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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A lost English novel

Regular readers will know of my interest in the history of the reception of English literature abroad.  But I’ve never come across this before: a case of the translation preserving a text, when the English original is lost.


This is the first edition in German of The Man of Honour, or the History of Harry Waters (1771), a very rare novel otherwise known only by contemporary advertisements, reviews (not great ones, admittedly), and a sole copy of the first volume preserved in the collections at Colonial Williamsburg.  The other two volumes of the English book, as published, are lost, making the German translation the only opportunity to read the full text.

In the past, the novel had been attributed to John Cleland, as a follow-up to The Woman of Honour, until Garside, Raven & Schöwerling (The English Novel 1770–1829, OUP, 2000) discovered an advertisement in The London Chronicle which ascribes the novel to the irascible writer John Huddlestone Wynne (1743–1788), author of A General History of the British Empire in America (1770), the poems The Prostitute (1771), The Four Seasons, and Evelina (both 1773), and the ‘pleasing little novel’ The Child of Chance (1786).


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The first dictionary of American English?

I’ve just realised that it’s been over month since I last posted.  Where has the time gone?  Things have been busy.  First, a trip to Stuttgart (read about what things used to be like at a German book fair), then Pasadena, for the California Book Fair.  Next week will see me in Edinburgh, and before we know it, it will be the New York Book Fair.  What to take to fairs has been the subject of earlier posts, and I wondered about the following for New York:


This is the second edition, revised and enlarged, of an important early (and rare) English–German dictionary.  First published in Leipzig in 1706, it went on to become something of a standard throughout the century, with further editions in 1763 and 1791.

The compiler was Christian Ludwig (also Lodowick, 1660–1728), a doctor by training who emigrated to America in about 1684, where he practised in Rhode Island and Boston, before returning to Germany at the end of the century.  ‘By 1706 his reputation as a scholar and teacher of English became firmly established with the publication of A Dictionary English, German and French.  Ten years later appeared his equally important Teutsch-Englisches Lexicon, Leipzig, 1716.  These dictionaries were none of the inadequate little word lists that their predecessors had been, but large scholarly quartos … which offered much more than the bare translations of single words.  The same superiority is to be noticed in his compendious English grammar of the following year: Gründliche Anleitung zur Englischen Sprache …  Thus for the first time in 1717 there existed adequate grammatical and lexicographical material as a basis for that fruitful intellectual and literary exchange between England and Germany which had such a decisive effect upon German classical and then upon English Romantic literature’ (Jantz, pp. 20–1).

The first dictionary to be published in America was in 1788 (William Perry’s Royal Standard English Dictionary; two printings: Boston and Worcester, Mass.), and the first dictionary compiled by an American came out even later, in 1797/8 (Samuel Johnson Jr’s School Dictionary, published in New Haven).  Does that make Ludwig’s the first dictionary of American English?

On Ludwig, see Harold Jantz, ‘Christian Lodowick of Newport and Leipzig’, Rhode Island History, Oct. 1944, Vol. III, No. 4, pp. 105–117, and Jan. 1945, Vol. IV, No. 1, pp. 13–26.


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A German in Hull


The Oxford Companion to German Literature describes Harro Harring (1798–1870), revolutionary, writer, and painter, as ‘a stormy petrel of 19th-c. demagogy, [who] took part in the Greek War of Liberation in 1821, travelled restlessly in Europe, and in 1828,’  having been inspired by meeting Byron earlier in the decade, ‘was for a few months house dramatist in the Theater an der Wien, Vienna.  Later in that year he obtained a commission in a Russian guard regiment stationed in Warsaw, but returned to Germany when the July Revolution broke out in 1830.  Over the next twenty-five years he was repeatedly expelled as an agitator from various German states, from Switzerland, from Norway, and from Denmark.  His points of rest were the USA, South America (Rio), and London.’  His final years he spent in exile on Jersey, before finally committing suicide in 1870.


Another point of rest was evidently Hull, from where he wrote this embittered open letter on 29 November 1850, calling for his fellow republicans in northern Germany (Harring himself was from North Frisia) not to be subservient to Prussia.  Harring was at the time promoting a pan-Scandinavian union of free states, for which views he had been banned from Norway just months before.


I cannot find any German printing done in Hull in the nineteenth century, so perhaps this was actually printed in London.  It would certainly be interesting to compare the type used with contemporary German radical printing emanating from London.  It is not dissimilar to the Fraktur used by J. E. Burghard for the Communist Manifesto in 1848.


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For the fallen


This is the rather splendid cover vignette to The Last of the Brave; or Resting Places of our Fallen Heroes in the Crimea and at Scutari by Captains John Colborne and Frederic Brine, published by Ackermann & Co. in 1857.  In the introduction, they write: ‘Not quite two summers ago three mighty powers stood breathing defiance against one another on the shores of the Black Sea … [yet] few traces of our presence in the Crimea remain to this day, save those very cemeteries and monuments of which the present work humbly proposes itself to be a register’.  The book serves as an important source for these war graves, as many have long since fallen into neglect, as the recent Crimea Appeal testifies.  Included are men from regiments from all over the British Isles: English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish.

Colborne 1

The book also features 15 fine tinted lithograph plates by Walker (printed by Day & Son, ‘Lithographers to the Queen’), on thicker paper:

Colborne 2

Colborne 3

Colborne 4

Colborne 5



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