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' Plus on lit, plus on lira ; plus il faut, plus il faudra des i 

Histoire des Franqais des divers etats. 









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 

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- 
mill 153 




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 
School-books 260 

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 





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 


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 

Chap. I. 

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 

B 2 


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,' 


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- 


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 


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- 


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 


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 



Part I. 

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 


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- 


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 


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. 



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." 

:hap. II. 



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 

C 2 


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 


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 


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 
Chaucer : 

" 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. 


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- 


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 


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- 


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 


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- 
scribed : 

" 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- 


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 


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 


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." 

D 2 

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 

Chap. II. 


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 


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 


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 


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. 


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, 


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 
fourteenth century. 

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 


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. 



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. 


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- 


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 


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 

Merchants' Marks. 

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 


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 
social life." 

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 



\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 

Chap. III. 



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. 



Part I. 

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- 


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 

Chap. III. 


The Wise Men's Offering. 


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 


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. 


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 


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 


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- 


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. 



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- 


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 


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 


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 
present work." 

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 


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 


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 

F 2 


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 


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, 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 

G 2 

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 



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- 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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- 


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 
[1455] 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- 


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 


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 


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- 
dantly prove. 

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 



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 


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 

u 2 


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, 


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 


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 


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 



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 

Ancient Press. 

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 




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 


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 
solid glory. 

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 


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- 


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. 




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 


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 




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. 


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 


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 



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 


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 

I 2 


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, 



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- 
phical curiosities. 

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 
last century. 

* 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 


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- 


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 


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 dice. 

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 

Chap. VI. 



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, 


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. 


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 



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 


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 


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 
spiritual elevation. 

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 

K 2 

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. 


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- 



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 


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- 


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 

Chap. VII. 



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 
its attractions. 


' 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, 
Deform'd, unfinished." 

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 


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 


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- 


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 


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 


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- 


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 


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 


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 
partially remedied. 

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- 

L 2 


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. 


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 


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 
entry : 

" 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 


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- 
tioned : 

"Item; atte bureyng of WILLIAM 

CAXTON for iiij torches . . . vj s viii d 
Item ; for the belle at same bu- 
reyng vj d .' 

Chap. VIII. 



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- 


" 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 
written : 

" 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 
his life."* 

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. 


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. 


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. 


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 


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 
print !" 

" 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 



Part I. 


^ S^S^ r? o 

cg<f<S a - 


^2 ^ 






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. 


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, 


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 

M 2 


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," 
ejaculated Pynson. 

" 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 : 


" 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 
its own." 

" 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 




(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- 


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 



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 


of the * Eecueil,' and the Oration of Eussell, which are con- 
sidered doubtful. 

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 

1480, fol. 

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,' 

1481, fol. 

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. 


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. 


36. * The Book of Fayttes of Armes and of Cliyvalrye,' a 
translation from the first part of Vegetius de Be Militari, 
1489, fol. 

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 
place), fol. 

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- 
canje,' 24mo. 


57. 'The Hystorye of Kynge Blanchardyne and Queen 
Eglantyne his wyfe,' fol. 

58. 'The Siege of the noble and invyncyble Cytee of 
Rhodes,' fol. 

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 
Printing : 

'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. 
4to., 1785. 

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 
Knowledge, 1828. 

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. 
folio, 1756. 

' 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. 


' 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.' 






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 

N 2 


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- 


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 


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 


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- 


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 
high-priced books. 

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 


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 


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. 


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 


"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 




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 


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- 


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." 


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 ;" 


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 


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 


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 

o 2 


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." 



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 


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, 

* Discoveries. 


" 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- 

* Areopagitica. 


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. 


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- 


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 


" 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, 


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. 


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 


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, 
the risk. 

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^- 


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.' 


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. 


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 


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. 


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 

p 2 


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 




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 


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. 


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. 


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 


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 
that line. 

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. 



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 


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- 


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- 


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 
some sacrifice. 

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. 


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 


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 


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. 


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 



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 


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. 

Q 2 


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 


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 


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, 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 



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 




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 


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. 


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. 



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- 


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. 

R 2 


'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 


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." 


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 


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 


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 





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 


'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 


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 


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 


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 


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- 


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. 


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 


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 



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 


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." 

s 2 

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 

1853. 29o4 

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" 

07 2t 

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. 

Part II. 

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 : 



Fiction ...... 
Foreign languages and school-books . 


Juvenile books .... 



. 700 

,, Chemistry 
Geology .... 

. 170 
. 280 
. 350 


,, Natural philosophy 

Arts, &c. Antiquities 
,, Fine arts .... 
Games and sports 
,, Illustrated works 
,, Music .... 
,, Genealogy and heraldry 

Industry. Mechanics, &c. 
,, Agriculture 
,, Trade and commerce . 
Political economy, statistics 
Military .... 

. 300 

. 350 
. 500 
. 450 
. 300 
. 500 
. 220 
. 140 

. 500 
. 250 
. 600 

, 700 
. 300 

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 

Moral philosophy 
Domestic economy 



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 


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 


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 
their means." 

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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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." 


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- 



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. 



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 


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 


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 : 


"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 


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.' 


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- 


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 


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 


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.' 



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 


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.' 


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 


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 
the constitution." 

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 



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. 


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 

u 2 



Tart II. 

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 

papers. sale. 

























Hull . 



Leeds . 







































Carried forward 67 



Brought forward 67 . 12,087,121 

Sunderland . . . 4 . 191,142 

\Volverhampton 3 181,500 

Worcester 3 320,052 

York .... 3 . 465,200 

80 13,245,015 

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 

rfrgg. TT. 



We Ak M 

Of tl-r U 

:: ^ V 



to bis 

:: i 

1 If UK 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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 


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. 

Chap. VIII. 




Libraries In Towns In Rural Districts Influences of the 
best Books. 

[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 


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- 


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 



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 


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, 



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 


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 


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- 


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- 


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- 


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 


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 
upon knowledge. 

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. 



" 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 
order." Spectator. 

" 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. 





January, 1854. 


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