More coloured paper

Last week, I wrote about a book printed on coloured paper which I shall be exhibiting at the forthcoming London International Antiquarian Book Fair.  Here are two more:

Frere 1   Frere 2

These charming little books are two popular local guides for French and English passengers travelling along the Seine from Paris to the sea.  Both were published in Rouen in 1837 and both were written by booksellers.  The French one, by Edouard Frère (who was the publisher in both cases), went through at least three editions, 1837–42, and the English one, by Joseph Morlent, even more: six in French, 1826–36, and four in English, 1837–43.  These are both first editions, and special copies (the books are usually found on ordinary paper), printed on coloured paper: the Frère on green, Morlent on yellow.  I have been unable to locate any other copies of either book so described.

‘Nobody can behold with indifference the banks of the Seine.  Whoever the traveller may be that surveys them, he meets objects worthy of his attention.  If he be a landscape painter, they offer him admirable scenery; if a poet, he finds inspiration; an historian, illustrious reminiscences; an observer, pictures of morals which might borrow from an elegant pen an inexpressible charm …’ (Morlent, Introdution).

One writer who drew inspiration from the river was Flaubert.  The opening of L’Éducation sentimentale (set in 1840, just a few years after the present books were published), when Frédéric Moreau meets Mme Arnoux for the first time, takes place on a steam packet on the Seine heading for Normandy.


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‘In the most fashionable colours’

At the London International Antiquarian Book Fair next week, I shall be featuring a number of books printed on coloured paper on my stand.  Here’s a sneak preview of one:

Busby 1

The Semiquaver was a charming privately-printed magazine, produced in 1869–70, in which each issue was lithographed on a different shade of vibrantly coloured paper.


The writer/editor was a man called Frederick Busby, and his aim was to cover various aspects of musical interest—including concerts and events in London and provincial towns—in a humorous and informative manner.  It sets this tone in the ‘preludial piece’, which explains that the journal was almost called The Breve, but the present title was chosen ‘lest some of our readers say “if it is only a semiquaver, it must be soon over”’.  The work continues in this amusing vein, but with a sincere aim to bring a dash of élan—‘we shall appear on the first of each month in the most fashionable colours’—and genuinely interesting musical content ‘from a staff of amateur musicians and others interested in music’.

Busby 2

Busby 3

Busby 4

Each issue includes coverage of concerts lately held and forthcoming, educational segments regarding tricky or unusual musical notation, and a ‘Conundrum’: ‘When is a fiddler like a yankee?  When he draws the long bow’, though these become rather more laboured as the run progresses.

The magazine was distributed according to an annual subscription, but although new issues were listed in the literary notices of Lloyds’ Weekly Newspaper, its critical reception was rather scant.  A review in The Era for December 1869 fails to see the appeal in its unusual presentation: ‘The Semiquaver has not yet reached the dignity of type, but is simply lithographed’.  The reviewer is also rather snide about the November issue’s illustrations of Norwich and Worcester cathedrals, finding them ‘humorous’ in a way not intended by the artist:

Busby 5

Despite this, various addresses to its readership give thanks for continued support, and many of the notices are responses to an actively corresponding readership.


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Off the rails: the first murder on a British train


Something else for the London International Antiquarian Book Fair?  A scarce slipsong ballad, jauntily memorialising Franz Müller’s trial for the murder of City banker Thomas Briggs on a London train.

Late in the evening of 9 July 1864, Briggs was attacked in his first class compartment whilst travelling home on the train from Fenchurch Street to Chalk Farm.  His assailant struck him, stole his gold watch and spectacles, and threw his body from the compartment.  Spotted by the driver of a train travelling in the opposite direction, Briggs was found alive, but died of his wounds shortly after being carried to the Mitford Castle pub on Cadogan Terrace.

