficult
to look upon the great changes that have been ef-
Chap. III. FESTIVAL AT MENTZ. 61
fected during the last four centuries, and which are
still in progress everywhere around us, and not con-
nect them with printing and with its inventor.
The castles on the Rhine, under whose ruins we
travelled back from Mentz, perished before the
powerful combinations of the people of the towns.
The petty feudal despots fell, when the burghers
had acquired wealth and knowledge. But the pro-
gress of despotism upon a larger scale could not
have been arrested had the art of Guttenberg not
discovered. The strongholds of military
rer still frown over the same majestic river.
The Rhine has seen its pretty fortresses crumble
into decay ; Ehrenbreitstein is more strong than
ever. But even Ehrenbreitstein will fall before
the power of mind. The Rhine is crowded with
steamboats, where the feudal lord once levied tri-
bute upon the frail bark of the fisherman ; and the
approaches to the Rhine from all Germany, and
from France and Belgium, have become a great
series of railroads. Such communications will make
war a game much more difficult to play ; and when
mankind are thoroughly civilized, it will never be
played again. Seeing, then, what intellect has
done and is doing, we may well venerate the me-
mory of Guttenberg of Mentz.
62 THE COURT OF BURGUNDY. Part I.
The Court of Burgundy Caxton a Translator Literature of Chivalry
Feudal Times Caxton at the Ducal Court Did Caxton print
at Bruges Edward the Fugitive The new Art.
THE " most dear " Duke of Burgundy, with whom
Caxton was appointed to negotiate in 1464, was
Philip, surnamed the Good. He was a wise and
peaceful prince, and honourably earned his title.
We know not whether Caxton was in immediate
attendance upon the court of Philip from the com-
mencement of his mission until the death of the
duke in 1 467 ; but the evidence is subsequently
clear that he was about the court in some office of
trust after the succession to the dukedom of the
eldest son of Philip, the Count of Charolois. The
character of this prince was entirely opposed to
that of his father ; and he acquired the name of
Charles le Te'me'raire, or the Rash. This fiery
prince, whose influence in that warlike age was
perhaps greater than the benignant . power of his
father, was not likely to have looked very favour-
ably upon an envoy from Edward of England : for
he was allied by blood on his mother's side to the
house of Lancaster, and was consequently opposed
to the fortunes of the house of York. The court
of Burgundy was the resort of many of the adher-
Chap. IV. THE COURT OF BURGUNDY. 63
ents of that unhappy house, who had fled from
England after many a vain struggle with the tri-
umphant Edward. These fugitives are described
by Comines " as young gentlemen whose fathers
had been slain in England, whom the Duke of
Burgundy had generously entertained as his rela-
tions of the house of Lancaster." Comines adds,
Some of them were reduced to such extremity of
mt and poverty before the Duke of Burgundy
reived them, that no common beggar could have
;n in greater ; I saw one of them, who was Duke
Exeter (but he concealed his name), following
le Duke of Burgundy's train bare-foot and bare-
jged, begging his bread from door to door : this
person was the next of the house of Lancaster ;
had married King Edward's sister : and being after-
wards known, had a small pension allowed him for
his subsistence. There were also some of the
family of the Somersets, and several others, all of
them slain since, in the wars." But the policy of
Charles of Burgundy, after his accession to the
dukedom, led him to consider the ties of ancient
friendship as of far less importance than the
strengthening of his hand by an alliance with the
successful house of York. Within a year of his
accession he married Margaret, sister of Edward
IV. Comines says this marriage "was principally
to strengthen his alliance against the king of
France, otherwise he would never have done it, for
the love he bore to the house of Lancaster." The
establishment of Margaret as Duchess of Burgundy
64 CAXTON A TRANSLATOR. Part I.
gave a direction to the fortunes of William Caxton,
and was in all likelihood the proximate cause that
he was our first English printer.
Margaret Plantagenet was married to Charles
of Burgundy at the city of Bruges, on the 3rd
of July, 1468. We have the distinct evidence of
Caxton that he was residing at Bruges some months
previous to the marriage ; that he had little to do ;
and that he employed his leisure in literary pur-
suits. In his ' Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye '
it is stated in the title-page, "which said transla-
tion and work was begun in Bruges, in the county
of Flanders, the first day of March, the year of the
Incarnation a thousand, four hundred, sixty and
eight." The prologue begins as follows : " When
I remember that every man is bounden by the com-
mandment and counsel of the wise man to eschew
sloth and idleness, which is mother and nourisher
of vices, and ought to put myself unto virtuous
occupation and business, then I, having no great
charge or occupation, following the said counsel,
took a French book and read therein many strange
marvellous histories, wherein I had great pleasure
and delight, as well for the novelty of the same, as
for the fair language of the French, which was in
prose so well and compendiously set and written,
methought I understood the sentence and substance
of every matter. And for so much as this book
was new and late made and drawn into French,
and never had seen it in our English tongue, I
thought in myself it should be a good business to
Chap. IV. CAXTOX A TRANSLATOR. 65
translate it into our English, to the end that it
might be had as well in the royaume of England
as in other lands, and also for to pass therewith the
time, and thus concluded in myself to begin this
said work, and forthwith took pen and ink, and
began boldly to run forth, as blind Bayard, in this
Philip de Comines, speaking of the prosperity of
the people at the time of the accession of Charles,
says, "The subjects of the house of Burgundy
lived at that time in great plenty and prosperity,
grew proud and wallowed in riches. . . . The
expenses and habits both of women and men were
great and extravagant ; their entertainments and
banquets more profuse and splendid than in any
other place that I ever saw." The city of Bruges
was then the great seat, of this wealth and luxury.
The Flemish nobles lived here in mansions of
striking architecture, some traces of which still
remain. The merchants vied with the nobles in
tasteful magnificence. The canals of Bruges were
crowded with boats laden with the richest treasures
of distant lands. It was commerce that made the
inhabitants of Bruges, of Ghent, and the other
great Flemish towns so rich and powerful ; and the
same commerce was the encourager of art, which
even at this early period displayed itself amongst
a people naturally disposed for its cultivation.
Charles the Rash destroyed much of this pros-
perity by his aptitude for war. But in the onset
of his career he fought with all the pomp and
60 LITERATURE OF CHIVALRY. Part I.
graces of the old chivalry, and his court was the
seat of such romantic pageantries that John Paston,
an Englishman who went over with Margaret of
York, writes, "As for the duke's court, as for
lords, ladies, and gentlewomen, knights, esquires,
and gentlemen, I heard never of none like to it save
King Arthur's court." It was here, without doubt,
that William Caxton, the yeoman's son of the
Weald of Kent, and afterwards the mercer's ap-
prentice of the city of London, acquired that love
for the literature of chivalry which he displays on
many occasions in his office of translator and printer.
Here he made acquaintances that led him to the
study of the romance-writers, as for example of a
worthy canon of whom he writes, " Oft times I
have been excited of the venerable man Messire
Henry Bolomyer canon of Lausanne, for to reduce
for his pleasure some histories, as well in Latin
and in romance as in other fashion written ; that
is to say, of the right puissant, virtuous, and noble
Charles the Great, King of France and Emperor
of Rome, son of the great Pepin, and of his princes
and barons, as Rowland, Oliver, and other." His
zeal for this species of literature left him not in his
latest years : for in his translation of ' The Book of
the Order of Chivalry,' which was printed by him
about 1484, he rises into absolute eloquence in his
address at the conclusion of the volume : " Oh, ye
knights of England, where is the custom and usage
of noble chivalry that was used in those days ?
What do ye now, but go to the baynes [baths] and
Chap. IV. LITERATURE OF CHIVALRY. 67
play at dice? And some, not well advised, use
not honest and good rule, against all order of
knighthood. Leave this, leave it ! and read the
noble volumes of St. Graal, of Lancelot, of Galaad,
of Trystram, of Perse Forest, of Percy val, of
Gawayn, and many more : there shall ye see man-
hood, courtesy, and gentleness. And look in latter
TS of the noble acts sith the Conquest, as in King
)hard days Cceur de Lion, Edward L, and
and his noble sons, Sir Robert Knolles, Sir
m Hawkwode, Sir John Chandos, and Sir
leltiare Manny. Read Froissart ; and also be-
Id that victorious and noble King Harry V.,
and the captains under him, his noble brethren
the earls of Salisbury, Montagu, and many other,
whose names shine gloriously by their virtuous
noblesse and acts that they did in the honour of
the order of chivalry. Alas, what do ye but sleep
and take ease, and are all disordered from chi-
valry ?" Caxton was dazzled, as many others were,
with the bravery and the generosity of the chival-
ric character. He did not see the cruelty and
pride, the oppression and injustice, that lurked be-
neath the glittering armour and the velvet mantle.
Yet he was amongst those who first helped to
destroy the gross inequality upon which chivalry
was founded, by raising up the middle classes to
the possession of knowledge. There were scenes
transacting at Bruges, even at the very hour when
Margaret of York came to give her hand to Charles
of Burgundy, that must have shown him what
68 FEUDAL TIMES. Part I.
fearful passions were too often the companions of
the courage and graces of knigthood.
At the midsummer of 1 468 Bruges presented a
scene of magnificence that was probably unequalled
in those days of costly display. On the occasion of
the approaching marriage, the nobility of Charles's
extensive dominions arrived from every quarter.
Ambassadors were there from all Christian powers.
It looked like an occasion on which men should
forget that there was such a thing as war in the
world ; and when despotism should put on its
blandest smile and its most courteous reverence
for all orders of men. The Duke of Burgundy
anxiously desired the presence of the Count de St.
Pol, the great Constable of France. The constable
arrived, surrounded with every pomp that his pride
could devise, with trumpets and banners, with
pages on foot and crowds of horsemen, and a naked
sword borne before him as the symbol of sove-
reignty. Charles was irritated beyond measure,
and refused to receive the great lord, who from
that hour became his deadliest enemy. But there
was something more tragic to be enacted in the
midst of a population looking only for high
triumphs and royal pleasures. One of the cham-
berlains of the Duke of Burgundy was an illegiti-
mate son of the Lord of Cond^ ; he was very
young, of exceeding beauty, and the most agreeable
manners. He had fought by the side of the duke
at the battle of Montlhe'ry, and was one of his
most especial favourites. The youth, with that
Chap. IV. FEUDAL TIMES. 69
ferocious self-abandonment which was not incom-
patible with the gentlest manners in courts and
the noblest honours in camps, committed a murder
under circumstances of extraordinary aggravation,
was playing at tennis, and, the fairness of a
ke being doubtful, a bystander was called upon
decide. Deciding against the Bastard of Conde',
young man swore that he would be revenged,
bystander, who was a canon of the church,
to his home, and the furious youth pursued
him. The canon escaped, but his brother encoun-
tered the madman. Some victim must be offered
up to appease his selfish rage, and the brother was
in his path. The wretched man fell on his knees,
and, clasping his hands, begged for mercy. Those
uplifted hands were cut off in an instant, and the
sword that had been honourably drawn at Mont-
Ihe'ry, pierced the breast of an unoffending citizen.
Such a murder could not pass unnoticed ; and yet
the young man's friends did not doubt that he
would go unpunished, for he had committed the
crime in his father's lordship. Such crimes were
often committed with impunity by the great and
the powerful ; and even the commonalty were un-
prepared to expect any heavier punishment than a
pecuniary recompense to the relations of the mur-
dered man. The duke, however, had taken his
determination. The Bastard of Conde was held in
arrest at the house of the gatekeeper of the city of
Bruges. Charles was solicited on every side for
pardon, and even the relations of the deceased,
70 FEUDAL TIMES. Part I.
having been moved by suitable presents, supplicated
his release ; but the duke kept the matter in
suspense till Bruges was filled with his subjects
from every part of his dominions, and especially
with the most powerful of his nobles. At the in-
stant that he was ready to depart to meet the Lady
Margaret at the neighbouring port of Ecluse, he
commanded that the young man should be taken
to the common prison, and the next morning led
to execution. Even the magistrate of the city to
whom this command was intrusted thought it impos-
sible that the duke should execute one so highly
connected, as if he were a common offender. The
execution was delayed several hours by the magis-
trate in the hope that the duke would relent ; but
no respite came. The youth was carried through
the city to the place of execution, amidst the tears
of the people, who forgot his crime in his beauty.
He was beheaded, and his body divided into four
quarters. The Lord of Conde and his adherents
left the city vowing vengeance. The nobles as-
sembled felt themselves outraged by this exercise
of absolute power. Even the citizens attributed the
stern decree of the duke to his indomitable pride
rather than to his love of justice. Such was the
prelude to the bridal festivities of the court of Bur-
gundy ; of which one who wrote an especial descrip-
tion in Latin says, " The sun never shone upon a
more splendid ceremony since the creation of the
There can be no doubt that Caxton was in the
Chap. IN'. CAXTOX AT THE DUCAL COURT. 71
direct employ of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy.
What he has told us himself of his position in her
court is far more interesting than all the conjec-
tures which his biographers have exercised upon the
matter. He was in an honourable position, he
was treated with confidence, he was grateful. We
have already given an extract from the prologue to
his * Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye,' which
shows when and under what circumstances he
commenced the translation of that work. Remem-
ring his simpleness and unperfectness in the
inch and English languages (which passage we
ive already noticed), he continues : " When all
jse things came before me, after that I had
made and written five or six quires, I fell in de-
spair of this work, and purposed no more to have
continued therein, and the quires laid apart ; and
in two years after laboured no more at this work,
and was fully in will to have left it. Till on a
time it fortuned that the right high, excellent, and
right virtuous princess, my right redoubted lady,
my Lady Margaret " and then he gives her a host
of titles "sent for me to speak with her good
grace of divers matters, among the which I let her
highness have knowledge of the aforesaid beginning
of this work ; which anon commanded me to shew
the said five or six quires to her said ^race. And
when she had seen them, anon she found defaute
[fault] in mine English, which she commanded
me to amend, and moreover commanded me
straightly [immediately] to continue and make an
72 CAXTON AT THE DUCAL COURT. Part I.
end of the residue then not translated. Whose
dreadful commandment I durst in no wise disobey,
because I am a servant unto her said grace, and
receive of her yearly fee, and other many good and
great benefits, and also hope many more to receive
of her highness : but forthwith went and laboured
in the said translation after my simple and poor
cunning, all so nigh as I can following mine author,
meekly beseeching the bounteous highness of my
said lady, that of her benevolence list to accept and
take in gree [take kindly] this simple and rude
work/' The picture which Caxton thus presents
to us of his showing his translation with an author's
diffidence to the " dreadful " duchess, her criticism
of his English, and her very flattering command
that in spite of all its faults he should make an
end of his work, is as interesting as Froissart's
account of his literary recreations with Gaston de
Foix : " The acquaintance of him and of me was
because I had brought with me a book, which I
made at the contemplation of Winceslaus of Bo-
hemia, Duke of Luxembourg and of Brabant,
which work was called ' Meliador,' containing all
the songs, ballads, rondeaux, and virelays which
the gentle duke had made in this time, which by
imagination I had gathered together : which book
the Count of Foix was glad to see. And every
night after supper I read therein to him ; and
while I read there was none durst speak any word,
because he would I should be well understood,
wherein he took great solace." In both cases the
Chap. IV. DID CAXTOX PRINT AT BRUGES ? 73
men of letters were received on a free and familiar
footing in the courtly circles. In the case of Cax-
ton this was even more honourable to the Lady
Margaret, than the welcome which Gaston de
Foix gave to the accomplished knight Sir John
Froissart. Caxton had no knightly honours to
recommend him ; he was a plain merchant : but
he was unquestionably a man of modesty and in-
telligence ; he had travelled much ; he was familiar
with the most popular literature of his day ; and
he desired to extend the knowledge of it by trans-
lations into his native language. It is difficult to
say what was his exact employment in the court
of the Lady Margaret. He was somewhat too old
, to partake of its light amusements, to mingle in its
gallantries, or even to prompt my lady's fool with
some word of wisdom. We have seen that four
months before Margaret of York came to Bruges
he had " no great charge or occupation," and he
undertook the translation of a considerable work
" for to pass therewith the time." It has, however,
been maintained of late years, that Caxton was at
this very time a printer. The question is a curious
one, and we may bestow a little space upon its ex-
Mr. Hallam, in his ' Literature of Europe,' notic-
ing the progress of printing, says thatsevT,-il books
were printed in Paris in 1470 ami 1471, adding,
" But there seem to be unquestionable proofs that
a still earlier specimen of typography is due to an
English printer, the famous Caxton. His ' Recueil
74 DID CAXTON PRINT AT BRUGES ? Part I.
des Histoires de Troye ' appears to have been
printed during the life of Philip, Duke of Bur-
gundy, and consequently before June 15, 1467.
The place of publication, certainly within the
duke's dominions, has not been conjectured. It
is, therefore, by several years the earliest printed
book in the French language. A Latin speech by
Russell, ambassador of Edward IV. to Charles of
Burgundy, in 1469, is the next publication of Cax-
ton. This was also printed in the Low Countries."
The authority upon which the learned and accom-
plished historian of the Middle Ages relies for this
statement is that of Mr. Dibdin, in his ' Typogra-
phical Antiquities.' The French edition of the
' Recueil des Histoires de Troye ' bears no printer's
name, date, or place. It purports to have been
composed by Raoul le Fevre, chaplain to Duke
Philip de Bourgoyne, in the year 1464. The evi-
dence that this book was printed by Caxton was
summed up by Mr. Bryant, and communicated by
him to Mr. Herbert, the first editor of Ames's
' Typographical Antiquities.' The Rev. Mr. Dib-
din, the second editor, says that these memoranda
of Mr. Bryant's " clearly prove it to have been the
production of Caxton." The argument rests upon
these points : that the French and English editions
of Le Fevre's work have an exact conformity and
likeness throughout, for not only the page itself,
but the number of lines in a page, the length,
breadth, and intervals of the lines, are alike in both,
and the letters, great and small, are of the same
Chap. IV. DID CAXTON PRINT AT BRUGES ? 75
magnitude. It corresponds too with ' The Game of
the Chess/ printed byCaxton in England, in 1474.
" These considerations," says Mr. Bryant, " settle
who the printer was." We venture to doubt this.
Mr. Bryant has himself shown how this resemblance
might be produced between books printed by Cax-
ton, and books supposed to be printed by him,
without Caxton being the actual printer. ic Mentz
was taken by the Duke of Saxony in the year 1462,
and most of the artificers employed by John Fust,
the great inventor, were dispersed abroad. I make
no doubt but Caxton, who was at no great distance
from Mentz, took this opportunity of making him-
self a master of the mystery, which he had been
at much trouble and expense to obtain. This I
imagine he effected by taking into pay some of
Fust's servants, and settling them for a time at
Cologne. Of this number probably were Pinson
and Rood, Mechlin, Lettou, and Wynkyn de Worde.
With the help of some of these, he printed the
book [which Wynkyn de Worde says Caxton
printed] ' Bartholomeus de Prop. Rerum,' and the
translation of the ' Recueil ;' and probably many
other books, which, being either in French or Latin,
were not vendible in our country, and consequently
no copies are extant here. Of all the books he
printed in England, I do not remember above one
in a foreign language." The calamity which drove
the printers of Mentz from their homes, the storm-
ing of the city by Adolphus of Nassau, would na-
turally disperse their types, as well as break up
76 DID CAXTON PRINT AT BRUGES ? Part I.
their workshops. The resemblance between the
doubtful books, and books undoubtedly printed by
Caxton, was the resemblance of types cast in the
same matrices ; the spaces between the lines, as
well as the form and magnitude of the letters, were
produced by the letters being cast in the same
mould. The resemblance would have been equally
produced whether the types were used by one and
the same printer, or by two printers. The typo-
graphical antiquarians say that the same types are
used in the French and English works of Le Fevre
and in Caxton's ' Game of Chess ;' and Mr. Her-
bert adds, that the types are the same as those
used by Fust and Schoeffer, the partners of Gutten-
berg. If the resemblance of types were sufficient
to determine the printer of two or more books, then
Fust and Schoeffer ought to be called the printers
of the French ' Recueil,' as well as of the English
translation which Caxton says he printed at
Cologne. There can be little doubt that, when
Caxton went to Cologne to be a printer in .1471,
he became possessed of the types and matrices with
which he printed his translation of Le Fevre, and
subsequently brought to England to print his
' Game of Chess.' Another printer might have
preceded him in their possession, and might have
received them direct from Fust and Schoeffer.
When the art ceased to be a mystery, a profit
might arise from selling the types or multiplying
the matrices. Upon these considerations we wholly
demur to the assertion, resting solely upon this
Chap. IV. DID CAXTON PRINT AT BRUGES ? 77
resemblance, that Caxton was a printer during the
life of Philip le Bon. The belief is entirely op-
posed to his own statement, that shortly after the
death of this prince he was completely at leisure,
and set about a translation to while away his time.
To be a printer in those days was a mighty under-
taking. We shall subsequently see that he de-
clares that he had practised and learnt the art at
great charge and expense. It is wholly unlikely,
also, that so gossiping a man, who makes a familiar
friend of his readers, telling them of almost every
circumstance that led to the printing of every book,
that he in his translation should not have said one
word of being the printer of the original work.
The other book, the Latin speech by Russell, in
1469, which has been called the second publication
of Caxton, is attributed to him absolutely upon no
other grounds than the same resemblance of type.
Assuredly we cannot receive the fact of resem-
blance as conclusive of Caxton being the printer
either in this case or in that of the preceding. He
tells us that in 1470 he was a servant receiving
yearly fee from the Duchess of Burgundy, and com-
pleted an extensive work at her command, which
he simply began " to eschew sloth and idleness,"
and to put himself " unto virtuous occupation and
business/' When he did fairly become a printer,
he left sufficiently clear indications of his habitual
industry. We have no question how he filled up
his time when the press at Westminster was at
78 EDWARD THE FUGITIVE. Part I.
It was in the autumn of 1470, when Master
William Caxton would appear to have been busily
labouring in some silent turret of the palace at
Bruges, upon his translation of Raoul le Fevre,
that an event occurred, of all others the most cal-
culated to spread consternation in the court of
Burgundy, and to make the bold duke feel' that in
abandoning his family alliance with the house of
Lancaster he had not done the politic thing which
he anticipated. Edward IV., who had sat for some
years with tolerable quiet upon the English throne,
to which he had fought his way in many a battle-
field with prodigious bravery, suddenly arrived at
Bruges, in the October of 1470, a discrowned fugi-
tive. He made his escape from the overwhelming
inroad of the power of Warwick, "attended,"
says Comines, "by seven or eight^hundred men
without any clothes but what they were to have
fought in, no money in their pockets, and not one
in twenty of them knew whither they were going."
He, the most beautiful man of the time, as Comines
describes him, who for twelve or thirteen years
of prosperity had lived a life of the most luxurious
gratification, he arrived at Bruges, after being
chased by privateers, and with difficulty rescued
from their hands, so poor that he " was forced to
give the master of the ship for his passage a gown
lined with martens." At Bruges, then, did this
fugitive remain nearly five months, when he again
leaped into his throne, in the following April, with
a triumphant boldness which has only one parallel
Chap. IV. EDWARD THE FUGITIVE. 79
in modern history, that of the march of Napoleon
from Elba. In May, 1471, he addressed a letter
in French to the nobles and burgomasters of
ges, thanking them for the courtesy and hospi-
ity he had received from them during his exile.
wawl was of a sanguine temper ; and, however
re'sired in fortune, was not likely, during those
e months of humiliation, to have doubted that in
good time he should regain the throne. He was
f an easy and communicative disposition ; and
uld naturally confer with his sister and her con-
ential servants upon his plans and prospects,
nos says, " King Edward told me that, in all
the battles which he had gained, his way was, when
the victory was on his side, to mount on horseback,
and cry out to save the common soldiers, and put
the gentry to the sword/' We mention this to
show that he was not indisposed to talk of himself
and his doings with those whom he met during his
exile. It is more than probable, then, that he had
the same sort' of free' communication with his
countryman Caxton. It was at this period that
the progress of the art of printing must have been
a subject of universal interest. The merchants of
Bruges had commercial intercourse with .ill the
countries of Europe ; and they would naturally
bring to the court of Burgundy some specimens of
that art which was already beginning to create a
new description of commerce. From Mentz, Bam-
berg, Cologne, Strasburg, and Augsburg, they
would bring some of the Latin and German bibles
80 THE NEW ART. Part I.
which, from 1461 to 1470, had issued from the
presses of those cities. The presses of Italy, and
especially of Rome, of Venice, and of Milan, had,
during the same period, sont forth books, and more
particularly classical worLs, in great abundance.
The art had made such rapid progress in Italy,
that in the first edition of St. Jerome's Epistles,
printed in 1468. the Bishop of Aleria thus addresses
Pope Paul II. : "It was reserved for the times of
your holiness for the Christian world to be blessed
with the immense advantages resulting from the
art of printing ; by means of which, and with a
little money, the poorest person may collect toge-
ther a few books. It is a small testimony of the
glory of your holiness, that the volumes which
formerly scarcely an hundred golden crowns would
purchase may now be procured for twenty and
less, and these well- written and authentic ones."
It is pretty clear that Caxton, when he began his
translation of the ' Histories of Troye,' had some
larger circulation in view than could be obtained
by the medium of transcription : "I thought in
myself it should be a good business to translate it
into our English, to the end that it might be had
as well in the royaume of England as in other
lands/' It is also probable that he was moving
about in search of the best mode of printing it ;
for he says, at the end of the second book of the
6 Recueil,' "And for as much as I suppose the said
two books be not had before this time in our
English language, therefore I had the better will
Chap. IV. THE NEW ART. 81
to accomplish the said work ; which work was
begun in Bruges, and continued in Gaunt [Ghent],
and finished in Cologne, in time of the troublous
world, and of the great divisions being ' nd reign-
ing as well in the royauntes of England aild France
as in all other places universally through the world,
that is to wit, the year of our Lord one thousand,
four hundred, and seventy- one." But he further
says, with reference to his translation of the third
book, which he doubted about doing, " because that
I have now good leisure, being in Cologne, and
have none other thing to do at this time in eschew-
ing of idleness, mother of all vices, I have delibe-
rated in myself of the contemplation of my said
redoubted lady, to take this labour in hand." We
shall presently see when Caxton became, or at any
rate avowed himself to have become, a printer.
Up to this point we see him only as a translator, a
man of leisure, and not one learning a new and
difficult craft. But we see him moving about from
Bruges to Ghent, from Ghent to Cologne, without
any distinct or specified object. There can be little
doubt, we believe, that he was endeavouring to
make himself acquainted with the new art, still in
great measure a secret art, the masters of which
required to be approached with considerable cau-
tion. That the presence of Edward IV. in Flan-
ders, during a period when Caxton might readily
have had access to his person, might have led him
to believe that the time would come when, under
the patronage of the restored prince, he might carry
82 THE NEW ART. Part I.
the art to London, is not an improbable conjecture.
Amongst the companions of Edward's exile was
his brother-in-law, the celebrated Lord Rivers.
This brave and accomplished young nobleman sub-
sequently translated a book called ' The Dictes and
Sayings of Philosophers/ which Caxton printed at
Westminster, in 1477. The printer has added an
appendix to this translation, from which we collect
that the noble author and his literary printer were
upon terms of mutual confidence and regard : " At
such time as he had accomplished this said work,
it liked him to send it to me in certain quires to
oversee And so afterward I came unto my
said lord, and told him how I had read and seen
his book, and that he had done a meritorious deed
in the labour of the translation thereof.
Then my said lord desired me to oversee it, and,
where as I should find fault, to correct it, wherein
I answered unto his lordship that I could not
amend it Notwithstanding he willed me
to oversee it." Earl Rivers, then Lord Scales, was
also at Bruges upon the occasion of the Lady Mar-
garet's marriage. Employed, therefore, by the
Duchess of Burgundy, the sister of Edward IV.,
and honoured with the confidence of Earl Rivers,
his brother-in-law, we may reasonably believe that
the presence of Edward at Bruges in 1470-71
might have had some influence upon the determi-
nation of Caxton to learn and practise the new art
of printing, and to carry it into England, if the
" troublous times" could afford him occasion. We
Chap. IV. THE NEW ART. 83
have distinct evidence that Edward IV. gave a
marked encouragement to the labours of Caxton
as a translator, in a book printed by him without
any date, ' The Life of Jason,' written, as were the
' Histories of Troy,' by Raoul le Fevre, in which
Caxton says in his prologue, " For as much as late
by the commandment of the right high and noble
princess my Lady Margaret, &c., I translated a
book out of French into English, named ' Recueil/
&c Therefore, under the protection and
sufferance of the most high, puissant, and Christian
king, my most dread natural liege, Lord Edward,
&c., I intend to translate the said book of the 'His-
tories of Jason.' " The expression " for as much as
late by the commandment, &c./' brings the date of
the ' Histories of Jason' close to that of the ' His-
tories of Troy/ and points out the probability
that the protection and sufferance of Edward was
afforded to Caxton when the king was a fugitive at
the court of Burgundy. In the ' Issues of the Ex-
chequer/ there is the following entry of a payment
on the 15th of June, in the 19th of Edward IV.,
" To William Caxton, in money paid to his own
hands, in discharge of twenty pounds which the
lord the king commanded to be paid to the same
William for certain causes and matters performed
by him for the said lord the king/' This is eight
years after the period of Edward's exile, being in
1479. But as the productions of Caxton's press
were very prolific at this time, we may believe
that the payment of such a large sum for certain
84 THE NEW ART. Part I.
causes and matters performed for the king was
in some degree connected with his labours in
the introduction of printing into England, a
payment not improbably postponed for obliga-
tions incurred, and promises granted, at an earlier
Chap. V. RAPIDITY OF PRINTING. 85
Rapidity of Printing; Who the first English Printer Caxt on the
first English Printer First English Printed Book Difficulties
of the first Printers Ancient Bookbinding The Printer a
Publisher Conditions of Cheapness in Books.
AT the end of the third book of Caxton's transla-
tion of the ' Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye,'
which we have so often quoted, is the following
most curious passage : " Thus end I this book,
which I have translated after mine author, as nigh
as God hath given me cunning, to whom be given
the laud and praises. And for as much as in the
writing of the same my pen is worn, mine hand
weary and not stedfast, mine eyen dimmed with
overmuch looking on the white paper, and my
courage not so prone and ready to labour as it hath
been, and that age creepeth on me daily and
feebleth all the body ; and also because I have
promised to divers gentlemen and to my friends to
address to them as hastily as I might this said
book, therefore I have practised and learned, at
my great charge and dispense [expense], to ordain
this said book in print, after the manner and form
as you may here see ; and is not written with pen
and ink as other books are, to the end that every
man may have them at once. For all the books
of this story named the * Recuyell of the Historyes
of Troye/ thus imprinted as ye here see, were be-
86 RAPIDITY OF PRINTING. Part I.
gun in one day, and also finished in one day.
Which book I presented to my said redoubted lady
as afore is said, and she hath well accepted it and
largely rewarded me." It was customary for the
first printers, which is not according to the belief
that they wanted to palm their printed books off as
manuscripts, to state that they were not drawn or
written with a pen and ink. Udalricus Gallus,
who printed at Rome about 1470, says, "I, Udal-
ricus Gallus, without pen or pencil have imprinted
this book/' But he further says of himself at the
end of one of his books, "I printed thus much
in a day ; it is not written in a year." It has been
held that Caxton uses a purely marvellous and
hyperbolical mode of expression, when he says,
'' All the books of this story, thus imprinted as
ye here see, were begun in one day and finished
in one day/' Dr. Dibdin inquires what Caxton
meant u by saying that the book was begun and
finished in one day ? Did he wish his countrymen
to believe that the translation of Le Fevre's book
was absolutely printed in twenty-four hours ?" Dr.
Dibdin truly holds the thing to be impracticable,
because the book consisted of seven hundred and
seventy-eight folio pages. Such feats have been
done with the large capital and division of labour
of modern times ; but to begin and finish such a
book in one day in the fifteenth century was cer-
tainly an impossibility. We venture to think that
Caxton says nothing of the sort. He puts with
great force and justice the chief advantages of
Chap. V. RAPIDITY OF PRINTING. 87
printing, the rapidity with which many copies
could be produced at once. He promised, he says,
to divers gentlemen and friends to address to them
hastily as he might this book. There were
who wanted the book. The transcribers
Id not supply their wants. He could not mul-
ly copies himself with his pen, for his hand was
and his eyes dim. He learned, therefore, to
ordain the book in print, to the end that all his
iends might have the books at the same time,
it every man might have them at once ; and to
>lain this, he says, all the books thus imprinted
re begun in one day. If he printed a hundred
)ies, each of the hundred copies was begun at the
line time ; a hundred sheets, each sheet forming
a portion of each copy, 'were printed off in one
day, and in the same way were they also finished
in one day. He does not say, as Dr. Dibdin in-
terprets the passage, that the book was begun and
finished in one day, one and the same day, but
that all the books were begun on one day. and all
the books were finished on another day. His ex-
pression is not very clear, but his meaning is quite
apparent. This was the end that he sought to
obtain at great charge and expense ; this is the
end which has been more and more obtained at
every step forward in the art of printing, the
rapid multiplication of copies, so that all men may
have them at once.
The place where Caxton learned the art of
printing, and the persons of whom he first learned
88 WHO THE FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER. Part I.
it, are not shown in any of his voluminous pro-
logues and prefaces. But an extraordinary state-
ment was published in the year 1664, by a person
of the name of Kichard Atkyns, who sought to
prove that printing was a royal prerogative, be-
cause, as he says, the art was first brought into Eng-
land at the cost of the crown. His narrative is
held to be altogether a fiction ; for the document
upon which he rests it was never forthcoming, and
no person has ever testified to the knowledge of it,
except Richard Atkyns himself, who laboured hard
to obtain a patent from the crown for the sole print-
ing of law-books, upon the ground which he at-
tempts to take of the crown having brought printing
into England. " Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop
of Canterbury, moved the then king, Henry VI., to
use all possible means for procuring a printing-
mould, for so it was then called, to be brought into
this kingdom. The king, a good man, and much
given to works of this nature, readily hearkened
to the motion ; and taking private advice how to
effect this design, concluded it could not be brought
about without great secrecy, and a considerable
sum of money given to such person or persons as
would draw off some of the workmen from Haar-
lem in Holland, where John Guttenberg had newly
invented it, and was himself personally at work.
It was resolved that less than one thousand marks
would not produce the desired effect : towards
which sum the said archbishop presented the king
with three hundred marks. The money being
Chap. V. WHO THE FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER. 89
now prepared, the management of the design was
committed to Mr. Kobert Tumour, who then was
keeper of the robes to the king, and a person most
in favour with him of any of his condition. Mr.
Tumour took to his assistance Mr. Caxton, a citizen
of good abilities, who, trading much into Holland,
might be a creditable pretence, as well for his
going as staying in the Low Countries. Mr. Tur-
nour was in disguise, his beard and hair shaven
quite off, but Mr. Caxton appeared known and pub-
lic. They having received the sum of one thousand
marks, went first to Amsterdam, then to Leyden,
not daring to enter Haarlem itself; for the town
was very jealous, having imprisoned and appre-
hended divers persons, who came from other parts
for the same purpose. They stayed till they had
spent the whole one thousand marks in gii\
expenses. So as the king was fain to send five
hundred marks more, Mr. Tumour having written
to the king that he had almost done his work, a
bargain, as he said, being struck between him and
two Hollanders for bringing off one of the work-
men, who should sufficiently discover and teach
the new art. At last, with much ado, they got off one
of the under workmen, whose name was Frederick
Corsells, or rather Corsellis ; who late one night
stole from his fellows in disguise, into a vessel
prepared before for that purpose ; and so the wind,
favouring the design, brought him safe to London.
