Category Archives: Books

Of Tartary

The Universal Pocket Companion (3rd edition, 1760), mostly comprises ready-reckoner type tables as well as information on weights, measures, and currencies, and a lengthy listing of London merchants.  All good practical information.


The book also includes brief summaries of history and geography. Here we see what those who were commoditizing information felt should be part of the mental furniture of the mildly-educated mid-eighteenth century Londoner.  From the geography section, here is the one-paragraph summary of Tartary.

OF TARTARY—The Air of this Country is very different by Reason of its vast Extent from North to South: The most Southern Parts having the same Latitude with the middle Provinces of Spain and the most Northern reaching beyond the arctick polar Circle. The longest Day in the North is about two Months, and the shortest in the South nine Hours and three Quarters.  The Manners of the People are very rude and barbarous; their ordinary Food is Horse-Flesh, and they live in Tents and open Fields. The Religion is Paganism in the North and towards the South Mahometism prevails.  The Great Cham of Tartar is an absolute Monarch, and assumes such a proud Superiority over his Subjects as never to be spoke to but upon their Knee with their Faces towards the Ground. His Subjects stile him the Shadow of God; he looks upon himself as the Monarch of the whole World; and every Day after he has dined, he causes the Trumpets to sound, thereby giving Leave to all the Kings and Princes of the Earth to go to Dinner. The chief Commodities of this Country are Sable, Martins, Silk, Camblets, Flax, Musk, Cinnamon, and great Quantities of Rhubarb.

Now you know all that it was deemed necessary for you to know about Tartary.

Back in the day, this book would have set you back three shillings.  If you missed your chance at the time, you can now get a look at it free with an internet connection through the magic of Google Books.


Publishing Delays

John Bridges (1666—1724) was a country gentleman and London lawyer. He divided his time between his estate at Barton Seagrave in Northamptonshire and his chambers in London. He held a succession of lucrative government posts including Solicitor of Customs, Commissioner of Excise, Cashier of Excise, and Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1708, he was wealthy and well-connected.  Like many of his time, he was an antiquarian and was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.  While many leisured gentlemen took a leisurely interest in the ancient and curious, John Bridges got the bug more badly than most. He spent several years and several thousand pounds gathering material for a projected History of Northamptonshire, but publication did not go smoothly.

John Bridges

Most of the information below comes from the preface of the book and from the ever-charming Nichols, who characteristically relates the tale in a five-page footnote in Literary Anecdotes.

John Bridges began collecting material in 1719 with a personal visit to every parish in the county.  He also hired researchers and artists to record legal, historical, and parochial details. By the time of his death he had amassed some 30 folio volumes (plus many other loose pieces and smaller volumes) of material. However, nothing had been written.  In his will, Bridges directed that his historical books and records be kept separate from the rest of his library as a family heirloom (the rest of his collection was sold). His brother William then attempted to get the work printed.  A publisher was found, a writer, Dr. Samuel Jebb, was retained, and the project moved forward.  It was decided to publish the work as a series of fascicles and subscriptions were sought (at 4 guineas).  The first numbers duly appeared after a few years, but then the publisher went bankrupt and the project stopped.  Many of the engraved plates were scattered.

Then in 1755 a number of the gentleman of the county formed a committee under the leadership of Sit Thomas Cave to see the project through.  They bought up the materials, paid off Jebb, and recruited Peter Whalley to compile the volume. Gradually, the elderly gentlemen of the committee died off and the project sputtered to a halt near the finish line, with much of the work languishing with the Oxford University Press for seven years.  Eventually, a new committee took over and the book finally appeared in 1791 (over 65 years after Bridges died) in two volumes totaling near 1400 pages.

Most of Bridges’ materials ended up at the Bodleian.


Bridges, John. The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, 2 vols, 1791.

Nichols, John. Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, vol ii, 1812.

William Bayntun

William Bayntun (1717—1785) was a barrister who resided at Gray’s Inn. He was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1746, when he was already nearly 30, and called to the bar in 1760.  He was the youngest son of Henry Bayntun who was of a junior branch of the overly-complex Bayntun family of Wiltshire.  The senior branch had been prominent landowners for centuries, described by the DNB as “the quintessential county family”, developing over the years a wide array of land-holdings and intertwining marriages and trailing vast numbers of lawsuits before dying out (in the nineteenth generation) shortly before our William was born.

William did manage to acquire and inherit his own modest collection of estates to support him, and he married well to Catherine Sandys, an heiress, in 1756 (she was some twenty years his junior and still underage, but her father had died in 1754).  William and Catherine did not have any children and in his will, after providing for his wife, William left his estate to Windsor Sandys, a cousin of his wife’s. While William married, but did not have children, both his brothers had children, but did not marry.

William Bayntun was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and principally noted for his book collection, sold off after his death.  Also a supporter of the arts, he subscribed to the first edition of Joshua Kirby’s Method of Perspective, and was present at the 1757 dinner at the Foundling Hospital.