The investigation and trial proved sensational.  After an appeal for information, and the offer of a large reward for information by Briggs’s bank, a Cheapside jeweller confirmed that a German man had pawned belongings later identified as Briggs’s.  The jeweller’s logo was recognised by a cabman from a jewellery box belonging to his daughter, who had been engaged to German tailor Franz Müller until his unexplained disappearance.  Müller had fled to New York, but he was extradited to Britain to face trail, where he appeared before the Old Bailey in October 1864.  The present work gleefully covers the trial to date, referencing Müller’s return from New York, and citing the Cabman’s evidence:

‘Muller’s got the watch, you see, so it proves that he is guilty … / For if it should be him, on the gallows let him swing, / For the murder on the railway train.’

The author proved prophetic: Müller was found guilty, and was executed by hanging one month later.

Opponents of the railways had long painted a gloomy picture of the lone passenger’s safety; the lack of connecting corridors in the earliest trains meant that robberies and assaults were sufficiently common to provide the press with a steady stream of material.  Briggs’s murder further inflamed the public, and the ensuing outcry contributed to the Regulation of Railways Act (1868), which resulted in the establishment of communication cords, as well as the creation of railway carriages with corridors.  In some cases old rolling stock was modified to include circular peepholes in the partitions; these became known—somewhat macabrely—as ‘Muller’s Lights’.


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Books in the balance


This large coloured lithograph, published in 1827, satirises Sir Walter Scott and how the Irish poet Thomas Moore pipped him to the post.  BM Satires explains:

‘A pair of scales hands unevenly.  In the upper scale sits Scott … supporting on his knees the nine volumes of his “Napoleon”.  He looks down, absorbed and melancholy …  In the other scale sits Thomas Moore, small, dapper, and jaunty … [and holding up] a small volume to Scott which outweighs his rival’s bulky compilation’.  Scott’s Life of Napoleon Buonaparte and Moore’s Epicurean, a prose tale based on the unpublished poem Alciphron, were to be published the same day.  ‘Moore said: “I found my little cock boat (the ‘Epicurean’) would be run down by the launch of the great warship (Napoleon)”.  He managed to get his book published the day before Scott’s (whose work he disparaged) …

‘Described by Lady Holland, “The likenesses are very strong & good; the joyous air of Moore is very well represented.”’

I plan to exhibit the lithograph later this month at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair, for which you can register for free tickets here.


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The first bibliography of 18th-century English literature


I’m sure that if you asked anyone “what was the first bibliography of eighteenth-century English literature?”, they probably wouldn’t guess that it was published in Berlin:

Reuss 1  Reuss 2

The book was the brainchild of the great Enlightenment publisher (and Anglophile), Friedrich Nicolai.  In 1789, he wrote a letter to Jeremias David Reuß (1750–1837), under-librarian at the University of Göttingen, one of the best libraries in Germany, and rich in English books.  Along with the letter, Nicolai sent Reuß a copy of Marshall’s recently-published—and rather boastful—Catalogue of Five Hundred Celebrated Authors (London, 1788; ‘so new in its design, that, if, like certain authors, we were to indulge in the whispers of vanity, we might consider ourselves as the inventors of a new science …’).  Earlier works of bio-bibliography had not focused on contemporary authors, and had not focused on literature, two elements which interested Nicolai, who had been publishing German translations of English literature since the 1760s.  Marshall’s book, however, was not without its deficiencies, and it was certainly not much of a bibliography.  Nicolai’s plan was for Reuß to work through the standard English journals of the day and compile a new, comprehensive list of contemporary English literature which could be of use to both German and English readers (hence title-pages in both languages).  In terms of form, the model was to be Hamberger and Meusel’s well-known bibliography Das gelehrte Teutschland (1767 and later editions), itself based upon La France littéraire (1752), as nothing comparable had appeared in English before.

Reuß's model: Hamberger and Meusel’s "Das gelehrte Teutschland" (here the entry for Goethe from the fourth edition, 1783).

Reuß’s model: Hamberger and Meusel’s “Das gelehrte Teutschland” (here the entry for Goethe from the fourth edition, 1783).


Reuß was nothing if not thorough.  In his search for details of books, he spent months scouring 81 volumes of the Monthly Review, 38 volumes of the Critical, plus past numbers of the Philosophical Transactions, Archaeologia, the Transactions of the American Society at Philadelphia, the Memoirs of the American Society at Boston, various medical journals, Asiatick Researches, and shelf after shelf of German periodicals.