It was not thought so prudent to set him on work
at London, but by the archbishop's means, who
90 WHO THE FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER. Part I.
had been Vice-chancellor and afterwards Chancellor
of the University of Oxon, Corsellis was carried
with a guard to Oxon, which constantly watched
to prevent Corsellis from any possible escape, till
he had made good his promise, in teaching how to
print. So that at Oxford printing was first set up
in England." This is certainly an extraordinary
story, and one which upon the face of it has traces
of inconsistency, if not of imposture. Richard
Atkyns says that a certain worthy person "did
present me with a copy of a record and manuscript
in Lambeth House, heretofore in his custody, be-
longing to the See, and not to any particular Arch-
bishop of Canterbury. The substance whereof was
this ; though I hope, for public satisfaction, the
record itself in its due time will appear/' The re-
cord itself did never appear, and, though diligently
sought for, could never be found. But Atkyns
further stated that the same most worthy person
who gave him the copy of the record, trusted him
with a book "printed at Oxon, A.D. 1468, which
was three years before any of the recited authors
[Stow and others] would allow it [printing] to be
in England." He does not mention the book ; but
there is such a book, and it is entitled ' Expositio
Sancti Teronimi in Simbolum, ad Papam Lauren-
tiam ;' and at the end, ' Explicit Expositio, &c., Im-
pressa Oxonie, et finita Anno Dom. MCCCCLXVIII,
xvii die Decembris/ Anthony Wood repeats the
story of Atkyns in his ' History of the University
of Oxford ;' and he adds, "And thus the mystery
Chap. V. WHO THE FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER. 91
of printing appeared ten years sooner in the Univer-
sity of Oxford than at any other place in Europe,
Haarlem and Mentz excepted. Not long after there
were presses set up in Westminster, St. Albans,
Worcester, and other monasteries of note. After
this manner printing was introduced into England,
by the care of Archbishop Bourchier, in the year
Christ 1464, and the third of King Edward IV."
ood's version of the story makes it a little, a very-
tie, more credible, for it brings it nearer to the
e when the newly discovered art of printing
ight have attracted some attention in England.
t even in 1464 there were, with scarcely more
than one exception, no printed books known in
Europe but the first productions of the press at
Mentz. The story of Caxton going to Haarlem in
the time of Henry the Sixth, that is, in some year
previous to 1461, must altogether be a fabrication,
or a mistake. The accounts that would ascribe
the invention of printing to Laurence Coster, of
Haarlem, set up a legendary story that John
Fust, or John Guttenberg (not the real Gutten-
berg, but an elder brother), stole the invention
from Coster and carried it to Mentz in 1442. If
Caxton, therefore, went to Haarlem in Holland,
with a companion, in disguise, to learn the art of
printing, he must have gone there before 1442 ; for
the story holds that Coster was not only robbed of
his secret, but of his types, and gave up printing in
despair to his more fortunate spoiler. Bourchier
was not Archbishop of Canterbury till 1454, We
92 WHO THE FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER. Part I.
may be sure, therefore, that, wherever Caxton went
to learn the art of printing at an earlier period than
is generally supposed, he did not go to Haarlem in
Holland. Substitute Mentz for Haarlem, and
Atkyns's story is more consistent. It is by no
means improbable that Henry the Sixth and Car-
dinal Bourchier might have seen the magnificent
Latin bible, called the Mazarine bible, which was
printed by Guttenberg, Schoeffer, and Fust, and is
held to have appeared about 1455. Of this noble
book Mr. Hallam says, "It is a very striking cir-
cumstance, that the high-minded inventors of this
great art tried at the very outset so bold a flight
as the printing an entire bible, and executed it
with astonishing success. It was Minerva leaping
on earth in her divine strength and radiant armour,
ready at the moment of her nativity to subdue and
destroy her enemies." The king and the arch-
bishop might have desired that England should
learn the art of executing so splendid a work as
the first bible. At that period we know that Cax-
ton was residing abroad, and he was a fit person to
be selected for such a commission. But kings at
that day were scarcely better supplied with money
than their subjects ; and if Henry the Sixth had
sent to Mr. Robert Tumour or Mr. William Cax-
ton seven hundred marks at one time and five
hundred at another, the gifts must have been re-
gistered with all due formality. We have the
Exchequer registers of Henry the Sixth and his
great rival ; and although we learn that Edward
Chap. V. CAXTOX THE FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER. 93
the Fourth gave Caxton twenty pounds, neither his
name nor that of Mr. Tumour, nor even of the
archbishop, is associated with any bounty of Henry
le Sixth. We may, therefore, safely conclude,
rith Dr. Conyers Middleton, with regard to all
lis story, that " Mr. Atkyns, a bold vain man,
might be the inventor of it, having an interest in
imposing upon the world, to confirm his argument
that printing was of the prerogative royal, in op-
position to the stationers ; against whom he was en-
gaged in expensive lawsuits, in defence of the king's
patents, under which he claimed some exclusive
powers of printing/' The date of 1468 on the
Oxford book is reasonably concluded to have been
a typographical error. There are niceties in the
printing of that book which did not belong to the
earliest stages of the art ; and the same type and
manner of printing are seen in Oxford books
printed immediately after 1478. The probability
therefore is, that an X was omitted in the Roman
We could scarcely avoid detailing this story,
apocryphal as the whole matter is upon the face of
it, because the claims of Oxford to the honour of
the first printing-press were once the subject of a
fierce controversy. The honest antiquarian Oldys
complains most bitterly of Richard Atkyns, " How
unwarrantably he robbed Master Caxton of the
honour, wherewith he had long been, by the
suffrage of all learned men, undeniably invested,
of first introducing and practising this most scien-
94 CAXTOX THE FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER. Part I.
tifical invention among us/' But had this story
been true, Caxton would not have been robbed of
his glory. He would still have been what Leland,
writing within half a century of his death, calls
him, u Angliae Prototypographus " the first printer
of England. For it is not the man who is the
accidental instrument of introducing a great inven-
tion, and then pursues it no further, who is to have
the fame of its promulgation. It is he who by
patient and assiduous labour acquires the mastery
of a new principle, sees afar off the high objects to
which it may be applied, carries out its details
with persevering courage, is not deterred by failure
nor satisfied with partial success, works for a great
purpose through long years of anxiety, is careless
of honours or rewards, and finally does accomplish
all and much more than he proposed, planting the
tree, training it, rejoicing in its good fruit, he it
is that is the real first introducer and practiser of a
great scientific invention, even though some one
may have preceded him in some similar attempt
an experiment, but not a perfect work. We may
well believe that, for some ten years of his residence
abroad, the knowledge that a new art was dis-
covered, promising such mighty results as that of
printing, must have excited the deepest interest in
the mind of Caxton. He says himself, in his con-
tinuation of the Polychronicon, " About this time
 the craft of imprinting was first found in
Mogunce in Almayne." During his residence at
the court of Burgundy he would see the art multi-
Chap. V. CAXTOX THE FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER. 95
plying around him. Italy, where it most exten-
sively flourished before 1-470, was too distant for
his personal inspection. Bamberg, Augsburg, and
Strasburg brought it nearer to him. But Cologne,
where Conrad Winters set up a press about 1470,
was very near at hand. A few days' journey would
)lace him within the walls of the holy city of the
thine. Cologne, we have no doubt, fixed the em-
loyment of the remainder of his life ; and made
London mercer, whose name, like the names
many other good and respectable men, would
ive held no place in the memory of the world
for the art he learnt in his latter years,
Cologne rendered the name of Caxton a bright and
venerable name ; a name that even his country-
men, who are accustomed chiefly to raise columns
and statues to the warlike defenders of their coun-
try, will one day honour amongst the heroes who
have most successfully cultivated the arts of peace,
and by high talent and patient labour have ren-
dered it impossible that mankind should not steadily
advance in the acquisition of knowledge and virtue,
and in the consequent amelioration of the lot of
every member of the family of mankind, at some
period, present or remote.
The provost of the city of Mentz, on the occasion
of the festival of Guttenberg, published an address
full of German enthusiasm, at which we may be
apt to smile, but which breathes a spirit of re-
verence for the higher concerns of our being which
we might profitably engraft upon the practical
96 CAXTOX THE FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER. Part I.
good sense on which we pride ourselves. He says,
" If the mortal who invented that method of fixing
the fugitive sounds of words which we call the alpha-
bet has operated upon mankind like a divinity, so
also -has Guttenberg's genius brought together the
once isolated inquirers, teachers, and learners all
the scattered and divided efforts for extending
God's kingdom over the whole civilized earth as
though beneath one temple. Guttenberg's inven-
tion, not a lucky accident, but the golden fruit of a
well-considered idea an invention made with a
perfect consciousness of its end has above all
other causes, for more than four centuries, urged
forward and established the dominion of science ;
and what is of the most importance, has immea-
surably advanced the mental formation and educa-
tion of the people. This invention, a true intel-
lectual sun, has mounted above the horizon, first of
the European Christians, and then of the people of
other climes and other faiths, to an ever-enduring
morning. It has made the return of barbarism,
the isolation of mankind, the reign of darkness,
impossible for all future times. It has established
a public opinion, a court of moral judicature com-
mon to all civilized nations, whatever natural divi-
sions may separate them, as much as for the
provinces of one and the same state. In a word, it
has formed fellow labourers at the never-resting
loom of Christian European civilization in every
quarter of the world, in almost every island of the
Chap. V. FIRST ENGLISH PRINTED BOOK. 97
Filled with some such strong belief, although
perhaps a vague belief, of the blessings which print-
ing might bestow upon his own country, we may
view William Caxton proceeding, about the end
of 1470, to the city of Cologne, resolved to acquire
the art of which he had seen some of the effects,
without stint of labour or expense. That he was
an apt and diligent scholar his after works abun-
The first book printed in the English language,
the ' Recueil of the Histories of Troy/ which we
have so often noticed, does not bear upon the face
of it when and where it was printed. That it was
printed by Caxton we can have no doubt, because
he says, " I have practised and learned, at my
great charge and dispense, to ordain this said book
in print." He tells us, too, in the title-page, that
the translation was finished at Cologne, in Sep-
tember, 1471. That Caxton printed at Cologne
we have tolerably clear evidence. There is a most
curious book of Natural History, originally written
in Latin by Bartholomew Glanvill, a Franciscan
friar of the fourteenth century, commonly known
as Bartholomaeus. A translation of this book,
which is called ' De Proprietatibus Reruin/ was
printed in England by Wynkyn de Worde, who
was an assistant to Caxton in his printing-office at
Westminster, and there succeeded to him. In
some quaint stanzas which occur in this edition,
and which appear to be written either by or in the
name of the printer, are these lines, which we
98 FIRST ENGLISH PRINTED BOOK. Part I.
copy, in the first instance, exactly following the
orthography and non-punctuation of the original :
" And also of your charyte call to remerobraunce
The soule of William Caxton first prytpr of this boke
Jn laten tonge at Coleyn hyself to auauce
That euery well disposyd man may theron loke."
That we are asked to call to remembrance the soul
of William Caxton is perfectly clear ; but how are
we to read the subsequent members of the sentence ?
The most obvious meaning appears to be that
William Caxton was the first printer of this book
in the Latin tongue ; that he printed it at Cologne ;
and that his object in printing it was to advance or
profit himself, in addition to his desire that every
well-disposed man might look upon it. But there
is another interpretation of these words, which is
certainly not a forced one ; that William Caxton
was the first printer of this book, the English
book, and that the object of his printing it was to
advance himself in the Latin tongue at Cologne.
"This book " would appear then to be, this English
book, this same book. If a copy of this book,
whether in Latin or English, printed at Cologne,
at so early a period, could be found, the question
would be set at rest. There is a Latin edition
printed at Cologne, in 1481, by John KoelhofF;
and there is an edition in Latin without date or
place. The first English edition known is that by
Wynkyn de Worde, and that translation was made
much earlier than the time of Caxton, by John de
Trevisa. Caxton could scarcely have been said to
Chap. V. PIFI- ItTLTIES OF THE FIRST PRINTERS. 99
have desired to have advanced himself in the Latin
tongue, unless he had translated the book as well
as printed it. The mere fact of superintending
workmen who set up the types in Latin would have
done little to advance his knowledge of the lan-
guage. We believe, therefore, that we must re-
ceive the obscure lines of Wynkyn de Worde as
evidence that Caxton did print at Cologne, and
that he undertook the Latin edition of Bartholo-
maeus as a commercial speculation, "himself to ad-
vance/' or profit.
And, indeed, when we look at the state of Eng-
land after the return of Edward IV. from his exile,
the " great divisions " of which Caxton himself
speaks, we may consider that he acted with dis-
cretion in conducting his first printing operations
in a German city. It must be also borne in mind
that this was by far the readiest mode to obtain a
competent knowledge in the new art. Had he
come over to England with types and presses, and
even with the most skilful workmen, the probability
is that the man of letters who, two or three years
before, had little or nothing to do in his attendance
upon the Burgundian court, would have ill suc-
ceeded in so complicated and difficult a commercial
enterprise. Lambinet, a French bibliographical
writer, tells us that Melchior de Stamham, wishing
to establish a printing-office at Augsburg, engaged
a skilful workman of the same town, of the name of
Saueiioch. Pie employed a whole year in making
the necessary preparations for his office. He
100 DIFFICULTIES OF THE FIRST PRINTERS. Part I.
bought five presses, of the materials of which he
constructed five other presses. He cast pewter
types, and, having spent a large sum, seven hundred
and two florins, in establishing his office, began
working in 1473. He died before he had com-
pleted one book ; heartbroken, probably, at the
amount of capital he had sunk ; for his unfinished
book was sold off at a mere trifle, and his office
broken up. This statement, which rests upon some
ancient testimony, shows us something of the diffi-
culties which had to be encountered by the early
printers. They had to do everything for them-
selves ; to construct the materials of their art,
types, presses, and every other instrument and ap-
pliance. "When Caxton began to print at Cologne,
he probably had the means of obtaining a set of
moulds from some previous printer, what are
called strikes from the punches that form the ori-
ginal matrices. The writers upon typography seem
to assume the necessity of every one of the old
printers cutting his punches anew, and shaping his
letters according to his own notions of propor-
tionate beauty. That the great masters of their
art, the first inventors, the Italian printers, the
Alduses, the Stephen ses, pursued this course is per-
fectly clear. But when printing ceased to be a
mystery, about 1462, it is more than probable that
those who tried to set up a press, especially in Ger-
many, either bought a few types of the more es-
tablished printers, or obtained a readier means of
casting types than that of cutting new punches,
Chap. V. DIFFICULTIES OF THE FIRST PRINTERS. 101
a difficult and expensive operation. Thus we be-
lieve the attempts to assign a book without a
printer's name to some printer whose types that
book resembles, can be little relied upon. Caxton's
types are held to be like the type of this printer
and the type of that ; and it is said that he copied
the types, with the objection added that he did not
copy the best models. What should have pre-
vented him buying the types from the continent,
as every English printer did until the middle of
the last century ? or at any rate what should have
prevented him buying copies of the moulds which
other printers were using? The bas-relief upon
Thorwaldsen's statue of Guttenberg exhibits the
first printer examining a matrix. But all the dif-
ficulties in the formation of the first matrix over-
come, we may readily see that, at every stage, the
art of making fusile types would become easier and
simpler, till at length the division of labour should
be perfectly applied to type-making, and the mere
casting of a letter, as each letter is cast singly, ex-
hibit one of the most rapid and beautiful pieces of
handiwork that the arts can show.
But the type obtained, Caxton would still have
much to do before his office was furnished. We
have seen how Melchior of Augsburg set about
getting his presses : " He bought of John Schues-
seler five presses, which cost him seventy-three
Rhenish florins : he constructed with these mate-
rials five other smaller presses." To those who
know what a well-adjusted machine the commonest
102 DIFFICULTIES OF THE FIRST PRINTERS. Part I.
printing-press now in use is, it is not easy at first
to conceive what is meant by saying that Melchior
bought five presses, and made five other presses out
of the materials. The solution is this : in all pro-
bability this printer of Augsburg bought five old
wine-presses, and, using the screws, cut them down
and adapted them to the special purpose for which
he designed them. The earliest printing-press was
nothing more than a common screw-press, such
as a cheese-press, or a napkin-press, with a con-
trivance for running the form, of types under the
screw after the form was inked. It is evident that
this mode of obtaining an impression must have
been very laborious and very slow. As the screw
must have come down upon the types with a dead
pull, that is, as the table upon which the types
were placed was solid and unyielding, great care
must have been required to prevent the pressure
being so hard as to injure the face of the letters.
A famous printer, Jodocus Badius Ascensianus,
has exhibited his press in the title-page of a book
printed by him in 1498. Up to the middle of the
last century this rude press was in use in England ;
although the press of an ingenious Dutch mechanic,
Blaew, in which the pressure was rapidly com-
municated from the screw to the types, and all the
parts of the press were yielding so as to produce a
sharp but not a crushing impression, was gradually
superseding it. The early printers manufactured
their own ink, so that Caxton had to learn the art
of ink-making. The ink was applied to the types
Chap. V. DIFFICULTIES OF THE FIRST PRINTERS. 103
by balls, or dabbers, such as one of the men holds
who is working the press of Badius. Such dabbers
were universally used in printing forty years ago.
As the ancient weaver was expected to make his
own loom, so, even this short time since, the
division of labour was so imperfectly applied to
printing, that the pressman was expected to make
his own balls. A very rude and nasty process this
was. The sheepskins, called pelts, were prepared
in the printing-office, where the wool with which
they were stuffed was also carded ; and these balls,
thus manufactured by a man whose general work
was entirely of a different nature, required the ex-
penditure of at least half an hour's labour every
day in a very disagreeable operation, by which they
were kept soft.
There were many other little niceties in the
home construction of the materials for printing
which Caxton would necessarily have to learn.
But in the earlier stages of an art requiring such
nice arrangement, both in the departments of the
compositor, or setter-up of the type, and of the
pressman, it is quite clear that many things which,
by the habit of four centuries, have become familiar
and easy in a printing-office, would be exceedingly
difficult to be acquired by the first printers. Rapidity
in the work was probably out of the question. Ac-
cidents must constantly have occurred in wedging
up the single letters tightly in pages and sheets ;
and when one looks at the regularity of the inking
of these old books, and the beautiful accuracy with
DIFFICULTIES OF THE FIRST PRINTERS. Part I.
which the line on one side of a page falls on the
corresponding line on the other side (called by
printers " register"), we maybe sure that with very
imperfect mechanical means an amount of care was
taken in working off the sheets which would appear
ludicrous to a modern pressman. The higher
operation of a printing-office, which consists in
reading the proofs, must have been in the first
instance full _of embarrassment and difficulty. A
scholar was doubtless employed to test the accuracy
Chap. V. AXCIEXT BOOKBINDING. 105
of the proofs ; probably some one who had been
previously employed to overlook the labours of the
transcribers. Fierce must have been the indigna-
tion of such a one during a course of painful ex-
perience, when he found one letter presented for
another, letters and even syllables and words
omitted, letters topsy-turvy, and even actual sub-
stitutions of one word for another. These are al-
ost unavoidable consequences of the mechanical
ration of arranging moveable types, so entirely
different from the work of the transcriber. The
corrector of the press would not understand this ;
and his life would not be a pleasant one. Caxton
was no doubt the corrector of his own press ; and
well for him it was that he brought to his task the
patience, industry, and good temper which are
manifest in his writings.
But the ancient printer had something more to
do before his manufacture was complete. He was
a bookbinder as well as a printer. The ancient
books, manuscript as well as printed, were wonder-
ful specimens of patient labour. The board, literally
a wooden board, between which the leaves were
fastened, was as thick as the panel of a door. This
was covered with leather, sometimes embossed with
the most ingenious devices. There were large brass
nails, with ornamented heads, on the outside of
this cover, with magnificent corners to the lids. In
addition, there were clasps. The back was ren-
dered solid with paste and glue, so as to last for
centuries. Erasmus says of such a book, "As for
106 THE PRINTER A PUBLISHER. Parti.
Thomas Aquinas's Secunda Secundae, no man can
carry it about, much less get it into his head."
An ancient woodcut shows us the binder hammer-
ing at the leaves to make them flat, and a lad sew-
ing the leaves in a frame very like that still in use.
Above are the books flying in the air in all their
But the most difficult labour of the ancient
printer, and that which would necessarily consti-
tute the great distinction between one printer and
another, was yet to come. He had to sell his
books when he had manufactured them, for there
was no division of the labour of publisher and
printer in those days. His success would of course
much depend upon the quality of his books ; upon
their adaptation to the nature of the demand for
books ; upon their accuracy ; upon their approach
to the beauty of the old manuscripts. But he had
to incur the risk common to all copying processes,
whether the thing produced be a medal or a book,
of expending a large certain sum before a single
copy could be produced. The process of printing,
compared with that of writing, is a cheap process
as ordinarily conducted ; but the condition of
cheapness is this, that a sufficient number of
copies of any particular book may be reckoned
upon as saleable, so as to render the proportion of
the first expense upon a single copy inconsiderable.
If it were required even at the present time to
print a single copy, or even three or four copies
only, of any literary work, the cost of printing
Chap. V. CONDITIONS OF CHEAPNESS IN BOOKS. 107
would be greater than the cost of transcribing. It
is when hundreds, and especially thousands, of the
same work are demanded, that the great value of
the printing-press in making knowledge cheap is
particularly shown. It is probable that the first
printers did not take off more than two or three
hundred, if so many, of their works ; and, there-
fore, the earliest printed books must have been still
dear, on account of the limited number of their
readers. Caxton, as it appears by a passage in one
of his books, was a cautious printer ; and required
something like an assurance that he should sell
enough of any particular book to repay the cost of
producing it. In his ' Legend of Saints ' he says,
" I have submysed [submitted] myself to translate
into English the ' Legend of Saints,' called ' Le-
genda aurea ' in Latin ; and William, Earl of
Arundel, desired me and promised to take a rea-
sonable quantity of them and sent me a worship-
ful gentleman, promising that my said lord should
during my life give and grant to me a yearly fee,
that is to note, a buck in summer and a doe in
winter." Caxton, with his sale of a reasonable
quantity, and his summer and winter venison, was
more fortunate than others of his brethren, who
speculated upon a public demand for books with-
out any guarantee from the great and wealthy.
Sweynheim and Pannartz, Germans who settled in
Rome, and there printed many beautiful editions
of the Latin Classics, presented a petition to the
Pope, in 1471, which contains the following pas-
108 CONDITIONS OF CHEAPNESS IN BOOKS. Part I.
sage : "We were the first of the Germans who
introduced this art, with vast labour and cost, into
your holiness' territories, in the time of your pre-
decessor ; and encouraged by our example other
printers to do the same. If you peruse the cata-
logue of the works printed by us, you will admire
how and where we could procure a sufficient quan-
tity of paper, or even rags, for such a number of
volumes. The total of these books amounts to
12,475, a prodigious heap, and intolerable to
us, your holiness' printers, by reason of those un-
sold. We are no longer able to bear the great
expense of housekeeping, for want of buyers ; of
which there cannot be a more flagrant proof than
that our house, though otherwise spacious enough,
is full of quire-books, but void of every necessary
of life." For some years after the invention of
printing, many of the ingenious, learned, and en-
terprising men who devoted themselves to the new
art which was to change the face of society, were
ruined, because they could not sell cheaply unless
they printed p, considerable number of a book ; and
there were not readers enough to take off the stock
which they thus accumulated. In time, however,
as the facilities for acquiring knowledge which
printing afforded created many readers, the trade
of printing books became one of less general risk ;
and dealers in literature could afford more and
more to dispense with individual patronage, and
rely upon the public demand.
Chap. VI. THE PRESS AT WESTMINSTER. 109
The Press at Westminster Theological Books Character of
Cuxton's Press The Troy Book The Game of the Chess.
HE indications of the period at which Caxton
first brought the art of printing into England are
not very exact. Several of his books, supposed to
ve been amongst the earliest, are without date or
e of impression. The first in the title of which
a date or a place is mentioned is ' The Dictes and
Sayinges of Philosophres,' translated by the Earl
of Rivers from the French. This bears upon the
title " Enprynted by me William Caxton, at
Westminster, the yere of our Lord M.CCCC. Ixxvij."
Another imprint, three years later, is more precise.
It is in the ' Chronicles of Englond,' which book
the printer says was " Enprynted by me, William
Caxton, in thabbey of Westmynstre by london, &c.,
the v day of Juyn, the yere of thincarnacion of our
lord god M.CCCC. Ixxx." In 1485, 'A Book of the
Noble Hystoryes of Kynge Arthur/ was " by me
deuyded into xxi bookes chapytred and enprynted
and fynysshed, in thabbey Westmestre." The
expression "in the Abbey of Westminster" leaves
no doubt that beneath the actual roof of some
portion of the abbey Caxton carried on his art.
Stow, in his ' Survey of London,' says, '' In the
HO THE PRESS AT WESTMINSTER. Parti.
Eleemosynary or Almonry at Westminster Abbey,
now corruptly called the Ambry, for that the
alms of the abbey were there distributed to the
poor, John Islip, Abbot of Westminster, erected
the first press of book-printing that ever was in
England, and Caxton was the first that practised
it in the said abbey." The careful historian of
London here committed one error ; John Islip did
not become Abbot of Westminster till 1500.
John Esteney was made abbot in 1474, and
remained such until his death in 1498. His pre-
decessor was Thomas Milling. In Dugd ale's ' Mo-
nasticon' we find, speaking of Esteney, " It was
in this abbot's time, and not in that of Milling, or
in that of Abbot Islip, that Caxton exercised the
art of printing at Westminster. He is said to
have erected his office in one of the side chapels of
the abbey, supposed by some of our historians to
have been the Ambry or Eleemosynary." Oldys
says, " Whoever authorized Caxton, it is certain
that he did there, at the entrance of the abbey, ex-
ercise the art, from whence a printing- room is to
this day called a chapel." When we consider the
large extent of building that formed a portion of
the abbey of Westminster, before the house was
shorn of its splendour by Henry the Eighth, we
may readily believe that Caxton might have been
accommodated in a less sacred and indeed less
public place than a side chapel of the present
church. There were buildings attached to that
church which were removed to make room for the
Chap. VI. THEOLOGICAL BOOKS. Ill
Chapel of Henry the Seventh. It has been conjec-
tured that the ancient Scriptorium of the Abbey,
the place where books were transcribed, might
have been assigned to Caxton, to carry on an art
which was fast superseding that of the transcriber.
Nor are there wanting other examples of the en-
couragement afforded to printing by great religious
societies. As early as 1480, books were printed at
Alban's ; and in 1525 there was a translation
Boetius printed in the monastery of Tavistock,
by Dan Thomas Richards, monk of the same mo-
nastery. That the intercourse of Caxton with the
Abbot of Westminster was on a familiar footing
we learn from his own statement, in 1490 : "My
Lord Abbot of Westminster did shew to me late
certain evidences written in Old English, for to
reduce it into our English now used."
Setting up his press in this sacred place, it is
somewhat remarkable how few of Caxton's books
are distinctly of a religious character.* Not more
than five or six can be held strictly to pertain to
theological subjects. Bibles he could not print, as
we shall presently notice.
There is no breviary or book of prayers found to
have issued from his press. The only book dis-
tinctly connected with the Church is ' Liber Festi-
valis/ or Directions for keeping Feasts all the year.
It is highly probable that many of such books
have perished. But what furnishes a curious ex-
ample of the accidents by which the smallest things
* See the li.-t in Appendix.
112 THEOLOGICAL BOOKS. Part. I.
may be preserved, there is now existing, preserved
in Mr. Douce's collection in the Bodleian Library
at Oxford, a handbill, precisely such as a publisher
of the present day might distribute, printed in
Caxton's largest type, inviting the people to come
to his office and buy a certain book regulating the
church service. " If it plese any man spirituel or
temporel to bye ony Pyes of two and thre come-
moracions of Salisburi vse enprynted after the
forme of this present lettre whiche ben wel and
truly correct, late hym come to Westmonester into
the Almonesrye at the reed pale and he shal have
them good chepe. Supplico stet cedula." The
preface to the present Liturgy of the Church of
England explains what a Pye was : " The number
and hardness of the rules called the Pie, and the
manifold changings of the service, was the cause,
that to turn the book only was so hard and intri-
cate a matter, that many times there was more
business to find out what should be read, than to
read it when it was found out." It is a curious
fact that printers even at the present day call a
confused heap of types Pie ; and whilst no one has
attempted to explain the origin of the word, we
may venture to suggest that the intricacy of this
Romish ordinal might lead the printers to call a
mass of confused and deranged letters by a familiar
expression of contempt derived from the Pie which
they or their predecessors in the art had been ac-
customed to work upon.
Sir Thomas More has clearly shown the reason
Chap. VI. THEOLOGICAL BOOKS. 113
why Caxton could not venture to print a Bible,
although the people would have greedily bought
WicklifFs translation. There were translations of
the Bible before Wickliff, and that translation
which goes by the name of this great reformer was
probably made up in some degree from those pre-
vious translations. WicklifFs translation was inter-
dicted, and thus More says, " On account of the
penalties ordered by Archbishop Arundel's consti-
tution, though the old translations that were before
WicklifFs days remained lawful and were in some
folks' hands had and read, yet he thought no printer
would lightly be so hot to put any bible in print at
his own charge and then hang upon a doubtful
trial whether the first copy of his translation was
made before WicklifTs days or since. For if it
were made since, it must be approved before the
printing." This was a dilemma that Caxton would
have been too prudent to encounter.
In the books printed by Caxton which treat of
secular subjects, there is constant evidence of the
sincere and unpretending piety of this skilful and
laborious author and artisan. He lived in an age
when the ancient power of the church was some-
what waning ; and far-sighted observers saw the
cloud no bigger than a man's hand which indicated
the approaching storm. One of his biographers,
the Rev. Mr. Lewis, says of him that *' he expressed
a great sense of religion, and wrote like one who
lived in the fear of God, and was very desirous of
promoting his honour and glory." It was in this
114 THEOLOGICAL BOOKS. Parti.
spirit that lie desired the religious teaching of the
people not to be formal and pedantic. The Preface
to ' The Doctrinal of SapyenceJ which was trans-
lated out of French into English by Caxton, con-
tains a curious passage : " This that is written in
this little book ought the priests to learn and teach
to their parishes : and also it is necessary for simple
priests that understand not the Scriptures: and
it is made for simple people and put in English.
And by cause that for to hear examples stirreth and
moveth the people, that ben simple, more to devo-
tion than to that great authority of science as it
appeareth by the right reverend father and doctor
Bede, priest, which saith, in the Histories of
England, that a bishop of Scotland, a subtle and
a great clerk, was sent by the clerks of Scotland
into England for to preach the Word of God ; but
by cause he used in his sermon subtle authorities,
such as [for] simple people had, nor took, no savour,
he returned without doing of any great good ne pro-
fit, wherefore they sent another of less science : the
which was more plain, and used commonly in his
sermons examples and parables, by which he pro-
fited much more unto the erudition of the simple
people than did that other/'
But, in wishing the highest knowledge to be sim-
plified and made popular, the good old printer had
no thought of rendering knowledge a light and
frivolous thing, to be taken up and laid down
without earnestness. In his truly beautiful expo-
sition of the uses of knowledge, contained in his
Chap. VI. CHARACTER OF CAXTOX'S PRESS. 1 15
prologue to the ' Mirror of the World,' he says,
" Let us pray the Maker and Creator of all crea-
tures, God Almighty, that, at the beginning of this
book, it list him, of his most bounteous grace, to
depart with us of the same that we may learn ; and
that learned, to retain ; and that retained, to
teach ; that we may have so perfect science and
knowledge of God, that we may get thereby the
health of our souls, and to be partners of his
glory, permanent, and without end, in heaven.
Gibbon, we think, has taken a somewhat severe
view of the character of the works which were pro-
duced by the father of English printing : " It was
in the year 1474 that our first press was established
in Westminster Abbey, by William Caxton : but
in the choice of his authors, that liberal and indus-
trious artist was reduced to comply with the vicious
taste of his readers ; to gratify the nobles with
treatises on heraldry, hawking, and the game of
chess, and to amuse the popular credulity with
romances of fabulous knights and legends of more
fabulous saints." The historian, however, notices
with approbation the laudable desire which Caxton
expresses to elucidate the history of his country.
But his censure of the general character of the
works of Caxton's press is somewhat too sweeping.
It appears to us that a more just as well as a more
liberal view of the use and tendency of these works
is that of Thomas Warton, which we may be ex-
cused in quoting somewhat at length : " By means
1 16 CHARACTER OF CAXTOX's PRESS. Part I.
of French translations, our countrymen, who under-
stood French much better than Latin, became ac-
quainted with many useful books which they wort^i
not otherwise have known. With such assistances,
a commodious access to the classics was opened,
and the knowledge of ancient literature facilitated
and familiarised in England, at a much earlier
period than is imagined ; and at a time when little
more than the productions of speculative monks
and irrefragable doctors could be obtained or were
studied. . . . When these authors, therefore,
appeared in a language almost as intelligible as the
English, they fell into the hands of illiterate and
common readers, and contributed to sow the seeds
of a national erudition, and to form a popular taste.
Even the French versions of the religious, philoso-
phical, historical, and allegorical compositions of
those more enlightened Latin writers who flourished
in the middle ages, had their use, till better books
came into vogue : pregnant as they were with
absurdities, they communicated instruction on va-
rious and new subjects, enlarged the field of infor-
mation, and promoted the love of reading, by
gratifying that growing literary curiosity which
now began to want materials for the exercise of its
operations. . . . These French versions en-
abled Caxton, our first printer, to enrich the state
of letters in this country with many valuable pub-
lications. He found it no difficult task, either by
himself or the help of his friends, to turn a con-
siderable number of these pieces into English,
Chap. VI. CHARACTER OF CAXTON's PRESS. 117
which he printed. Ancient learning had as yet
made too little progress among us to encourage
this enterprising and industrious artist to publish
the Roman authors in their original language : and
had not the French furnished him with these mate-
rials, it is not likely that Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, and
ny other good writers would by the means of
his press have been circulated in the English
tongue so early as the close of the fifteenth cen-
tury/' Warton adds in a note, " It was a circum-
stance favourable at least to English literature,
owing indeed to the general illiteracy of the times,
that our first printers were so little employed on
books written in the learned languages. Almost
all Caxton's^ books are English. The multiplication
of English copies multiplied English readers, and
these again produced new vernacular writers. The
existence of a press induced many persons to turn
authors who were only qualified to write in their
native tongue." Having thus given the somewhat
different views of two most able and accomplished
scholars, viewing as they did the same objects
through different media, we shall proceed to notice
some of the more remarkable characteristics of the
books issued from Caxton's press, rather regarding
them as illustrations of the state of knowledge and
the manners of his time, than as mere bibliogra-
The Histories of Troy is a book with which our
readers must now be tolerably familiar. A writer
in the century succeeding Caxton, one Robert
118 THE TROY BOOK. Tart I.
Braliam, is very severe upon the old printer for
this his work : " If a man studious of that history
[the Trojan war] should seek to find the same in
the doings of William Caxton, in his lewd [idle]
' Recueil of Troye/ what should he then find, think
ye? Assuredly none other thing but a long, te-
dious, and brainless babbling, tending to no end,
nor having any certain beginning ; but proceeding
therein as an idiot in his folly, that cannot make
an end till he be bidden. Much like the foolish
and unsavoury doings of Orestes, whom Juvenal
remembereth which Caxton's ' Recueil,' who so
list with judgment peruse, shall rather think his
doings worthy to be numbered amongst the trifling
tales and barren lewderies of Robin Hood and
Be vis of Hampton, than remain as a monument of
so worthy an history." We have no sympathy
with writers, old or modern, who are severe upon
"trifling tales and barren lewderies " the stories
and ballads which are the charm of childhood and
the solace of age. It is somewhat hard that Caxton
should be thus maltreated for having made the
English familiar with that romance of the Trojan
war with which all Europe was enamoured in some
language or another. The authority which Le
Fevre partly followed was the Troy Book of Guido
di Colonna ; and he is traced to have translated
his book from a Norman -French poet of the time
of Edward the Second ; and the Norman is to be
traced to Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis, the
supposed authors of two ancient works on the His-
Chap. VI. THE TROY BOOK. 119
tory of Troy, but which histories are held to have
been manufactured by an Englishman of the twelfth
century. Guido di Colonna constructed the most
captivating of the romances of chivalry upon these
supposititious tales of Troy. Hector and Achilles
are surrounded by him with all the attributes of
knight-errantry ; and the Grecian manners are
Gothicised with all the peculiarities of the civiliza-
tion of the middle ages. Lydgate constructed upon
this romance his poem of the Troy Book ; and
Chaucer availed himself of it in his poem of
' Troilus and Cressida/ Shakspere, in his won-
derful play upon the same part of the Trojan story
of the middle ages, has used Chaucer, Lydgate, and
Caxton ; and several passages show that our great
dramatic poet was perfectly familiar with the
translation of our old printer, which was so popular
that by Shakspere's time it had passed through
six editions, and continued to be read even in the
* The Book of the whole Life of Jason,' printed
by Caxton in 1475, is another of these middle-age
romances, founded upon the supposititious histories
of Dares and Dictys.
Of * TJie Game and Play of the Chess ' Caxton
printed two editions, which he translated himself
from the French. The first was finished on the
last day of March, 147-i ; and it is supposed to
have been the first book which he printed in Eng-
land. Bagford says, " Caxton's first book irT the
Abbey was ' The Game of Chess ;' a book in those
120 THE GAME OF THE CHESS. Part I.
times much in use with all sorts of people, and in
all likelihood first desired by the abbot, and the
rest of his friends and masters." It was a book that
Caxton clearly intended for the diffusion of know-
ledge amongst all ranks of people ; for in his second
edition he says, in not very complimentary phrase,
" The noble clerks have written and compiled many
notable works and histories," that they might come
" to the knowledge and understanding of such as
be ignorant, of which the number is infinite." And
he adds, with still plainer speech, that, according
to Solomon, " the number of fools is infinite." He
says that amongst these noble clerks there was
an excellent doctor of divinity in the kingdom of
France, which " hath made a book of the chess
moralised, which at such a time as I was resident
in Bruges came into my hands."
It would seem to be an ingenious device of the
reverend writer of the book of chess which Caxton
translated, to associate with very correct instructions
as to the mode of playing the game, such moralisa-
tions as would enable him therewith to teach the
people "to understand wisdom and virtue." Caxton
readily adopts the same notion. He dedicates the
book to the Duke of Clarence : " Forasmuch as I
have understood and known that you are inclined
unto the commonweal of the king, our said sovereign
lord, his nobles, lords, and common people of his
noble realm of England, and that ye saw gladly the
inhabitants of the same informed in good, virtuous,
profitable, and honest manners/' This book con-
Chap. VI. THE GAME OF THE CHESS. 121
tains authorities, sayings, and stories, "applied
unto the morality of the public weal, as well of the
)bles and of the common people, after the game
id play of chess ;" and Caxton trusts that "other,
what estate or degree he or they stand in, may
in this little book that they govern themselves
they ought to do." This book of chess contains
>ur treatises. The first describes the invention of
the game in the time of a king of Babylon, Ems-
lerodach, a cruel king, the son of Nebuchadnezzar,
whom a philosopher showed the game for the
of exhibiting " the manners and condition
king, of the nobles, and of the common people
and their offices, and how they should be touched
and drawn, and how he should amend himself and
become virtuous." This is a bold fable, and takes
us farther back than Sir William Jones, who says
that chess was imported from the west of India, in
the sixth century, and known immemorially in
Hindustan by the name of Chaturanga, or the four
members of an army, namely, elephants, horses,
chariots, and foot-soldiers. The second treatise in
Caxton's book describes, first, the office of a king :
by this name the principal piece was always known.
Secondly, of the queen ; this name would seem to
belong to the time of Caxton, for Chaucer and Lyd-
gate call the piece Fers or Feers, a noble, a general,
hence Peer. Thirdly, of the Alphyns : this is
the same as the present bishop ; the French called
this personage the Fou, and Habelais calls him the
Archer. Fourthly, the knight, who was always
122 THE GAME OF THE CHESS. Part I.
called by this name, in English and French chess.
The rook, the fifth dignified piece, is from the
Eastern name Rue. Caxton goes on to inform us
that the third treatise is of the offices of the com-
mon people. This treatise relates to the pawns ;
and a curious thing it is that the eight pawns of
the board are taken by him each to represent large
classes of the commonalty. The denominations of
these classes somewhat vary in the two editions, but
their general arrangement is the same. We have,
in the first class, labourers and tillers of the earth ;
in the second, smiths and other workers in iron and
metal ; in the third, notaries, advocates, scriveners,
drapers, and makers of cloth ; in the fourth, mer-
chants and changers; in the fifth, physicians, leeches,
spicers, and apothecaries ; in the sixth, taverners,
hostelers, and victuallers ; in the seventh, guards of
the cities, receivers of custom, and tollers ; and
lastly, messengers, couriers, ribalds, and players at
The second edition of 'The Game of the Chess/
which is without date or place, was the first book
printed in the English language which contained
woodcuts. We give a fac-simile of the figure of the
knight in Caxton's volume.
The original art of engraving on wood, and
the production of block-books, gradually merged,
as we have seen, into the art of printing from
moveable types. From that time woodcuts
became a secondary part of books, used, indeed,
very often by the early printers, but by no
THE GAME OF THE CHESS.
means forming an indispensable branch of typo-
graphy. Imitating the manuscript books, the first
printers chiefly employed the wood-engraver upon
itial letters ; and sometimes the pages of their
rks were surrounded by borders, which contained
white lines or sprigs of foliage upon a black ground.
