Historic Book Person of the Week #22-262: Everybody Else

For over a year now, we’ve been offering a regular series of portraits of members of the book trade. Today’s post is a little different, because now we’re giving you access to hundreds of images of printers, booksellers, bookbinders, etc. through a new online resource: The Updike Collection Book Trade Portraits Database (beta).

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This collection of over 500 portraits (of more than 250 members of the book trade) resides in four large binders in our Daniel Berkeley Updike Collection, and now it resides digitally online at http://www.pplspc.org/portraits . You can search and browse in a number of different ways, or just pick a random portrait and see who turns up. And you can get a printed broadside depicting some of the all-stars of the book world to hang on your wall if you so choose.

One important note: This is very much a work in progress, so there’s still a lot of proofreading and tweaking to do. Please send suggestions, or a note about the errors you’re inevitably going to come across to jgoffin@provlib.org.

Thanks to Rick Ring, Janaya Kizzie, Robin Camille Davis and Zachary Lewis, who began work on the project a long while back.

Historic Book Person of the Week #21: John Boydell & John Boydell

There are good-engraving days…

boydell-notsoglum

And then there are the bad-engraving days…

boydell-glum

The subject of the portraits, John Boydell, was himself a major figure in the history of English engraved prints.

Historic Book Person of the Week #20: Abel Roper and Edward King

Roper and King

This is a very strange portrait. It depicts two individuals (off-center and not filling the frame): Abel Roper (who published a newspaper called the Post Boy starting in 1695) and his nephew and assistant Edward King. Roper’s publications tended to make people angry (apparently angry enough to pull off his wig and beat him).

The curious emblem at the bottom of the print depicts a pillory and what appears to be another form of punishment device (leave a note in the comments if you know its proper name) with pages nailed to the bars. And the motto (“Nec lex est justior ulla”) is an abbreviated and modified form of a passage by Ovid that translates as “There is no law more just than that the plotters of death should perish by their own designs.” Often connected in biblical commentaries with Haman’s execution on the gallows he had originally built for his enemies, the lines point to the irony of being destroyed by your own schemes. Used here, beneath the portrait of a man well-known for using print as a political weapon, is it an indication that this was a hostile depiction?

 

Historic Book Person of the Week #19: Georg Sigmund or Johann Gottlieb Facius

Cue the pipe organ.

Cue the pipe organ.

The brothers Georg and Johann were engravers working in London in the late 18th and early 19 centuries. A little research could probably determine which of the two is depicted here, so if you have any guesses, please leave them in the comments.

Update: In an email, an artist and printer has pointed out that this may be a proof print from a not-yet-completed plate, explaining the appearance of the subject’s face.

 

Historic Book Person of the Week #16 & #17: Mr. Coke and Mr. Guthrie

Today’s post is in honor of the booksellers on their way to Boston for the annual Antiquarian Book Fair (at the Hynes Convention Center, starting this Friday). The image features two Scottish booksellers, William Coke of Leith and John Guthrie of Edinburgh. Coke “was known to travel to Edinburgh three or four times in one day for the purpose of supplying the orders of his customers; and he would have performed the journey to obtain a sixpenny pamphlet.” That’s dedication to the trade and his customers.

On the right is John Guthrie, who is praised because “unlike modern open-air merchants, who pace the length of their stalls from morning till night, making idle time doubly tedious, he was constantly engaged in some useful employment–knitting stockings, working onion nets, or in some way or other having his hands busy…”

Hopefully the booksellers will be too busy this weekend to have any time to work on their onion nets.

You can read more about the two booksellers in John Kay’s A series of original portraits and caricature etchings, available online at Archive.org.

Historic Book Person of the Week #15: James Woodhouse, Poetical Cobler

Mr. Woodhouse, the Poetical Cobler, who might consider using his table as a desk, rather than a chair.

What, you haven’t read his biography in Lives of Illustrious Shoemakers?

Historic Book Person of the Week #14: William Lynch

William Lynch, modelling the Shoplifter’s Coat.

The second in our series of well-stuffed booksellers, William Lynch is at least padded with the material of his trade. Those booksellers always seemed to be covered in books.

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?).