In a letter from Reuß, a print-run of 800 copies was suggested, and the book certainly seems scarce today.


A sample page from Reuß's book, showing entries for Boswell, and the American James Bowdoin.

A sample page from Reuß’s book, showing entries for Boswell, and the American James Bowdoin.


For a full account of the book’s history, see Bernhard Fabian, ‘Die erste Bibliographie der englischen Literatur des achtzehten Jahrhunderts: Jeremias David Reuß’ Gelehrtes England’, Selecta Anglicana (Wiesbaden, 1994), pp. 239–265.


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George Eliot, the first translation

As regular readers here will know, I am always on the lookout for cross-cultural material.  So I was interested in reading two articles on Anglo-German cultural exchange published this week, in The Observer (on Neil MacGregor) and The New Statesman.  In the latter, mention is made of George Eliot and her connection with Germany.  As the article says, she visited a lot, spoke German well, and even commented, in 1879, that “Germans are excellent readers of my books”.  Eliot’s first published book had even been a translation from German: The Life of Jesus, critically examined (1846), a translation of David Friedrich Strauss’s Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (1835–6), PMM 300.

By complete chance, I was recently doing some work on translations of Eliot’s own books.  One would have thought that the first foreign language in which her work appeared might have been German, but no: it was Russian.

Eliot Adam Bede

This is a copy of the first edition in Russian of Eliot’s first novel, Adam Bede, rivalled only by a Danish translation of the novel published in Copenhagen in two volumes, 1859–60.  The anonymous Russian translation appeared in three forms, all as supplements to literary journals: Russkii vestnik, Biblioteka dlia chteniia, and Otechestvennye zapiski.

Quite why the novel should have been picked up by a Russian translator, and so quickly, I have been unable to ascertain, but the book certainly proved popular.  ‘The first time that Eliot’s name was mentioned in Russia was in 1859 [the same year Adam Bede was published in London] in the literary journals which played so great a part in shaping Russian intellectual life.  This followed the publication of Adam Bede, the most widely read of her works in pre-revolutionary Russia.  For more than half a century the very name of Eliot was associated in common readers’ minds with this novel (titled as Adam Bid or as Detoubiitsa (Infanticide)), which was published in pre-1917 Russian translations eight times (in 1859, 1865, 1899, 1900 twice, 1902, 1903 and 1909) – more than any other novel by Eliot’ (Boris M. Proskurnin, ‘The reception of George Eliot in Russia: the start that determined the paradigm’, The Reception of George Eliot in Europe (Bloomsbury, 2016), p. 262).



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On this day: Thomas Mann in a photo booth


These are rare examples of the first ever photo-booth photos.  The Bosco-Automat, a portable photo booth, was patented by the German inventor Conrad Bernitt in 1890.  There had been an earlier patent filed for an automated photography machine in America, in 1888, but it was apparently never built; other machines followed, but none was reliable.  Bernitt’s Bosco-Automat was the first commercially successful photo booth, and soon became popular at fairs and the like, both in Germany and beyond

Incredibly, these pictures also document Thomas Mann’s early fascination for having his picture taken.  Although born in the northern German city of Lübeck, from 1891 onwards, he lived in Munich.  The name ‘Paul’ can quite clearly be seen written in pencil on the paper cover on the right.  Mann’s full name was Paul Thomas Mann; he only dropped the ‘Paul’ when he became a published author a few years after the picture was taken, with his first novel, Buddenbrooks (1901).

The photo on the right shows Mann—then still quite chubby, but already with his trademark moustache—with his bride-to-be, Katia Pringsheim, taken during the couple’s romantic visit to Munich’s second exhibition of power engines and other machinery on 1 April 1898.  Undated, the other photo records another trip to the photo booth made by Mann, this time with his elder brother, Heinrich, with whom he was living at the time.