If a figure, or group of figures, was introduced, little
more than the outline was first attempted. By de-
grees, however, endeavours were made to represent
gradations of shadow ; and a few light hatchings,
or white dots, were employed. All cross-hatchings,
such as characterize a line-engraving upon metal,
124 THE GAME OF THE CHESS. Part I.
were carefully avoided by the early woodcutters, on
account of the difficulty in the process. Mr. Ottley,
in his ' History of Engraving,' says that an engraver
on wood, of the name of Wohlgemuth (who
flourished at Nuremburg about 1480), "per-
ceived that, though difficult, this was not impos-
sible ;" and, in the cuts of the ' Nuremburg Chro-
nicle,' a " successful attempt was first made to
imitate the bold hatchings of a pen-drawing."
Albert Durer, an artist of extraordinary talent, be-
came the pupil of Wohlgemuth ; and by him, and
many others, wood-engraving was carried to a per-
fection which it subsequently lost till its revival in
our own country.
Lord Rivers presenting his book to Edward IV.
Female Manners Lord Rivers Popular History Popular Science
Popular Fables Popular Translations The Canterbury Tales
Statutes Books of Chivalry Caxton's la^t days.
IN the library belonging to the Archbishops of Can-
terbury, at Lambeth, is a beautiful manuscript, on
vellum, of a French work, ' Les Diets Moraux des
Philosophes,' which contains the illumination of
which the above is a copy. In lines written under
the illumination the book is stated to be translated
by " L Antony erle," by which Lord Rivers is meant.
126 FEMALE MANNERS. Parti.
This book was printed by Caxton in 1477 ; and it
is held that the man kneeling by the side of the
earl in the illumination is the printer of the book.
We have already mentioned the confidential inter-
course which subsisted between Lord Rivers and
his printer, with regard to the revision of this work.
(See page 82.) The passages which we there quote
are given in a sort of appendix, in which Caxton
professes to have himself translated a chapter upon
women, which Lord Rivers did not think fit to
meddle with, and which he prints with a real or
affected apprehension. The printer's statement is
altogether such a piece of sly humour, that we
willingly transcribe it, trusting that our readers
will see the drollery through the quaintness :
" I find that my said lord hath left out certain
and divers conclusions touching women. Whereof
I marvelled that my said lord hath not writ on
them, nor what hath moved him so to do, nor what
cause he had at that time. But I suppose that
some fair lady hath desired him to leave it out of
his book ; or else he was amorous on some noble
lady, for whose love he would not set it in his
book ; or else for the very affection, love, and good
will that he hath unto all ladies and gentlewomen,
he thought that Socrates spared the sooth, and
wrote of women more than truth ; which I cannot
think that so true a man and so noble a philosopher
as Socrates was, should write otherwise than truth.
For if he had made fault in writing of women, he
ought not nor should not be believed in his other
Chap. VII. FEMALE MAXXEKS. 127
Dictes and Sayings. But I perceive that my said
lord knoweth verily that such defaults be not had
nor found in the women born and dwelling in these
parts nor regions of the world. Socrates was a
Greek, born in a far country from hence, which
country is all of other conditions than this is, and
men and women of other nature than they be here
in this country ; for I wot well, of whatsoever con-
dition women be in Greece, the women of this
country be right good, wise, pleasant, humble, dis-
creet, sober, chaste, obedient to their husbands,
e, secret, stedfast, ever busy, and never idle,
temperate in speaking, and virtuous in all their
works ; or at least should be so. For which causes
so evident, my said lord, as I suppose, thought it
was not of necessity to set in his book the sayings
of his author Socrates touching women."
There is a book translated by Caxton from the
French, and printed by him in 1484, which we
may incidentally here notice, as illustrating the
female manners of that century. It is called ' The
Knight of the Tower ;' and really would seem to
justify the sarcasm of Caxton where he says, " The
women of this country be right good, &c., or at
least should be so." The preface implies that the
work, though written by a Frenchman, applies to
the contemporary state of society in England ; and
it may be well to see how our ladies were employed
about four centuries ago. It appears from this
curious performance that the ladies, although well
accomplished in needlework, confectionary, church
128 FEMALE MANNERS. Parti.
music, and even taught something of the rude sur-
gery of those days, were not great proficients in
reading, and the art of writing was thought to be
better let alone by them. The Knight of the Tower
complains of the levity of the ladies. Their extra-
vagance in dress, the husband's standing complaint,
is thus put by the Knight of the Tower : " The
wives say to their husbands every day, ' Sir, such a
wife and such hath such goodly array that be-
seemeth her well, and I pray you I may have of
the same.' And if her husband say, ' Wife, if such
have such array, such that are wiser than they have
it not/ she will say, ' No force it is [that is of no
consequence] , for they cannot wear it ; and if I have
it, ye shall see how well it will become me, for I
can wear it.' And thus with her words her hus-
band must needs ordain her that which she de-
sireth, or he shall never have peace with her, for
they will find so many reasons that they will not
be warned [put off]." The women of lower estate
come in for the same censure, the complaint being
that they fur their draperies and fur their heels.
It appears to have been the practice for ladies to
go very freely to feasts and assemblies, to joustings
and tournaments, without what we now call the
protection of a husband or a male relation. A con-
temporary writer says, they lavished their wealth
and corrupted their virtue by these freedoms. If
we may judge from the warnings which the Knight
of the Tower gives his daughters of the discipline
they would receive at the hands of their husbands
.Chap. VII. FEMALE MANNERS. 129
for any act of disobedience, the discipline not only
of hard words, but of harder blows, it is not to
be wondered at that they sought abroad for some
ief to the gloom and severity of their home lives,
is pleasant, amidst these illustrations of barba-
s and profligate manners, to find a picture of that
goodness which has distinguished the female
racter in all ages, and which, especially in the
imes of feudal oppression of which we are speak-
, mitigated the lot of those who were dependent
n the benevolence of the great possessors of
perty. The good Lady Cecile of Balleville is
s described by the Knight of the Tower : " Her
daily ordinance was, that she rose early enough,
and had ever friars and two or three chaplains,
which said matins before her within the oratory.
And after, she heard a high mass and two low, and
said her service full devoutly. And after this she
went and arrayed herself, and walked in her garden
or else about her place, saying her other devotions
and prayers. And as time was she went to dinner.
And after dinner, if she wist and knew any sick
folk or women in their childbed, she went to see
and visited them, and made to be brought to them
her best meat. And there as she might not go
herself, she had a servant proper therefore, which
rode upon a little horse, and bare with him great
plenty of good meat and drink, for to give to the
poor and sick folk there as they were. Also, she
was of such custom, that, if she knew any poor gen-
tlewoman that should be wedded, she arrayed her
130 LORD RIVERS. Parti.
with her jewels. Also she went to the obsequies
of poor gentlewomen, and gave there torches, and
such other luminary as it needed thereto. And
after she had heard evensong she went to her sup-
per if she fasted not, and timely she went to bed,
and made her steward to come to her to wit [know]
what meat should be had the next day. She made
great abstinence, and wore the hair upon the
Wednesday and upon the Friday." This is a true
character of the middle ages ; goodness based
upon sincere piety, but that degenerating into
penances and mortifications, which our Reformed
faith teaches us to believe are unnecessary for
Caxton's early friend and patron, Lord Rivers,
appears, as far as we can judge from the books
which remain, to have been the only one of the
first English printer's contemporaries who rendered
him any literary assistance. He contributed three
works to Caxton's press ; namely, the 'Dictes and
Sayings of the Philosophers/ ' The Moral Proverbs
of Christine de Pisa,' and the book named ' Cor-
The book named ' Cordial ' is clearly described
in a prologue by Caxton. It was delivered to him,
he says, by Lord Rivers, " for to be imprinted and
so multiplied to go abroad among the people, that
thereby more surely might be remembered the four
last things undoubtedly coming." Caxton, in an
elaborate commendation of his patron, of whose
former " great tribulation and adversity" he speaks,
Chap. VII. LORD RIVERS. 131
says, " It seemeth that he conceiveth well the mu-
tability and the unstableness of this present life,
and that he desireth, with a great zeal and spiritual
>ve, our ghostly help and perpetual salvation."
>rd Rivers had indeed borne tribulation since the
when, the flower of Edward's court, he jousted
ith the Bastard of Burgundy in Smithfield, in
In the following year his father and brother
re murdered by a desperate faction at North-
ipton. When Lord Rivers, conceiving the mu-
ibility and unstableness of life, wrote the book
lied ' Cordial,' he was only six-and-thirty years
e. Three years after Caxton printed the
book, the translator was himself murdered at Pom-
fret by the Protector Richard. Shakspere did not
do injustice to the noble character of this peer when
he makes him exclaim, when he was led to the block,
" Sir Richard Ratcliff, let me tell thee this,
To-day shalt thou behold a subject die,
For truth, for duty, and for loyalty."
Richard III., Act iii., Scene 2.
There is left to us a remarkable fragment which
indicates to us something higher than the ability
and literary attainment of this unfortunate noble-
man. It has been preserved by John Rouse, a con-
temporary historian, who lived in the pleasant soli-
tude of Guy's Cliff, near Warwick, and died there
in 1491. He says (we translate from his Latin),
" In the time of his imprisonment at Pomfret he
wrote a balet in English, which has been shown to
me, having these words Sum what musyng," &c.;
and then Rouse transcribes the ballad, of which
132 LORD RIVERS. Part I.
the second stanza is imperfect, but has been sup-
plied from another ancient copy. Percy, who
prints the ballad in his ' Reliques/ says, " If we
consider that it was written during his cruel con-
finement in Pomfret Castle, a short time before his
execution in 1483, it gives us a fine picture of the
composure and steadiness with which this stout
earl beheld his approaching fate." We subjoin the
ballad, modernising the orthography :
Somewhat, musing, and more mourning,
In remembering the unstedfastness,
This world being of such wheeling,
Me contrarying what may I guess.
I fear doubtless, remediless
Is now to seize my woful chance ;
For unkindness withouten less
And no redress, me doth avance,
With displeasance to my grievance
And no surance of remedy :
Lo in this trance, now in substance
Such is my dance, willing to die.
Methinks truly bounden am I,
And that greatly, to be content,
Seeing plainly fortune doth wry
All contrary from mine intent.
My life was lent me to one intent ;
It is nigh spent. Welcome, fortune !
But 1 ne went thus to be shent,
But she it meant such is her won [wont].
Turn we to one of the more important works of
Caxton, in which he sought to inform his country-
men generally with a knowledge of history. ' The
Chronicles of England,' printed in 1480, begins
at the fabulous period before the Romans, and ends
at the commencement of the reign of Edward IV.
Chap. VII. POPULAR HISTORY. 133
The early legends of English History, which even
Milton did not disdain to touch upon, are founded
upon the ' History ' of Nennius, which was com-
posed in the ninth century, and which was copied
by Geoffrey of Monmouth and other of the early
chroniclers. Caxton took the thing as he found
and continued the narrative to his own time-
[e deals prudently with contemporary events.
ixton followed up these chronicles in the same
with another book, called ' The Description
Britain? in which he tells of the extent of
le island, its marvels and wonders, its highways,
ivers, cities, and towns, provinces, laws, bishoprics,
and languages. He describes also Scotland and
Ireland. Some of his marvels and wonders are a
little astounding ; but others are as precise in their
description, and as forcible (brevity being an essen-
tial quality), as we could well desire. Thus of
Stonehenge : "At Stonehinge beside Salisbury
there be great stones and wondrous huge ; and be
reared on high, as it were gates set upon other
gates ; nevertheless it is not known cleanly nor
aperceived how and wherefore they be so areared
and so wonderful hanged."
From the chronicles of his own country Caxton
sought to lead his readers forward to a knowledge
of the history of other countries. He published in
1482 ' The Polychronicon, containing the bearings
and deeds of many times/ This book was origin-
ally composed by Higden, a Benedictine monk of
Chester; and was translated from Latin into Eng-
134 POPULAR HISTORY. Parti.
lish by John de Trevisa, who lived in the times of
Edward III. and Eichard II. Caxton in his title-
page, says, " Imprinted by William Caxton, after
having somewhat changed the rude and old English,
that is to wit certain words which in these days be
neither used nor understanden." In another place
he says, " And now at this time simply imprinted
and set in form by me, William Caxton, and a
little embellished from the old making. 1 " Caxton
was here doing what every person who desires to
advance the knowledge of his time, by extending
that knowledge beyond the narrow circle of scholars
and antiquarians, must always do. He popularised
an old book ; he made it intelligible. He did not
, do, as some verbal pedants amongst us still per-
sist in doing, present our old writers, and espe-
cially our poets, in all the caprieiousness of their
original orthography. He was the first great
diffuser of knowledge amongst us ; and surely we
think he took a judicious course. He says of the
' Polychronicon,' "The book is general, touching
shortly many notable matters." But, general as
the book was, and extensively as he desired to
circulate it according to his limited means, he does
not approach his task without a due sense of the
importance of the knowledge he was seeking to
impart. The praise of history in his proem is truly
eloquent : " History is a perpetual conservatrice of
those things that have been before this present
time ; and also a quotidian witness of benefits, of
malfaits [evil deeds], great acts, and triumphal
Chap. VII. POPULAR SCIENCE. 135
victories of all manner of people. And also, if the
terrible feigned fables of poets have much stirred
d moved men to right and conserving of justice,
ow much more is to be supposed that history,
rtrice of virtue and a mother of all philosophy,
oving our manners to virtue, reformeth and recon-
ileth near hand all those men which through the
firmity of our moral nature hath led the most-
rt of their life in otiosity [idleness], and mis-
spended their time, passed right soon out of re-
membrance : of which life and death is equal
oblivion." Again, " Other monuments distributed
in divers changes endure but for a short time or
season ; but the virtue of history t diffused and
spread by the universal world hath time, which
consumeth all other things, as conservatrice and
keeper of her work/'
' The Image or Mirror of the World ' is one of
the popular books which Caxton translated from
the French. It treats of a vast variety of subjects,
after the imperfect natural philosophy of those days.
We have an account of the seven liberal arts ; of
nature, how she worketh ; and how the earth hold-
eth him right in the middle of the world. We
have also much geographical information, amongst
which the wonders of Inde occupy a considerable
space. Meteorology and astronomy take up another
large portion. The work concludes with an account
of the celestial paradise. This book seems specially
addressed to high and courtly readers, for Caxton
says, " The hearts of nobles, in eschewing of idle-
136 POPULAR SCIENCE. Parti.
ness at such time as they have none other virtuous
occupations on hand, ought to exercise them in
reading, studying, and visiting the noble feats and
deeds of the sage and wise men, sometime travel-
ling in profitable virtues ; of whom it happeneth
oft that some be inclined to visit the books treating
of sciences particular ; and other to read and visit
books speaking of feats of arms, of love, or of other
marvellous histories ; and among all other, this
present book, which is called the ' Image or Mirror
of the World/ ought to be visited, read, and
known, by cause it treateth of the world, and of
the wonderful division thereof." But the translator
tells us, "I have endeavoured me therein, at the
request and desire, cost and dispense, of the honour-
able and worshipful man, Hugh Brice, citizen and
alderman of London." We may therefore believe
that Caxton intended this book for a wider circu-
lation than that of the nobles whom he addresses ;
especially as he says, " I have made it so plain
that every man reasonable may understand it, if he
advisedly and attentively read it, or hear it." The
good old printer rendered the book intelligible to
all classes, under the condition that all who read it
should give their attention. This is one of the
books into which Caxton has introduced wood-
cuts, giving twenty-seven figures, "without which
it may not lightly [easily] be understood." These
twenty-seven figures are diagrams, explanatory of
some of the scientific principles laid down in this
book ; but there are eleven other cuts illustrative
of other subjects treated in the work. An idea may
be formed of the manner in which those cuts are
engraved from the following fac-simile of ' Music/
One of the most popular books of Caxton's trans-
lation must unquestionably have been the ' History
of Reynard the Fox! It is held that this work
was composed in the twelfth century ; and surely
the author must have been a man of high genius to
have constructed a fable which has been ever since
popular in all countries, and delights us even to
this hour. Caxton has no woodcuts to his edition,
to which the book subsequently owed a portion of
138 POPULAR FABLES. Part I.
' The Subtil Histories and Fables of E sop' trans-
lated by Caxton from the French, were printed by
him in 1483, " The first year of the reign of King
Kichard the Third." In the first leaf there is a
supposed portrait of Esop, a large rough woodcut,
exhibiting him as he is described, with a great
head, large visage, long jaws, sharp eyes, a short
neck, c-i&r&-backed, and so forth. There is a con-
troversy whether Richard the Third was a deformed
man or not. It is held by many that it was one of
the scandals put forth under his triumphant suc-
cessor (which scandal Shakspere has for ever made
current), that Kichard was
" Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
It strikes us that Caxton would scarcely have
ventured, in the first year of King Richard III., to
exhibit a print of a hump-backed Esop (for any
print was then a rare thing), if his dread sovereign
had been remarkable amongst the people for a
similar defect. The conclusion of these fables of
Esop has a story told by Caxton as from himself,
which is a remarkable specimen of a plain narra-
tive style, with a good deal of sly humour :
" Now then I will finish all these fables with
this tale that followeth, which a worshipful priest
and a parson told me late : he said that there were
dwelling at Oxenford two priests, both Masters
of Arts of whom that one was quick and could
put himself forth ; and that other was a good
simple priest. And so it happened that the master
Chap. VII. POPULAR FABLES. 139
that was pert and quick was anon promoted to a
benefice or twain, and after to prebends, and for to
be a dean of a great prince's chapel, supposing and
ming that his fellow, the simple priest, should
iver be promoted, but be always an annual, or,
the most, a parish priest. So after a long time
it this worshipful man, this dean, came running
a good parish with five or seven horses, like
prelate, and carne into the church of the said
sh, and found there this good simple man,
letime his fellow, which came and welcomed
him lowly. And that other bade him * Good mor-
row, Master John,' and took him slightly by the
hand, and axed him where he dwelt. And the
good man said, ' In this parish.' ' How,' said he,
'are ye here a sole priest, or a parish priest?'
' Nay, Sir/ said he, ' for lack of a better, though
I be not able nor worthy, I am parson and curate
of this parish.' And then that other vailed
[lowered] his bonnet, and said, ' Master Parson, I
pray you to be not displeased ; I had supposed ye
had not been beneficed. But, master/ said he, ' I
pray you what is this benefice worth to you a
year ?' ' Forsooth/ said the good simple man, ' I
wot never ; for I make never accompts thereof,
how well I have had it four or five years.' * And
know ye not/ said he, * what it is worth ? it should
seem a good benefice/ 'No, forsooth/ said he,
'but I wot well what it shall be worth to me.'
< Why/ said he, 'what shall it be worth ?' 'For-
sooth/ said he, 'if I do my true dealing in the
140 POPULAR FABLES. Part I.
cure of my parishes in preaching and teaching,
and do my part belonging to my cure, I shall have
heaven therefore. And if their souls be lost, or
any of them, by my default, I shall be punished
therefore. And hereof I am sure.' And with
that word the rich dean was abashed : and thought
he should be the better, and take more heed to
his cures and benefices than he had done. This
was a good answer of a good priest and an honest.
And herewith I finish this book, translated and
imprinted by me, William Caxton." The moral of
the fable is not obsolete.
One of Caxton's most splendid books, of which
he seems to have printed three editions, was ( The
Golden Legend' This is, indeed, an important
work, printed in double columns, and containing
between four and five hundred pages, which are
largely illustrated with woodcuts. It was not
without great caution, as we have already men-
tioned (page 107), that Caxton proceeded with this
heavy and expensive undertaking. Happy would
it have been for all printers if puissant and vir-
tuous earls, and others in high places, had thought
it a duty to encourage knowledge by taking a
" reasonable quantity " of a great work ; but
happier are we now, when, such assistance being
grudgingly bestowed or honestly despised, the
makers of books can depend upon something more
satisfying than the rich man's purse, which was
generally associated with " the proud man's con-
Chap. VII. POPULAR TRANSLATIONS. Hi
In the prologue to the 'Golden Legend ' Caxton
recites several of the works which he had pre-
viously " translated out of French into English at
request of certain lords, ladies, and gentle-
ten." Those recited are the ' Recueil of Troy,'
le ' Book of the Chess,' ' Jason/ the ' Mirror of
le World,' Ovid's ' Metamorphoses,' and ' Godfrey
Boulogne.' It is remarkable that no printed
)py exists of Ovid's c Metamorphoses ;' but in the
ibrary of Magdalen College, Cambridge, there is
a manuscript containing five books of the ' Meta-
morphoses,' which purport to be translated by
Caxton. It was evidently a part of his plan for
the encouragement of liberal education, to present
a portion of the people with translations of the
classics through the ready means that were open
to him of re-translation from the French. Many
translators in later times have availed themselves
of such aids, without the honesty to indicate the
immediate sources of their versions. Caxton
printed < The Book of Tully of Old Age,' and
' Tullius his Book of Friendship' He seems to
have had great difficulty in obtaining a copy of an
old translation of 'Tullius de Senectute.' The
Book ' De Amicitia ' was translated by John, Earl
of Worcester, the celebrated adherent of the house
of York, who was beheaded in 1470. Caxton, we
think somewhat unnecessarily, limits the perusal
of the treatise on Old Age. "This book is not
requisite nor eke convenient for every rude and
simple man, which understandeth not of science
142 POPULAR TRANSLATIONS. Part I.
nor cunning, and for such as have not heard of the
noble policy and prudence of the Romans ; but for
noble, wise, and great lords, gentlemen, and mer-
chants, that have been and daily be occupied in mat-
ter touching the public weal : and in especial unto
them that been passed their green age, and eke their
middle age, called virility, and been approached unto
senedute, called old and ancient age. Wherein they
may see how to suffer and bear the same patiently ;
and what surety and virtue been in the same, and
have also cause to be joyous and glad that they
have escaped and passed the manifold perils and
doubteous adventures that been in juvente and
youth, as in this said book here following ye may
more plainly see."
1 The Book of Eneydos' compiled from Virgil, is
not a translation of Virgil's great epic, but a sort of
historical narrative formed upon the course of the
poet's great story. The most remarkable passage
of this book is that of Caxton's preface, in which
he complains of the unstedfastness of our lan-
guage, and the difficulty that he found between
plain, rude, and curious terms. (See page 5.)
In this translation he again limits his work to a
particular class of persons ; as if he felt, which was
probably a prejudice of his time, that the inferior
members of the laity ought not to touch anything
that pertained to scholastic learning. He says,
" Forasmuch as this present book is not for a rude
uplandish man to labour therein, nor read it, but
only for a clerk and a noble gentleman that feeleth
Chap. VII. POPULAR TRANSLATIONS. 143
and understandeth in faits of arms, in love, and in
noble chivalry : therefore, in mean between both,
I have reduced and translated this said book into
>ur English, not over rude nor curious, but in such
?rms as shall be understanden, by God's grace, ac-
>rding to my copy."
' The book called Cathon' (Cato's Morals) was
bined by Caxton for a wider circulation : " In
ly judgment it is the best book for to be taught to
roung children in schools, and also to people of
rery age it is full convenient if it be well under-
Dr. Dibdin, in his ' Typographical Antiquities,'
says of Caxton, " Exclusively of the labours at-
tached to the working of his press as a new art,
our typographer contrived, though well stricken in
years, to translate not fewer than five thousand
closely printed folio pages. As a translator, there-
fore, he ranks among the most laborious, and, I
/ould hope, not the least successful, of his tribe.
The foregoing conclusion is the result of a careful
enumeration of all the books translated as well as
printed by him ; which [the translated books], if
published in the modern fashion, would extend to
nearly twenty-five octavo volumes !" The exact
nature of his labours seems, as might well be
imagined, to have been often determined by very
accidental circumstances. One noble lord requests
him to produce this book, and one worshipful gen-
tleman urges him to translate that. He says him-
self of his Virgil, " After divers works made, trans-
144 THE CANTERBURY TALES. Parti.
lated, and achieved, having no work in hand, I,
sitting in my study whereas lay many divers
pamphlets and books, happened that to my hand
came a little book in French, which late was trans-
lated out of Latin by some noble clerk of France,
which book is named Eneydos, made in Latin by
that noble poet and great clerk Virgil." Some
books, indeed, he would be determined to print by
their existing popularity. Such were his two
editions of Chaucer's ' Canterbury Tales' which
we may be sure, from his sound criticism, he felt
the necessity of promulgating to a much wider
circle than had been reached by the transcribers*
(See page 31.) Caxton was especially the devoted
printer of Chaucer. His truly honourable con-
duct in venturing upon a new edition of the
* Canterbury Tales/ when he found his first was
incorrect, exhibits an example in the first printer
and the first publisher which the printers and pub-
lishers of all subsequent times ought to reverence
and imitate. The early printers, English and
foreign, were indeed a high and noble race. They
did not set themselves up to be the patrons of
letters ; they did not dispense their dole to scholars
grudgingly and thanklessly ; they worked with
them ; they encountered with them the risks of
profit and of fame ; they were scholars themselves ;
they felt the deep responsibility of their office ;
they carried on the highest of all commerce in an
elevated temper ; they were not mere hucksters
and chafferers. It was in no spirit of pride, it was
Chap. VII. THE CANTERBURY TALES. 145
in the spirit of duty, that Caxton raised a table of
verses to Chaucer in Westminster Abbey. In his
edition of Boetius, which he gives us to understand
was translated by Master Geoffrey Chaucer, he
says, " And furthermore I desire and require you,
that of your charity ye would pray for the soul
of the said worshipful man Geoffrey Chaucer, first
translator of this said book into English, and em-
bellisher in making the said language ornate and
fair, which shall endure perpetually, and therefore
lie ought eternally to be remembered ; of whom
the body and corps lieth buried in the Abbey of
Westminster, beside London, to fore the chapel of
Saint Benet, by whose sepulture is written on a
table, hanging on a pillar, his epitaph made by a
poet-laureate, whereof the copy followeth." The
writer of the Life of Chaucer, in the ' Biographia
Britannica,' says, " It is very probable he lay be-
neath a large stone of gray marble in the pavement
where the monument to Mr. Dryden now stands,
which is in the front of that chapel [St. Benet's],
upon the erecting of which [Dryden's monument]
this stone was taken up, and sawed in pieces to
made good the pavement. At least this seems best
to answer the description of the place given by
Caxton." There appears, according to the ancient
editors of Chaucer's works, to have been two Latin
lines upon his tombstone previous to the epitaph
set up upon a pillar by Caxton. That epitaph was
written by Stephanus Suriganius, poet-laureate of
Milan. The monument of Chaucer, which still
146 STATUTES. Parti.
remains in the Abbey, around which the ashes of
Spenser, and Beaumont, and Drayton, and Jonson,
and Cowley, and Dryden,have clustered, was erected
by an Oxford student in 1555. There might have
been worse things preserved, and yet to be looked
upon, in tha Abbey, than honest old Caxton's epi-
taph upon him whom he calls " the worshipful
father and first founder and embellisher of ornate
eloquence in our English."
As the popularity of Chaucer demanded various
impressions of his works from Ca,xton's press, so
did he print an apparently cheap edition of Gower's
' Confessio Amantis' in small type. Two of Lyd-
gate's works were also printed by him. The more
fugitive poetry which issued from his press has pro-
^>ably all perished. In one of the volumes of Old
Ballads in the British Museum is a fragment of a
| poem, of which nothing further is known, telling
the story of some heroine that lived a life of un-
varied solitude :
" From her childhood I find that she fled
Office of woman, and to wood she went,
And many a wild harte's blood she shed
With arrows broad that she to them sent."
One of the most important uses of early printing
in England is to be found in fragments of the Sta-
tutes of the Realm, made in the first parliament of
Richard III., and in the first, second, and third
parliaments of Henry VII., some leaves of which
exist. That the promulgation of the laws would
soon follow the introduction of the art of printing
Chap. TIL BOOKS OF CHIVALRY. 147
was a natural consequence. Early in the next
century the publication of Acts of Parliament be-
came an important branch of trade ; and a King's
Printer was formally appointed. Up to our own
times all the cheapening processes of the art of
printing had been withheld, at least in their results,
from that branch of printing which was to instruct
the people in their new laws. The Statutes were
the dearest of books, and kept dear for no other
purpose but to preserve one relic of the monopolies
of the days of the Stuarts. The abuse has been
We have purposely reserved to the conclusion
of this account of the productions of Caxton's press,
some notice of those works to the undertaking of
which he seems to have been moved by his
familiarity with the frequenters of the court,
those whose talk was of tournaments and battles,
of gallant knights and noble dames ; and whose
heads, like that of the worthy Knight of La
Mancha, were " full of nothing but enchantments,
quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, complaints,
amours, torments." It is quite marvellous to look
upon the enthusiasm with which Master Caxton
deals with these matters in the days when he had
" The silver livery of advised age."
It offers us one of the many proofs of the energy
and youthfulness of his character. We have
already quoted his address to the knights of Eng-
148 BOOKS OF CHIVALRY. Part I.
land (see page 66), given in his 'Book of the Order
of Chivalry,' supposed to have been printed in
1484. After this address he proposes a question
which shows that he considers he has fallen upon
degenerate days. " How many knights be there
now in England that have the use and the exercise
of a knight ? that is to wit, that he knoweth his
horse, and his horse him ; that is to say, he being
ready at a point to have all thing that belongeth
to a knight, an horse that is according and broken
after his hand, his armour and harness suit, and so
forth, et cetera. 1 suppose, an a due search should
be made, there should be many founden that lack :
the more pity is ! I would it pleased our sovereign
Lord, that twice or thrice a year, or at the least
once, he would cry jousts of peace, to the end that
every knight should have horse and harness, and
also the use and craft of a knight, and also to
tourney one against one, or two against two ; and
the best to have a prize, a diamond or jewel, such
as should please the prince. This should cause
gentlemen to resort to the ancient customs of
chivalry to great fame and renown : and also to be
alway ready to serve their prince when he shall
call them, or have need." There is always some
compensating principle arising in the world to pre-
vent its too rapid degeneracy ; and thus, although
the tournament has long ceased, except as a farce,
there is many a noble who may still say, " That
he knoweth his horse, and his horse him," through
the attractions of Melton Mowbray and Epsom.
Chap. VII. BOOKS OF CHIVALRY. 149
Hunting and horse-racing have done much to keep
up our pristine civilization. In ' The Fait of Anns
and Chivalry,' 1489, Caxton undertakes a higher
strain. He translates this book, " to the end that
every gentleman born to arms and all manner men
of war, captains, soldiers, victuallers, and all other,
should have knowledge how they ought to behave
them in the faits of war and of battles." And yet,
strange to relate, this belligerent book was written
by a fair lady, Christina of Pisa. The 'Histories
of King Arthur,' printed in 1485, lands us at
once into all the legendary hero-worship of the
middle ages. Caxton, in his preface to this trans-
lation by Sir Thomas Mallory, gives us a pretty full
account of the Kine Worthies, " the best that ever
were ;" and then he goes onto expound his reasons
for once doubting whether the Histories of Arthur
were anything but fables, and how he was con-
vinced that he was a real man. But surely in these
chivalrous books Caxton had an honest purpose.
He exhorts noble lords and ladies, with all other
estates, to read this said book, " wherein they shall
well find many joyous and pleasant histories, and
noble and renowned acts of humanity, gentleness,
and chivalries ; for herein may be seen noble
chivalry, courtesy, humanity, friendliness, hardi-
ness, love, friendship, cowardice, murder, hate,
virtue, and sin. Do after the good, and leave the
evil, and it shall bring you to good fame and re-
nown." ' The Life of Charles the Great ' succeeded
the ' Histories of King Arthur ;' for, according to
150 BOOKS OF CHIVALRY. Tart I.
Carton, Charlemagne was the second of the three
worthy. It is in the preface to this book that
Caxton says that his father and mother in his
youth sent him to school, by which, by the suffer-
ance of God, he gets his living.
We may conclude this imperfect description of
Caxton's labours in the literature of romance and
chivalry, so characteristic of the age in which he
lived, with the following extract from the ' History*
of King Blanchardine and Queen Eglantine his
wife,' which he translated from the French, at the
command of the Duchess of Somerset, mother of
King Henry VII. The passage shows us that the
old printers were dealers in foreign books as well as
in their own productions : " Which book I had
long to fore sold to my said lady, and knew well
that the story of it was honest and joyful to all
virtuous young noble gentlemen and women, for to
read therein, as for their pastime. For under cor-
rection, in my judgment, histories of noble feats
and valiant acts of arms and war, which have been
achieved in old time of many noble princes, lords,
and knights, are as well for to see and know their
valiantness for to stand in the special grace and
love of their ladies, and in like wise for gentle
young ladies and demoiselles for to learn to be
stedfast and constant in their part to them that
they once have promised and agreed to, such as
have put their lives oft in jeopardy for to please
them to stand in grace, as it is to occupy the ken
and study overmuch in books of contemplation."
chap. vii. CAXTON'S LAST DAYS. 151
This is a defence of novel-reading which we cpuld
scarcely have expected at so early a period oi,our
In 1490 Caxton was approaching, according to
all his biographers, to the great age of fourscore.
About this period he appears to have consigned
some relation to the grave, perhaps his wife. In
the first year of the churchwardens' accounts of the
parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, from May
17, 1490, to June 3, 1492, there is the following
" Item ; atte bureynge of Mawde Cax-
ton for torches and tapers . . iiij 8 ij d ."
On the 15th June, 1490, Caxton finished trans-
lating out of French into English ' The Art and
Craft to know well to die.' The commence-
ment of the book is an abrupt one : " When it is
so, that what a man maketh or doeth it is made
to come to some end, and if the thing be good and
well made it. must needs come to good end ; then
by better and greater reason every man ought to
intend in such wise to live in this world, in keeping
the commandments of God, that he may come to a
good end. And then out of this world, full of
wretchedness and tribulations, he may go to heaven
unto God and his saints, unto joy perdurable/'
That the end of Caxton was a good end we have
little doubt. We have a testimony, which we shall
presently see, that he worked to the end. He
152 CAXTOX'S LAST DAYS. Part I.
worked upon a book of pious instruction to the last
day of his life. He was not slumbering when his
call came. He was still labouring at the work for
which he was born.
There is the following entry in the church-
wardens' accounts of the parish of St. Margaret, in
the second year of the period we have above men-
"Item; atte bureyng of WILLIAM
CAXTON for iiij torches . . . vj s viii d
Item ; for the belle at same bu-
reyng vj d .'
Mark of Wynkyn de Worde.
The Chapel The Companions Increase of Readers Books make
Headers Caxton's Types Wynkyn's Dream The first Paper-
IT was evensong time when, after a day of listless -
ness, the printers in the Almonry at Westminster
prepared to close the doors of their workshop. This
was a tolerably spacious room, with a carved oaken
roof. The setting sun shone brightly into Jthe
chamber, and lighted up such furniture as no other
room in London could then exhibit. Between the
columns which supported the roof stood two presses
* He always, in these marks, associated the device of Caxton with
his o\vn ; glorying, as he well might, in succeeding to the business of
his honoured master, and continuing for so many years the good work
which he had begun.
154 THE CHAPEL. Parti.
ponderous machines. A. form of types lay un-
read upon the table of one of these presses ; the
other was empty. There were cases ranged be-
tween the opposite columns ; but there was no copy
suspended ready for the compositors to proceed
with in the morning. No heap of wet paper was
piled upon the floor. The halls, removed from the
presses, were rotting in a corner. The ink-blocks
were dusty, and a thin film had formed over the
oily pigment. He who had set these machines in
motion, and filled the whole space with the activity
of mind, was dead. His daily work was ended.
Three grave-looking men, decently clothed in
black, were girding on their swords. Their caps
were in their hands. The door opened, and the
chief of the workmen came in. It was Wynkyn
de Worde. With short speech, but with looks of
deep significance, he called a chapel the printer's
parliament a conclave as solemn and as omni-
potent as the Saxons' Witenagemot. Wynkyn was
the Father of the Chapel.
The four drew their high stools round the impos-
ing-stone those stools on which they had sat
through many a day of quiet labour, steadily work-
ing to the distant end of some ponderous folio,
without hurry or anxiety. Upon the stone lay two
uncorrected folio pages a portion of the ' Lives of
the Fathers.' The proof was not returned. He
that they had followed a few days before to his grave
in Saint Margaret's church had lifted it once back
to his failing eyes, and then they closed in night-
Chap. VIII. THE COMPANIONS. 155
" Companions," said Wynkyn (surely that word
" companions " tells of the antiquity of printing,
and of the old love and fellowship that subsisted
amongst its craft) " companions, the good work
will not stop."
"Wynkyn," said Richard Pynson, "who is to
carry on the work ?"
" I ana ready," answered Wynkyn.
A faint expression of joy rose to the lips of these
honest men, but it was damped by the remem-
brance of him they had lost.
" He died," said Wynkyn, "as he lived. The
Lives of the Holy Fathers is finished, as far as the
translator's labour. There is the rest of the copy.
Read the words of the last page, which / have
" Thus endeth the most virtuous history of the
devout and right-renowned lives of holy fathers
living in desert, worthy of remembrance to all well-
disposed persons, which hath been translated out of
French into English by William Caxton, of West-
minster, late dead, and finished at the last day of
The tears were in all their eyes ; and " God rest
his soul !" was whispered around.
" Companion," said William Machlinia, " is not
this a hazardous enterprise ?"
" I have encouragement," replied Wynkyn ;
" the Lady Margaret, his Highness' mother, gives
me aid. So droop not, fear not. We will carry
* These are the words with which this book closes.
156 THE COMPANIONS. Parti.
on the work briskly in our good master's house.
So fill the case."*
A shout almost mounted to the roof.
" But why should we fear ? You, Machlinia,
you, Lettou, and you, dear Richard Pynson, if you
choose not to abide with your old companion here,
there is work for you all in these good towns of
Westminster, London, and Southwark. You have
money ; you know where to buy types. Printing
must go forward."
" Always full of heart," said Pynson. " But you
forget the statute of King Richard ; we cannot say
' God rest his soul,' for our old master scarcely ever
forgave him putting Lord Rivers to death. You
forget the statute. We ought to know it, for we
printed it. I can turn to the file in a moment.
It is the Act touching the merchants of Italy, which
forbids them selling their wares in this realm.
Here it is : ' Provided always that this Act, or any
part thereof, in no wise extend or be prejudicial of
any let, hurt, or impediment to any artificer or
merchant stranger, of what nation or country he
be or shall be of, for bringing into this realm, or
selling by retail or otherwise, of any manner of
books written or imprinted.' Can we stand up
against that, if we have more presses than the old
press of the Abbey of Westminster?"
"Ay, truly, we can, good friend," briskly an-
* " Wynkyn de Worde this hath set in print,
In William Caxton's house : so fill the case."
Stanzas to ' Scafa Perfectionis,' 1494.
Chap. VIII. INCREASE OF READERS. 157
swered "Wynkyn. " Have we any books in our
stores ? Could we ever print books fast enough ?
