Historic Book Person of the Week #13: Thomas Gent

Who’s to say where hair ends and beard begins?

Thomas Gent, printer and author of the book depicted in his right hand, The Antient and Modern History of the Loyal Town of Rippon (published in 1733). In his early years Gent worked for the wonderfully-named printer “Edward Midwinter of Pie Corner.” According to the entry for Gent in the Dictionary of National Biography, he wasn’t particularly successful: “The last twenty years of Gent’s life was one long struggle against want and disease.” His skills as an author receive a mixed review as well: “His poetry is beneath criticism, but his topographical publications are still of value and in demand.”

I was curious to see how accurately the artist of the portrait had captured the title page and frontispiece of one such publication, Gent’s history of Rippon, and I assumed it would be possible to find a reproduction online. It was, sort of. Here is a screenshot of the copy available through Hathitrust.org, and if you look closely you might notice something amiss:

The Google Books copy? If anything, it’s worse:

Not only is the folding frontispiece still folded, for some reason the bottom of the title page is reprinted on the previous page.

Fortunately, an online copy in better condition is available, if you’re willing to pay for it. This is the image of the frontispiece from the subscription-only database Eighteenth Century Collections Online:

Now that we have an image of the actual frontispiece, we can do a side-by-side comparison (click the image for a larger version):

The artist has done a fine job matching the line breaks of the title page (and who wouldn’t want to turn the long, extended subtitle into squiggles?).

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