Precepts and Observations

William Oram wrote one book, the posthumously-published Precepts and Observations on the Art of Colouring in Landscape Painting. The book was prepared and edited by Charles Clarke from Oram’s original manuscripts notes, and published in 1810. It appears that the notes were mostly compiled in the 1750s and the manuscripts was fairly complete – there are certainly places where Oram may have intended a fuller treatment, but the core chapters are well worked out.

















Quid si Naturre fas explorare sagaci

Mente vias. Vanier. Prr.ed. Rust. l. xi.



Arranged from the Author’s original MS. and published




l.ondon :








The text stays close to the topic of the title. It is principally concerned with the choices and application of colour in painting landscapes, especially the handling of skies and trees. Oram opens with a couple of short chapters giving theoretical background to why the color of sky varies around the horizon and from horizon to zenith at different times of day, and the changing colors and details of trees at different distances from the observer. These early chapters are a little perfunctory and were possibly something he might have revisited before publication. In Chapter 5 he really gets going, with the treatment of skies and how to lay in the colors of skies and clouds for different types of light. The book is a technical manual of the application of oils. Here is a sample paragraph:

Again, for a sky with a warmer horizon, representing a time nearer the evening than the former:– Let the horizon be made with light red and white, and so growing into a bluish colour, with a small mixture of Indian red in that tint between the light red horizon and the bluest part of the sky. The clouds upon the horizon should be made up with blue and white, with lake only in their shades, and terra di sienna and white with a little light ochre in their lights.

Continue reading

Sir Charles Frederick

Sir Charles Frederick (1709—1785) was a subscriber to the second edition of Kirby’s Method of Perspective, and one of his sponsors for Fellow of the Royal Society. He was born in Madras, India, where his father Sir Thomas Frederick was on the council of Fort St. George (according to the DNB and Spier-Kagan) or governor of Fort St. David (according to the History of Parliament). He was educated back in England at Westminster School and New College, Oxford and then proceeded to the law, entering Middle Temple in 1728. An antiquarian with particular interests in numismatics and architecture, he joined the Society of Antiquaries in 1731 and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1733 before he was twenty-five.

In 1737 he set off for Italy and points East with his elder brother John, viewing antiquities and building up his collections. According to Spier-Kagan, they visited “Genoa, Pavia, Milan, Parma, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Venice, before going on to Constantinople and perhaps other destinations in the Near East, returning through Paris early in 1740″ (38). While in Rome in 1738, Frederick had his portrait painted by Andrea Casali.

Frederick was an accomplished draughtsman, producing numerous drawings of architecture and sculpture for the Society of Antiquaries, as well as drawing his own extensive coin collection. It was presumably his concern for draughtsmanship that accounted for his interest in Kirby’s works.

On his return to England, Frederick was elected a Member of Parliament, first for New Shoreham from 1741 to 1754 (succeeding his brother John), and then for Queenborough from 1754 to 1784. However, he was less a politician than a civil servant. In 1746, he was appointed Clerk of the Deliveries for the Board of Ordnance and in 1750 promoted to Surveyor General of the Ordnance, a post he held until 1782. He appears not to have spoken in parliament on any topic except those directly related to his work in the Ordnance department. In his capacity with the Ordnance, he was in charge of the fireworks display in Green Park in 1749 celebrating the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, for which Handel composed the ‘Music for the Royal Fireworks‘. He was made a Knight companion of the Order of the Bath in 1761.

Charles Frederick married Lucy Boscawen (1710—1784), eldest daughter of Hugh Boscawen, first Viscount Falmouth, in 1746. Together they had six children, four sons and two daughters.

When Frederick died in 1785, his will directed that his collections of books, coins, and other antiquities be sold at auction. Among the books auctioned, Frederick had Kirby’s Method of Perspective, listed as from 1754, which would make it a first edition, although he subscribed only to the second. He also had a copy of the Suffolk Traveller of 1735, a book listed as Kirby’s Perspective in 2 volumes, folio, of 1765 which really ought to be the Perspective of Architecture of 1761, as well as a copy of Thomas Malton’s Perspective from 1776, and a presentation copy of John Lodge Cowley’s Theory of Perspective of 1765.



HoP Commons: 1715—1754; 1754—1790.

Spier, Jeffrey; and Kagan, Jonathan. `Sir Charles Frederick and the forgery of ancient coins in eighteenth-century Rome’. Journal of the History of Collections
12 (1) (2000), 35—90.

The Reviewer’s Lament

The Monthly Review of June 1791 carried the following weary review, decrying the lack of novelty in novels in a refrain that is still all too familiar. The book ostensibly under review was “The Labyrinths of Life” by the Author of Excessive Sensibility and Fatal Follies, 4 vols, 12mo, price 12s sewed.