Are there not readers rising up on all sides ? Do
we depend upon the court ? The mercers and the
drapers, the grocers and the spicers of the city,
crowd here for our books. The rude uplandish
men even take our books ; they that our good master
rather vilipended. The tapsters and taverners have
our books. The whole country-side cries out for
our ballads and our Robin Hood stories ; and, to
say the truth, the citizen's wife is as much taken
with our King Arthurs and King Blanchardines as
the most noble knight that Master Caxton ever
desired to look upon in his green days of jousts in
Burgundy. So fill the case/'*
"But if foreigners bring books into England/
said cautious William Machlinia, "there will be
more books than readers."
" Books make readers/' rejoined Wynkyn. " Do
you remember how timidly even our bold master
went on before he was safe in his sell ? Do you
forget how he asked this lord to take a copy,
and that knight to give him something in fee ;
and how he bargained for his summer venison and
his winter venison, as an encouragement in his
ventures ? But he found a larger market than he
ever counted upon, and so shall we all. Go ye
forth, my brave fellows. Stay not to work for me,
* To " fill the case " is to put fresh types in the case, ready to
arrange in new pa;j;es. The bibliographers scarcely understood the
technical expression cf honest Wynkyn.
158 BOOKS MAKE READERS. Parti.
if you can work better for yourselves. I fear no
" Why, Wynkyn," interposed Pynson, " you talk
as if printing were as necessary as air ; books as
food, or clothing, or fire."
"And so they will be some day. What is to
stop the want of books ? Will one man have the
command of books, and another desire them not ?
The time may come when every man shall require
" Perhaps," said Lettou, who had an eye to
printing the Statutes, " the time may come when
every man shall want to read an Act of Parlia-
ment, instead of the few lawyers who buy our Acts
" Hardly so/' grunted Wynkyn.
11 Or perchance you think that, when our sove-
reign liege meets his Peers and Commons in Parlia-
ment, it were well to print a book some month or
two after, to tell what the said Parliament said, as
well as ordained?"
" Nay, nay, you run me hard," said Wynkyn.
" And if within a month, why not within a day ?
Why shouldn't we print the words as fast as they
are spoken ? We only want fairy fingers to pick
up our types, and presses that Doctor Faustus and
his devils may some day make, to tell all London
to-morrow morning what is done this morning in
the palace at Westminster."
" Prithee, be serious," ejaculated Wynkyn.
" Why do you talk such gallymaufry ? I was
Chnp. VIII. CAXTOX'S TYPES. 159
speaking of possible things ; and I really think the
day may come when one person in a thousand may
read books and buy books, and we shall have a
trade almost as good as that of armourers and
" The Bible !" exclaimed Pynson ; " that we
might print the Bible ! I know of a copy of
Wickliffes Bible. That were indeed a book to
" I have no doubt, Richard," replied Wynkyn,
" that the happy time may come when a Bible
shall be chained in every church, for every Chris-
tian man to look upon. You remember when our
brother Hunte showed us the chained books in
the Library at Oxford. So a century or two hence
a Bible may be found in every parish. Twelve
thousand parishes in England ! We should want
more paper in that good day, Master Richard."
"You had better fancy at once," said Lettou,
" that every housekeeper will want a Bible !
Heaven save the mark, how some men's imagina-
tions run away with them !"
" I cannot see/' interposed Machlinia, " how we
can venture upon more presses in London. Here
are two. They have been worked well, since the
day when they were shipped at Cologne. Here
are five good founts of type, as much as a thousand
weight Great Primer, Double Pica, Pica a
large and a small face, and Long Primer. They
have well worked ; they are pretty nigh worn out.
AY hat man would risk such an adventure, after our
^ S^S^ r? o
cg<f<S a -
Chap. VIII. WYXKYX'S DREAM. 161
good old master? He was a favourite at court
and in cloister. He was well patronized. Who is
to patronize us ?"
" The people, I tell you," exclaimed Wynkyn.
" The babe in the cradle wants an Absey-book ;
the maid at her distaff wants a ballad ; the priest
wants his Pie ; the young lover wants a romance of
chivalry to read to his mistress ; the lawyer wants
his Statutes; the scholar wants his Virgil and
Cicero. They will all want more the more they
are supplied. How many in England have a book
at all, think you ? Let us make books cheaper by
printing more of them at once. The churchwardens
of St. Margaret's asked me six-and-eightpence
yesterday for the volume that our master left the
parish ;* for not a copy can I get, if we should
want to print again. Six-and-eightpence ! That
was exactly what he charged his customers for
the volume. Print five hundred instead of two
hundred, and we could sell it for three-and-four-
" And ruin ourselves," said Machlinia. " Master
Wynkyn, I shall fear to work for you if you go on
so madly. What has turned your head ?"
" Hearken," said Wynkyn. " The day our good
master was buried I had no stomach for my home.
I could not eat. I could scarcely look on the sun-
shine. There was a chill at my heart. I took the
* There is a record in the parish books of St. .M;ir>j;;iivt's of the
churchwardens selling for 6s. Sd. one of the books bequeathed to the
church by William Caxton.
162 WYNKYN'S DREAM. Parti.
key of our office, for you all were absent, and I
came here in the deep twilight. I sat down in
Master Caxton's chair. I sat till I fancied I saw
him moving about, as he was wont to move, in his
furred gown, explaining this copy to one of us, and
shaking his head at that proof to the other. I fell
asleep. Then I dreamed a dream, a wild dream,
but one that seems to have given me hope and
courage. There I sat, in the old desk at the head
of this room, straining my eyes at the old proofs.
The room gradually expanded. The four frames
went on multiplying, till they became innumerable.
I saw case piled upon case ; and form side by side
with form. All was bustle, and yet quiet, in that
room. Readers passed to and fro ; there was a
glare of many lights ; all seemed employed in pro-
ducing one folio, an enormous folio. In an instant
the room had changed. I heard a noise as of many
wheels. I saw sheets of paper covered with ink as
quickly as I pick up this type. Sheet upon sheet,
hundreds of sheets, thousands of sheets, came from
forth the wheels flowing in unstained, like corn
from the hopper, and coming out printed, like
flour to the sack. They flew abroad as if carried
over the earth by the winds. Again the scene
changed. In a cottage, an artificer's cottage, though
it had many things in it which belong to princes'
palaces, I saw a man lay down his basket of tools
and take up one of these sheets. He read it ; he
laughed, he looked angry ; tears rose to his eyes ;
and then he read aloud to his wife and children.
Chap. VIII. WYXKYX'S DREAM. 163
I asked him to show me the sheet. It was wet ;
it contained as many types as our ' Mirror of the
World.' But it bore the date of 1844 I looked
around, and I saw shelves of books against that
cottage wall large volumes and small volumes ;
and a boy opened one of the large volumes and
showed me numberless block-cuts ; and the artificer
and his wife and his children gathered round me,
all looking with glee towards their books, and the
good man pointed to an inscription on his book-
shelves, and I read these words,
MY LIBRARY A DUKEDOM.
I woke in haste ; and, whether awake or dreaming
I know not, my master stood beside me, and smil-
ingly exclaimed, ' This is my fruit/ I have en-
couragement in this dream."
" Friend Wynkyn," said Pynson, " these are dis-
tempered visions. The press may go forward ; I
think it will go forward. But I arn of the belief
that the press will never work but for the great
and the learned, to any purpose of profit to the
printer. How can we ever hope to send our wares
abroad ? We may hawk our ballads and our merry
jests through London ; but the citizens are too
busy to heed them, and the apprentices and serving
men too poor to buy them. To the country we
cannot send them. Good lack, imagine the poor
pedler tramping with a pack of books to Bristol or
Winchester ! Before he could reach either city
through our wild roads, he would have his throat
1(34 THE FIRST PAPER-MILL. Parti.
cut or be starved. Master Wynkyn, we shall
always have a narrow market till the king mends
his highways, and that will never be/'
" I am rather for trying, Master Wynkyn," said
Lettou, " some good cutting jest against our friends
in the Abbey, such as Dan Chaucer expounded
touching the friars. That would sell in these pre-
"Hush!" exclaimed Wynkyn : " the good fathers
are our friends ; and though some murmur against
them, we might have worse masters."
" I wish they would let us print the Bible though,"
" The time will come, and that right soon," ex-
claimed the hopeful Wynkyn.
" So be it," said they one and all.
<f But what fair sheet of paper is that in your
hand, good Wynkyn ?" said Pynson.
" Master Richard, we are all moving onward.
This is English-made paper. Is it not better than
the brown thick paper we have had from over the
sea? How he would have rejoiced in this accom-
plishment of John Tate's longing trials ! Ay,
Master Richard, this fair sheet was made in the new
mill at Hertford ; and well am I minded to use it
in our BartholomaBus, which I shall straightly put
in hand, when the Formschneider is ready. I have
thought anent it ; I have resolved on it ; and I
have indited some rude verses touching the matter,
simple person as I am :
Chap. VIII. THE FIRST PAPER-MILL. 165
" For in this world to reckon every thing
Pleasure to man, there is none comparable
As is to read and understanding
In books of wisdom they ben so delectable,
Which sound to vii'tue, and ben profitable;
And all that love such virtue ben full glad
Books to renew, and cause them to be made.
And also of your charity call to remembrance
The soul of William Caxton, first printer of this book
In Latin tongue at Cologne, himself to advance,
That every well-disposed man may thereon look :
And John Tate the younger joy mote [may] he brook,
Which hath late in England made this paper thin,
That now in our English this book is printed in."
" Fairly rhymed, Wynkyn," said Lettou. " But
John Tate the younger is a bold fellow. Of a
surety England can never support a Paper-mill of
" Come, to business," said William of Mechlin.
( 167 )
THE following account of the invention of printing is given
by an ancient German chronicler of the name of Trithemius,
who appears to have personally known one of the three per-
sons who clearly seem to have the best title to be called the
inventors of printing.
" At this time, in the city of Mentz on the Bhiiie in Ger-
many, and not in Italy, as some have erroneously written,
that wonderful and then unheard-of art of printing and cha-
racterizing books was invented and devised by John Gutten-
berger, a citizen of Mentz, who, having expended almost the
whole of his property in the invention of this art, and on
account of the difficulties which he experienced on all sides,
w r as about to abandon it altogether; when, by the advice,
and through the means, of John Fust [or Faust], lik<
citizen of Mentz, he succeeded in bringing it to perfection.
At first they formed [engraved] the characters or letters in
written order on blocks of wood, arid in this manner they
printed the vocabulary called a ' Catholicon.' But with these
forms 'blocks] they could print nothing else, because the
characters could not be transposed in these tablets, but were
engraved thereon, as we have said. To this invention suc-
ceeded a more subtle one, for they found out the means of
cutting the forms of all the letters of the alphabet, which they
called matrices, from which again they cast characters of
copper or tin of sufficient hardness to resist the necessary
pressure, which they had before engraved by hand. And
truly, as I learned thirty years since from Peter Opilio
INVENTION OF PRINTING.
(Schoeffer) de Gernslicim, citizen of Mentz, Avho was the
son-in-law of the first inventor of this art, great difficulties
were experienced after the first invention of this 'art of print-
ing, for in printing the Bible, before they had completed the
third quaternion (or gathering of four sheets), 4000 florins
were expended. This Peter Schoeffer, whom we have above
mentioned, first servant and afterwards son-in-law to the first
inventor, John Fust, as we have said, an ingenious and saga-
cious man, discovered the more easy method of casting the
types, and thus the art was reduced to the complete state in
which it now is. These three kept this method of printing
secret for some time, until it was divulged by some of their
workmen, without whose aid this art could not have been
exercised ; it was first developed at Strasburg, and soon be-
came known to other nations. And thus much of the admir-
able and subtle art of printing may suffice the first inventors
were citizens of Mentz. These three first inventors of Print-
ing, (videlicet) John Guttenberger, John Fust, and Peter
Schoeffer, his son-in-law, lived at Mentz, in the house called
Zum Jungen, which has ever since been called the Printing-
Guttenberg, Fust, and Schoeffer.
The invention of Schoeffer, which, whatever might have
been its first mechanical imperfections, undoubtedly coin-
Appendix B. BOOKS PRINTED BY CAXTOX. 169
pleted the principle of printing, is more particularly described
in an early document, which is given in several learned
v.orks on typography, as proceeding from a relation of Fust.
It is as follows : " Peter Schoeffer, of Gernsheim, perceiving
his master Fust's design, and being himself ardently desirous
to improve the art, found out (by the good providence of God)
the method of cutting (incidendi) the characters in a matrix,
that the letters might each be singly cast, instead of being
cut. He privately cut matrices for the whole alphabet ; and
when he showed his master the letters cast from these
matrices, Fust was so pleased with the contrivance, that he
promised Peter to give him his only daughter Christina in
marriage ; a promise which he soon after performed. But
there were as many difficulties at first with these letters, as
there had been before with wooden ones ; the metal being too
soft to support the force of the impression : but this defect
on remedied by mixing the metal with a substance
which sufficiently hardened it." John Schoeffer, the son of
Peter, who was also a printer, confirms this account, add-
Fust and Schoeffer concealed this new improvement
by administering an oath of secrecy to all whom they in-
trusted, till the year 1462, when, by the dispersion of their
servants into different countries, at the sacking of Mentz
by the Archbishop Adolphus, the invention was publicly
BOOKS PRINTED BY CAXTON.
To our first printer are assigned 64 works, from 1471 to
1491. We subjoin a list of them, furnished to the 'Penny
Cyclopaedia' by Sir Henry Ellis, Principal Librarian of the
British Museum. In this list are included the French edition
170 BOOKS PRINTED BY CAXTOX. Parti.
of the * Eecueil,' and the Oration of Eussell, which are con-
1. ' Le Eecueil des Histoires de Troyes, compose par raoulle
le feure, chapellein de Monseigneur le due Philippe de Bour-
goingne en 1'an de grace mil cccclxiiii.' fol.
2. ' Propositio clarissimi Oratoris Magistri Johannis Eus-
sell, decretorum doctoris ac adtunc Ambassiatoris Edwardi
Eegis Anglie et Francie ad illustr. Principem Karolum
ducem Burgundie super susceptione ordinis garterij, &c. 4to.
3. ' The Eecuyell of the Historyes of Troye, composed and
drawen out of diverce bookes of latyn into Frensshe by Eaoul
le ffeure in the yere 1464, and drawen out of frensshe in to
Englisshe by William Caxton at the commaimdement of
Margarete Duchess of Burgoyne, &c., whych sayd translacion
and werke was begonne in Brugis in 1468 and ended in the
holy cyte of Colen 19 Sept. 1471,' fol.
4. ' The Game and Playe of the Chesse, translated out of
the French, fynysshid the last day of Marche, 1474,' fol.
5. A second edition of the same, fol. (with woodcuts).
6. ' A Boke of the hoole lyf of Jason,' (1475,) fol.
7. 'The Dictes and notable wyse Sayenges of the Phy-
losophers, transl. out of Frenshe by lord Antoyne Wydeville
Erie Eyuyeres, empr. at Westmestre, 1477,' fol.
8. ' The Morale Prouerbes of Christyne (of Pisa),' fol.
9. * The Book named Cordyale : or Memorare Novissima,
which treateth of The foure last Things,' begun 1478, finished
10. ' The Chronicles of Englond,' Westm., 1480, fol.
11. ' Description of Britayne,' 1480, fol.
12. ' The Mirrour of the World or thymage of the same,'
13. * The Historye of Eeynart the Foxe,' 1481, fol.
14. ' The Boke of Tullius de Senectute, with Tullius de
Amicitia, and the Declamacyon, which laboureth to shew
wherein honour sholde reste,' 1481, fol.
Appendix B. BOOKS PRINTED BY CAXTON. 171
15. ' Godefroy of Boloyne ; or, the laste Siege and Con-
queste of Jherusalem,' Westm., 1481, fol.
16. The Polycronycon,' 1482, fol.
17. ' The Pylgremage of the Sowle ; ' translated from the
French, Westm., 1483, fol.
18. ' Liber Festivalis, or Directions for keeping Feasts all
the Yere,' Westm., 1483, fol.
19. * Quatuor Sermones' (without date), fol.
20. 'Confessio Amantis, that is to saye in Englisshe,
The Confessyon of the Louer, maad and compyled by
Johan Gower, squyer,' Westm., 1483, fol.
21. ' The Golden Legende,' Westm., 1483, fol.
22. Another edition of * The Legende,' sm. folio.
23. A third, ' fin. at Westmestre,' 20th May, 1483, fol.
24. ' The Booke callid Cathon' (Magnus), translated from
the French, 1483, fol.
25. ' Parvus Chato* (without printer's name or date, but
in Caxton's type), folio.
26. ' The Knyght of the Toure,' translated from the French ;
Westm. (1484), fol.
27. * The Subtyl Historyes and Fables of Esope,' translated
from the French, 1484, fol.
28. ' The Book of the Ordre of Chyvalry, or Knyghthode,'
translated from the French (assigned to 1484), fol.
29. ' The Book ryal ; or the Book for a Kyng,' 1484, fol.
30. A Book of the noble Historyes of Kynge Arthur and
of certen of his Knyghtes, which book was reduced in to
Englyssheby syr Thomas Malory Knyght,' 1485, fol.
31. ' The Lyf of Charles the Grete Kyng of Fraunce and
Emperour of Rome,' 1485, fol.
32. Another edition of the same, 1485, fol.
33. * Thystorye of the noble ryght valyaunt and worthy
Knyghte Parys and of the fayr Vyenue, the doulphyns
doughter of Vyennoys,' translated from the French, 1485, fol.
34. ' The Book of Good Maners,' 1846, fol.
35. ' The Doctrinal of Sapyence,' translated from the
French, 1489, fol.
172 BOOKS PRINTED BY CAXTOX. Parti.
36. * The Book of Fayttes of Armes and of Cliyvalrye,' a
translation from the first part of Vegetius de Be Militari,
37. ' The Arte and Crafte to knowe well to dye,' trans-
lated from the French, 1490, fol.
38. 'The Boke of Eneydos, compyled by Vyrgyle,' trans-
lated from the French, 1490, fol.
39. The Talis of Cauntyrburye' (no date), fol.
40. Another edition (without date or place), fol.
41. ' Infancia Salvatoris,' 4to.
42. ' The Boke of Consolacion of Philosophic, whiche that
Boecius made for his cornforte and consolacion ' (no date nor
43. A collection of Chaucer's and Lydgate's minor Poems,
44. ' The Book of Fame, made by Gefiferey Chaucer,' fol.
45. ' Troy lu s and Creseyde,' fol.
46. ' A Book for Travellers,' fol.
47. ' The Lyf of St. Katherin of Senis,' fol.
48. ' Speculum Vite Christ! ; or the myrroure of the
blessyd Lyf of Jhesu Criste,' fol.
49. ' Directorium Sacerdotum : sive Orclinale secundum
Usum Sarum,' Westm., fol.
50. ' The Worke (or Court) of Sapience,' composed by
John Lydgate, fol.
51. 'A Boke of divers Ghostly Maters,' Westm., fol.
52. 'The Curial made by May stre Alain Charretier,' trans-
lated from the French, fol.
53. ' The Lyf of our Lady, made by Dan John Lydgate,
monke of Burye,' fol.
54. The Lyf of Saynt Wenefryde, reduced into Englisshe,'
55. ' A Lytel Tretise, intytuled or named The Lucidarye,'
56. * Reverendissimi viri dni. Gulielmi Lyndewodi, LLD.
et epi Asaphensis constitutiones provinciales Ecclesise Angli-
Appendix B. BOOKS PRINTED BY CAXTOX. 173
57. 'The Hystorye of Kynge Blanchardyne and Queen
Eglantyne his wyfe,' fol.
58. 'The Siege of the noble and invyncyble Cytee of
59. ' Statuta apudWestmonasterhmiedita, anno primo Regis
Ricardi tercii,' fol.
60. ' Statutes' made in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Parliaments of
Henry VII., folio. (The only fragment of this work known
consists of two leaves.)
61. 'The Accidence' (mentioned in one of the sale cata-
logues of the library of T. Martin of Palgrave).
62. ' The Prouffy table Boke of manes soule, called The
Chastysing of Goddes Chyldern,' fol.
63. ' Horae,' &c., 12mo., a fragment of eight pages, now at
Oxford, in the library bequeathed to the Bodleian by the late
F. Douce, Esq.
64. A fragment of a Ballad, preserved in a volume of scraps
and ballads in the British Museum.
From the time of Caxton's press to that of Thomas Racket,
we have the enumeration of 292G books in Dr. Dibdin's work.
The 'Typographical Antiquities' of Ames and Herbert comes
down to a later period. They recorded the names of three
hundred and fifty printers in England and Sect land, or of fo-
reign printers engaged in producing books for England, that
flourished between 1474 and 1600. The same authors have
ecorded the titles (we have counted with suflieient accuracy
to make the assertion) of nearly 10,000 distinct works printed
amongst us during the same, period. Many of these works,
r, were only single sheets; but on the other hand,
there are doubtless many not here registered. Dividing the
total number of books printed durin ars, we
find that the average number of distinct works produced each
year was 75.
174 AUTHORITIES. Parti.
To avoid encumbering the preceding pages with foot-notes
upon particular passages, the author subjoins a list of the
principal books which he has referred to, or consulted, in
this imperfect sketch of the Life of the Father of English
'Typographical Antiquities, or an Historical Account of
the Origin and Progress of Printing in Great Britain and
Ireland.' By Joseph Ames and William Herbert. 3 vols.
The same. Now greatly enlarged, with copious notes. By
the Eev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin. 4 vols. 4to., 1810.
' Biographia Britannica.' By Andrew Kippis. Article
'Caxton,' in vol. iii., 1784.
* Life of William Caxton.' Treatise, Library of Useful
1 A Treatise on Wood Engraving, Historical and Practi-
cal.' With illustrations engraved on wood, by John Jackson,
' A Concise History of the Origin and Progress of Printing,'
* Introduction to the Literature of Europe.' By Henry
Hallam. Vol. i., 1836.
* Philobiblion, a Treatise on the Love of Books.' By
Eichard de Bury. Translated by John B. Inglis, 1832.
' History of English Poetry.' By Thomas Warton.
4 vols. 8vo., 1824.
' The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer.' With an Essay on
his Language and Versification, &c. By Thomas Tyrwhitt.
5 vols., 1830.
' Specimens of the Early English Poets,' to which is pre-
fixed an ' Historical Sketch of the Kise and Progress of the
Appendix C. AUTHORITIES. 175
English Poetry and Language.' By George Ellis. 3 vols.,
' Illustrations of the Lives and Writings of Gower and
Chaucer.' By the Rev. Henry J. Todd, 1810.
' Three Early English Metrical Romances.' Edited by
John Robson, for the Camden Society. 1842.
' Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.' By Thomas Percy.
3 vols., 1794.
' Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.' By Sir Walter Scott.
* Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry,' 1833.
' Sir Thomas More, or Colloquies on the Progress and
Prospects of Society.' By Robert Southey. 2 vols., 1831.
' Utopia.' Written in Latin by Sir Thomas More. Trans-
lated by Ralph Robinson. A new edition, by the Rev. T. F.
Dibdin, 2 vols. 1808.
' The History of London.' By Thomas Maitland. 2 vols.
' The New Chronicles of England and France.' By
Kobert Fabyan. Edited by Sir Henry Ellis. 2 vols. 4to.,
' The History of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of
London.' By William Herbert. 2 vols. 8vo., 1834.
'Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster.' By
John Stow. Augmented by John Str} r pe. 2 vols. fol., 1720.
'Sir John Froissart's Chronicles.' Translated by Lord
Berners. 2 vols. 4to. 1812.
' Memoirs of Philip de Comines.' Translated by Mr.
Uvedale. 2 vols. 8vo., 1723.
'Paston Letters. Original Letters, written during the
Reigns of Henry VI., Edward IV., and Richard III.' By
Sir John Fenn. A new edition, by A. Ramsay. 2 vols.,
'Histoire des Dues de Bourgogne.' Par M. de Barante.
10 vols. 8vo., 1836.
' Statutes of the Realm.' From original records and
authentic manuscripts. Vol. ii., 1816.
' Memoirs of Wool,' &c. By John Smith. 2 vols., 1747.
176 AUTHORITIES. Part I.
' Extracts from the Issue Rolls of the Exchequer, Henry
III. to Henry VI.' 1837.
Historic of the Arrivall of Edward IV.' Edited by John
Bruce, for the Camden Society. 1838.
' Wardrobe Accounts of Edward the Fourth.' By Nicholas
Harris 'Nicolas. 1830.
'Monasticon Anglicanum.' By Sir William Dugdalc,
Edition of 1817.
' Retrospective Review.' Vol. xv. Article, The Knight
of the Tower's Advice to his Daughters.'
EXD OF PART I.
THE MODERN PRESS.
THE MODERN PRESS.
Popular Literature Conditions of Cheapness Popular Litera-
ture of Elizabeth's reign Who were the readers.
'HE history of Cheap Popular Literature is a long
and instructive chapter of the history of the con-
dition of the People. Before the invention of print-
ing there was little literature that could be called
popular, and none that could be called cheap. But in
the very earliest stages of the press all books would
be comparatively cheap, and all literature to a cer-
tain extent popular. Our first printer, as we regard
his works, had a most especial eye to the largest
number of readers. We have no record of the
price of his books beyond the fact that one of them
was sold for 6s. 8c?., a price equal to that of a
quarter of wheat. But the subjects of his books,
for the most part, show that he thought it his
especial business to simplify knowledge, and to
furnish reading for amusement. We can scarcely
call any of his books learned. What there is of
science in them was of a popular sort, and illustrated
by diagrams. The histories were those of our old
180 CHEAP POPULAR LITERATURE. Part II.
legendary chronicles, as attractive even as the ro-
mances of chivalry which accompanied them. His
poetry was chiefly that of one of the great minds
whose essential attribute is that of universality.
Caxton went to the largest number of readers that
his age presented to him.
It is a remarkable characteristic of the first
century of printing, not only in this country, but
wherever a press was erected, that the highest arid
most constant efforts of the new art were addressed
to the diffusion of the old stores of knowledge,
rather than to an enlargement of the stores. The
early professors of the art on the continent, in Ger-
many, Italy, and France, were scholars who knew
the importance of securing the world's inheritance
of the knowledge of Greece and Rome from any
further destruction, such as the scattered manu-
scripts of the ancient poets, orators, and historians
had experienced, through neglect and ignorance.
The press would put them fairly beyond the reach
of any new waste. But after the first half-century
of printing, when these manuscripts had been copied
in type, and the public libraries and the princes
and nobles of Europe had been supplied, a fresh
want arose out of the satisfaction of the former
want. Men of letters, who did not belong to the
class of the rich, anxiously demanded copies of the
ancient classics ; and their demands were not
made in vain. The Alduses, and Stephenses, and
Plantins, did not hold it good to keep books dear
for the advancement of letters ; they anxiously de-
Chap. I. CHEAP POPULAR LITERATURE. 181
sired to make them cheap, and they produced,
therefore, not expensive folios only, as their pre-
decessors had done, but neat and compactly printed
octavos and duodecimos, for the general market.
The instant that they did this, the foundations of
literature were widened and deepened. They pro-
bably at first overrated the demand ; indeed, we
know they did so, and they suffered in consequence.
But the time was sure ^o come when their labours
would be rewarded ; and, at any rate, they were at
once placed beyond a servile dependence upon
patrons. When they had their customers in every
great city and university, they did not wait for the
approving nod of a pope or a cardinal before they
began to print.
A new demand very soon followed upon the first
demand for cheap copies of the ancient classics, and
this was even more completely the demand of the
people. The doctrines of the Reformation had pro-
claimed the Bible as the best spiritual guide and
teacher, and the people would have Bibles. The
first English Bible was bought up and burnt ; those
who bought the Bibles contributed capital for
making new Bibles, and those who burnt the Bibles
advertised them. The first printers of the Bible
were, however, cautious ; they did not see the
number of readers upon which they were to rely
for a sale. In 1540 Grafton printed but 500
copies of his complete edition of the Scriptures ;
and yet, so great was the rush to this new supply
of the most important knowledge, that we have
1 82 CHEAP POPULAR LITERATURE. Part IT.
existing 326 editions of the English Bible, or parts
of the Bible, printed between 1526 and 1600.
The early English printers did not attempt what
the continental ones were doing for the ancient
classics. Down to 1540 no Greek book had ap-
peared from an English press. Oxford had only
printed a part of Cicero's Epistles ; Cambridge, no
ancient writer whatever : only three or four old
Roman writers had been reprinted, at that period,
throughout England. But a great deal was done
for public instruction by the course which our early
printers took ; for, as one of them says, " Divers
famous clerks and learned men translated and made
many noble works into our English tongue, whereby
there was much more plenty and abundance of
English used than there was in times past." The
English nobility were, probably, for more than the
first half- century of English printing, the great en-
couragers of our press : they required translations
and abridgments of the classics, versions of French
and Italian romances, old chronicles, and helps to
devout exercises. Caxton and his successors abun-
dantly supplied these wants ; and the impulse to
most of their exertions was given by the growing
demand for literary amusement on the part of the
great. Caxton, as we have seen, speaking of his
' Boke of Eneydos/ says, " This present book is not
for a rude uplandish man to labour therein, nor
read it." But a great change was working in
Europe; the "rude uplandish man," if he gave
promise of talent, was sent to school. The priests
Chap. I. CONDITIONS OF CHEAPNESS. 183
strove with the laity for the education of the people ;
and not only in Protestant but in Catholic coun-
tries, were schools and universities everywhere
founded. Here, again, was a new source of em-
ployment for the press A, B, C's, or Abseys, Pri-
mers, Catechisms, Grammars, Dictionaries, were
multiplied in every direction. Books became, also,
during this period, the tools of professional men.
iere were not many works of medicine, but a great
lany of law ; and even the people required instruc-
,ion in the ordinances they were called upon to obey,
rhich they received in the form of proclamations.
The course of the early printers was based upon
the principle that they could produce books cheaper
by the press than by the scribe. This point once
established, the next fact would be also clear that
the more impressions they printed the cheaper the
book could be afforded. Beyond this great fact
there was a difficulty. There would arise in their
minds the same doubt which has puzzled all
printers and booksellers from the time of Caxton
to our times ; which is at the bottom of all con-
troversies about dear books and low-priced books
at the present hour ; and which will continue to
perplex the producers of books, even should the
entire population beyond infancy become readers,
and have the means of purchasing books in some
form or other. That question is simply a com-
mercial one, and is perfectly independent of any
schemes of public or private generosity for the en-
lightenment of the people ; it is Given the sub-
184 CONDITIONS OF CHEAPNESS. Part II.
ject of a book, its mode of treatment, the celebrity
or otherwise of its author, its amount of matter
what is the natural limit of its first sale, and the
necessary ratio of its published price ? If the pro-
bable demand be under-rated, there will be a high
price, which will restrict the natural demand ; and
if over-rated, there will be a low price, which will
curtail the natural profit. This is scarcely a ques-
tion for enthusiasts for cheapness to decide, upon
the broad assertion that a large sale of low-priced
books will be more profitable than a small sale of
In 1825, Archibald Constable, then the great
publisher, propounded to the then < Great Un-
known' his plan for revolutionising "the art and
traffic of bookselling." He exhibited the annual
schedule of assessed taxes, having reckoned the
number of persons who paid for each separate ar-
ticle of luxury ; and from that document he calcu-
lated that, if he produced every year "twelve
volumes so good that millions must wish to have
them, and so cheap that every butcher's callant
may have them, if he please to let me tax him six-
pence a week," he should sell them, " not by thou-
sands or tens of thousands, but by hundreds of
thousands ay, by millions." It is recorded that
a worthy divine, instructing his bookseller to pub-
lish a sermon of his composition, decided that at
least twelve thousand should be the number printed,
he having calculated that one copy would be
required in each parish by the clergyman alone, to
Chap. I. CONDITIONS OF CHEAPNESS. 185
say nothing of chance customers. These statistics
were ingenious, but they were not safe guides.
The callauts did not consent to be taxed sixpence
a week ; and the rectors and curates did not rush
St. Paul's Churchyard to buy up the limited
ipression of the sermon.
But the Edinburgh publisher, and the rural
livine, were nevertheless right in their endeavour
find some principle upon which they could
letermine the probable demand for a literary work.
Constable proposed to himself the union of good-
ness and cheapness, to create a demand that (still
using his own words) would have made him " richer
than the possession of all the copyrights of all the
quartos that ever were, or will be, hot-pressed."
The goodness without the cheapness might have
produced little change in the market ; the cheap-
ness without the goodness might have been more
influential But, with the truest combination of
these qualities, there is nothing so easy or so com-
mon as to over-rate a demand in the commerce of
books. The price of a book aspiring to the greatest
popularity can only be settled by an estimate of
the probable number of readers at any one time
in the community, and by a still more difficult
estimate of the sort of reading which is likely
to interest the greatest number. The same diffi-
culty arises with regard to every new book, and
has always arisen. The amount of the "reading
public," with its almost endless subdivisions, arising
out of station, or age, or average intelligence, or
186 CONDITIONS OF CHEAPNESS. Part II.
prevailing taste, is very difficult to be estimated in
our own day ; and there are not many authentic
details ready to our hand upon which we can make
an estimate for any past period. We will endea-
vour, out of these scanty landmarks, to collect
some facts relating to the former state and pro-
gressive extension of the realms of print.
It is no modern discovery that a book cheap
enough for the many amongst reading . people to
buy, and at the same time a book which the
many would have a strong desire to buy, would be
more advantageous to the manufacturer of books
than a dear book which the few only could buy,
and which the few only would desire to buy.
There is preserved, in the handwriting of Chris-
topher Barker, in 1582, ( A Note of the offices and
other special licences for printing granted by her
Majesty, with a conjecture of their valuation.'*
This worthy printer to the Queen probably a little
under-rated his own gains, when he says that the
whole Bible requires so great a cost, that his pre-
decessors kept the realm twelve years without ven-
turing a single edition, but that he had desperately
adventured to print four in a year and a half,
expending about 3000Z., to the certain ruin of his
wife and family if he had died in the time. Of
these four editions, three were in folio, and one in
quarto. The sale of the folios would necessarily be
limited by the cost, in the way that the same un-
happy patentee complains of as to his Book of
* Archseologia, vol. xxv. page 100, &c.
Chap. I. CONDITIONS OF CHEAPNESS. 187
Common Prayer, * which few or none do buy
except the minister." But how stands the sale of
smaller and less expensive books ? Mr. Daye
:ints the Psalms in metre, which book, " being
iupied of all sorts of men, women, and children,
id requiring no great stock for the furnishing
lereof, is therefore gainful." The small Catechism
" also a profitable copy, for that it is general.
[r. Seres prints the Morning and Evening Prayer,
ith the Collects and the Litany ; and where poor
[r. Barker sells one Book of Common Prayer,
he (Seres) furnisheth the whole parishes throtigh-
>ut the realm, which are commonly a hundred to
one." But with all his laments and jealousies,
Queen Elizabeth's printer, in those anti-commercial
days, had hit the sound principle that is at the
>ot of the commerce of books. There is one of
the printers, he says, whose patent contains all
dictionaries in all tongues, all chronicles and his-
tories whatsoever ; and his position is thus described :
" If he print competent numbers of each to main-
tain his charges, all England, Scotland, and much
more, were not able to utter them ; and if he should
print but a few of each volume, the prices would be
exceedingly great, and he in more danger to be
undone than likely to gain." Here are the Scylla.
and Charybdis of the book-trade. Let "all good
books on their first appearance appeal to the needy
multitude," says one adviser. Mr. Barker answers,
" All England, Scotland, and much more, were not
able to utter them." " Let the rich and luxurious
188 LITERATURE OF ELIZABETH'S REIGN. Part II.
"be first addressed," say the old traditional believers
that dearness and excellence are synonymous.
Mr. Barker answers "Print but a few of each
volume, at exceedingly high prices, and there is
more danger of ruin than gain."
The Note of Christopher Barker to Lord Burgh-
ley is an answer to a complaint that had been made
in 1 582, that the privileges granted to members of the
Stationers' Company " will be the overthrow of the
printers and stationers within this city, being in
number one hundred and seventy-five, and thereby
the excessive prices of books prejudiciable to the
state of the whole realm." In the absence of any
knowledge of the numbers printed of a book, and
of its consequent price, at the time of this com-
plaint against the monopolists of charging "excessive
prices," it may enable us to form some estimate of
the character of the books issued in 1582, and
thence of the quality of the readers of books, if we
glance at two other sources of information Ames
and Herbert's ' Typographical Antiquities,' and
Mr. Collier's ' Extracts from the Kegisters of the
Stationers' Company.' The latter is especially
valuable, as showing what was doing in the most
popular literature the literature of ballads and
broadsides, of marvellous adventures and merry
tales which matters Ames and Herbert rejected
in a great degree.
Tn the twenty-fifth year of Queen Elizabeth
then, we learn that the printers of London had a
good deal of work to do, in the production of
Chap. I. LITERATURE OF ELIZABETH'S REIGN. 189
Bibles, Testaments, and Prayer-books of A B C's,
Primers, and Catechisms ; of divinity, chiefly con-
troversial ; of almanacs and prognostications ; of
Latin books for grammar- schools ; of grammars
and dictionaries ; of statutes and law-books. This
was the staple work of the press, which had been
going on from the beginning of the century, and
nstantly increasing. We learn from the ' Privy-
urse Accounts of Elizabeth of York/ that, in 1505,
enty pence were paid for a Primer and a Psalter.
This sum was equal to a week's wages of a labourer
husbandry. The Primer and the Psalter were
ly for the labourer. In 15 J 6 ' Fitzherbert's
rand Abridgment,' then $ rst published, cost the
wyer forty shillings a price equal to the expense
of a week's commons for all the students of Fitz-
erbert's inn. No doubt a century of printing in
ngland had greatly lowered the price of all books
that were essential instruments in the learned pro-
fessions, or for the conduct of school education.
But in the reign of Elizabeth the class of general
readers had arisen ; a class far more extensive than
that of the clerks and noble gentlemen to whom
our first printers addressed their translations of the
classics, their French and Italian romances, their
' Gesta Romanorum,' their old chronicles, and their
early poetry. It was a time of travel and adven-
ture. In this year, 1582, we find printed 'Dis-
covery and Conquest of the East Indies,' ' Discovery
and Conquest of the Provinces of Peru, and also of
the rich Mines of Potosi/ ' Divers Voyages touching
190 WHO WERE THE READERS. Part II.
the Discovery of America' (Hakluyt), 'Acts and
Gests of the Spaniards in the West Indies,' 'State
of Flanders and Portugal/ ' A Discourse in com-
mendation of Sir Francis Drake ' had appeared in
1581. Frobisher had received his poetical ' Welcome
Home/ by Churchyard, in 1 579. Of historical works,
we have none printed in 1582, with the exception
of ' The Life, Acts, and Death of the most noble,
valiant, and renowned Prince Arthur,' which the
Dreaders of all classes would receive with undoubting
mind as an authentic record. But solid books of
history had very recently been produced. Holinshed
had published his ' Chronicles ;' Guicciardini had
been translated by Jeffrey Fenton, and Herodotus
by B. R
The rude historical Drama was then just arising
to familiarise the people with their country's annals.