The idea of photography left its mark on Mann.  As Jane Marjorie Rabb has noted: initially, for the writer, ‘the photograph seems to embody the degeneration of art as well as the society that produced it …  But his later fascination with the spiritual and scientific revelations of the camera is evident both in his remarks on “phantom” photography in his study of the occult (1924) and in his use of “interior” photographs made by the X-ray machine in The Magic Mountain.  And around 1928 … Mann enthusiastically raised his opinion of photography’s aesthetic potential.  This change of mind may partly explain why he subsequently became a willing subject for the camera itself’ (The Short Story and Photography, p. 80).


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Library script


This is a copy of Library script.  A brief guide on how to master independently the handwriting used in libraries for the writing of catalogue cards, reader’s tickets etc., brought out in 1927 by the wonderfully-named publishers ‘Down with Illiteracy’.  It’s a rare guide for Soviet librarians as to the best script to use in their official duties, with various tables showing how to form letters neatly, both Cyrillic and Latin (as well as how not to).

Not like this!

Not like this!


A model catalogue card is included at the end (a 1923 Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto):

The way to do it.

The way to do it.


It is interesting to note that the two types of pen recommended are both English: two models from the Birmingham firms of A. Sommerville and D. Leonardt.

The book was written by an experienced librarian called Nikolai Lomkovsky (1878–1941).  In 1911, he and his wife, Maria, had taken over the famous  St Petersburg subscription library founded in the 1860s by the publisher Aleksandr Cherkesov.  Their abilities were recognised after the Revolution, too, when the library (some 60,000 books) was nationalised; the couple remained in post, and the library flourished, finally becoming the Mayakovsky Central Municipal Public Library in 1953, the name it bears to this day.  Sadly, the Lomkovskys both died during the Siege of Leningrad.


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The flying kennel

A friend on Facebook pointed out a recent piece on fake places that only exist to catch copycat mapmakers.  ‘If a competitor just so happens to have the same fake town on their map, then you’ve pretty much caught them red-handed.’  It reminded me of something similar in a book I have: The Oxford-Duden Pictorial German-English Dictionary (Clarendon Press, 1994).  It’s a bilingual version of the pictorial dictionary (Bildwörterbuch) published as Volume III of Duden‘s authoritative 12-volume series of German dictionaries and can tell you all sorts of very specialised vocabulary in all sorts of fields, from astronomy to plants.  Obviously, a lot of work went into producing the book, so Duden hit upon an ingenious way of protecting their copyright.

Plate 288, Aerial Sports, gives details for terms used in aerobatics, parts of a plane, a hot-air balloon, and skydiving:

Duden 1

But look a little closer.  What’s no. 91 supposed to be?  Check the facing page and all is revealed: it’s a flying kennel, ‘a K9-class model’.

Duden 2

Duden 3

Lexicographers having a little joke, yes, but just like the maps in the Gizmodo blogpost, it’s a way for Duden to prove that someone else may have copied its dictionary if a suspiciously similar book ever appeared on the market.


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The Count of Monte Cristo, in Kentucky

Dumas 2

This week you find me in my own ‘Editor’s Sanctum’, starting to pull books together for the New York Antiquarian Book Fair next month.  It’s not often that I have a book actually published in America (I leave that to my colleagues over there), but the following recently caught my eye as it relates to European literature:

Dumas 1

It’s the first edition of a rare sequel to Dumas’ famous novel, published just five years after the original.  The author, Edmund Flagg, was born in Maine in 1815, and graduated from Bowdoin College, before moving with his family to the Midwest, where he became a lawyer and journalist, and wrote a number of plays, though he is perhaps now best known for his first book, The Far West (1838), which describes his extensive travels in Missouri and Illinois.  In 1848, Flagg was appointed secretary to the American minister in Berlin, and he remained in Europe for several years.  His stay abroad may have provided the background for Edmond Dantes, in which ‘we have laid bare to us all the concealed causes of the Revolution of February, 1848, which began acting as long ago as shortly after the Revolution of 1830.  All the prominent names in France at the present time, here find a place, and all the prominent men and women are actors and talkers’ (Publisher’s Notice).

Then there are the ‘elegant’ illustrations.  Well…

Dumas 3

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