When a manufacture has been carried on long enough for the workmen to attain a general proficiency, the uniformity of the stuffs will render it difficult to decide on the preference of one piece beyond another; and this must be our apology for not entering into a discussion of the merits of the novel now before us, which, at the same time that it exhibits nothing to shock our feelings, affords nothing to attract particular attention, either as to material or workmanship. Two of the earliest fabricators of this species of goods, the modern novel, in our country, were Daniel Defoe, and Mrs. Haywood; the success of Pamela may be said to have brought it into fashion; and the progress has not been less rapid than the extension of the use of tea, to which a novel is almost as general an attendant, as the bread and butter, especially in a morning. While we are on this subject, it is also to be noted, that nothing is more common than to find hair-powder lodged between the leaves of a novel; which evinces the corresponding attention paid to the inside as well as to the outside of a modern head. Richardson, Fielding, Smollet, and Sterne, were the Wedgwoods of their days; and the imitators that have since started up in the same line, exceed all power of calculation! When an art becomes general, then is the time for the invention of engines to facilitate the operations, as in the cotton manufacture. Swift’s machine for the composition of books, described in his Gulliver, like most other first attempts, has not been found to answer. It was reserved for us to publish a scheme for the easy multiplication of novels, cheap in its execution, and certain in its operations, so long as not only our presses, but those of Germany and France, will furnish raw materials to work up; and before then can fail, we may hope to import ample supplies from America. Here then we disinterestedly offer it pro bono publico; and expect the thanks of the whole body of frizeurs, for out assistance toward relieving them from a multitude of impatient exclamations, and profane oaths.

Recipe for Dressing up Novels ad libitum.

Go to Middle Row, Holborn; where, since mankind have discovered that their own hair is sufficiently capable of distortion, the sellers of old cast-off wigs have given place to the dealers in cast-off books; there, on the bulks, from among the classes of a groat or sixpence per volume, buy any old forgotten novel, the older the better; give new names to the personages and places, reform the dates, modernize such circumstances as may happen to be antiquated, and, if necessary, touch up the style a little with a few of those polite cant words and phrases that may be in fashion at the time. All this may be done with a pen, in the margin of the printed book, without the trouble of transcribing the whole, unless it is to be carried to a bookseller for sale; for then you must shew a manuscript. In either case, it may be boldly sent to the printer; for printers, like surgeons and lawyers, are bound to keep the secrets of their employers.

To a publisher, there are many advantages attending this mode of proceeding; and the saving of copy-money is to be reckoned as the chief. A novel of two or three volumes, that could not be purchased under four or five guineas, may be this new vamped from an old one, by a compositor who dabbles a little with his pen, for perhaps half a guinea; and if the alterations be skilfully performed, they will confound the judgment, so that, neither author nor bookseller knowing his own book again, a prosecution for copy-right need not be apprehended. The most that even a reader with a good memory could say, would be, that there is nothing new in it; and though we have so expressed ourselves a hundred time, novels are pouring forth as fast as ever! We therefore not without suspicions that this our scheme has been anticipated, and is already in practice; for, as far as recollection can reach, the characters, situations, plots, and catastrophes, are, with very few exceptions, still the same.

h/t James Raven for including quotes from this review in The Business of Books.

Purse-Proud Title-Page Mongers

Robert Campbell, in his London Tradesman of 1747 had some pungent things to say about the relationship between authors and publishers, or booksellers.

The Bookseller is another Branch depending on the Printer. Their Business is, to purchase original Copies from Authors, to employ Printers to print them, and publish and sell them in their Shops; or to purchase Books from such as print them on their own Account, or at auctions, and sell them at an advanced Price: But their chief Riches and Profit is in the Property of valuable Copies. The Author, generally speaking, has but a very trifling Sum for his Trouble in compiling the Copy; and finds himself treated with an abundance of Slights by many of the ignorant Part of the Trade, who are sure to depreciate his Performance, though never so well executed; with no other intention but to beat own his Price. It is not One in Ten that is Judge of any more than a Title-Page; and though they take Time to peruse the work offered to then, yet they seldom dip farther than the Title: If that and the Subject is popular, they trouble their Heads no more about the Manner of the Performance. Yet, when the Author comes for an answer, after many affected Delays, the wise Bookseller tells him, with a Sneer, It will not do; the Subject is not interesting enough; and it is but indifferently performed: But, adds he, I do not care if I run the Risk of Printing it, if you will take so much —Perhaps, not the Tenth of what was asked, nor so much as a Hackney-Clerk would get from so many Sheets of Writing. Authors are generally poor, and perhaps know not where to get a Dinner without disposing of their Work, and therefore are necessitated to comply with hard Terms, and put up with the ungentleman-like Treatment of the purse-proud Title-page Monger. (128—129)

For more of Campbell’s fulminations, see:

Campbell on Education;

Campbell on Painting, and

Campbell on Mathematical Instrument Makers.

For a modern analysis of the eighteenth-century book trade and the power dynamics involved, see

Raven, J (2007). The Business of Books. Booksellers and the English Book Trade. New Haven: Yale University Press.