In ten more years the press would teem with play-
books ; for the triumphant era was approaching of
those who, in 3579, Stephen Gosson denounced
to uttermost perdition in his v Pleasant invective
against poets, pipers, jesters, and such-like cater-
pillars of a commonwealth/ That species of popular
literature is almost absent from the Registers of
1582; but the materials upon which much of the
romantic drama is founded were familiar to the
readers of this period. Who were the readers, we may
judge from the titles of some of these novels. One
will indicate a class : ' The Wonderful Adven-
tures of Simonides, gathered as well for the iDstruc
tion of our noble young gentlemen as our honour-
Chap. I. WHO WERE THE READERS. 191
able courtly ladies/ The translators and writers of
these romances seem to have had no notion of a
class of readers beyond the circle of the rich and
the high-born. Sidney's ' Arcadia ' is called ' The
Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia ;' and in his Dedi-
cation to "My dear Lady and Sister/' he says, "It
is done only for you, and to you ; * * * for indeed
for severer eyes it is not, being but a trifle, and
that triflingly handled/' A few years after came
Robert Greene, and other writers of imagination,
who were equally starved in writing plays for
the stage-managers and stories for the stationers.
Greene's ' Pandosto/ afterwards called ' Dorastus
and Fawnia/ is a small quarto of 56 pages, in which
Shakspere found the story of ' The Winter's Tale/
The author describes this novelet as " pleasant for
age to avoid dreary thoughts ; profitable for youth
to eschew other wanton pastimes ; and bringing to
both a desired content." He dedicates it " To the
Gentlemen Readers, Health ;" and to these "Gentle-
men " he says, " If any condemn my rashness for
troubling your ears with so many unlearned pam-
phlets, I will straight shroud myself under the
shadow of your courtesies." The scholar was ad-
dressing the " gentlemen " of the Inns of Court and
of the Universities. He was looking to a ruder
class of readers when, in 1591, he published 'A
Notable Discovery of Cosenage,' having himself, as
he confesses, kept villainous company. This tract
he addresses " To.the young Gentlemen, Merchants,
Apprentices, Farmers, and plain Countrymen."
192 WHO WERE THE READERS. Part II.
Here is a great extension of the reading public :
but we have some doubts if Greene's tract ever
reached " Farmers and plain Countrymen." The
question arises, how were books to be circulated in
the provinces ? It was more than a century later
before some of the largest towns, such as Birming-
ham, had their booksellers. The pedlerswho kept
the fairs and markets were the booksellers of the
early days of the press. The last new pamphlet
travelled into the country in the same pack with
the last new ruff; it travelled many miles, and
found few buyers. And yet for some popular books
the demand was not contemptible. Sir Thomas
Challoner translated < The Praise of Folly,' of
Erasmus, which was published in 1577; and the
Stationers' Company stipulated with the publisher
that he should print " not above 1500 of any im-
pression," and that " any of the Company may lay
on with him, reasonably, at every impression." Mr.
Collier, who gives this curious extract from " the
Stationers' Registers," thinks that this meant " shar-
ing the profits." It meant that whilst the sheets
were at press any member of the Company might
print off a reasonable number for his own sale. To
" lay on " is still a technical term in printing. Chal-
loner's Erasmus was an amusing book for the
scholar, and had, no doubt, a special sale amongst
teachers and students. Philip Stubbes, in his
1 Anatomy of Abuses/ first published in 1583, bit-
terly complains that "pamphlets of toys and babble-
ries corrupt men's minds and pervert good wits ;"
Chap. I. WHO WERE THE READERS. 193
and he especially laments that such books, being
" better esteemed and more vendible than the god-
liest and sagest books that be," have caused " that
worthy Book of Martyrs, made by that famous
father and excellent instrument in God his Church,
Master John Foxe, so little to be accepted." We
might have concluded that, even in those days of
limited bookselling, the great popular book of the
'Acts and Monuments ' would have had an universal
sale, with its wonderful woodcuts and its deep in-
terest for the bulk of the people. But when its
excitement was simply historical, two centuries
afterwards, the same book would be found in many
a peasant's cottage, for the sole reason that it might
be purchased in small portions by a periodical out-
lay. Whilst the wares of worthy John Fox were
sleeping in the bookseller's warehouse, the people
were buying their 'Almanacs and Prognostications,'
which Christopher Barker, speaking of their pa-
tentee, calls * a pretty commodity towards an honest
man's living." They were buying, in this year of
1582, 'The Dial of Destiny,' an astrological treatise ;
'The Examination and Confession 'of Witches ;'
' The Execution of Edmund Campion, the Jesuit ;*
'The Interpretation of Dreams;' 'A Treatise of
the rare and strange Wonders seen in the Air.'
They were buying ' A Ballad of the Lamentation of
a modest Maiden being deceitfully forsaken ;' ' A
Ballad entitled ' Now we go, of the Papists' new
overthrow ;' ' The picture of two pernicious Vaiiets,
called Prig Pickthank and Clem Clawback;' 'A
194 WHO WERE THE READERS. Part II.
Ballad entitled a doleful Ditty, declaring the un-
fortunate hap of two faithful friends, the one went
out of her wits and the other for sorrow died.'
They were buying story-books in prose and rhyme,
accounts of murders and treasons, of fires and
earthquakes, and songs, "old and plain." The
Court had its ' Euphues, very pleasant for all gentle-
men to read ;' and the City its mirror of Court
manners, entitled ' How a young gentleman may
behave himself in all companies.'
If we look very broadly at the character of the
popular literature of the middle period of the reign
of Elizabeth, and compare it with the popular
literature of our own day, we shall find that the
differences are more in degree than in kind. We
have purposely selected the period before the up-
rising of our great dramatic literature, which must
'have had a prodigious effect upon the intellectual
condition of the people. There was a great deal of
training going forward in the grammar -schools for
the sons of tradesmen, and of the more opulent
cultivators ; but the rudiments of knowledge were
not accessible to the labourers in rural districts,
'and the inferior handicraftsmen. There was, pro-
bably, no great distinction in the acquirements of
the gentry and the burgesses. Some read with a
real desire for information ; some for mere amuse-
ment. Newspapers were not as yet. In the
country house where reading was an occupation,
, there was Hall's ' Chronicle/ and Stow's * Chro-
nicle/ and, may be, his rival Grafton's ; there was
Chap. I. WHO WERE THE READERS. 195
Painter's ' Palace of Pleasure/ Tusser's ' Five Hun-
dred Points of good Husbandry,' and, though
Philip Stubbes denies its popularity, Fox's c Book
of Martyrs.' Chaucer and Gower had become ob-
solete in the courtly circles ; but Surrey, and Sack-
ville, and Gascoigne were dozed over after the
noontide dinner. The peers and commoners who
me to Court and Parliament bought the new
Travels and Discoveries, and carried them into the
country, for the solace of many a long winter even-
ing's curiosity about " antres vast and deserts idle."
The Greek and Roman classics were becoming
somewhat popularly known through translations.
But it is tolerably clear that much of the light
reading, and most of the cheapest books, were rub-
bish spun over and over again out of the novels of
Bandello, and Boccaccio, and Boisteau, and losing
their original elegance in hasty and imperfect
translations. The taste for such reading received
its best counteraction when the stage became a
noble instrument of popular instruction ; and when
those who did not frequent the theatres had a won-
drous store of exciting fiction opened to them by a
few plays of Shakspere and many more of his con-
temporaries. It was in vain that puritanism, such
as that of Prynne, denounced " the ordinary read-
ing of Comedies, Tragedies, Arcadias, Amorous
Histories, Poets," as unlawful. They held their
empire till civil war came to put an end to most
home-studies, except that of party and polemical
pamphlets. But even in the tempestuous times
196 WHO WERE THE READERS. Part II.
that preceded the great outbreak, Sir Henry Wot-
ton, quoting the saying of a Frenchman, laments
that " his country was much the worse by old men
studying the venom of policy, and young men.
ading the dregs of fancy."
Chap. II. IMPERFECT CIVILISATION. 197
Imperfect Civilisation Reading during the Civil Wars Reading
after the Restoration French Romances First London Catalogue,
1680 Authors and Booksellers Subscription Books Books in
Numbers The Canvassing System.
a condition of society which may be character-
id as that of a very imperfect civilisation when
)mmunication is difficult, and in some cases im-
>ssible ; when the influence of the capital upon
provinces is very partial and uncertain ; when
lowledge is for the most part confined to the
led professions we must regard the rich upper
classes precisely in the same relation to popular
literature as we now regard the poor lower classes.
We must view them as essentially uncritical and
unrefined, swallowing the coarsest intellectual food
with greediness, looking chiefly to excitement and
amusement in books, and not very willingly ele-
vating themselves to mental improvement as a
great duty. When Ben Jonson speaks of the
" prerogative the vulgar have to lose their judg-
ments, and like that which is naught" when he
derides the taste of " the beast the multitude" he
also takes care to tell us that his description of
those who "think rude things greater than polished,"
not only applied to "the sordid multitude, but to
the neater sort of our gallants : for all are the mul-
titude ; only they differ in clothes, not in judgment
198 BEADING DURING THE CIVIL WARS. Part II.
or understanding."* About the time when Jonson
wrote thus more calmly than when he denounced
11 the loathed stage, and the more loathsome age"
Burton was exhibiting the intellectual condition of
the gentry in his ' Anatomy of Melancholy :' " I
am not ignorant how barbarously and basely for the
most part our ruder gentry esteem of libraries and
books ; how they neglect and contemn so great a
treasure, so inestimable a benefit, as ^Esop's cock
did the jewel he found in the dunghill ; and all
through error, ignorance, and want of education."
Again, he says, "If they read a book at any time,
'tis an English chronicle, St. Huon of Bordeaux,
Amadis de Gaul, &c., a play-book, or some pam-
phlet of news ; and that at such seasons only when
they cannot stir abroad." The " pamphlet of news"
was a prodigious ingredient in the queer cauldron
of popular literature for the next half-century.
Every one has heard of the thirty thousand tracts
in the British Museum, forming two thousand
volumes, all published between 1640 and 1660.
The impression of many of these was probably very
small ; for Rushworth, to whom they became au-
thorities, tells us that King Charles I. gave ten
pounds for the liberty to read one at the owner's
house in St. Paul's Churchyard. This was the
twenty years' work of Milton's " pens and heads,
sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching,
revolving new notions and ideas." Others were,
" as fast reading, trying all things." Milton asks,
Chap. II. READING DURING THE CIVIL WARS. 199
" What could a man require more from a nation so
pliant and so prone to seek after knowledge ?" He
truly answers : " wise and faithful labourers, to
lake a knowing people, a nation of prophets, sages,
id worthies."* The " wise and faithful labourers"
rere scarcely to be found in the civil and ecclesi-
tical violence of these partisan writers. But they
the pioneers of constitutional liberty ; and till
iat fabric was built up, literature, properly so
tiled, would offer few things great or enduring,
demand for books in that stormy period was,
doubtless, very limited. The belief that the EIKUV
BxffiKiM was written by Charles I. would naturally
account for the sale of fifty editions in one year.
But from 1623 to 1664 only two editions of Shak-
spere were sold ; and when the Restoration came,
an act of Parliament was passed that only twenty
printers should practise their art in the kingdom.
The fact, as recorded by Evelyn, that at the fire of
London, in 1666, the booksellers who carried on
their business in the neighbourhood of St. Paul's
lost as many books, in quires, as were worth
200,000k, is rather a proof of a slow demand than
of the enormous extent of bookselling. In the
vaults of Saint Faith's were rotting many a copy
of what the world has agreed to call " heavy" books ;
books in advance of their time ; books that no
price would have made largely saleable the books
for the few.
The terrible quarter of a century that had pre-
200 HEADING AFTER THE RESTORATION. Part II.
ceded the Best oration, and the new tastes which
the return of the Stuarts brought to England,
would seem to have swept away even the remem-
brances of the popular literature of Elizabeth and
James. Edward Phillips, the nephew of Milton,
has a remarkable passage with reference to the
poets : "As for the antiquated and fallen into ob-
scurity from their former credit and reputation,
they are for the most part those who have written
beyond the verge of the present age ; for let us
look back as far as about thirty or forty years, and
we shall find a profound silence of the poets beyond
that time, except of some few dramatics, of whose
real worth the interest of the now flourishing stage
cannot but be sensible."* This was written in
1674 What had the people to read who had for-
gotten Spenser, and Daniel, and Drayton ; and
Herbert who knew little of Shakspere, except
in the translations of Davenant and Dryden ; and
who, unquestionably, had small relish for the
popular prose of another age, such as Bacon's
' Essays' ? They had rhyming tragedies ; they had
obscene comedies ; they had their Sedleys and
Eochesters. It is not wonderful that the popular
taste soon grew corrupted. Pepys says (1666),
" To Deptford by water, reading Othello, Moor of
Venice, which I ever heretofore esteemed a mighty
good play ; but having so lately read The Adven-
tures of Five Hours, it seems a mean thing." Their
" light reading" was a marvel that romance litera-
* Theatruiii Poetarum, Preface.
Chap. II. FRENCH ROMANCES. 201
ture which at one time was as popular in its degree
as the shilling novel of our own day. We have
before us Mr. Samuel Speed's Catalogue of Books,
printed for him in 1670. The first is ' Pharamond,
the famed Romance, written by the author of those
other two eminent volumes Cassandra and Cleopa-
tra.' These famed and eminent volumes are large
folios, translated from the French of M. de la Cal-
prenede. If Calprenede was the Dumas, Made-
BHne Scudery was the Eugene Sue of those days,
o popularity that these moderns have obtained
r their feuilletons could have exceeded the ex-
cement produced here, as well as in France, by
e wonderful folios of their predecessors. ' Arta-
menes' and ' Clelia/ to say nothing of ' Almahide'
and ' The Illustrious Bassa,' were in every mansion
f the ladies of quality. The matron and her
daughters sate at their embroidery while the com-
panion read aloud, night after night, a page or two
of these interminable adventures, in which Greeks
and Romans talked the language of the Gi'<titd
Monarque ; and the intrigues of the court, and the
characters of its personages, were mysteriously
shadowed forth in what were called " Portraits.' 9
What signified that they were stupid ? They were
as level to the comprehension of their high-born
readers as the penny novels of the present day are
to the intelligence of the factory-girl. They had
a long popularity, and were reprinted again and
again, in their eight or ten volumes, when the age
of duodecimos had arrived. They had been fa-
202 FRENCH ROMANCES. Part II.
shionable, and that was enough. Character they
had none, and very little of human passions. They
were constructed upon the admirable recipe of
Moliere in the ' Precieuses Ridicules' a lover
without feeling ; a mistress without preference ;
mutual insensibility ; sedulous attention to forms ;
a declaration in a garden ; the banishment of the
lover by the coquetting fair ; perseverance ; timid
confessions ; rivals ; persecutions of fathers ; jea-
lousies conceived under false appearances ; laments ;
despairs ; abductions ; and all that. Mammas
thought they were wisely instructing their daugh-
ters, when they permitted Mademoiselle Scudery
to teach them " des regies dont, en bonne galan-
terie, on ne saurait se dispenser." In vain Moliere,
and Boileau, and Scarron laughed at the great
heroic romances. They held their own till Le
Sage in France, and Defoe and Fielding in Eng-
land, spoke the language of real life. They show
us how long the great and little vulgar will feed
upon husks, till some real fruit is offered to them.
But it is remarkable how, in the same age, works
of real genius and works of intense dulness will
run side by side. It may be a question how far
' Don Quixote' drove out the romances of chivalry.
' Tartufe,' and * Le Malade Imaginaire' were of the
same era as that of the wonderful productions in
which Cyrus was talking galanterie to Mandane
through a thousand folio pages. When Pepys
thought ' Othello ' a mean thing compared with
' The Adventures of Five Hours/ he also bought
Chap. II. FIRST LOOT>OX CATALOGUE. 203
" Hudibras, both parts, the book now in greatest
fashion for drollery ;" but he tells us his honest
mind when he says, " I cannot, I confess, see enough
where the wit lies." Voltaire had a different
standard of taste when he wrote, " I never met
with so much wit in one single book as in this."
The politics of ' Hudibras' made it " in greatest
fashion ;" the wit shot over the heads of the idle,
dissipated, slavish, and corrupt courtiers who gave
it their patronage, but eventually left its author to
starve. Butler became popular in another gene-
ration ; and so did Milton. The first edition of
' Paradise Lost' sufficed for a circulation of seven
The earliest Catalogue of Books published in this
country contains a list of " all the books printed in
England since the dreadful fire, 1666, to the end
of Trinity term, 1680." The statistical results of
this catalogue of the productions of the press
for fourteen years have been ascertained by us.
The whole number of books printed was 3550 ; of
which 947 were divinity, 420 law, and 153 physic ;
397 were school-books, and 253 on subjects of
geography and navigation, including maps. About
one-half of these books were single sermons and
tracts. Deducting the reprints, pamphlets, single
sermons, and maps, we have estimated that, upon an
average, 100 new books were produced in each
About the time when this catalogue was pub-
lished, John Dunton, one of the most eccentric,
204 AUTHORS AND BOOKSELLERS. Part II.
and perhaps therefore amusing, of the publishing
race, went into business with half a shop. He can
tell us something of the manufacture of some of
these books of the London catalogue. He says,
" Printing was now uppermost in my thoughts ; and
hackney authors began to ply me with specimens
as earnestly, and with as much passion and concern,
as the watermen do passengers with oars and scul-
lers/' He adds, "As for their honesty, 'tis very
remarkable. They'll either persuade you to go
upon another man's copy, to steal his thought, or
to abridge his books which should have got him
bread for his lifetime."* There were varieties of
this class : " Mr. Bradshaw was the best accom-
plished hackney author I have met with ; his
genius was quite above the common size, and his
style was incomparably fine." Dunton had a sus-
picion that Bradshaw wrote ( The Turkish Spy/
which might justify somewhat of his eulogium.
Roger North says that "the demi-booksellers,"
who deal in " the fresh scum of the press," are such
as "crack their brains to find out selling subjects,
and keep hirelings in garrets, at hard meat, to write
and correct by the great ; and so puff up an octavo
to a sufficient thickness, and there is six shillings
current for an hour and a half's reading, and per-
haps never to be read or looked upon after/' The
people get these wares cheaper now. The pub-
lishers of that day, and long afterwards, were not
very nice as to the uniform excellence of the books
* Dunton's ' Life and Errors,' ed. 1705, p. 70.
Chap. II. AUTHOKS AND BOOKSELLERS. 205
they issued. Dunton informs us that Mr. William
Rogers, who was the publisher of Sherlock and
Tillotson, was concerned in publishing " some
Dying Speeches." They had books for all tastes,
and carried their goods to many markets. They
were equally at home in Cheapside or at Sturbridge
fair ; and the great Bernard Lintot exhibited his
" rubric posts " in his shop, and kept a booth on
the Thames when it was frozen over. Some, ac-
cording to Dunton, were " pirates and cormorants ;"
others, who had " the intimate acquaintance of
several excellent pens, could never want copies."
Some were good at " projection " the devisers of
selling subjects;" and the talent of some "lies
at collection," which Dunton exemplifies by Mr.
Crouch, who t( melted down the best of our Eng-
lish histories into twelvepenny books, which are
filled with wonders, rarities, and curiosities." One,
who "printed The Flying Post, did often fill it
with stolen copies ;" whilst Jacob Tonson, who paid
Dryden like a safe tradesman as he was, and made
him presents of melons and sherry, is very indig-
nant that the great poet charged him fifty guineas
for fourteen hundred and forty-six lines, when he
expected to have had fifteen hundred and eigh-
teen lines for forty guineas. Peace to their manes !
They were all doing something towards the supply
of that great want which was beginning to assert
itself somewhat extensively in their day. They
were, for the most part, rugged dealers in wares
intellectual. They had many modes of turning a
206 SUBSCRIPTION BOOKS. Part II.
penny beyond the profits which they derived, as
publishers, from " the great genius," or " the emi-
nent hand," which each patronised. They had some
difficulties in their way as manufacturers ; although
the more cautious and lucky did make fortunes.
The more limited the public, the more uncertain
the demand. They were pretty safe with their tracts,
and their abridgments, and their new comedies ;
but when they had to deal with works of learning,
which were necessarily costly, they and their authors
for the authors had often to sustain the charges
of printing encountered serious losses. We shall
see how, as the commerce of books extended, new
measures were adopted to lessen, if not to remove,
Amongst the ' Calamities of Authors ' there are
many touching records of
" Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty,"
produced by printing books that met with no ready
sale. Purchas was ruined by his ( Pilgrimes ;'
Castell by his ' Lexicon Heptaglotton ;' Ockley by
his ' History of the Saracens ;' Rushworth by his
' Historical Collections.' Bishop Kennett gave away
his 'Register and Chronicle/ saying, "The volume,
too large, brings me no profit." The remedy was
to be found in publishing by subscription. This
plan, like most other human things, was subject to
abuse ; but it was founded upon a true estimate of
the peculiar risks of publishing. It is manifest
that, if a certain number of persons unite in agree^-
Chap. II. SUBSCRIPTION BOOKS. 207
ment to purchase a book which is about to be
printed, the author may be at ease with regard to
the issue of the enterprise, and the subscribers ought
to receive what they want at a lower cost than
hen risk enters into price. For more than half a
ntury nearly all the great books were published
y subscription ; and the highest in literature felt
no degradation in canvassing themselves with their
" subscription receipts." It is easy to perceive,
>y the subscription prices, when the work was set
n foot by an author, or his friends, simply as
more convenient mode of obtaining or bestow-
money than begging or borrowing ; and when
there was a real market value given for the com-
modity offered. The scheme of levying contribu-
tions upon subscribers was as old as the days of
Taylor, the Water Poet. He published his 'Penni-
lesse Pilgrimage ' in this fashion ; and it seems thai
he sometimes gave his books to those who were un-
willing to return his honorarium. He consoles him-
self by a lampoon against his false subscribers :
" They took a book worth twelvepence, and were bound
To give a crown, an angel, or a pound ;
A noble, piece, or half-piece, what they list,
They past their words, or freely set their list."
Honest John had sixteen hundred and fifty such
subscribers ; but of these, seven hundred and fifty
were "bad debtors."* In the next century, Myles
Davies has the same story to tell of the degradation
of the literary begging-letter writer. He leaves his
* ' A Kicksey Winsey.'
208 SUBSCRIPTION BOOKS. Part II.
books at the great man's door ; he writes letter
upon letter, "with fresh odes upon his graceship,
and an account where I lived, and what noblemen
had accepted of my present." He walks before
the "parlour- window," and " advances to address his
grace to remember the poor author." At last his
parcel of books is returned to him unopened, "with
half-a-guineaupon top of the cargo," and "with de-
sire to receive no more." Heaven, in its mercy, has
relieved the tribe from these heartbreaking dis-
graces. There may be " the fear that kills," but
there is no longer the patron who starves. Gold-
smith has described the devices' and the abasement
of the little man in the coffee-house, who " drew
out a bundle of proposals, begging me to subscribe
to a new edition he was going to give the world of
Propertius, with notes." His plans were more in-
genious and diversified than those of Myles Davies :
" I first besiege their hearts with flattery, and then
pour in my proposals at the breach. If they sub-
scribe readily the first time, I renew my request
to beg a dedication fee. If they let me have that,
I smite them once more for engraving their coat-of-
arms at the top." Forty years after Myles Davies,
Samuel Johnson was enduring the anxieties atten-
dant upon the subscription plan, although friends
stood between the author and the customer. He
writes to Burn ey in 1758, "I have like wise enclosed
twelve receipts (for Shakspere) ; not that I mean
to impose upon you the trouble of pushing them
with more importunity than may seem proper," &c.
Chap. II. SUBSCRIPTION BOOKS. 209
Long was the subscribed Shakspeare delayed ; and
the proud struggling man had to bear Churchill's
malignity, as well as the reproaches of his own
sense of honour :
" He for subscribers baits his hook,
And takes your cash; but where's the book?"
Well might Johnson write, in more prosperous
times, " He that asks subscription soon finds that he
has enemies. Ah 1 who do not encourage him, de-
fame him." Johnson and his publishers set no price
upon their books, as a gratuity to the author, be-
yond their common market value. But great men
had gone before tlfem, who regulated their sub-
scription prices by a higher estimate of the value
of their works. Steele had received a guinea an
octavo volume for the re-publication of ' The Tatler ;'
Pope had six guineas for his six quarto volumes of *
' The Iliad ;' " a sum," says Johnson, " according
to the value of money at that time, by no means in-
considerable." The subscription to Pope's ' Shak-
speare ' was also six guineas for six volumes. John-
son's projected translation of Paul Sarpi's ' History
of the Council of Trent ' was only to be char.
twopence a sheet. That seems to have been the
ordinary price of subscription books during the first
half of the eighteenth century. Du Halde's : China,'
which appears to have required a great deal of
what "the trade "call "pushing," was advertised by
Cave at three halfpence a sheet ; besides the attrac-
tion of a complicated lottery- scheme, with mar-
vellous prizes. When the subscribers to a new book
210 SUBSCRIPTION BOOKS. Part II.
were served, the remaining copies were sold, generally
at superior rates. Sometimes, in the case of high-
priced works, the unsold copies lay quiet through
the mildew of a quarter of a century in the book-
seller's warehouse. At Tonson's sale, in 1767,
Pope's six-guinea Shakspeare had fallen to sixteen
shillings for the hundred and forty copies then sold
as a " remainder."* Many of the subscription books
were remarkably profitable. The gains of Pope
upon his ' Iliad ' are minutely recorded in his Life
by Johnson. Lintot paid the expense of the sub-
scription copies, and gave the poet two hundred
pounds a volume in addition.* Lintot looked for his
remuneration to an edition in folio. The project
was knocked on the head by a reprint in Holland,
in duodecimo ; which edition was clandestinely im-
ported, as in the recent days of French editions of
Byron and Scott. Lintot took a wise course. He
went at once to the general public with editions in
duodecimo, at half-a-crown a volume, of which he
very soon sold seven thousand five hundred copies.
But it may well be doubted if Pope would have
made five thousand three hundred pounds, if he
had originally gone, without the quarto subscrip-
tion process, to the buyers of duodecimos. Perhaps
even the duodecimos would not have sold exten-
sively without the reputation of the quartos. There
was no great reading public to make a fortune for
the poet out of small profits upon large sales. Some
* 'Gentleman's Magazine,' vol. Ivii., quoted in Nicholls' ' Literary
Anecdotes,' vol. v. p. 597.
Chap. II. SUBSCRIPTION BOOKS. 211
may think that Pope would have been as illustrious
without the ease which this fortune gave him. It
may be so. But of one thing we are clear that in
every age the higher rewards of authorship, reaped
by one eminent individual, are benefits to the great
body of authors; and thus that the villa at Twicken-
ham had a certain influence in making what the
rorld called "Grub-street" less despicable and more
iriviiig. It dissociated authorship from garrets.
r et it is marvellous, even now, how some of the
je of attorneys and stockbrokers turn up their
res when they hear of a successful writer keeping
brougham, and lament, over their claret, that such
men will be improvident.
In those days of subscription books there were
great contrasts of success and loss ; of steady sup-
port and capricious neglect. Conyers Middleton
made a little fortune by his ' Life of Cicero,' in
two volumes quarto, published in 1741. His sus-
pected heterodoxy was no bar to his success. Carte,
in 17-47, printed three thousand copies of the first
volume of his ' General History of England,' for
which he had adequate support. In that unlucky
volume his Jacobitism peeped out, in a relation of
an astonishing cure for the king's-evil, produced
by the touch of the first Pretender, who, he says,
" had not at that time been crowned or*anointed."
Away went the " remainder " of the three thousand
volumes to the trunk-maker, and of the subsequent
volumes only seven hundred and fifty were printed.
Whether by subscription, or by the mode of fixing
212 . SUBSCRIPTION BOOKS. Part II.
a published price for a general sale, which, in the
second half of the century, was superseding the
attempt to ascertain the number of purchasers
before publication, there was always a great
amount of caprice, or prejudice, in the unripe
public judgment of a book, which rendered its
fate very hazardous and uncertain. Hume, in
1754, published the first volume of his ' History
of England/ He says, " Mr. Millar told me that
in a twelvemonth he sold only forty-five copies of
it." Gibbon published the first volume of his
4 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ' in 1776 :
" I am at a loss," he modestly tells us, " how to
describe the success of the work without betraying
the vanity of the writer. The first impression was
exhausted in a few days ; a second and third
edition were scarcely adequate to the demand ;
and the bookseller's property was twice invaded
by the pirates of Dublin." Thomson's ' Seasons '
was lying as waste paper in the publisher's shop,
when one Mr. Whatley purchased a copy ; and his
authority in the coffee-houses brought it into
notice. Collins was not so fortunate. His ' Odes'
would not sell. He repaid the bookseller the
price he had received for the copyright, settled for
the printing, and burnt the greater part of the
We have put together some of these scattered
facts, to show how difficult was the publication of
books before a great general public had been
raised up to read and purchase, and how the risk
Chap. II. BOOKS IN NUMBERS. 213
of expensive works was sought to be lessened by
taking hostages against evil fortune. The sub-
division of large books into weekly or monthly
numbers was one of the expedients that was early
resorted to for attracting purchasers. Some curious
relations of the first days of number -publishing are
given in a rare pamphlet by the Rev. Thomas
Stackhouse, the author of the well-known ' History
of the Bible.' In 1732 two booksellers, Mr. AVilford
and Mr. Edlin, " when the success of some certain
ings published weekly set every little bookseller's
ts to work," proposed to this poor curate of
chley " to write something which might be
published weekly, but what it was they knew
not." At the Castle Tavern, in Paternoster Row,
the trio deliberated upon the "something" that
was to have a run. Edlin was for a " Roman
History, brushing up Ozell's dull style, when the
old thing would still do in a weekly manner."
Wilford was for 'Family Directors.' Stack 1.
proposed the ' New History of the Bible.' "Wilford
backed out ; Edlin and Stackhouse quarrelled.
The divine wanted many works of comment
and critics. The bookseller maintained u that the
chief of his subscribers lived in Southwark, .
ping, and Ratcliff Highway ; that they h; :
notion of critics and commentators ; that the work
would be adapted to their capacity, and therefore
the less learning in it the better." Stackhouse got
out of the hands of this encourager of letters,
found another publisher, and prospered, as well as
214 BOOKS IX NUMBERS. Part II.
lie could, upon the subscriptions to his "four
sheets of original matter for sixpence." * Many
of the number-books were published under fictitious
names of authors ; and some actual authors, clerical
and lay, lent their names to works of which they
never saw a line. One of the most accomplished
of the number-book writers was Dr. Robert Sanders,
a self-created LL.D. He produced Historic^ of
England, in folio and quarto, under various names.
He was the writer of the* Notes to the edition of
the Bible, published in 1773, under the honoured
name of Dr. Henry Southwell. The ingenious
note-writer has told the story without reservation :
" As I was not a clergyman, my name could not
be prefixed to it. Application was made to several
clergymen for the use of their names ; and at last
Henry Southwell, LL.D., granted his." In a year
or two the indefatigable Sanders was ready with a
scheme for a larger commentary. He found a
Doctor who would lend his name for a hundred
pounds ; but such a sum was out of the question.
A mere A.M. was purchased for twenty pounds ;
but the affair broke down. The commentator
relates that he was told by the proprietors " they
had no further occasion for 'my services, and even
denied me my week's wages." We hope the
laborious Sanders was less scurvily treated by the
publishers of that immortal work of his, which has
been the glory of the number-trade even up to
this hour, namely, ' The Newgate Calendar, or
* See Nicholls' ' Literary Anecdotes,' vol. ii. p. 394.
Chap. II. DOCKS IX NUMBERS. 215
Malefactor's Bloody Register.' How many fortunes
have been made out of this great storehouse of
popular knowledge is of little consequence to
society. It may be of importance to consider how
many imps of fame have here studied the path to
glory. Sanders had a rival the Rev. Mr. Villette,
ordinary of Newgate who published the ' Annals
of Newgate, or Malefactor's Register, '&c., " intended
as a beacon to warn the rising generation against
the temptations, the allurements, and the dangers
of bad company." In this title-page " the celebrated
John Sheppard," and " the equally celebrated Mar-
garet Caroline Rudd," are leading attractions. The
author of the ' Annals,' no doubt, prospered better
than he of the ' Calendar.'
Poor wretched Sanders, during the period when
he was correcting Lord Lyttleton's 'History of
Henry II.,' had " a weekly subsistence ;" but in
1768 he writes, "During these six weeks I have
not tasted one whole meal of victuals at a time." *
The original race of number-publishers had no
very exalted notion of the value of literary labour.
Their successors had no will to bestow any payment
upon literature at all, while they had the old stores
to produce and reproduce. They have now been
forced into some few attempts at originality. But the
employment of new authorship is a rare exception
to their ordinary course. When the necessity does
arise, there is always perturbation of mind. In a
moment of despair, when his press was standing
* Nicholls' ' Literary Anecdotes,' vol. ii. p. 730, and vol. iii. p. 700.
216 THE CANVASSING SYSTEM. Part II.
still for some of that manuscript which, in an
unlucky hour, he had bargained for with a living
writer, one of this fraternity exclaimed, " Give me
dead authors, they never keep you waiting for
copy ! " Many good books have, however, been
produced by the early number-publishers. We
may mention Chambers' ' Cyclopedia,' Smollett's
'History of England,' and Scott's 'Bible.' Some
well-printed books are still being produced, but
the compilers help themselves freely to what others
have dearly paid for. Taken as a whole, they are
the least improved, and certainly they are the
dearest books, in the whole range of popular
literature. The system upon which they are sold
is essentidjy that of forcing a sale ; and the neces-
sary cost of this forcing, called "canvassing," is
sought to be saved in the quantity of the article
" canvassed," or in the less obvious degradation of
its quality. The " canvasser " is an universal
genius, and he must be paid as men of genius
ought to be paid. He has to force off the com-
monest of wares by the most ingenious of devices.
It is not the intrinsic merit of a book that is to
command a sale, but the exterior accomplishments
of the salesman. He adapts himself to every con-
dition of person with whom he is thrown into
contact. As in Birmingham and other great
towns there is a beggars' register, which describes
the susceptibilities of the families at whose gates
beggars call, even to the particular theological
opinions of the occupants, so the canvasser has a
. II. THE CANVASSING SYSTEM. 217
pretty accurate account of the households within
his beat. He knows where there is the customer
in the kitchen, and the customer in the parlour.
He sometimes has a timid colloquy with the cook
in the passage ; sometimes takes a glass of ale in
the servants' hall ; and, when he can rely upon the
charms of his address, sends his card boldly into
the drawing-room. No refusal can prevent him in
the end leaving his number for inspection. The
system is most rife in North and Midland England ;
it is not so common in the agricultural South, al-
though it might be an instrument of diffusing
sound knowledge amongst a scattered population:
If an effort were honestly made to publish works
really cheap, because intrinsically good, upon " the
canvassing system," that system, which has in; my
real advantages, might be redeemed from the dis-
grace which now too often attaches to it, m the
hands of the quacks who are most flourishing in
The number-trade was a necessary offshoot of
that periodical literature which sprang up into im-
portance at the beginning of the eighteenth cen-
tury, and which, in all its ramifications, h,-is had a
more powerful influence than that of all other
literature upon the intelligence of the great body
of the people.
218 PERIODICAL LITERATURE. Part II.
Periodical Literature Prices of Books ; 18th Century Two classes
of Buyers The Magazines Collections of the Poets The Cir-
culating Library Cheap Book-Clubs.
ON the 8th of February, 1696, our friend John
Dunton completed the nineteenth volume of ' The
Athenian Mercury, resolving all the most nice and
curious questions proposed by the ingenious.' This
penny tract, published twice a-week, consisted of a
single leaf. "The ingenious" ceased to question,
and " The Athenian Society," as the bookseller
called his scribes, ceased to answer, after six years
of this oracular labour. There came an irruption
of the barbarians, in the shape of" nine newspapers
every week." John proposed to resume his task
" as soon as the glut of news is a little over." The
countryman waiting for the river to roll by was not
more mistaken. In 1709 there was one daily paper
in London ; twelve, three times a week ; and three,
twice a week. Amongst those of three times a-week
was 'The Tatler,' which commenced April 12, 1709.
The early Tatlers had their regular foreign intel-
ligence. They were as much newspapers as ' The
Flying Post ' and ' The Postboy/ But Isaac Bicker-
staff, Esq., very soon discontinued the information
which he derived from letters from the Hague and
advices from Berlin. He had something of a more
Chap. III. PERIODICAL LITERATURE. 219
original character to offer his readers. The state
of popular enlightenment at this period has been
described by Johnson in his Life of Addison :
" That general knowledge which now circulates in
mmon talk was in his time rarely to be found.
en not professing learning were not ashamed of
gnorance ; and in the female world any acquaint-
ance with books was distinguished only to be cen-
sured." Steele and Addison had to form the taste
of the new generation that they were addressing.
They knew that there was a large class craving
amusement, who might at the same time be refined
and instructed without the pretensions of " the
budge doctors of the stoic fur." They meddled
little with politics. They left the furious discus-
sions about Church and State to papers with an
earnest political purpose, of which Charles Leslie,
a violent Tory, thus spoke in his ' Rehearsals :'
" The greatest part of the people do not read books ;
most of them cannot read at all : but they will
gather together about one that can read, and listen
to an Observator or Review, as I have seen them,
in the streets." The Tatler has been described as
a great success ; but we may measure that success
by that of the more popular Spectator. In No. ">."> 5
of that work Steele says, " The tax on each half-
sheet has brought into the Stamp-Office, one week
with another, above 20/. a- week, arising from the
single paper, notwithstanding it at first reduced it
to less than half the number that was usually printed
before the tax was laid." The tax being a half-
220 . PERIODICAL LITERATURE. Part II.
penny, this would only show a daily circulation of
1600, and of about 3000 when it was unstamped.
But the sale in volumes, according to the same
statement, was as high as 9000 of each volume.
This fact gives us a higher notion of the popularity
of these charming papers, and of the consequent
extent of general reading, than any other circum-
stance in the literary history of that period. But
even the comparatively small daily sale was of im-
portance, as showing that the great middle class
was beginning to seek something better than could
be found in the coarse and meagre news-sheets.
The annals of 'The Gentlemen's Society at Spald-
ing' record that in April, 1709, some residents
there heard of the Tatlers, and ordered them to be
sent to the coffee-house in the Abbey-yard : " They
were accordingly had, and read there every post-
day, generally aloud to the company, who could
sit and talk over the subject afterwards." The nar-
rative goes on to say that "in March, 1711, the
Spectator came out, which was received and read
here as the Tatler had been." Such are the begin-
nings of popular knowledge. What the Tatler and
Spectator were to the gentlemen of Spalding, the
Penny Magazine and Chambers' Journal were to
many a mechanic a hundred and twenty years
after. One of this class has recorded the influence
of such works, which addressed a far larger number
than could be addressed at the beginning of the
eighteenth century : " The Penny Magazine was
published. I borrowed the first volume, and de-
Chap. III. PRICES OF BOOKS; 18TH CENTURY. 221
termined to make an effort to possess myself with
the second. Accordingly, with January, 1833, I
determined to discontinue the use of sugar in my
tea, hoping that my family would not then feel the
sacrifice necessary to buy the book. ... I looked as
anxiously for the issue of the monthly part as I
did for the means of getting a living."* It is this
spirit in the great mechanical class of this country
that, in spite of some popular reading that is cor-
rupting, and much that is frivolous, will ultimately
raise and purify even the meanest sheet of our
cheap literature, and compel those who have the
responsibility of addressing large masses of the
people to understand that an influential portion do
feel that the acquirement of knowledge is worth
The ' Complete Catalogue of Modern Books,
published from the beginning of the century to
1756,' contains 5280 new works. In this CataL >^iie
" all pamphlets and other tracts" are excluded.
We can scarcely, therefore, compare this peri'
to the number of books published, with that of
. The average number of the first 57 years
of the 18th century was 93 new works each year.
At the beginning of the century, the price of a folio
or quarto volume ranged from 10s. to 12.*.
octavo from 5s. to 6s. ; and a duodecimo from
2s. Qd. to 3s. We have the original ' Tatler '
before us, with its curious advertisements of books,
sales by the candle, cordial elixirs, lotteries, and
* 'Autobiography of an Artisan.' By Christopher Thomson. 1847.
222 PRICES OF BOOKS; 18TH CENTURY. Part II.
bohea tea at 24s. a-pound. Whitelocke's ' Memo-
rials,' folio, is advertised at 1 2s. ; Howe's edition
of Shakspeare, 8vo., is 5s. per volume ; ' The Peer-
age of England,' 8vo., 6s. ; Shakspeare's Poems,
12mo., Is. 6d. ; 'The Monthly Amusement/ each
number containing a complete novel, is Is. ; Ser-
mons are 2cL each. We learn, from other sources,
that the first edition of ' The Dunciad ' was a six-
penny pamphlet ; whilst ' The Governor of Cyprus,
a Novel/ and ' The Wanton Fryar, a Novel/ were
each 12s. The number printed of an edition was,
no doubt, very moderate, except chiefly of books
that were associated with some great popular ex-
citement. Sacheverell's Trial is said to have sold
30,000 ; as, in a later period, 30,000 were sold of
Burke's * Reflections on the Revolution in France/
The old booksellers were cautious about works of
imagination when they were expected to pay hand-
somely for copyright. The manuscript of ' Robinson
Crusoe ' was pronounced dangerous by the whole
tribe of publishers, till one ventured upon an edition.
The demand was such that the copies could only
be supplied by dividing the work amongst several
printers. One of Defoe's numerous assailants, in
attempting to ridicule him, gives the best evidence
of his popularity : " There is not an old woman that
can go to the price of it but buys ' The Life and
Adventures,' and leaves it as a legacy with the ' Pil-
grim's Progress.' " Richardson's ' Pamela/ published
in 1741, sold five editions in one year. There are
fabulous accounts of Millar, the publisher, clearing
Chap. III. PRICES OF BOOKS; 1 8TH CENTURY. 223
18,000?. by 'Tom Jones.' In those times the
Dublin pirates were as assiduous in their plunder
of English copyrights as the American publishers
have been in plundering the English, and the English
the American, in our days. Richardson was driven
wild by the publication of half ' Sir Charles Gran-
dison ' in Ireland, in a cheap form, before a single
volume was issued in England. There was a
regular system of bribery in the English printing-
offices, through which the Dublin booksellers or-
ganised their robberies. They sold their books
surreptitiously in England and Scotland; and
from their greater cheapness they had the com-
mand of their own market. This system lasted
till the Union.
The prices of books do not appear to have much
increased at the beginning of the reign of George
III. In some cases their moderation is remarkable.
We have seen how small was the demand for the
first volume of Hume's 'History' in 17-Vk \\V
hav$ a number of ' The Gazetteer and New Daily
Advertiser' at hand, May 9, 1761 ; and there we
learn, from an advertisement, what a change ten
years had produced. A new edition of the third
and fourth volumes, in quarto, is advertised at IL
5s.; but "the proprietor, at the desire of many
who wish to be possessed of this valuable and
esteemed history, is induced to a monthly publi-
cation, which will not exceed eight volumes."
These volumes were 5s. each. It is manifest that
the bookseller had found a new class to address
224 PRICES OF BOOKS ; 1STII CENTURY. Part II.
when lie issued the monthly volumes. Hume
says, " Notwithstanding the variety of winds and
seasons to which my writings had been exposed,
they had still been making such advances that the
copy-money given me by the booksellers much
exceeded anything formerly known in England."
He had complained of the neglect of the " consi-
derable for rank or letters." His publisher saw
that a history with such charms of style so freed
from tedious quotations from state-papers and sta-
tutes so unlike the great folios of Carte and Rapin
was a book for a new race of readers. Cole-
ridge humorously enough says "Poets and phi-
losophers, rendered diffident by their very number,
addressed themselves to ' learned readers ;' then,
aimed to conciliate the graces of 'the candid
reader ;' till, the critic still rising as the author
sank, the amateurs of literature collectively were
erected into a municipality of judges, and addressed
as 'the Town/ And now, finally, all men being
supposed to read, and all readers able to judge, the
multitudinous c Public,' shaped into personal unity
by the magic of abstraction, sits nominal despot on
the throne of criticism." * There is a great truth
beneath the sarcasm. The enduring patronage of
the public was beginning when Andrew Millar was
bold enough to publish Hume's History in monthly
five-shilling volumes. But there are still many
evidences that the commerce of books at that
period, and subsequently, did not contemplate the
* ' Biograpliia Literaria,' vol. i. p. 60, ed. 1817.
Chap. III. TWO CLASSES OF BUYERS. 225
existence of a large class of buyers, beyond those
who were at ease in their fortunes. In that far-
rago of sense and absurdity, ' The . Life of James
Lackington, the present Bookseller, Finsbury-
square, London, written by himself (1791), there
is a remarkable disclosure of the mode in which
books were prevented being sold cheaply, after the
original demand had been satisfied : " When first
invited to these trade-sales, I was very much sur-
prised to learn that it was common for such as
purchased remainders to destroy one-half or three-
fourths of such books, and to charge the full publi-
cation price, or nearly that, for such as they kept
on hand. And there was a kind of standing order
amongst the trade that, in case any one was known
to sell articles under the publication price, such a
person was to be excluded from trade-sales so
blind were copyright holders to their own interest."
In the same manner, it is within the memory of
many living persons that there invariable
high price for fish in London, because the whole-
sale dealers at Billingsgate always destroy
portion of what came to market, if the supply were
above the average. The dealers in fish had not-
recognised the existence of a class who would buy
for their suppers what the rich had not taken for
their dinners ; and knew not that the stalls of
Tottenham Court Road had as many customers
ready for a low price as the shops of Charing
Cross for a high price. The fishmongers had not
discovered that the price charged to the evening
226 THE MAGAZINES. Part H.
customers had no effect of lowering that of the
morning. Nor had the booksellers discovered that
there were essentially two, if not more, classes of
customers for books those who would have the
dearest and the newest, and those who were con-
tent to wait till the gloss of novelty had passed off,
and good works became accessible to them, either
in cheaper reprints, or "remainders" reduced in
price. But books and fish have one material dif-
ference. Good books are not impaired in value
when they are cheapened. Their character, which
has been established by the first demand, creates
a second and a larger demand. Lackington de-
stroyed no books that were worth saving, but sold
them as he best could. We have no quarrel with
his self-commendation when he says, "I could
almost be vain enough to assert that I have
thereby been highly instrumental in diffusing that
general desire for reading now so prevalent among
the inferior orders of society."
What Lackington thought " a general desire for
reading" was, nevertheless, a very limited desire.
" The inferior orders of society " who had the desire
did not comprehend many of the mechanics, and
none of the husbandry labourers. It may be
doubted whether the Magazine Literature that
the eighteenth century called forth ever went
beyond the gentry and the superior traders. Kippis
says of the magazines, " they have been the means
of diffusing a general habit of reading through the
nation." There appears to have been a sort of
Chap. III. THE MAGAZINES. 227
tacit agreement amongst all who spoke of public
enlightenment in the days of George III. to put
out of view the great body of " the nation " who
paid for their bread by their weekly wages. The
magazines were certainly never addressed to this
class. But for the general book-buyers of the time,
Cave's project of ' The Gentleman's Magazine ' was
a great step in popular literature. The booksellers
would not join him in what they held to be a
risk. When he had succeeded, and sold 10,000,
then they set up the rival * London Magazine.'
Cave threw all his energy into the magazine, and
was rewarded. " He scarcely ever looked out of the
window, but with a view to its improvement," said
Johnson. ' The Gentleman's Magazine' commenced
in Tf 31 . Then came, year after year, magazines
" as plenty as blackberries :" ' The London,' ' The
Universal,' 'The Literary,' 'The Royal,' 'The Com-
plete,' 'The Town and Country,' .'The Ladies','
'The Westminster,' 'The European,' 'The Monthly/
The first popular review, ' The Monthly,' was pub-
lished in 1749, and 'The Critical' in 1756. The
public were now firmly established as the real
patrons of letters. There was an end of poor
authors knocking at great men's doors with a
bundle of books. There was an end to paid
Dedications and gratulatory Odes. Johnson could
afford to launch his Dictionary without the help of
the Earl of Chesterfield. Hume became " not only
independent but opulent " through the " copy-
money " of the booksellers.
228 COLLECTIONS OF THE POETS. Part II.
The publication of Collections of the Poets was
another proof of the extension of the reading
public. The man who first projected such a Col-
lection went for cheapness. In J777 JoH Bell
announced an edition of 'The Poets of Great
Britain ; complete from Chaucer to Churchill.'
The London booksellers, to the number of forty,
held a meeting, to resist what they considered an
invasion of their literary property some works
within the time of the statute of Anne being
legally theirs others their copyright by courtesy.
They resolved to combine their various interests ;
and they produced that edition of the Poets, in 68
volumes, which is called Johnson's, though, accord-
ing to Malone, he never saw a line of the text.
The ' Lives,' which Johnson wrote for two hundred
guineas, will endure as a great classic work, how-
ever deformed by hasty or prejudiced judgment.
Many of the Poets given in the series have no pre-
tension to be looked upon again, except as a part
of literary history, which may show how the most
feeble may attain reputation in an age of me-
diocrity. The booksellers spoke contemptuously of
Bell's edition, which they called " trifling." They
boasted their superior printing ; but they gave no
place in their Collection to Chaucer, Spenser, or
Donne, as Bell had done. They did not care to
direct the public taste ; they printed what they
thought would sell. The demand for such Col-
lections has always been one of the proofs of a
healthy condition of public intelligence ; but the
Chap. III. THE CIRCULATING LIBRARY. 229
want has not often been supplied with any judg-
ment beyond that of the rude commercial estimate
of the prevailing fashion in poetry. It is extremely
diffici i to deal with such matters. All literary
students have a proper horror of abridgments and
analyses. They want all of an author, or none.
You can neither make Chaucer extremely popular
by an entire reprint, nor command a large sale by
partial extract. But John Bell was right, in 17*77,
'to risk the printing of three great early poets,
whilst the booksellers began with Waller. Here
were poets that can never be wholly obsolete. But
the rubbish called poetry that found its way, by
trade preferences, into Johnson's edition the
inanities of the drivellers between Pope and Gray
let not these be reproduced in our time, when
such Collections are coming again into fashion, and
showing, as they showed before^ an extension of
The Circulating Library what a revolution was
that in popular literature ! How this new plant
appeared above the earth, where it first budded,
where it bore its early fruit how it grew into a
great tree, like that in the old title to Lilly's
Grammar, where the apples of knowledge are being
gathered by little climbing- boys would be difficult
to trace and to record. There it was this great
economiser of individual outlay for books in most
market-towns at the beginning of the century.
The universal adoption of the name is the best
proof of the common recognition of the idea. It
230 THE CIRCULATING LIBRARY. Part II.
changed the habits of the old country booksellers.
It found them other occupation than keeping a
stall in the market-place, as did their worthy fore-
fathers. They dealt no longer in tracts and single
sermons. It sent the chap-books into the villages.
It made the ( Seven Champions of Christendom '
and 'The Wise Masters of Greece' vulgar. It
created a new literature of fiction. It banished
' Robinson Crusoe ' to the kitchen, and ' The
Arabian Nights ' to the nursery. It built up great
printing-houses in Leadenhall-street ; and held out
high rewards for rapid composition, at the rate of
five pounds per volume, to decayed governesses
who had seen the world, and bank-clerks of an
imaginative turn of mind. These could produce a
wilderness of Italian bandits, with unlimited wealth
and beauty, who had won the hearts of credulous
countesses, and only surrendered to the hangman
when whole armies came out to take them. These
could unveil all the mysterious luxuries of great
mansions in Grosvenor-square, or of sumptuous
hotels in Bond-street. There was ever and anon a
"bright particular star" in the Milky Way of popular
fiction. But the circulating library went on its own
course, whether the empyrean of romance were dim
or brilliant. " What have you got new ?" was the
universal question put to the guardian of the trea-
sures of this recently-discovered world of letters.
When the bower-maid of the luxurious fair one,
who lolled upon the sofa through a long summer's
day, as Gray did when he was deep in Crebillon,
Chap III. THE CIRCULATING LIBRARY. 231
came to " change " the book, great sometimes was
the perplexity. It was not a difficult task to
"change," but the newness was puzzling. The lady
and the neat-handed Phillis pursued their studies
simultaDeously. They did not like " poetry ;" they
did not like " letters." ' Sir Charles Grandison '
was as old and as tiresome as 'Pamela/ 'Tom
Jones/ and ' Peregrine Pickle ; ' they wondered
why they were allowed to remain in the catalogue.
They had read ' Ccelebs in search of a Wife ' the
charming book but they did not want it again,
'erhaps, suggested the bookseller's apprentice,
The MoDk' might do once more. And so the
circulating library went on, slow and struggling,
till, about 1814, the unlucky desire for "something
new " brought down to the little greasy collection,
whose delusive numbers of volumes ranged from
1 to 3250, a new novel, with the somewhat un-
promising title of ' Waverley, or 'tis Sixty Years
since.' At first, the lady upon the sofa, and the
counsellor of her studies, could not endure it, for it
was full of horrid Scotch. It was often " at home,"
as the phrase went, for six months of its probation ;
when, somehow, it was discovered that a new book
of wonderful talent had come out of the North.
Another and another came, and in a few years
the old circulating library was ruined. The
Burneys, and Edge worths, and Radcliffes, and
Godwins, and Holcrofts, who had mixed with
much lower company upon the librarian's shelves,
still held a place. But the Winters in London
232 Till; CIRCULATING LIBRARY. Part II.
and Winters in Bath, the Midnight Bells, the
Nuns, and the Watch -Towers, retired from busi-
ness. There was then a new epoch in the cir-
culating-library life. The literature of travels and
memoirs timidly claimed a place by the side of the
fashionable novel, which asserted its dignity by
raising its price to a guinea and a half. The old
legitimate stupidity, which did very well before
the trade was disturbed, would no longer "circu-
late." But the names of the producers of the
higher fiction were not " Legion." " Something
new " must still be had. To meet the market,
every variety of west-end authorship was experi-
mented upon. The number to be printed could
be calculated with tolerable exactness, according
to the reputation of the writer, and this calcula-
tion regulated the payment of copyright, from fifty
pounds, and five hundred printed, to the man
without a name, up to fifteen hundred pounds,
and an impression of three thousand, to "the glass
of fashion." But in this department of the com-
merce of literature, as it will be in the end with
every branch upon which the growth of popular
intelligence is operating, the rubbish is perish-
able, has perished ; the good endureth.
The circulating library is now, in many instances,
a real instrument of popular enlightenment. Yet
in some of the smaller towns, and in watering-
places where rafrles have their charm, and a musi-
cal performance is patronised in the ' Fancy Re-
pository,' by " audience fit though few " there the
Chap. III. THE CIRCULATING LIBRARY. 233
circulating library may be studied in its ancient
brilliancy. There, are still preserved, with a paper
number on their brown leather backs, and a well-
worn bill of the terms of subscription on their
sides, those volumes, now fading into oblivion,
whence the writers of many a penny journal of
fiction are drawing and will still draw their inspi-
ration. Many of these relics of a past age will
live over again in shilling volumes with new
titles. The heroes and heroines will change their
names ; the furniture of the apartments in which
they utter their vows of love will be modernised ;
every sentence which in the slightest degree ap-
proaches the vulgar will be softened down or
obliterated. There is a great deal yet to be done
in this way ; and the metamorphosis will go on
and prosper. In the mean while the circulating
libraries, both in London and the provinces,
are supporting a higher literature of fiction than
those of the past generation ; and they find
also that there are other volumes almost as
attractive as the last new novel. They are doing
the same work as the book-clubs. Both these
modes of co-operation have had the effect of
making the demand for a book that is at once
solid and attractive more certain than the old
demand by individual purchasers. The certainty
of the demand necessarily produces a gradual re-
duction of price. An average demand is created,
resulting from an average of taste in those who
belong to book-societies and subscribe to circulating
234 CHEAP BOOK-CLUBS. Part II.
libraries. But these channels for the sale of new
books are not materially influenced by lowness of
price. Cheapness is greatly influential with the
private purchaser ; but very many are content with
the reading of a new book, through the club or
the library, who would never buy it for their own
household. This first demand is one of the means
by which good books may be cheapened for a sub-
sequent large issue for the permanent home library.
In ' The Life of Lackington ' there is the following
passage : " I have been informed that, when cir-
culating libraries were first opened, the booksellers
were much alarmed ; and their rapid increase
added to their fears, and led them to think that
the sale of books would be much diminished by
such libraries. But experience has proved that
the sale of books, so far from being diminished by
them, has been greatly promoted ; as from these
repositories many thousand families have been
cheaply supplied with books, by which the taste of
reading has become much more general, and thou-
sands of books are purchased every year by such as
have first borrowed them at those libraries, and,
after reading, approving of them, have become
One of the first attempts, and it was a successful
one, to establish a cheap Book- Club was made by
Robert Burns. He had founded a Society at
Tarbolton, called the Bachelors' Club, which met
monthly for the purposes of discussion and conver-
sation. But this was a club without books ; for
Chap. III. CHEAP BOOK-CLUBS. 2.),")
the fines levied upon the members were spent in
conviviality. Having changed his residence to
Mauchline, a similar club was established there,
but with one important alteration : the fines were
set apart for the purchase of books, and the first
work bought was 'The Mirror,' by Henry Mac-
kenzie. Dr. Currie, the biographer of Burns, in
recording this fact, says, "With deference to the
Conversation Society of Mauchline, it may lie
doubted whether the books which they purchased
were of a kind best adapted to promote the interest
and happiness of persons in this situation of life."
The objection of Dr. Currie was founded upon his
belief that works which cultivated "delicacy of
taste" were unfitted for those who pursued manual
occupations. He qualifies his objection, hov
by the remark, that ''Every human being is a
proper judge of his own happiness, and within the
path of innocence ought to be permitted to pursue
it. Since it is the taste of the/ Scottish p. asantrv
to give a preference to works of taste and <>f t'ancv,
it may be presumed they find a superior gratifica-
tion in the perusal of such works." This truth,
timidly put by Dr. Currie, ought to be the inunda-
tion of every attempt to provide books for all
readers. We are learning to correct the false
opinions which, for a century or two, have been
degrading the national character by lowering the
general taste. Those who maintained that taste
was the exclusive property of the rich and the
luxurious, could not take away from the humble
2 fI6 CHEAP BOOK-CLUBS. Part II.
the beauty of the rose or the fragrance of the
violet ; they could not make the nightingale sing a
vulgar note to " the swink'd hedger at his supper ;"
nor, speaking purely to a question of taste, did they
venture to lower the noble translation of the Bible,
which they put into the hands of the poor man, to
something which, according to the insolent formula of
those days, was " adapted to the meanest capacity."
A great deal of this has passed away. It has been
discovered that music is a fitting thing to be culti-
vated by the people ; the doors of galleries are
thrown open for the people to gaze upon Raffaelles
and Correggios; even cottages are built so as to
satisfy a feeling of proportion, and to make their
inmates aspire to something like decoration. All
this is progress in the right direction.
In the year 1825 Lord Brougham (then Mr.
Brougham), in his ' Practical Observations upon
the Education of the People,' explained a plan
which has yet been only partially acted upon.
* 'Book-Clubs or Reading Societies may be esta-
blished by very small numbers of contributors, and
require an inconsiderable fund. If the associates
live near one another, arrangements may be easily
made for circulating the books, so that they may
be in use every moment that any one can spare
from his work. Here, too, the rich have an oppor-
tunity presented to them of promoting instruction
without constant interference : the gift of a few
books, as a beginning, will generally prove a suffi-
cient encouragement to carry on the plan by weekly
Chap. III. CHEAP BOOK-CLUBS. 237
or monthly contributions: and, with the gift, a
scheme may be communicated to assist the contri-
butors in arranging the plan of their association."
Simple in its working as such a plan would appear
to be, the instances of these voluntary associations
are really few. In Scotland, Lending Libraries and
Itinerating Libraries have, in some districts, been
established successfully ; but in England, Lending
Libraries are scarcely to be found, except in con-
nexion with schools, or under the immediate direc-
tion of the minister of a parish or of a dissenting
congregation. In these cases, we fear, comes too
frequently into action the desire, laudable no
doubt, to promote " the interest and happiness of
persons in this situation of life." They are not
permitted to choose for themselves. The best books
of amusement are kept out of their sight ; and
they contrive to get hold of the worst. Tin; timidity
which insists upon supplying these libraries with
pattern books renders the libraries disagreeable,
and therefore useless.*
* See page 309.
238 CONTINUED DEARNESS OF BOOKS. Part II.
Continued clearness of Books Useful Knowledge Society Modern
Epoch of Cheapness Demand and Supply The Printing-machine
The Paper-machine Revival of Wood-cutting.
FROM the time when Hume's ' History ' was pub-
lished at 5s. a volume, there appears to have been
a steady advance in the price of books to the end
of the century. In the eleven years from 1792 to
1802, there was an average publication of 372 new
books per year. The number of new books had
quadrupled upon the average of those published from
1701 to 1756. But the duodecimo had been in-
creased in price from 2s. 6d, to 4s. ; the octavo from
5s. or 6s. to 10s. ; the quarto from 12s. to II. Is.
From 1800 to 1827 there were published, according
to the London Catalogue, 19,860 books, including
reprints ; for which reprints deducting one-fifth,
there were 15,888 new books, being an annual aver-
age of 588. Books were still rising in price. The
duodecimo mounted up to 6s., or became a small
octavo at 10s. 6d. ; the octavo was raised from
10s. to 12s. or 14s. ; the quarto was very frequently
two guineas. Some of this rise of price was un-
questionably due to the general rise in the value
of labour, and to the higher price of paper. But
more is to be ascribed to the determination of the
great publishers not sufficiently to open their eyes
Chap. IV. USEFUL KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY. 239
to the extension of the number of readers, and the
absolute certainty, therefore, that a system of ex-
travagantly high prices was an unnatural, bigoted,
and unprofitable system. They paid most liberally
for copyright, and they looked only to an exclusive
sale for their remuneration. They did not apply
the same system to periodical works. The two
great Reviews, the ' Edinburgh ' and the ' Quar-
terly/ were as cheap, if not cheaper, having regard
to their literary merit, than the cheapest books of
the previous century. They were certain of their
profit through that union of excellence and cheap-
ness which could not fail to create a large demand,
e publishers generally had not the same reliance
pon the increase of readers of other popular works
of original excellence. It has only been within the
last twenty years that their unalloyed confidence
in a narrow market has been first shaken, and then
In looking back upon the changes of a quarter
of a century, it is impossible, even for the writer,
who was identified with this great movement in
Popular Literature, to forbear speaking of what was
accomplished by ' The Society for the Diffusion of
Useful Knowledge/ One who has written con-
temporary history in a broad and liberal spirit
says "The institution of this Society was an
important feature of its times, and one of the
honours belonging to the reign of George IV. It
did not succeed in all its professed objects : it did
not give to the operative classes of Great Britain a
240 USEFUL KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY. Part II.
library of the elements of all sciences it omitted
some of the most important of the sciences, and,
with regard to some others, presented anything
rather than the elements. It did not fully pene-
trate the masses that most needed aid. But it
established the principle and precedent of cheap
publication (cheapness including goodness), stimu-
lated the demand for sound information, and the
power and inclination to supply that demand ; and
marked a great sera in the Jdfcfcory of popular en-
lightenment."* The Society originated with Mr.
Brougham, in 1826. He gathered around him
some of the leading statesmen, lawyers, and phi-
lanthropists of his diy. Men eminent in letters
and in science joined the association. And yet its
success was so doubtful in the eyes of those who
had been accustomed to consider high price as a
necessary condition of excellence, that one of the
greatest publishing houses refused to bring out the
treatises without a guarantee. The Society wisely
went upon the principle, originally, of leaving all
the trade arrangements to its publishers. It placed
its ' Library of Useful Knowledge,' its ' Farmer's
Series,' its ' Maps,' in the hands of Messrs. Baldwin,
paying the literary and artistical expenses, and
receiving a rent upon the copies sold. Mr. Knight
originated the ' British Almanac ' and its ' Com-
panion/ ' The Library of Entertaining Knowledge/
* The Penny Magazine/ and ' The Penny Cyclo-
psedia ;' and he bore the entire expense and risk of
* Miss Martmeau's ' History of the Peace,' vol. i. p. 580.
Chap. IV. USEFUL KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY. 241
these works, as he did also for 'The Gallery of
Portraits/ and ' The Journal of Education/ paying
upon all a rent when the sale reached a certain
number of copies.* It is sufficient to mention
these facts to show that the operations connected
with this Society were not upon an insignificant
scale, or not fruitful of large results ; and that they
were essentially commercial operations. The cry
that was raised against this Society, by those who
were interested in the publication of dear books,
was that of "monopoly." That cuckoo cry was
repeated on every side. Fashionable publishers
shouted it ; the old conventional school of authors
echoed it. Those who wrote for the Society were
called, in derision, " compilers/' Scribblers who
never verified a quotation ridiculed patient in-
dustry as dulness.
From the time when the Society commenced a
real " superintendence " of works for the people
when it assisted, by diligent revision and friendly
inquiry, the services of its editors the old vague
'generalities of popular knowledge were exploded ;
and the scissars-and-paste school of authorship had
to seek for other occupations than Paternoster-row
could once furnish. Accuracy was forced upon
elementary books^as the rule and not the excep-
tion. Books professedly "entertaining" were to
be founded upon exact information, and their
authorities invariably indicated. No doubt this
superintendence in some degree interfered with the
* ' Address of the Committee,' June 1, 1843.
242 USEFUL KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY. Part II.
free course of original composition, and imparted
somewhat of the utilitarian character to everything
produced. But it was the only course by which a
new aspect could be given to cheap literature, by
showing that the great principles .of excellence
were common to all books, whether for the learned
or the uninformed. In seventeen years the Society
accomplished its main objects. There were con-
siderable gains connected with it, and there were
great losses. These are evanescent. The good
which it did remains. It supplied the new demand
for knowledge in a way that had never before been
contemplated ; it supplied it at the cheapest rate
then possible ; it broke down the distinctions be-
tween knowledge for the few and knowledge for
the many ; it created a popular taste for art ; it
sent its light into the strongholds of ignorance and
superstition, by superseding, for a time, a large
amount of weekly trash, and destroying, for ever,
the astrological and indecent almanacs. But, be-
yond its own productions, it raised the standard
of all popular literature. It has had worthy co-
labourers and successors. It ceased its work when
others were in the field, honestly and successfully
carrying forward what it had begun. He who
writes this will ever think it an honour that he
long worked in fellowship with Henry Brougham ;
and that he was a partaker, for some years, in the
councils of an association of men more or less emi-
nent, whose objects were never of a selfish, partial,
or temporary nature. He has sate at those coun-
Chap. IV. MODERN EPOCH OF CHEAPNESS, 243
cils with five cabinet ministers, who felt most deeply
that the education of the people, in its largest
sense, was as much their business as the imposition
of taxes. Where is that spirit now ?
The modern epoch of cheap literature may be
held to have commenced, however partially, in
1827, when Constable issued his ' Miscellany,' and
the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge
their ' Library of Useful Knowledge/ In a few
years followed ' The Library of Entertaining Know-
ledge/ Mr. Murray's ' Family Library/ and Lard-
ner ? s c Cabinet Cyclopedia.' These books were
properly published under a tentative system. Not
one of them rushed to that extreme cheapness
which is indicated by quantity alone. They each
had to feel their way to a demand proportioned to
the expense of their production. That production
was necessarily expensive. The cheapness con-
sisted in the employment of the best writers to-
produce books of original merit at a price that was
essentially low, by comparison with the ordinary
rate at which books for the few were sold. Though
Constable, in his grand style, talked of millions
of buyers, he charged his little volumes 3s. 6d.
each. He was right. The millions were not ready
to buy such books at a shilling, nor even at six-
pence. They are not ready now. ' The Library
of Useful Knowledge' was charged at the rate
of 3cZ. a sheet. Taking mere quantity of paper
and printing into account, some of the penny
journals of the present day are six times as cheap.
244 MODERN EPOCH OF CHEAPNESS. Part II.
'The Library of Entertaining Knowledge' was
4s. 6d. a volume. The copyright of each vo-
lume ordinarily cost 2007/., and the woodcuts as
much, and even more. ' The Family Library/ at
os., was, no doubt, equally costly. The same cost-
liness applies to Lardner's ' Cyclopaedia/ published
at 6s. In these new undertakings, conceived in a
totally different spirit from anything which had
preceded them, there were large expenses which
have been surprisingly reduced by scientific dis-
covery and extended competition at the present
day. There were about twenty woodcutters in
London in 1827, who were real artists, paid at
artists' prices. Woodcutting is now a manufacture.
Paper, then, paid the high rate of duty, and was 50
per cent, dearer. Steam-printing was not univer-
sal, and was only applied to common works.
Each of these series was offered to the very nu-
merous body of those who, having become better
educated than the same classes in a previous gene-
ration, were desirous of real improvement. They
had a certain success, but a variable one. Every
experiment of this sort has shown that such collec-
tions of separate and independent works cannot
rely upon a sale as a series. They come to be
bought, each work by itself, according to its attrac-
tions for individual purchasers. Thence all those
irregularities of sale, and consequent accumulations
of stock, which press heavily upon the profits of
those volumes which are successful. The republi-
cation of the ' Waverley Novels' in 5s. volumes was
Chap. IV. MODERN EPOCH OF CHEAPNESS. 245
an exception to this rule. They constituted an
integral work. Their sale was vast, although the
total cost was 121. Scott and his publisher saw
the immense field that was before them, in giving
their books to the world at a price that would
carry them into thousands of households, instead
of limiting them to the circulating libraries. They
originally appeared in seventy-four volumes, at an
aggregate cost of 34. 10s. Had they remained in
their original form, and at their first price, those
heroic efforts which lifted a mountain of debt off
the shoulders of that great man who, perhaps,
more than all men, might have claimed the motto
rhich Burke said should be his u Nitor in adver-
im "those labours which wore him out, would
not have been successful. Neither would the success
have come so soon had the later publication in
twenty-five volumes for ol. been tried in the first
instance. If the 'Waverley Novels' go through
new phases of cheapness, it will be because there
is now a larger public to buy ; and because the first
natural price for all works of extraordinary merit,
that of authorship, has been already paid largely
and liberally. The question of price is then mainly
reduced to a question of paper and print. But
miserable would it be for a nation whose " chiefest
glory is its authors," at a time when the nature of
that glory is properly understood, if a passion for
premature cheapness, to be measured by mere
quantity, .were to possess the minds of the people,
and to be the expression of the " Vox populi."
246 MODERN EPOCH OF CHEAPNESS. Part II.
There was a much larger public always ready to
purchase these enchanting fictions than have been, at
any time during the last quarter of a century, ready
for the purchase of books of information, however
agreeably presented. We doubt whether the Family
Libraries, and the Libraries of Entertaining Know-
ledge, and the Cabinet Cyclopaedias, would have sold
better at the time of their publication, if they had
been produced at half the original price. The ex-
periment was tried, when the number of readers
was largely increased, in ' Knight's Weekly Volume'
a series published at one-third the price of Con-
stable's 'Miscellany.' The majority of books in
that series were, for the most part, of intrinsic
merit ; many also carrying the recommendation
of popular names as their authors. " Why Mr.
Knight did not profit largely by the speculation is
a problem yet to be solved," says the writer of a
recent paper on l Literature for the People.' The
solution is, that the people did not sufficiently buy
them. So far from twenty thousand copies being
sold of many volumes, as asserted, there were not
twenty volumes, out of the hundred and forty, that
reached a sale of ten thousand, and the average sale
was scarcely five thousand. They were not cheap
enough for the humble, who looked to mere quan-
tity. They were too cheap for the genteel, who
were then taught to think that a cheap book must
necessarily be a bad book. It is impossible not to
remember that, even ten years ago, the majority of
publishers, and many of their supporters in the
Chap. IV. MODERN EPOCH OF CHEAPNESS. 247
public journals, hated cheap books. The 'Weekly
Volumes' were welcomed very generally by those
who were anxious for the enlightenment of the
people. Societies were set on foot for their circu-
lion. But all experience has shown that no asso-
ciations for recommending books, and forcing their
lie, can be successful The people, of every grade,
choose for themselves. It is useless to urge an
lult, whether male or female, to buy a solid book
rhen an exciting one is longed for. It is worse
useless to give books of improvement away to
poor. They always suspect the motive. Very
isely did a witness before the " Select Committee
on Newspaper Stamps," 1851, say, "There are
classes which you cannot reach, unless you go to
them with something which is the nearest thing to
what they want." If they want fiction, they will
not look at science or history. At the time of the
issute of * The Weekly Volume/ the sale of books at
railway stations was unknown ; and if it had been
known, they scarcely presented sufficient attractions
for the travelling readers for amusement. They
were published also in too quick succession. It was
a plausible theory of the editor, that, if good books,
extremely cheap, were issued rapidly enough to
form a little library, many such libraries would be
formed. Those who have to deal with ' Literature
for the People ' must bear in mind that time as
well as money has to be economised by those who
of necessity must labour hard either by hand or
head. What may be called furniture books may
248 MODERN EP3CH OF CHEAPNESS. Part II.
be bought by the luxurious, to put upon their
shelves, and looked at when wanted. The earnest
workers buy few books that they are not desirous
to read, and to read at once. They bought such a
book in 1830, to the extent of 50,000 copies. c The
Results of Machinery/ written by the author of
this volume, was addressed to great human inter-
ests. It was not professedly amusing ; but it was
the first attempt to take Political Economy out of
its hard and logical track. It is now recorded, as
a wonderful instance of the application of cheapness
to a dry subject, that Mr. M'Culloch's 'Essay on
the Rate of Wages,' is republished at a shilling.
It is in no spirit of self-laudation that we presume
to think that the vaunted cheapness of 1854* had
some previous examples.
In this principle, that the great mass of the
people will read as they buy, lies the secret of the
enormous success of the weekly sheets of that great
epoch of cheapness which began about twenty years
ago. It is the principle which is the foundation of
the extensive demand, growing year by year, for
all periodical literature. It made the essayists.
It made the magazines. It made the newspapers.
It caused a sale of three hundred thousand weekly
sheets in 1834. It is causing a sale of fourteen
hundred thousand weekly sheets in 1854. Before
we proceed in the examination of this remarkable
epoch of popular literature, let us glance at the in-
fluence of mechanical and scientific improvement
Chap. IV. DEMAND AND SUPPLY. 249
on the cheapening of books during the last thirty
or forty years.
Those who have followed us in our notices of
the early history of printing will scarcely have
failed to see how the ordinary laws of demand and
supply have regulated the progress of this art,
whose productions might, at first sight, appear to
form an exception to other productions required by
the necessities of mankind. There can be little
doubt, we think, that when several ingenious men
were, at the same moment, applying their skill to
e discovery or perfection of a rapid mode of
ultiplying copies of books, there was a demand
'or books which could not well be supplied by the
existing process of writing. That demand had
doubtless been created by the anxiety to think for
themselves which had sprung up amongst the
laity of Catholic Europe. There was a very
general desire amongst the wealthier classes to
obtain a knowledge of the principles of their
religion from the fountain-head, the Bible. The
desire could not be gratified except at an enormous
cost. Printing was at last discovered ; and Bibles
were produced without limitation of number. The
instant, therefore, that the demand for Bibles
could be supplied, the supply acted upon the
demand, by increasing it in every direction ; and
when it was found that not only Bibles but many
other books of real value, such as copies of the
ancient classics, could be produced with a facility
equal to the wants of every purchaser, books at
250 DEMAND AND SUPPLY. Part II.
'once became a large branch of commerce, and the
presses of the first printers never lacked employ-
ment. The purchasers of books, however, in the
fifteenth arid sixteenth centuries were almost
wholly confined to the class of nobles and those
of the richer citizens and scholars by profession.
It was a very long time before the influence of
the press had produced any direct effect upon the
habits of the great mass of the people. It was not
till the system of periodical literature was fairly
established, and that newspapers first, and maga-
zines and reviews subsequently, had taken hold
of the popular mind, that the productions of the
press could be said to be in demand amongst the
people generally. Up to our own times that
demand has been limited to very narrow bounds ;
and the circumstances by which it has been ex-
tended are as remarkable as those which accom-
panied the progress of the original invention of
printing. The same principle of demand going
before supply, and the same reaction of supply
upon demand, will be found to have marked the
operations of the printing-press in this country,
during the last twenty-five years, as distinctly as
they marked them throughout Europe in the latter
part of the fifteenth century and the beginning of
the sixteenth. We will shortly recapitulate these
A few years after the commencement of the
present century, a system of education, which is
now known throughout Europe as that of mutual
Chap. IV. DEMAND AND SUPPLY. 251
iTistruction, was introduced into this country. In
whatever mode this system was called into action,
its first experiments soon demonstrated that,
through it, education might be bestowed at a
much cheaper rate than had ever before been
considered practicable. This success encouraged
the friends of education to exertions quite unex-
ampled ; and the British and Foreign School
iety, and the National Society, had, in 'a very
ew years, taught some thousands of children to
and write, who, without the new arrange-
ents which had been brought into practice,
ould in gritt part 'nave remained completely
untaught. A demand for books of a new class
was thus preparing on every side. The demand
would not be very sudden or very urgent ; but it
would still exist, and would become stronger and
stronger till a supply was in some degree provided
for it. It would act, too, indirectly but surely,
upon that portion of society whose demand for
knowledge had already been in part supplied. The
principle of educating the humblest in the scale of
society would necessarily give an impulse to the
education of the class immediately above them.
The impulse would indeed be least felt by the
large establishments for education at the other
end of the scale : and thus, whilst the children
of the peasant and the tradesman would learn
many valuable lessons through the influence of a
desire for knowledge for its own sake, and of love
for their instructors, many of the boys of our great
252 DEMAND AND SUPPLY. Part II.
public schools would long remain acquiring only a
knowledge of words and not of things, and in-
fluenced chiefly by a degrading fear of brutal
punishment. The demand for knowledge thus
created, and daily gathering strength amongst the
bulk of the people, could not be adequately supplied
forty years ago by the mechanical inventions then
employed in the art of printing. Exactly in the
same way as the demand for knowledge which
began to agitate men's minds about the middle of
the fifteenth century produced the invention of
printing, so the great extension of the demand in
England, at the beginning of the nineteenth cen-
tury, produced those mechanical improvements
which have created a new sera in the typographical
art. These improvements consist in the process
of stereotyping, and in the printing-machine, as
distinguished from the printing-press.
As several approaches had been made before the
time of Faust to the principle of printing books
from moveable types, so the principle of producing
impressions from a cylinder, and of inking the
types by a roller, which are the great principles of
the pi living-machine, had been discovered in this
country as early as the year 1790. In that year
Mr. William Nicholson took out a patent for cer-
tain improvements in printing, the specification of
which clearly shows that to him belongs the first
suggestion of printing from cylinders. But this
inventor, like many other ingenious men, was led
astray by a part of his project, which was highly
Chap. IV. THE PRINTING-MACHINE. 253
difficult, if not impracticable, to the neglect of that
portion of his plan which, since his time, has been
brought into the most perfect operation. Nichol-
son's patent was never acted upon. The first
maker of a printing-machine was Mr. Koenig, a
native of Saxony ; and the first sheet of paper
printed by cylinders, and by steam, was the ' Times'
newspaper of the 28th November, 1814. The
machine thus for the first time brought into action
was that of Mr. Koenig. It has been superseded
y machines of improved construction.
Let us imagine a state of things in which the
mand for works of large numbers should have
gone on increasing, while the mechanical means of
supplying that demand had remained stationary
had remained as they were at the beginning of the
present century. Before the invention of stereo-
typing it was necessary to print oif considerable
impressions of the few books in general demand,
such as bibles and prayer-books, that the cost of
composition might be so far divided as to allow the
book to be sold cheap : with several school-books,
also, it was not uncommon to go to press with an *
edition of 10,000 copies. Two men, working eight/
hours a-day each, would produce 1000 perfect im-
pressions (impressions on each side) of a sheet per
day ; and thus, if a book consisted of twenty sheets
(the size of an ordinary school-book), one press
would produce the twenty sheets in 200 days. If
a printer, therefore, were engaged in the production
of such a school-book, who could only devote one
254 THE PRINTING-MACHINE. Pait II.
press to the operation, it would require very nearly
three-quarters of a year to complete 10,000 copies
of that work. It is thus evident, that if the work
were to be published on a given day, it must begin
to be printed at least three-quarters of a year before
it could be published ; and that there must be a con-
siderable outlay of capital in paper and in printing
for a long time before any return could be expected.
This advance of capital would have a necessary in-
fluence on the price of the book, in addition to the
difference of the cost of working by hand as com-
pared with working by machinery ; and there
probably the inconvenience of the tedious progress
we have described would stop. But take a case
which would allow no time for this long preparation.
Take a daily newspaper, for instance, of which
great part of the news must be collected, and
written, and printed within twenty-four hours ;
calling into operation reporters at home, corre-
spondents abroad, expresses, electric telegraphs.
Formerly, the number printed of the most popular
daily paper would be limited to five thousand ;
and this number could not be produced in time
without the most perfect division of labour aiding
the most intense exertion, provided that paper
were printed by hand. The 'Times' newspaper
now produces forty thousand copies in less than
four hours, from one set of types.
If the difficulties that existed in producing any
considerable number of newspapers before the in-
vention of the printing-machine were almost insur-
Chap. IV. THE PRIXTIXG-MACHIXE. 255
mountable, equally striking will the advantages of
that invention appear when we consider its appli-
cation to the cheap weekly sheets, of which the
4 Penny Magazine' was the type. Let us suppose
that the education of the people had gone on un-
interruptedly in the schools of mutual instruction,
and that the mechanical means for supplying the
demand for knowledge thus created had sustained
no improvement. If the demand for knowledge
led to the establishment of the ' Penny Maga-
e' before the improvement of printing, it is pro-
le that the sale of twenty thousand copies would
ve been considered the utmost that could have
n calculated upon. One thousand perfect copies
could only have been daily produced at one press
by the labour of two men. The machine produces
sixteen thousand copies. If the demand for a
penny sheet, printed thus slowly by the press, had
reached twenty thousand, it would have required
two presses to produce that twenty thousand in the
same time namely, ten days in which one hundred
and sixty thousand are produced by the machine ;
and it would have required one press to be at work
one hundred and sixty days, or sixteen presses for
ten days, to effect the same results as the machine
effects in ten days. But, in point of fact, such a
sale could never have been reached under the old
system of press-work. The hand-labour, as com-
pared with the machine, would have added at least
forty per cent, to the cost of production, even if the
sixteen presses could have been set in motion.
256 THE PAPER-MACHINE. Part II.
Without stereotyping for duplicates, no attempt
would have been made to set them in motion ; for
the cost of re-engraving woodcuts, and of re-com-
posing the types, would have put a natural com-
mercial limit to the operation.
The invention of the paper-machine was con-
current with the invention of the printing-machine.
Without the paper-machine, the material of books,
and newspapers, and journals, could never have
been supplied with any reference to cheapness.
Chemistry, too, has converted the coarsest rags,
and the dirtiest cotton-wool, into fine pulp. The
material of which this book is formed existed a
few month ago, perhaps, in the shape of a tattered
frock, whose shreds, exposed for years to the sun
and wind, covered the sturdy loins of the shepherd
watching his sheep on the plains of Hungary ;
or it might have formed part of the coarse blue
shirt of the Italian sailor, on board some little
trading -vessel of the Mediterranean ; or it might
have pertained to the once tidy camicia of the
neat straw-plaiter of Tuscany, who, on the eve of
some festival, when her head was intent upon gay
things, condemned the garment to the stracci-
vendolo (rag-merchant) of Leghorn ; or it might
have constituted the coarse covering of the flock-
bed of the farmer of Saxony, or once looked bright
in the damask table-cloth of the burgher of Ham-
burgh ; or, lastly, it might have been swept, new
and unworn, out of the vast collection of the shreds
and patches, the fustian and buckram, of a London
Chap. IV. THE PAPER-MACHINE. 257
tailor ; or might have accompanied every revolu-
tion of a fashionable coat in the shape of lining
having travelled from St. James's to St. Giles's,
from Bond Street to Monmouth Street, from Rag
Fair to the Dublin Liberty, till man disowned
the vesture, and the kennel-sweeper claimed its
miserable remains. In each or all of these forms,
and in hundreds more which it would be useless
to describe, this sheet of paper a short time since
rrftght have existed. No matter, now, what the
colour of the rag how oily the cotton what filth
it lias gathered and harboured through all its
transmutation the scientific paper-maker can
produce out of these filthy materials one of the
most beautiful productions of manufacture. But
he has a difficulty in obtaining even these coarse
materials. The advance of a people in civilisation
has not only a tendency to make the supply of rags
abundant, but, at the same time, to increase the
demand for rags. The use of machinery in manu-
factures renders clothing cheap ; the cheapness of
clothing causes its consumption to increase, not
only in the proportion of an increasing population,
but by the scale of individual expenditure ; the
stock of rags is therefore increasing in the same
ratio that our looms produce more linen and cotton
cloth. But then the increase of knowledge runs
in a parallel line with this increase of comforts ;
and the increase of knowledge requires an increase
of books. The principle of publishing books and
tracts, to be read by thousands instead of tens and
258 REVIVAL OF WOOD-CUTTING. Part II.
hundreds, has already caused a large addition to
the demand for printing-paper. Science made
paper cheap in spite of taxation. The government
has worked against science to keep books dear.
We cannot pass over the mechanical and other
scientific improvements in typography, which pre-
ceded and accompanied the great epoch of cheap-
T jss of the last quarter of a century, without more
particularly noticing the revival, for so it may be
called, of the art of woodcutting. In the ' Penny
Magazine' of 1836, the editor says that no expense
or labour has been spared to attain every improve-
ment of which the art of woodcutting is suscep-
tible that the engravings of 305 numbers have
cost 12,0001. (about 40. a number) that many
difficulties have been overcome in adapting the
character of the engravings to the rapid movements
of the printing-machine and that the art, in con-
nexion with the cheapest form of printing, has
been carried further than at one time was thought
to be possible. This was written in 1836. Let any
one look at a common book with woodcuts, printed
thirty years ago, and he will understand what diffi-
culties had to be overcome before ' The Penny Maga-
zine' could present successful copies of works of
art. This ' Penny Magazine,' which some even
now affect to sneer at, produced a revolution in
popular art throughout the world. It created simi-
lar works, to which it supplied stereotype casts, in
Germany, France, Holland, Livonia (in Russian and
German), Bohemia (in Sclavonic), Italy, Ionian
Chap. IV. REVIVAL OF WOOD-CUTTIXG. 259
Islands (in Modern Greek), Sweden, Norway,
Spanish America, the Brazils, the United States.
It raised up imitators on every side, and directed
the union of art and letters into new channels.
It was the forerunner of ' Punch,' and of ' The
Illustrated London News/ A great art-critic of
1836 proclaimed, with oracular solemnity, " As
there is no royal road to mathematics, so we SLJ,
once for all, there is no Penny Magazine road to
the Fine Arts the cultivation of the Fine Arts
must be carried on by a comparatively small and
gifted few, under the patronage of men of wealth
and leisure/' Many eminent designers amongst
whom are the honoured names of Harvey, Cruik-
shank, Doyle, Leech, Tenniel, Anelay, Gilbert
have gone the " Penny Magazine road," and found
it quite as sure a highway to distinction, and far
more pleasant, than the old by-way of patronage,
so weary to the gifted few. It is wonderful how
long and how tenaciously, both in literature and
art, men clung to that idol Patronage. They are
gone the Chesterfields who kept Johnson seven
years waiting in outward rooms, and the Mans-
fields who grudged Wilkie thirty guineas for c The
Village Politicians :'
" IVor and Baalim
Forsake their temples dim."
260 LONDON CATALOGUE ; 1816-1851. Pail II.
London Catalogue, 1816-1851 Annual Catalogues, 1828-1853
Classes of Books, 181 6-18ol Periodicals, 1831, 1853 Aggregate
amount of Book-trade Collections and Libraries International
Copyright Headers in the United States Irish National School-
'THE London Catalogue of Books published in
Great Britain, 1816 to 1851,' furnishes, in its
alphabetical list, with " sizes, prices, and publishers'
names," that insight into the character and extent
of the literature of a generation which we cannot
derive from any other source. We have already
given some of the calculations of past periods. Let
us endeavour to trace what the commerce of books
has been in our own time.
Every book in -*his ' London Catalogue ' occupies
a single line. There are 72 lines in a page ; there
are 626 pages. It follows that the Catalogue con-
tains the titles of 45,072 books. In these 36
years, then, there was an average annual publica-
tion 1 of 1252 books. This number is more than
double the average of the period from 1800 to
1827. There is also published, by the proprietor
of ' he London Catalogue/ an Annual Catalogue
of New Books. From two of these catalogues we
derive ?he following comparative results for the
beginning and the end of a quarter of a century :
Chap. V. ANNUAL CATALOGUES; 1828, 1853. 261.
1828. New publications 842
I 18 ....... O.-,;.,,
1828. Total number of volumes 1105
1828. Total cost of one set of the new publications 668 10
1U58 17 9
1828. Average price of each new work . . o 16
* te . . 8 44
is-js. Avera-v price per volume of the new publications 12 l"
Such calculations are not arrived at without the
labour of many hours ; but the labour is not ill-
bestowed by us, for they afford better data for
opinion than loose talk about the number, quality,
and price of books. Hence we learn, that, in ] 853,
there were three times as many books published as
in 1828 ; that the comparative increase in the
number of volumes was not so great, showing that
of the new books more single* volumes were pub-
lisln-d ; that the total cost of one set of the new
publications had increased by more than one-half
of the former cost ; that the average price of each
new work had been reduced nearly one-half; and
that the average price per volume had fallen about
5s. below the price of 1828. A further analysis of
this Annual List shows that, of the 2530 books
published in 1853, only 287 were published at a
guinea and upwards ; and that of these only 206
were books of general information ; while 28 were
law-books, and 53 of the well-accustomed dear
class of guinea-and-a-half novels. Decidedly the
Quarto Dynasty had died out.
As a supplement to the ' London Catalogue,
CLASSES OF BOOKS, 1816-1851.
1816-1851,' there is published a ' Classified Index.'
Through this we are enabled to estimate in round
numbers the sort of books which the people were
buying, or reading, or neglecting, in these 36
years.* We find that they were invited to pur-
chase in the following proportion of classes :
Foreign languages and school-books .
Juvenile books ....
,, Natural philosophy
Arts, &c. Antiquities
,, Fine arts ....
Games and sports
,, Illustrated works
,, Music ....
,, Genealogy and heraldry
Industry. Mechanics, &c.
,, Trade and commerce .
Political economy, statistics
Carried forward .... 4'2,-UiO
* The ' Classified Index ' contains only about 40,000 references ;
while the number of books in the ' Catalogue' is 45,000. The book
referred to in the Index is only once mentioned, in whatever form it
has appeared. To equalize the number, we have added 10 per cent,
to each division of the Index, in our calculation.
Chap. V. PERIODICALS ; 1831, 1853. 263
Brought forward . . 42,460
Moral Sciences. Philology, &c. . . 350
liscellaneous (so classed) 1,400
But the Catalogues of New Books fall very
lort of affording a complete view of the state of
>pular literature at any given period. We must
>ply to other sources of information.
The publication of ' The Penny Magazine/ and
' Chambers' Journal/ in 1832, was concurrent
with a general increase in the demand for periodical
works. At the end of 1831 there were issued 177
monthly publications, a single copy of which cost
171 12s. 6<i At the end of 1833 there were 236
monthly periodicals, a single copy of which cost
23Z. 3s. 6d. At the end of 1853 there were 362
of the same monthly class, a single copy of which
cost Mil. 17s. 6d In 1831 the average price of
the monthly periodicals was 2s. ; in 1833, Is. llr,(/. ;
and in 1853, 9^d. Can there be any doubt of the
adaptation of periodical literature, during these
years, to the wondrous extension of readers?
It appears from ' The London Catalogue of
Periodicals/ published by Messrs. Longman and
Co., from which we derive the calculations we have
now made, that there are 56 weekly periodicals.
There were 21 in 1833. But this list, which is
adapted for what is known as ' The Trade/ is far
264 PERIODICALS, 1831, 1853. Part II.
from including all the cheap sheets that are issued
weekly from the London press. There is a very
large class of such publications that are very rarely
found in the shops of regular booksellers, either in
town or country. Many of these periodicals have
the taint upon them of the names of their publish-
ers ; and some of them a few years ago were in-
famous. We do not find in the ' London Catalogue
of Periodicals ' the names of several works, and of
one especially, which present the most remarkable
example in our times of the extent to which cheap
literature is offered to the people in marts which
are comparatively unknown to the upper and middle
classes. The facilities of communication have sent
an unparalleled quantity of weekly sheets through
the land, at a rate of cheapness which defies all
competition of -literary quality against weight of
paper and crowding of print. In every shop of
every back-street of London and the larger towns,
where a tradesman in tobacco or lollipops or lucifer-
matches formerly grew thin upon his small amount
of daily halfpence, there now rush in the schoolboy,
the apprentice, the milliner, the factory-girl, the
clerk, and the small shopkeeper, for their ' London
Journal/ ' Family Herald,' ' Reynolds' Miscellany,'
and ' CasselFs Paper.' We have ascertained, from
sources upon which we can rely, that of these four
sheets a million copies are sold weekly. Of the
contents of these, and other cheap works, we shall
have presently to speak.
When we look back at the various periods of
Chap. V. AGGREGATE AMOUNT OF BOOK-TRADE. 265
English publication, and consider how amazingly
the aggregate number of books published in any
one period has increased, we must also regard the
size and price of the works published to form any
adequate notion of the progress of cheap literature.
With a general reduction of price during the last
twenty years with the substitution of duodecimos
for quartos and with single volumes beyond all
former precedent there is little doubt that the
annual returns of the publishing trade, in all its
departments (we include newspapers), are double
what they were in 1833. They were estimated
then at 2,500,0002. We should not be wide of the
mark in considering them at present to have
reached to 5,000,0002. As the silk-trade is now to
be estimated, not by the number of ladies of fashion
who wear brocade on court-days, but of the millions
who buy a silk dress for ordinary use ; so is the
book-trade to be estimated, not by the number of
the learned who once bought folios, and of the rich
who rej6iced in exclusive quartos, but of the many
to whom a small volume of a living author has be-
come a necessity for instruction or for amusement,
and who desire to read our established literature in
editions well printed and carefully edited, though
essentially cheap. This number of readers is con-
stantly increasing, and as constantly pressing for
a reduction of price upon modern books of high
reputation. Mr. Macau lay's ' Essays ' were origin-
ally published at 1 1. 1 6s. ; they then appeared in
one large volume at 12. Is. Messrs. Longman now
266 COLLECTIONS AND LIBRARIES. Part II.
advertise a " People's Edition," in 7 monthly parts
at Is., and in numbers at \%d. They do so, they
say, " on the recommendation of correspondents
who have expressed their desire to possess them,
but who have found the existing editions beyond
In turning over the leaves of the London Cata-
logue from 1816 to 1851, we rejoice to see how
much has been done in this direction, whatever
may be the greater amount yet to be done. Of
the Poets Byron, Campbell, Crabbe, Coleridge,
Moore, Scott, Southey, Wordsworth, are obtainable
at the most reasonable prices, in collected editions.
The elder Poets may be had in the Aldine Series,
and in new collections, now in course of publication.
The most popular of the recent Novelists Scott,
Dickens, Disraeli, Lytton, Thackeray are in
volumes whose cheapness introduces them'
many a fireside where the original editions would
find no place. Wilkinson's ' Egypt,' Alison's
' History of Europe,' the works of Chalmers, and
many extensive theological books, have been re-
produced at cheap rates. The various ' Libraries '
which have been published and are still publishing
Bohn's Antiquarian, Classics, Classical, Eccle-
siastical, Illustrated, Scientific, and Standard ; the
Library of Entertaining Knowledge ; the Family
Library; the Edinburgh Cabinet Library; Lardner's
Cyclopaedia ; Family Classical Library ; Knight's
Weekly Volumes ; Jardine's Naturalist's Library ;
Murray's Home and Colonial Library ; Sacred
Chap. V. COLLECTIONS AXD LIBRARIES. 2G7
Classics ; Christian Family Library : Smith's
Standard Library ; Tegg's Standard Library ;
National Illustrated Library; Reading for the
Rail ; Traveller's Library ; Standard Novels ;
Chambers' Miscellany of Facts, Papers for the
'eople, Instructive Library ; Weale's Rudimentary
jries : these, the more important of the various
Collections that can be called cheap, comprise no
3wer than 1400 volumes. It would require an
enumeration which is the province of the future
>ibliographer, to show how many separate books,
in every department of knowledge, have been
issued daring the last twenty years, with a distinct
reference to the means of the greatest number of
readers. But the process here, as in other cases,
has necessarily been gradual. The general cheap-
of books must be gradual to be safe. The
Hidings of the perilous sea of publishing must
be constantly taken. There is no chart for this
navigation which exhibits all the sunken rocks and
In addition -to the Collections just enumerated,
we have the new Libraries, whether known as
Cheap Series, Parlour Library, Pocket Library,
Railway Library, or Readable Books. These are,
for the most part, devoted to novels, old a ad new,
and to American reprints. In this form ' Uncle
Tom's Cabin ' rushed into a circulation which no
book with the exception of the Bible and Prayer-
Book, and perhaps some Spelling-Book ever be-
fore attained. Here Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton is
268 COLLECTIONS AND LIBRARIES. Part II.
to reach a popularity which no novelist ever before
reached ; and to be paid " the extravagant sum of
20,000/. for the exclusive sale of his works for the
next ten years," as we are assured in ' The Times.'
We hear of enormous profits made, and fortunes
realised, by these books. They meet the eye on
every railway stall and in every stationer's window,
glittering in green and crimson. But we also
sometimes hear of large stocks of unsaleable
ventures, and of consequent evil-fortune, in spite
of one or two profitable Hiiadertakings. We have
great confidence in the largest sate of the cheapest
edition of an attractive book by an author of i
reputation ; but we have no confidence in the
large individual sale of a great number of such
distinct books, each jostling the other in the race
for popularity. We believe that the sale of many
such works has been much exaggerated. We hear f
that the margin of profit, as commercial men say,' is
very narrow, and leaves little surplus to cover risk.
Of one thing we are clear. Whatever sum may be
paid for a great name, the natural sale of books of
this class can afford very little for the payment of
copyright in ordinary cases. The paper, machine-
work, and binding, we are informed, of one of the
shilling volumes will cost, for an impression of
10,000, about 2207., and the trade expenses and
advertising will raise that cost to 250?. This is
6d. per copy. They are sold wholesale at 8s. for
13 copies, which leaves a surplus of about 601. But
the setting up the types and the stereotyping will
Chap. V. INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 269
cost about 40?. There is 20?. then left for the
publisher upon 10,000?. If he sells 20,000?. there
is 80?. Where is the fund for the payment of
authorship? Is it to be assumed that a sale of
40,000 or 50,000 copies may at present be attained
for such works under ordinary conditions ? If not,
is the cheapest supply of reading for these king-
doms to be kept up by piracies from America or
republications of expired copyrights ? We doubt
if this trade generally- is in a healthy position : at
any rate, we fear that we jnust scarcely look to this
class of books for making "Cheap Literature" what
it might be made by judicious management an
instrument of great public good. Piracy from
American authors has been, within these few
.rs, chiefly confined to the shilling Railway
Volumes ; and it had a great success while all the
V elements that combine to produce an anti-slavery
enthusiasm were in operation. But it has lost the
charm of novelty, and the fashion of American
novels is now somewhat stale. In the mean while
the United States never relax in their course. In
Mr. Carey's ' Letters on International Copyright,'
published at Philadelphia in 1853, we have some
details of the advantage of the fraudulent cheap-
ness to the American public. He says, Mr. Dickens
sells ' Bleak House' in England for 21 s. (5 dollars) ;
comparing the book with copyright books in America,
of which the sale is large, he would expect 3 dollars
under the international system. The number of
* Bleak House ' supplied to American readers in
270 INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. Part II.
newspapers and magazines, as well as in the book
form, is not less than 250,000, at half a dollar,
giving for the whole 125,000 dollars. Mr. Dickens
would charge 750,000 dollars :
Difference to the American public upon ' Bleak House ' . 625,000.
Reckoning in the same way, the following differ-
ences are estimated :
Upon Sir E. Bulwer Lytton's last work, 166,000 copies . 350,000
Upon Mr. Macaulay's History . 125,000 . 400,000
Upon Sir A. Alison's History . 25,000 . 50
Upon Jane Eyre . . . 80,000 . 75,000
Total difference on five books . 1,950,000
This is a difference of 409,5002. sterling. Mr.
Carev deduces from these figures this logical con-
seqt f 3nce : " Under the system of international
copyright, one of two things must be done : either
the people must be taxed in the whole of this
amount for the benefit of the various persons,
abroad and at home, who are now to be invested
with the monopoly power, or they must largely di-
minish their purchases of literary food." He would
not have a healthy cheapness, produced in both
countries by an open commerce and a fair competi-
tion. He would not have a cheapness produced by
the publishers of both countries reckoning upon
an extended market, and a consequent division of
the first expenses of a book. He would have a
piratical cheapness the cheapness ofthe smuggle r
and the illicit distiller " for the general interests
Chap. V. INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 271
of the American people." This ingenious gentle-
man has a ready defence. There is no copyright in
the facts of a book. Copyright is given for the
clothing in which the body is produced to the world.
Mr. Macaulay has contributed nothing to positive
knowledge. Mr. Dickens has gone into a large
garden, and made a bouquet of the flowers, al-
though he paid no wages to the inan who raised
them. He who makes a book uses the common
property of mankind, and all he furnishes is the
workmanship. Mankind has, therefore, a right to
say to the authors, whenever they seek an extension
of their privileges, " Be content, my friends ; do not
risk the loss of a part of what you hav^ in the
effort to obtain more." Mr. Carey is further obliging
enough to tell us that in England authors, with a
few brilliant exceptions, are condemned to almost
hopeless poverty, which he attributes to our system
of centralization. Why do not the wealthy people
of England give a shilling a head towards paying
for the copyright of books, instead of bringing the
poverty of authors before the world, and demanding
from other countries an extension of the monopoly
they have at home ? The people of England,
through centralization, have become so poor and
wretched that there is no demand for books, and no
power to compensate the people who make them.
Authors there are badly paid and insolently treated.
Science is in no request in England, and hence the
diminution of supply. In contrast with the limited
sale of English books at home is the great extent of
272 INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. Part II.
sale here. Argal, let the authors starve at home ;
why should we, the great American people, tax
ourselves for their aid ? We give them fame, and
that is enough. Let not our writers, adds this
candid and modest gentleman, desire to barter our
great market for literature for one in which Hood
was permitted to starve, and Tennyson and others
submit to the degradation of receiving public cha-
rity in the shape of pensions. The wretched
English authors may come and live amongst us,
and participate in our advantages. American
authorship is Belgrave Square ; let it not make a
treaty with the Grub Street of England, to have a
dinner from our well-furnished tables. We think
Mr. Carey, " Author of Principles of Political
Economy," has done service by this astounding
effrontery. If he reflected the mind of the
Government or the people, we should be hopeless
of any attempt to unite England and America in
the protection of a common literature founded
upon a common language. But Mr. Carey does
not -reflect this mind. He does not even speak for
the great body of American authors or publishers.
He speaks for the proprietors of the newspapers,
which, all over the Union, are filled, week by
week, by the piracy of modern English Litera-
ture, and especially of English fiction. To keep
up this robbery, writers and orators will alike
prostitute themselves to defend, unblushingly,
what they know to be a disgrace.
But in one point Mr. Carey is right. He shows
Chap. V. READERS IN THE UNITED STATES. 273
us, upon representations which we cannot doubt,
that the works of popular authors, citizens of the
United States, and so protected as copyright, are
sold in much larger numbers than similar works in
our own country, however cheap. How is this ?
The American people are much more universally
readers than the English people. They are better
educated. They have a Government that considers
it a duty to educate the young without distinction,
and to afford the adult every means of intellectual
improvement. The American Government has
created a reading nation. Our Government has
created a people that rush to low casinos in the
towns, and to sottish beer-shops in the country.
The American Government accords all honour to
them who have laboured in the enlightenment of
the masses. Our Government wholly passes over
every such claim to recognition. It is of little con-
sequence, in the end, what Cabinets or Parliaments
do for the advance of education, or the encourage-
ment of men of letters. But it is somewhat unwise,
to say the least of it, to provoke, by neglect and by
injury, comparison with a nation that cultivates the
same language under different institutions, and
that can proclaim, in its energetic youth, that it has
raised up an intelligent people out of the great
mental inheritance to which our rulers have been
By injury ? it will be said. The British Govern-
ment may ignore letters, undervalue writers, barter
away its patronage upon ignorance and incapacity
274 READERS IX THE UNITED STATES. Part II.
but assuredly it cannot attempt to inflict direct
injury upon literature and learning? And yet it
does all this. The sale of school-books in the
United States has reached an almost fabulous
extent. Families have been raised to affluence by
the enormous circulation of a Spelling-book or a
Dictionary. A successful Grammar is a fortune.
He who can produce sensible and amusing Reading-
Lessons is better paid than a Secretary of State.
Does the Government bestow any gratuities upon
such services ? Certainly not. But it does not dis-
courage and annihilate them. It does not, as our
Government does, interfere with competition by
attempting to regulate prices. It does not do the silly
thing which M. Louis Blanc wished to do in France
for " the organization of literary labour." It has
established no manufactory of school-books, produced
cheaply, by the tax-payers helping the production.
It has no Board of Commissioners, as we have,
" to supply the National Schools in Ireland, and
the public generally, with works in harmony with
an improved system of education, cheap in price
and superior in execution." * We ask, what pos-
sible right has the State to produce such books, and
* These are the words of an official puff, in 16 pages, called 'An
Analysis of the Irish National School-bocks.' A more impudent docu-
ment was never put forth by the Curlls of a past or present age. The
manufacturers of the Irish Reading Lessons pirated a copyright belong-
ing to the writer of this volume (occupying 47 pages, in 10 of their
Lessons), * The Mineral Kingdom,' which was written by Mr.
Leonard Homer. Their ' Analysis ' says, that these " most interesting
facts and reasonings relating to Organised Remains are extracted from
the writings of Buckland and other celebrated Geologists."
Chap. V. IRISH NATIONAL SCHOOL-BOOKS. 275
sell them in the open literary markets of this
country, to the injury of all who produce similar
books by the fair workings of capital and labour ?
School-books were formerly too dear ; but as schools
multiplied, cheaper books than the old standard
works came into the market, and many took root
and flourished. Much of this property has been
destroyed by the Government operation ; which is
not confined to ' Reading Lessons/ but embraces
1 Biographical Sketches of Poets' 'Selections from
the Poets' ' Epitome of Geographical Knowledge'
* Grammar,' ' Arithmetic,' ' Geometry,' * Mensu-
ration/ ' Agriculture/ ' Maps.' The compilers of
these books and maps are salaried state-servants ;
the books are printed at the lowest contract ; the
usual trade allowances are withheld ; profit does not
enter into price. A book of 17i sheets demy, or
420 pages, bound in cloth, is sold for sevenpence,
as we learn from the Commissioners' Catalogue.
This is exactly the cost price for the paper, machine-
work, and binding, in the very cheapest market.
There is nothing for trade -management, and not
one fraction for copyright. Commercial competi-
tion is impossible. We say, this is a fraudulent
cheapness. All cheapness in books is fraudulent
which sets aside a payment for literary labour.
This is the cheapness of piracies, whether here or in
the United States. It is a cheapness that, if carried
out, as it might be by a Government, would de-
grade literature to the lowest condition, annihi-
lating all invention and improvement. Once con-
276 IRISH NATIONAL SCHOOL-BOOKS. Part II.
cede the principle that the State has a right to
produce educational books, except for the supply
of schools paid by the State and even then the
policy is very doubtful and there is no individual
literary enterprise that may not be paralyzed and
destroyed by this new agency. In England, the
only commercial undertaking of the State is that
of the Post Office. It is conducted with a profit ;
it is conducted with a precision and cheapness
which really leave few things to be amended.
There are especial reasons why the conveyance of
letters through the whole civilized world should be
the work of the State. No company, no individual,
could grapple with such a gigantic task. But is
there any other branch of commercial enter-
prise which the State could undertake with the
slightest benefit without most serious injury? If
the end sought is to employ labour to a profit,
individual enterprise will accomplish that end far
better than the State. If the object is to employ
labour that shall be unprofitable, who is to supply
the deficiency in the funds that have called into
activity the profitable labour ? There would indeed
be the equality of employments, but it would be
the equality of universal poverty. The skilled and
the unskilled would be reduced to the same level.
There would be no prizes in the social wheel ; the
blanks would be something worse than the mere
absence of superfluities.
Chap. VI. CHEAP FICTION. 277
Cheap Fiction Penny Periodicals.
THE Railway Libraries by which generic term
we mean single volumes, printed in small type
on indifferent paper, and sold mostly at a shil-
ling are almost wholly devoted to novels,
Inglish or American. Whatever be the quality
)f the fiction so published, we may ask, without
any general depreciation of such works, if the
popularity of this class of reading has not a
tendency to indispose for other reading, however
attractive be the mode in which information, histo-
rical, critical, or scientific, be presented ; and is it
not a necessary consequence that books of another
character than novels should be compelled to
address themselves to a smaller class of readers,
and must, therefore, of necessity be dearer? If
this be true of the railway books, it is equally true
of the weekly sheets. The demand for fiction
amongst the largest class of readers has forced upon
every weekly periodical the necessity for intro-
ducing fiction in some form or other. The writers
of eminence cannot put forth their powers in this
direction without charging a higher price for their
numbers than those in which inferior writers are
employed at low salaries. The higher price neces-
sarily induces a smaller sale. The dealers in cheap
278 PENNY PERIODICALS. Part II.
periodicals say, "you have no chance for a sale
unless you give as much paper as the others give
for a penny ! " In this respect, some of the more
extensively circulated of these sheets would appear
to defy all reasonable competition. They are sold
for 50s. per thousand ; their paper and machine-
work cost, at the very least, 45s. Out of this 5s.
per thousand they have to pay their publishing
expenses, their writers, their woodcuts, their compo-
sition, their stereotype casts. It is a neck-and-neck
race for a very doubtful " plate ;" and what may ap-
pear a slight addition to the weight of the "riders,"
in the shape of another halfpenny a pound upon
their paper, would " distance " the greater number
of them. When the popular estimate of a publi-
cation is that of the square inches which it con-
tains of print, it requires no critical judgment to
be assured that the amount of genius or knowledge
engaged in its production is not very great. Hence,
for the most part, a deluge of stories, that, to men-
tion the least evil of them, abound with false
representations of manners, drivelling sentimentali-
ties, and impossible incidents. And yet they are
devoured with an earnestness that is almost incom-
prehensible. The moralist may say
" England, the time is come when thou shouldst wean
Thy heart from this emasculating food."
How is the weaning to be set about for this baby-
hood of the popular intellect ?
The insuperable obstacle to a successful compe-
tition with the existing class of penny periodicals
Chap. VI. PENNY PERIODICALS. 279
is their pre-eminence in external cheapness. They
were all founded upon the principle of attraction
by low price alone. They employed the meanest
"slaves of the lamp" in their production. Sheets
came out double the size of any other penny sheet,
badly printed on the thinnest paper, but neverthe-
less they were the largest sheets ; their roots were
thus planted in the popular earth. Some who
bought them turned away from their filth and their
folly ; others welcomed these qualities. Gradually
the sense of the better class of artisans operated,
whilst they continued their offences, to reduce their
number of customers. They changed their style ;
they became decent, but they remained stupid.
The weeds were kept down, though not rooted out,
in that garden : a few gaudy flowers were planted ;
fruit there was little. They have maintained their
hold, by their external cheapness, against any
attempt to produce a higher literature, with better
paper and print. They have beaten almost every
competitor who has sought to address the same
class of buyers with something higher, intrinsically
as cheap, but not so cheap to the eye. The unequal
war is still being waged.
Tn June, 1846, the last number of ' The Penny
Magazine ' was published. Mr. Knight, who had
been its editor from the commencement, in 1832,
thus writes in his concluding 'Address to the
Reader,' after stating that there then were pub-
lished 1 4 three-halfpenny and penny miscellanies,
and 37 weekly sheets, forming separate books :
280 PEXNY PERIODICALS. Part II.
"It is from this competition that the 'Penny
Magazine ' now withdraws itself. Its editor most
earnestly wishes success to those who are keeping
on their course with honesty and ability .... He
rejoices that there are many in the field, and some
who have come at the eleventh hour, who deserve
the wages of zealous and faithful labourers. But
there are others who are carrying out the principle
of cheap weekly sheets to the disgrace of the
system, and who appear to have got some consider-
able " old upon the less informed of the working
people, and especially upon the young. There
are manufactories in London whence hundreds of
reams of vile paper and printing issue weekly ;
where large bodies of children are employed to
arrange types, at the wages of shirt-makers, from
copy furnished by the most ignorant, at the wages
of scavengers. In truth, such writers, if they
deserve the name of writers, are scavengers. All
the garbage that belongs to the history of crime
and misery is raked together, to diffuse a moral
miasma through the land, in the shape of the most
vulgar and brutal fiction." This is a curious and
instructive record. ' The Penny Magazine/ popu-
lar as it once was, to the extent of a sale of
200,000, could not contend with a cheapness that
was wholly regardless of quality ; and it could not
hold its place amidst this dangerous excitement.
The editor had his hands fettered by the necessity
of keeping up the purely instructive character of
that journal. Without a large supply of fiction
, Chap. VI. PENNY PERIODICALS. 281
it necessarily ceased to be popular. A French
writer, who laments over the " immondices " of the
literature of Paris in 1840, calls for romances
" appropries par une imagination souple et brillante
au gout des classes laborieuses ;" and he suggests
the principle upon which such works should be
founded, viz. " L' etude des mceurs populaires,
entreprise par un esprit penetrant, et dirigee vers
but philosophique."* The "immondices" have
>r the most part vanished from our English penny
mature. The host of penny Newgate novels,
Aether known as ' The Convict,' ' The Feast of
ttood,' 'The Murder at the Old Jewry,' 'Claude
Duval,' ' The Hangman's Daughter,' and so forth,
may continue to be sold ; but, as far as we can trace,
there are no novelties in this once popular literature
of the gallows. Abominations, called ' Mysteries '
and ' Castles,' still lurk in dark corners ; but the
bulk of single Penny Novels, and the novels which
"drag their slow length along" in jDenny journals,
are marvellously changed. The most prudish
regard to decency presides over every sentence
and syllable. William the Conqueror has lost
the brief ignoble title by which the old Saxons
designated their oppressor, through a special inter-
dict of the proprietor of one of these papers ; and
a lady of doubtful character must be mentioned by
no more rugged name than that of a belle amie,
which may be understood or not. But the " etudes
des mceurs populaires," and the " but philoso-
* Fre'gier, Les Classes Dangereuses.'
282 PENNY PERIODICALS. Part II.
phique," have not yet entered into the minds
of the conductors of these elaborate works.
Their scenes are invariably laid in the lord's
palace or the right honourable's mansion ; mar-
riages are made at St. George's, Hanover Square,
and the diamonds are bought at Storr and Mor-
timer's. If a young lady, who has the slight mis-*
fortune to be connected by the filial tie with a
convicted felon, has a quarrel with her juvenile
lover, she immediately rushes to the arms of an
ancient baronet, who conducts her the next morn-
ing to the altar of his parish church. Boileau said
of Mademoiselle Scudery, that she would never
let her heroine get out of a house till she had
taken an inventory of all the furniture. So, for
the bewilderment of those who read these weekly
novels by the one glimmering candle upon the
deal table, their sick ladies recline in easy chairs,
" astral " lamps diffuse their rich glow upon crimson
curtains, and aromatic perfumes fill the air from
pastiles burning in miniature castles of gilded por-
celain. The style of these productions is mag-
ficent : with golden zones on the summits of the
mountains, and roseate tints edging the canopy of
heaven ; plants drooping with voluptuous languor,
and shining insects skimming the air, as if borne
on the wings of ardent passion. In all this we are
speaking au pied de la lettre. Johnson described
three sorts of unnatural style the bombastic, the
affected, and the weak. Most of these performances
unite the three qualities, and are equally satis-
Chap. VI. PENNY PERIODICALS. 283
factory to the " love of imbecility," which Johnson
thought was to be found in many. We have only
seen one penny journal which places its incidents,
id somewhat adapts its language, in consonance
dth the habits of the classes which these works
to interest. In ' The Leisure Hour,' issued
the Religious Tract Society, we have an Aus-
ilian story, with ' Sydney by Gaslight/ We
now amongst convicts, and hear drunken
touts come out from miserable huts. The success
this publication is considerable. Perhaps those
really understand such matters may say of
le writer of these laudable attempts to imitate
the homely style, something akin to what the
great Pierce Egan said of a fashionable novelist
twenty years ago " Ah ! he's very clever, - but
uncommon superficial in slang." Nevertheless,
it is satisfactory to find that a mean has been
sought, in the quarter where we might least
have expected it, between the representations
of humble and even of low life which are cor-
rupting, and those pretended pictures of society
which exhibit no life at all. In the number of
'The Leisure Hour ' for February 16, 1854, there
is a clever woodcut of a night auction at Sydney,
which is as suggestive of a congregation of real
vulgar sellers and bidders, with the necessary
accompaniments of gin and tobacco, as might be
connected with any of the exciting scenes of ' Life
in London' at any period. The pictures of the
penny sheets which the masses now greedily buy
284 PENNY PERIODICALS. Part II.
are quite genteel. This is something to reflect
upon. Some of the members of the Tract Society
may think that " Chaos is come again." We do
not. This sort of subject will be attractive to the
better portion of male readers amongst the artisans,
and especially amongst the very large number who
belong to " temperance societies ;" but for the girls,
who devour the novels of the other penny journals,
certainly not. Those who have been watching the
workings of the penny literature are unanimous in
their conviction that very few men read these
mawkish and unnatural fictions. The readers for
the most part belong, in point of cultivation, to
the same class of females, who, half a century ago,
gave up their whole leisure if they did not
neglect every domestic duty for the ghosts and
the elopements of ' The Minerva Press.' The in-
telligence of the readers is the same, however
widened the attraction.
But, with all their bad taste, there is partial
merit and manifest utility in some portions of the
best of these penny j ournals. ' The Family Herald '
has constantly a serious article of great good sense
and shrewdness. This paper, and one or two others,
have pages of "Answers to Correspondents/' which,
for the most part, contain useful information and
judicious advice. "Real young ladies often pour
their doubts into the ear of this " Family " oracle,
about love, and courtship, and marriage ; and, as far
as we can judge, receive very safe counsel. In the
whole range of these things we can detect nothing
Chap. VI. PENNY PERIODICALS. 285
that bears a parallel with what used to be called
" the blasphemous and seditious press." Nei-
ther, although these papers do not wholly abstain
from comment upon what is passing in the world,
can they be called newspapers. We see, however,
that the new trump of war is calling up again one
or two of the old class of unstamped violators of
the law. In quiet times they cannot flourish.
They may be difficult to suppress,
' ' Now all the youth of England are on fire.'
286 DEGREES OF READERS. Part II.
Degrees of Readers General Improvement Newspaper Press
Newspaper Press National Agricultural Readers General desire
for Amusement Supply of real Knowledge.
OUR readers can scarcely have failed to make for
themselves the deduction which naturally arises
out of this survey of the progress of popular litera-
ture that there always have been, still are, and
always will be, various classes of readers and pur-
chasers ; and that the invariable progress of know-
ledge and intelligence from the learned to the rich,
from the rich to the middle classes, from the middle
classes to the multitude has produced as inva-
riably a corresponding change in the number of
books published, their quality, and their price. As
the rich began to gather knowledge, books ceased
to be wholly adapted to the learned or professional
student ; as the burgesses began to employ their
leisure in reading, books ceased to be dependent upon
courtly influence ; as the multitude acquired the
rudiments of instruction, books became less con-
ventional, and began to adapt themselves to all
classes. But it cannot, without a judicial blind-
ness, be assumed that we are arrived at that state
in which there are no degress of intellectual ad-
vancement. It is said, to use the language of the
most popular journal of our day, that the masses
<c do not yet feel the assurance that, if they go in
Chap. VII. DEGREES OF READERS. 287
thousands to the counters of the great publishing
houses, as they congregate around the more plebeian
shops, they will get the exact article they want, or
what they consider value for their money." Here
the point. The masses, who are yet more im-
?rfectly educated than some of their own class,
id most of the class above them, would not con-
ler, as they have never yet considered, solid and
structive reading " value for their money." Un-
lestionably " books to please the million must
)t only be good but attractive." The chief popu-
labour of the last quarter of a century has been
to convert the ponderous ores of learning into the
fine gold of knowledge. The multitude have been
reached in many directions ; and the influences of
"good but attractive" books have penetrated
where the books themselves have not yet had a
direct influence. But the multitude stand pre-
cisely in the same relation to works of instruction,
even the most attractive, as they do to Mechanics'
Institutes and Athenaeums. In Manchester and
its dependencies, in 1851, there were 3447 mem-
bers of these Institutions, and 1793 pupils in
classes.* But the great mass of the youth of both
sexes in Manchester were frequenting the Casinos.
Here they neither drank, nor danced, nor gambled :
they listened to recitations and comic songs at a
penny an hour. They wanted mere amusement,
and they found it. It is the same with the great
bulk of the readers of cheap books. "It is most
* Hudson's ' Adult Education.'
288 DEGREES OF READERS. Part II.
worthy of note," says the writer just mentioned,
whose anxiety for cheap literature we honour and
appreciate, " that, when there has been no doubt
of the substantial value of the commodity issued
from the Row or Albemarle Street, the sale of the
books has been by no means equivocal." Certainly
not. Macaulay and Layard have found large num-
bers of purchasers, and will find them, in their
cheap form. But are these purchasers what are
called, in the same breath, "the multitude" "the
needy " ? Not at all. Even the most successful
of the periodical works above a penny ' Chambers'
Journal/ ' Household Words/ reach only the ad-
vanced guard of this class. Mr. Dickens collected
around him at Birmingham such an audience as
never before waited upon an author. He read his
beautiful, humanizing ' Christmas Carol ' to two
thousand working-men. They felt every point
they laughed, or they grew serious, with under-
standing. But are we to suppose that the whole
mass of the mechanical classes men, women, and
children throughout the kingdom, would rush by
millions to buy ' The Christmas Carol ' at a penny
or two at a price that would compensate in fame
what was wanting in profit ? Its sterling merit-
its nature, its simplicity, its purity, its quiet humour
require a far higher amount of taste and cultiva-
tion to appreciate than the immaturity of mind to
which the coarseness and imbecility of the penny
journals are acceptable. An author of less popular
acceptation published a poem at a farthing, but we
Chap. VII. GENERAL IMPROVEMENT. 289
never heard that he employed a steam-press in its
production. The multitude have their own weekly
literature, and we have seen what it is. Are the
novels of the author of * Pelham ' to be speedily
found in every cottage of the farm-labourer, and
in every garret of the Lancashire cotton-spinner ?
The time may come, but it is not as yet. If a
despotic government, in the desire to disseminate
knowledge, were to follow the example which our
free Government has set with regard to the ' School-
books published by authority of the Commissioners
of National Education in Ireland/ they might
produce sound popular literature as cheap again as
the most adventurous of publishers. But if they left
competition free to what they considered unsound
knowledge if they permitted the lowest-priced
Fiction, however bad or indifferent, to circulate
without their unequal competition we believe the
free-traders would beat the monopolists in point
of numbers ; and it would be found an easier task,
even with every commercial disadvantage of price,
to " tickle and excite the palate " than " strengthen
Do such considerations as these make us hope-
less of the steady progress of a sound as well as
cheap popular literature? Decidedly no. There
is improvement all around us. The halfpenny
ballad of Seven Dials is not yet extinct ; but let the
collectors look sharply about them, for that relic
of the chap-books, with the woodcuts that have
served every generation, will soon be gone. In its
290 GENERAL IMPROVEMENT. x Part II.
place has come the decent penny book of a hundred
songs. The shades of Scott, and Moore, and
Campbell will not quarrel with this new popularity.
There are " flash " songs ; but they are not for the
penny buyers. Thackeray has described the dens
in which these abominations are current. The
whole aspect of the humbler press has changed
within these few years. Unquestionably the people
have changed. Visit, if you can, the interior of
that marvellous human machine, the General Post-
Office, on a Friday evening, from half-past five to
six o'clock. Look with awe upon the tons of news-
papers that are crowding in to "tfe distributed
through the habitable globe. Think silently how
potent a power is this for good or for evil. You
turn to one of the boxes of the letter-sorters, and
your guide will tell you, " this work occupies not
half the time it formerly did, for everybody writes
better." General education furnishes the solution
of the otherwise doubtful origin of the improve-
ment, in all the more manifest characteristics of
improvement, of all popular literature.
In 1801 the annual circulation of newspapers in
England and Wales was 15 millions, and in Scotland
1 million. In 1853 the annual circulation of Eng-
land and Wales was 72 millions, and of Scotland 8
millions, that of Ireland being also about 8 millions.
In September, 1836, the stamp-duty on newspapers
was reduced to one penny. Immediately previous
to the reduction the annual circulation of news-
papers in Great Britain was about 29 millions.
Chap. VII. ,J NEWSPAPER PRESS. 291
The increase, therefore, in seventeen years, has
been 51 millions. We have cast up the twenty-
two folio pages of the ' Return of the number of
Newspaper Stamps, at one penny, issued in 1853,'
and we find these results, as derived from the
stamps, excluding supplements, used by 913 news-
papers in England, 18 in Wales, 146 in Scotland,
and 121 in Ireland, making a total number of
1198. But it must be borne in mind that about
one-half of the publications in this return, called
newspapers, are not newspapers in any sense of the
word. Every^ publication can be stamped as a
newspaper, for which the proprietor and printer
give the necessary legal securities ; and thus hun-
dreds of price-currents, catalogues, and circulars
and many literary journals which are only partially
stamped, and which none but political pedants,
calling for a definition, term newspapers find
their way into this Official Keturn. There are, in
round numbers, 600 newspapers proper in the
United Kingdom. There are in London 14 daily
papers, 6 twice and thrice a week, and 71 weekly ;
and about 500 provincial papers in the United
Kingdom. Of the London Daily Papers, about
24 millions are annually circulated, of which the
* Times' has the lion's share of 14 millions. There
are four weekly papers, published at the surpassingly
cheap rate of threepence, which circulate 13 mil-
lions. The ' Illustrated London News' has a cir-
culation of 4 millions ; and eleven other leading
weekly papers issue, annually, 6 millions. There
are 6 religious papers, which have a circulation of
about a million and a quarter. Thus, 36 London
publications engross 48 million stamps, out of 71
millions. Of the Provincial English Press there
are 26 great towns which number 80 papers, and
these 80 consume 13 millions of stamps. We
have, therefore, only 10 millions more to distri-
bute amongst the entire newspaper press of Eng-
land. The Welsh annual circulation is under a
We have abstracted from the Official Return the
number of stamps used annually by papers pub-
lished in great cities and towns, especially the
large marts of commerce and manufactures :
T Number of separate Aggregate annual
Carried forward 67
Chap. VII. NEWSPAPER PRESS. 293
Brought forward 67 . 12,087,121
Sunderland . . . 4 . 191,142
\Volverhampton 3 181,500
Worcester 3 320,052
York .... 3 . 465,200
The altered tone and ability of newspapers would
open too wide a subject to be here dwelt upon in
detail One of the weekly threepenny papers has
attained an enormous sale a sale of 44 millions
annually by discarding what was offensive to
Kblic morals, under the management of a man of
ters who has a reputation to maintain. The
tirists and Paul Prys are gone. The extension
ot the mental labourers for newspapers, in pro-
portion to the extension of the demand, has
followed the same course as that of every other
production of the press, from the days of the first
printers. At the beginning of the present century
the local newspapers " had no editorial comments
whatever,"* and scarcely an original paragraph.
The conductors of our 500 provincial journals are
now watching for every particle of news in their
own districts ; reporting public meetings ; waiting
for electric telegraphs ; pondering upon grave ques-
tions of social economy ; and, to the best of their
judgment, fairly representing the course of events.
How much of this intelligent and honourable spirit
they owe to the London Newspaper Press is not
* ' Life of Edward Baines ;' a valuable record, by his son and suc-
cessor, of an honest and able worker in building up the independence
of the provincial press.
ibr w to decade We tefiere the
f-fo:^ -rcn :br pef<e :: be for good, because the
ipiper Pre> - .:aL A witness* griing
id book are
I: is cesirel DT
ft umialii lilnnUim into
We hare no frith in the process. An
told the Coffifliiitee on Stamps thai *H
to aanee or
Tbe whzjiesE bad hk owncomitiymnis
We Ak M
Of tl-r U
:: ^ V
1 If UK
296 AGRICULTURAL READERS. Part IT.
it would be the same with newspapers as it is now
with the weekly unstamped sheets. Quantity, not
quality, would be the criterion of excellence. The
lower grade of literary labourers would be multi-
plied tenfold. Unscrupulous employers would rise
up on every side, who would go for the "immon-
dices " if decency failed ; and for disorder if tran-
quillity were growing unprofitable. The rich would
be set against the poor, and the poor against the
rich. Those who now organise strikes by their
eloquence would work more effectually with their
pen; and employers would not be without their
organs to defend harshness and oppression. Sects
would denounce each other in weekly journals, to
be sold by the pew-opener ; and the Snoreum
Vestry would enter upon a wordy war with their
neighbours of Muggleton. Let us " study to be
It is proposed to establish penny newspapers for
the especial benefit of the agricultural labourers.
How are they to be circulated ? If postage is to be
paid in addition to the price, there is little gained
over the present system ; for there are published,
weekly, about 300,000 newspapers at 3d. If they
do not go by post, how are they to reach the scat-
tered hamlets ? This is really the difficulty, with
regard to all periodical literature, in raising up
agricultural labourers into a population of readers.
It is satisfactory to know that the keys to know-
ledge the power of reading and writing are
being as freely imparted to the rural population as
Chap. VII. AGRICULTURAL READERS. 297
to those of towns. There is progress. In 1841 the
proportion, to all marriages, of those who signed
the marriage-register with marks, was men, 33
per cent. ; women, 49 per cent, In 1853 the pro-
>rtion was men, 30 per cent. ; women, 45 per
In 1863 the effect of the education of the
ten years will be tested upon the same prin-
iple. But it is to be noted, in the Registrar-
Jeneral's Returns for 1853, that in the Agricultural
mth-Eastern Division, as well as in other agricul-
districts, there was slight difference in the
>roportion between males and females ; while in
the North-Western Manufacturing Division the
number of females who could not write was nearly
double that of the males. In the South-Eastern
Division, comprising the rural parts of Surrey and
Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, and Berkshire, in the
cases of 11,537 marriages, 3457 men and 3749
women signed with marks. In the North-Western
Division, comprising Cheshire and Lancashire, in
the cases of 24,877 marriages, 8729 men and
15,443 women signed with marks. There cannot
be a greater proof of the influence of a resident
clergy, looking diligently to National Schools, and
perhaps stimulated by the zeal of dissent in the
same useful direction, than this fact. It makes us
hopeful of the eventual advance of the rural popu-
lation to the condition of a reading people. But
the question always arises What are they to read ?
What will they read ? Is the edge of the cup not
only to be honeyed, but is the whole cup to be
298 AGRICULTURAL READERS. Tart II.
filled with sweets ? How are we to find the mean
between what is dry and what is useless what is
plain and what is childish ? A. witness of well-
known intelligence told the Committee on News-
paper Stamps that in his village he tried the
experiment of reading ' The Times ' to an evening-
class of adult labourers, and that he could not
read twenty lines without feeling that ih&se were
twenty words in it which none of his auditors
understood. He wanted, therefore, cheap news-
papers, that would be so written as not to puzzle
the hearers or readers by such words as "opera-
tions," " channel," or " fleet." For ourselves, we
would rather endure as much book ignorance as
we endured in the first quarter of this century,
than believe that knowledge might be promoted
by writing down to the intelligence of the least
instructed class ; and that they could be raised up
into enlightenment upon this plan of Mr. Hickson,
to have newspapers that would reach their minds
like " school-primers, containing words of one or
two syllables." Such partial enlightenment would
be general degradation.
Upon looking around upon all the various phases
of Cheap Literature which now present themselves
in these kingdoms, we cannot shut our eyes to the
fact that, in proportion as the number of readers
has increased, the desire of the mass of the popu-
lation has been rather for passing amusement than
solid instruction. There is one very obvious reason
for this. The people of this country work harder
Chap. VII. GENERAL DESIRE FOR AMUSEMENT. 299
than any other people, not only from the absolute
necessity of the competition around them, but
through the energy of their race. It cannot, there-
fore, in the nature of things, be expected that
mch of the reading of all classes should be other
for amusement. Further, when we consider
>w recent has been the training for any reading
longst a large proportion of those who have
;ome* r readers, we can scarcely look for a great
lount of serious application in their short leisure
a hard working-day. The entertainment
lich is now presented to all, whether it be in the
lape of a shilling novel or a penny journal, is not
lebasing ; it may enfeeble the intellect, but it does
not taint it. How are we to deal with this
universal desire for amusement ? Not, we think,
by any direct efforts at its counteraction, either by
individuals or. societies. We have before us three
volumes, just completed, of a most excellent penny
weekly publication of * The Society for Promoting
Christian Knowledge/ entitled 'The Home Friend/
It is cheap, even by comparison with the cheapest
of the class. It consists of twenty-four octavo
pages, and is excellently printed on superior paper.
The old patronising style of such works is given
up. It deals with grave subjects in an agreeable
spirit. In the preface to the first volume, the
editor rejoices that the Society is enabled to
publish a work attainable by "the tenant of the
lowliest cottage, which a century ago could only
be purchased by the opulent few/' But it is not a
300 GENERAL DESIRE FOR AMUSEMENT. Part II.
matter of congratulation that this work, like others
professing the same aims, has not had any great
success, from the absolute want of buyers. It lyas
thought that the members of the Society could have
commanded a great weekly circulation amongst their
neighbours. The average sale never went beyond
12,000. What, then, is to be the course of the
real friends of popular instruction ? We think it
is, to let the existing cheap literature purify itself.
We have got beyond the scurrilous stage the
indecent stage the profane stage the seditious
stage. Let us hope that the frivolous stage, in
which we are now to some extent abiding, will in
time pass on to a higher taste, and a sounder
mental discipline. " Confidence," said Chatham,
" is a plant of slow growth." So is taste ; so is a
love of knowledge for its own sake. Let us make
real instruction as attractive as we can ; but let us
have no compromises under the pretence of gilding
the pill. Study is study, and amusement is amuse-
ment. Let the people learn, and learn they will,
in time ; but let us abandon all the old, childish
attempts of cheating them into learning. The
circle of those who are attaining sound knowledge
is steadily widening. Already, as the circle has
widened, the means of acquiring information have
been offered to "the masses," and even to "the
needy," at a rate of cheapness quite unequalled by
any previous attempts to make sound knowledge
popular. We now especially allude to ' The Penny
Cyclopedia ' a work of which the literature and
Chap. VII. SUPPLY OF REAL KNOWLEDGE. 301
engravings alone cost the publisher, as he has
recorded, the large sum of 42,000. Those who
afljjct to believe that nothing has been done for
the cheapening of books, should recollect that,
before the existence of this Cyclopaedia, no great
fork of reference of this. nature could be obtained
ider 40Z. But 'The Penny Cyclopaedia/ large
was its sale, was not profitable ; it involved
enormous loss. The writer, in his ' Strug-
gles of a Book/ has stated that the paper-duty
operated as a burthen upon ' The Penny Cyclo-
paedia ' to the extent of 32,OOOZ. He adds,
" Had that sum of 32,000?. been actually saved to
me, I should not have been a pound richer by the
publication of ' The Penny Cyclopaedia.' But
with the saving I should not have been to that
amount poorer/' Compared with the vast outlay,
1 The Penny Cyclopaedia ' was set at too low a
price for the probable demand. The class of buyers
for instruction was not large enough to carry off
40,000 copies, which would have yielded adequate
profit. The very word " Penny " was then repul-
sive, and implied something low, as apprehended
by the rich vulgar. Moreover, the book occupied
eleven years in its issue, and its sale fell from
50,000 at the beginning to less than 20,000 in
the end. No work that occupied more than four
or five years in its completion was ever successful
in this country. In the publication of 'The
English Cyclopaedia/ which is founded upon ' The
Penny Cyclopaedia/ a more prudent course has
302 SUPPLY OF REAL KNOWLEDGE. Part II.
been adopted. The new book is issued in four
divisions, which will form four separate Cyclo-
paedias of Geography, Natural History, Sciences,
and Biography, each of which will be completed in
little more than two years from its commencement.
Comparing the two books ' The Penny ' and
' The English ' we can readily see the vast
augmentations of knowledge during twenty years
that render the complete re-modelling of such a
work absolutely necessary. In every branch of
exact knowledge this re-modelling has become
indispensable ; and upon other works of instruction
many earnest labourers are so engaged. Publishers
cannot now afford to let their books, especially
their educational books, remain without improve-
ment. It is thus that, in spite of the tendency tp
light reading, the supply of real knowledge is kept
up. Those who find an ally of knowledge in the
purer and more ennobling fiction, such as our
literature, past and present, abundantly supplies,
are gradually brought into the extending circle of
earnest readers. The great region beyond is still
little cultivated ; but even there the subsoil-plough
has been at work, and there is some grain amidst
the weeds. The weeds cannot be rooted out by
any sudden husbandry.
Libraries In Towns In Rural Districts Influences of the
[T is difficult to point out a direct practical re-
ledy for much that is injurious in our cheapest
>pular literature ; and especially any remedy that
mid be supplied by the State. We cannot cure
)lly by enactments, however we may try to repress
ime. " These things will be, and must be ; but
low they shall be least hurtful, how least enticing,
herein consists the grave and governing wisdom of
a State. To sequester out of the world into Atlantic
and Utopian policies, which never can be drawn
into use, will not mend our condition, but to ordain
wisely as in this world of evil, in the midst whereof
God hath placed us unavoidably."
This noble sentence, from Milton's * Speech for
the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing,' suggests some
remarks which, however painful to utter, no one
who thinks honestly upon the subject of popular
enlightenment can disguise. There is NO " grave
and governing wisdom" in the English State
there is NO desire "to ordain wisely" in any
matter connected with the educational advancement
of the people. The greatest discouragement in the
first stage, the most niggardly support in the
second, have been given to the education of the
304 FEEE LIBRARIES. Part II.
young. With the exception of Schools of Design,
which, however useful, have a very limited object,
the education of the adult has been retarded by
every possible legislative effort, direct or indirect.
In 1849 a Select Committee of the House of Com-
mons, to inquire into " the best means of extending
the establishment of libraries, freely open to the
public, especially in large towns, in Great Britain
and Ireland," came to the unanimous resolution
that " our present inferior position is unworthy of
the power, the liberality, and the literature of the
country." An Act had been passed in 1845, by
which Town Councils, in Municipal Boroughs hav-
ing 10,000 inhabitants and upwards, in England
and Wales, were empowered to establish Museums
at their own discretion. In 1850, seconding the
Keport of the Committee of 1849, a Bill was
brought in " for enabling Town Councils to esta-
blish Public Libraries and Museums," in towns
of the like large population. The proposal was
damaged by the device of requiring that a poll of
the burgesses should first have been duly taken on
the question, and that a rate of one halfpenny in
the pound should be the maximum to be levied by
a majority of votes. The consequence was obvious.
Those of the rate -payers who had the low shop-
keeping jealousy of extending knowledge to those
they presumed to call beneath them, rejected the
proposition for establishing Free Libraries at Bir-
mingham and at Exeter. In the mean time the diffi-
culties have been surmounted in four great Lanca-
Chap. VIII. FREE LIBRARIES. 305
shire towns, Manchester, Liverpool, Salford, Bolt on,
where 50,QOO. have been raised, chiefly by volun-
tary subscription, for Free Libraries and Museums ;
and 60,000 volumes have been purchased for the
n and unrestricted use, in the libraries and at
me, of every member of the community, from the
hest to the humblest. The experiment has been
completely successful. One of the most satisfactory
results has been that, amidst the hardest worked
pulation in the world those who come from
eir factories with the honourable stain of labour
their hands and brows the most exemplary
has been taken of the books borrowed. If
ree Libraries are good for the greatest marts of
industry, are they not good for the smaller ? Mr.
Ewart, the unwearied mover in this object, brings
in a Bill in the Session of 1854, to extend the Act
of 1850 to towns of less population and to the
metropolitan boroughs ; and, further, to remedy a
great defect in the former Bill, that the money
raised by the halfpenny rate might be applied to
purchase books as well as to provide buildings. On
the 5th of April the House of Commons throws out
this Bill, under the most frivolous pretexts ; the
real object being to truckle to the prejudices of
those who in all times have systematically opposed
the progress of knowledge, when there is a chance
of extending it to the people universally.
" Milton ! thou shouldst be living at this hour :
England hath need of thee."
It is in connexion with all we have said in the
306 FREE LIBRARIES IN TOWNS. Part II.
preceding pages, about the character and tendency
of cheap popular literature, that we have looked
forward with hope to the general establishment of
Free Libraries in town and country. Mechanics'
Institutes, and Literary and Scientific Institutions,
valuable as they have been, do not embrace the
class for which they were originally intended.
According to returns prepared by Dr. Hudson,
Secretary of the Manchester AthenaBum, in 1851,
there were 720 such institutions, with 120,000
members, and they possessed 815,000 volumes of
books. But the same zealous person honestly tells
us that the majority of Literary Institutions com-
prise professional men, the higher shopkeepers,
and the managers of large firms ; that the clerk
and the shopman will not go where they have a
chance of being looked coldly on by their employ-
ers or superiors in service, and resort to Mechanics'
Institutes, where their presence effectually drives
out the fustian jackets. To remedy this was one
of the especial objects of Free Libraries, where
books should be liberally provided for all, whether
for reference or home reading. A large majority
of the borrowers of books from the Manchester
Free Library belong to the operative class. Is it
not of some importance that the warehousemen,
packers, artisans, machinists, mill-hands male and
female, assistants in shops male and female, dress-
makers, should have access to the standard works
of English literature, and the current books of the
modem press ? Is there no great beneficial effect
Chap. VIII. FREE LIBRARIES IX TOWNS. 3Q7
to be produced by the 77,232 volumes that in the
first year were issued from the same Manchester
Free Library, comprising in theology, 1130 ; phi-
losophy, 845; history, 22,837; law, politics, and
commerce, 839 ; sciences and arts, 4319 ; and
general literature, including poetry, fiction, essays,
and periodicals, 47,262 ? Is it of no importance
that, in the same period, 61,080 volumes have
been used in the reference department? How
long are those who are apt to think that
" The wealthiest man among us is the best,"
to influence the better thoughts, and control the
higher impulses, of those who have no vain fears
that knowledge, however widely extended, may
produce evil to society ? The object of the general
diffusion of knowledge is not to render men dis-
contented with their lot to make the peasant
yearn to become an artisan, or the artisan dream
of the honours and riches of a profession but to
give the means of content to those who, for the
most part, must necessarily remain in that station
which requires great self-denial and great endur-
ance ; but which is capable of becoming not only
a condition of comfort, but of enjoyment, through
the exercise of these very virtues, in connexion
with a desire for that improvement of the under-
standing which, to a large extent, is independent
of rank and riches. It is a most fortunate circum-
stance, and one which seems especially ordained
by Him who wills the happiness of his creatures,
308 FREE LIBRARIES IN RURAL DISTRICTS. Part II.
that the highest, and the purest, and the most
lasting sources of enjoyment are the most accessible
to all. The great distinction that has hitherto pre-
vailed in the world is this, that those who have
the command of riches and of leisure have alone
been able, in any considerable degree, to cultivate
the tastes that open these common sources of enjoy-
ment. The first desire of every man is, no doubt,
to secure a sufficiency for the supply of the physical
necessities of our nature ; but in the equal dispens-
ations of Providence it is not any especial portion
of the condition even of the humblest among us
who labours with his hands to earn his daily bread,
that his mind should be shut out from the gratifica-
tions which belong to the exercise of our observing
and reflecting faculties. View the agricultural la-
bourer as we have been too long accustomed to see
him a rude untutored hind. His most ordinary
occupations place him amongst scenes highly fa-
vourable to the cultivation of some of the purest
and most peaceful thoughts. The general intro-
duction of agricultural machinery and agricultural
chemistry has an inevitable tendency to demand
a race of skilled labourers, instead of unintellectual
serfs. But how do we deal with the labourer and
his family ? We educate the boys and girls up to
a certain point ; we give them the rudiments of
knowledge ; we are now asked to go further, and
to teach them " common things," by which we un-
derstand, chiefly, the practical applications of
science. But, once off the school-form, the rural
Chap. VIII. FREE LIBRARIES IN RURAL DISTRICTS. 309
boy is to find his evening amusement in the beer-
shop, and the girl to make her way to the next
town, in search of some gaiety that ends fatally.
Home has no charms for these. Books might be
some attraction, but how are they to be got?
There are books which well-meaning people will
lend but they are for the most part of an exclu-
sively serious character. None of the fair features
of knowledge are presented to them ; no " perpetual
feast of nectared sweets." They are offered the Sun-
day sermon without the Sunday holiday. It is
clear that this system will not do ; and the most
sensible in the country have abandoned it. We
have before us a catalogue of the ' Windsor Park
Library, under the patronage of His Royal High-
ness the Ranger/ This Park Library, established
by Prince Albert, is for the use of all those in the
local employ of the Crown. These comprise a
population of about 300, of which 100 are sub-
scribers to this library, at sixpence a quarter. It
is self-governed, with the assistance of the curate of
the Park, who has the right of approval of the books
given or purchased. Here is an agricultural popu-
lation of a mixed character keepers, bailiffs, wood-
men, ploughmen, and field and forest lads. This
hard-working and comfortable population is not
crammed with "harsh and crabbed" knowledge.
There are good books in the library divinity, his-
tory, biography, ^natural history but there is abund-
ance of poetry and fiction. The result is that the
library is most popular ; that it has a visible influence
310 FREE LIBRARIES IN RURAL DISTRICTS. Part II.
on the families of the subscribers ; that the popu-
lation thus intellectually raised, in the power of
happily employing their small leisure, are a con-
tented home-keeping population. There are, no
doubt, peculiar advantages in their position; but
the intelligence which is thus cultivated amongst
their dependants by the highest in the land would
ultimately raise every rural population, if the ob-
vious means were not too commonly neglected.
We have spoken strongly about the indifference
of the State to the establishment of Free
Libraries in populous towns. But even those
who have most strenuously urged this measure
have said nothing about such institutions in rural
districts. We ask, why not ? The necessity is as
great, perhaps greater. A ready access to instructive
books, and amusing books, is the desire which
most naturally suggests itself to the young people
who have left the schools which the State recog-
nizes, however imperfectly. The desire cannot be
gratified except through some occasional benevo-
lence. Thus the neglected mind first grows list-
less then corrupt. Dangerous excitement begins
the career which ends in habitual degradation.
There could be nothing easier that to make the
National School a Free Library also. The room,
is vacant after the hours of work ; the schoolmaster
is the ready librarian. It would be the truest
economy in parishes to provide such Free Libraries
out of the ordinary rates, if Parliament were to
give them an enabling power. Gratuitous vac-
Chap. VIII, INFLUENCES OF THE BEST BOOKS. 311
cination, preventive measures against contagion,
are cheerfully paid for. Why not a payment of
the most limited amount a farthing on each
pound of rental to keep the people sober, to
render them domestic, to raise them gradually but
surely to the capacity of discharging those labours
with skill which have been formerly intrusted to
mere animal power ? It would be well, we think,
make the experiment.
In thus advocating the general establishment of
Libraries, we believe that we are pointing out
only practicable course for counteracting the
tendencies of cheap periodical literature. The
principle which is now carried, as we have endea-
voured to show, to a dangerous and ridiculous ex-
cess, is to give the greatest possible quantity at
the lowest possible price. The principle is de-
structive to the employment of the highest class
of literary labour. It involves the natural medi-
ocrity or positive baseness of that quality which is
not visible on the surface. The counteracting
principle t is to make the best books accessible to
all ; and not to imagine that the evil is not coun-
teracted if those who have access to the best books
prefer the entertaining to the severe. One of the
most eminent cultivators of the highest knowledge,
Sir John Herschel, has told us a great truth in
this matter, which ought never to be forgotten.
Defending what he calls " the invaluable habit of
resorting to books for pleasure/' as the main desire of
those who " have grown up in a want of instruc-
312 INFLUENCES OF THE BEST BOOKS. Part II.
tion, and in a carelessness of their own improve-
ment," he says "If we would generate a taste for
reading, we must, as our only chance of success,
begin by pleasing. * * * In the higher and
better class of works of fiction and imagination,
duly circulated, you possess all you require to strike
your grappling-iron into their souls, and chain
them, willing followers, to the car of advancing
We have said that cheap literature has got
beyond its scurrilous, indecent, profane, and sedi-
tious stages. Six years ago it exhibited every one
of these qualities. We think it will not return to
them. But there is an element of danger which, if
not so revolting, is far more formidable. It is that
element which has for its materials the disputes be-
tween labour and capital. There is ignorance on
both sides of this question. There is indifference
on the part of the State. A period of great and
increasing commercial prosperity has softened
down many of the coarser and fiercer aspects of
these disputes ; but in no case have they been re-
duced to an intelligible philosophy on the part of
employers or of workmen. Let the prosperity of
trade be interrupted by war ; let our markets be
narrowed ; let profits necessarily fall, and wages
with them ; and what lessons, we may ask, have
been acquired of mutual dependence and mutual
interests, of conciliation and of brotherhood, in the
season which was favourable to instruction ? Poli-
tical economy has been too long taught in a one-
Chap. VIII. INFLUENCES OF THE BEST BOOKS. 313
sided spirit ; but, nevertheless, its great truths
remain unaltered. Are the people unwilling to
search them out ? Practically, are they reluctant
to apply them ? They know, right well, that profits
and wages are distinct matters ; that one belongs
to capital and the other to labour ; that if they are
have both they must become capitalists. They
upon the smallest, and therefore the most
ardous scale, to unite labour and capital by co-
ration. They cannot try the principle upon a
larger scale, through the evil agency of our laws of
nership. The Legislature inquires into the
atter, and there leaves it. The Legislature com-
plains that strikes are ruinous to all concerned, and
does nothing to bring about that union a union
of feelings as well as interests which would de-
stroy strikes. The Legislature says that the people
have no economical or historical knowledge, and
forbids Free Libraries. Sixty years ago, Burke
calculated that there were eighty thousand readers
in this country. If Burke had lived in times when
there are fourteen hundred thousand buyers of
cheap weekly sheets, whose readers probably
amount to five millions, would his great philoso-
phical mind have said, as modern legislation says,
Do whatever you can to prevent this reading going
in a right direction ; you cannot stop reading, but
you can keep the cheap literature debased, by
denying the people access to the great original
thinkers who would lift them out of their intellec-
tual twilight into a brighter day ? Would Edmund
314 INFLUENCES OF THE BEST BOOKS. Part II.
Burke have given such counsel ? Would he have
shrunk from admitting the people to the safe and
enduring equality of a participation in the common
property of mind ? He would have said, as he said
in 1770 "All the solemn plausibilities of the
world have lost their reverence and effect/' He
would now have added Build your future au-
thority and your refpect, not upon ignorance, but
For the proper supply of such Free Libraries,
we have a new class of Books rising fast into im-
portance Books of established value, carefully
edited the Poets, the Historians, the Critical and
Philosophical Writers. The great Divines will not
be neglected in this good work. There cannot
be cheaper books of this class than Mr. Murray's
' British Classics/ than Mr. Bonn's various series,
than several Collections of the Poets now in course
of publication. We rejoice to Hke well-printed
books for the Library appear at half the old prices ;
and to know that there is some chance of the eyes
of a generation not prematurely perishing under
the inflictions of a typography inferior to the ordi-
nary newspaper. Free Libraries would create a
large and certain demand for such works. With
the majority, the fame of our great writers is little
more than the scrolls upon their tombs. Let our
glorious Literature no longer be, for the People,
" The Monument of banish'd Minds."
Now Heady, 2 Vols. Fcap. 8vo. 10s.
ONCE UPON A TIME.
BY CHARLES KNIGHT.
" The old bees die, the young possess the hive."
" Once upon a Time.' This familiar nursery phrase is employed
here to designate a collection of miscellaneous papers of various
length, having only this in common, that they all refer to the olden
time, from the wars of the Roses, down to the days of Queen
Charlotte and Fanny Burney. They relate to all manner of topics
old folks, old manners, old books ; they present us with a mass
of curious facts, tricked out here and there with pleasant and plausible
fiction ; and, take them all in all, they make up as charming a
pair of volumes as we have seen for many a long day." Fraser's
" ' Once upon a Time' is worth possessing." Examiner.
" This varied, pleasant, and, what is not always the case, informing
collection of Essays, is in part a selection from the writings of a
man who has done more to popularise literature than perhaps any
other man of the day. The volumes consist of a number of notices
illustrative of manners or archaeology, arranged in chronological
" Mr. Charles Knight's entertaining little work Once upon a
Time ' is full of various knowledge agreeably told." Quarterly
. "This pleasant gallery of popular antiquarianism, alternately
making our heart yearn upon the good times that are gone never to
return, and causing us to wonder and to rejoice at the mighty
strides the world has made in the road of improvement." John Bull.
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET.
l-RISTKD EV WILIJAM CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STUKKT.
AND CHARING CROSS-
5 ), Al.BEMARLE STREET, LONDON.
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ABELL'S (MRS.) Recollections of the Emperor Napoleon during
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Philosophy of the Moral Feelings. Ninth
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Pathological and Practical Researches on the
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1837. Logarithms of Sines and Cosines to every Ten Seconds
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1847. Twelve Years' Catalogue of Stars.
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12. METHOD OF DIVIDING ASTRONOMICAL INSTRU-
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