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16 January 2007

Devon Book 42

Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History; 12
A history of the book in Devon, by Ian Maxted
42: A good face of learning

In about 1714 Daniel Defoe reached the city of Exeter on his "tour through the whole island of Great Britain" and seems to have been pleasantly surprised at the stimulating society that he found there He wrote that Exeter was "a city famous for two things which we seldom find united in the same town, viz. that it is full of gentry and god company, yet full of trade and manufactures also (Early tours, 147). A few years later the antiquary Stukeley visited Exeter and felt moved to comment "Here is a good face of learning too; many booksellers shops. I saw a printed catalogue of an auction of books to be sold there." He also saw William Musgrave's library, "a good collection of books, coins and other antiquarian supellex" (Early tours 138-9).

As we have seen, the arrival of a printer brought a new dimension to the book trade in Exeter through the publication of local newspapers but the production of books and pamphlets was modest in scale during much of the eighteenth century. Nevertheless the Exeter press took some time to adjust to its provincial status, and it presence served to invigorate the book trade in the city during the early years of the century.

When Farley continued Darker's business after his death in 1700 he maintained an ambitious publishing programme with a steady flow of titles including several large-scale works. The availability of a local printer probably lead John Prince to involve Samuel Farley in what was probably the largest undertaking to date outside the established printing centres of London, Oxford and Cambridge. Prince was vicar of Berry Pomeroy in Devon and had already had two works printed in London in 1674 and 1692. Two more London imprints were to follow in 1709 and 1722, but in 1701 his Danmonii orientales illustres; or the worthies of Devon, an impressive folio of over 600 pages with woodcut coats of arms accompanying 191 biographies was entrusted to the Exeter press by the author. The work was completed in August 1697 according to the dedication and sufficient interest had been canvassed for it to be in the hands of the printers by 1698. In the list of "books printed for, and sold by, Charles Yeo, John Pearce, and Philip Bishop, booksellers in Exon" which appears in A practical treatise concerning evil thoughts, by William Chilcot, one of the first books to appear from the press, is the notice: "In the press. Danmonii orientals illustres: or, the worthies of Devon; printed by way of subscription, price in sheets sixteen shillings; the first payment eight shillings. All gentlemen that are willing to take advantage by subscribing, are desired to send in their first payment with all speed to the undertakers, Charles Yeo, John Pearce, and Philip Bishop." The names of the London publishers Awnsham and John Churchill appear on the title-page. They were major publishers in the captial but the publication seems to have been too extensive even for their considerable resources, and as work progressed through the alphabet, entries became progressively more selective. Letters A to E occupy the first half of the text and L to Z only the last quarter. The truncated work finally appeared in 1701. Prince completed a second volume by 1716 containing 115 biographies omitted by the publishers or not included by himself in the published volume, and in the introduction he ruefully remarks that after half had been printed he was forced to "cut off almost a quarter part of my book ... This is the reason why the latter part of the alphabet in that volume ... comes so short in number of the former." The second volume was never published. In a letter to Sir Philip Sydenham on 5 August 1712 he wrote of its possible publication: "As to the printing of my book I shall use what endeavours therein I can. I highly approve of your advice of printing it at London. I am sure I am some scores of pounds the worse for my not printing my 1st volume there. And I fear because the London booksellers had not the printing of the first part, they will hardly undertake the printing of the second. (Jones 1893, 422).

The problems of publication were certainly not made easier by a sentence given against Prince for sexual misconduct, which deprived him of his living in 1700 (Smith 1981). The accusation may well have been politically motivated and Prince appealed and was allowed to resume his ministry but the mud had stuck, at least in the mind of or owner of the published work who annotated his copy "A lustful drunken priest and an ignorant historian and herald" (Cotton 1891).

Other Devon historians fared even worse than Prince, and the advent of provincial printing did nothing to make their works more widely available. Of the four historians who had been gathering materials towards a history of Devon at the beginning of the 17th century, only two found their way into print by the end of the 18th century. The first to appear in print was Tristram Risdon, whose Chorographical description or survey of the county of Devon, compiled between 1605 and 1630, appeared in a mangled version in 1714 when the unscrupulous London publisher Edmund Curll issued a selection of passages. John Prince prevailed upon Curll to produce a complete version and this he effected by printing a second volume entitled A continuation of the survey of Devonshire, made up of all the passages omitted in the first. Nevertheless there must have been a demand for a history of Devon as even this slipshod edition was reissued once by Curll in 1723 and twice by Mere in 1725 and 1733.

In 1772 William Chapple of Exeter attempted to remedy the situation by proposing to publish by subscription "a correct edition of Risdon's Survey of Devon". He soon realised that extensive revision was needed but died before this major undertaking was completed. The incomplete work was published in Exeter in 1785 with the title A review of part of Risdon's survey of Devon. It was not until 1811 that a complete edition of Risdon's work was published by Rees in Plymouth. By that date Sir William Pole's Collections towards a history of the county of Devon had been published in London by John Nichols in 1791 (Brockett 1949).

Several other topographical works appeared during these early years. One of these was a work by Ellis Veryard whose verbose titlepage almost makes the reading of the volume itself redundant: An account of divers choice remarks, as well geographical as historical, political, mathematical, physical, and moral; taken in a journey through the Low Countries, France, Italy, and part of Spain; with the Isles of Sicily and Malta. As also, a voyage to the Levant: a description of Candia, Egypt, the Red Sea, the desarts of Arabia, Mount-Horeb, and Mount-Sinai; the coasts of Palestine, Syria, and Asia-Minor; the Hellespont, Propontis, and Constantinople; the Isles of the Carpathian, Egean, and Ionian Seas. Wherein, their present state, interest, customs, manners, and religions; their learning, and learned men; with the most celebrated pieces of sculpture, painting, &c. are more accurately set forth, than hath hitherto been done. With an account of divers sorts of shell-like bodies found at great distances from the seas; with remarks thereon, in way to discover their original; and what else occurr'd most remarkable in thirteen years travels. Illustrated with divers figures. This folio of almost 400 pages was published in 1701.

In 1704 Farley printed A true and faithful account of the religion and manners of the Mahommetans. This was something of a scoop for Farley. Joseph Pitts was the first Englishman to visit Mecca and the first European to give an accurate accont of the pilgrimage. He had saild from the Exe Estuary in 1678 but was captured by the pirates of Algiers. He served as a slave for fifteen years, converting out of necessity to Islam. He was given his freedom at Mecca and became a soldier in the Turkish army before eventually finding his way back to Exeter. The work enjoyed considerable success and in 1717 George Bishop printed a second edition in Exeter which annoyed the author who stated in the preface to the third edition: "The second edition was printed without my consent; nay I knew nothing of the matter till they had gone about half-way. I have wish'd since I had then published an Advertisement that I would in a little time print a second edition with additions. This might perhaps have put a stop to the press; for I scarce ever saw a book printed on worse paper, and so incorrect ...". The third edition, with Pitts's own corrections, did not appear until 1731 when it was published by J.Osborn and T.Longman in London. Pitts wrote: "Several have been very urgent with me to have it printed at London, assuring me it would meet with good acceptance". (Radford 1920)

Farley printed a topographical publication of a special kind for the Exeter bookseller Philip Bishop in 1711 when the Exeter scholar John Reynolds produced an edition of the work of the first century geographer Pomponius Mela De situ orbis libri tres. The work was illustrated by 26 engraved maps, each one dedicated to a different individual from whom Reynolds doubtless hoped to obtain support. Among those singled out were Hans Sloane, Richard Carew and the poet Mary Chudleigh, she being praised for her learning and described as the English Sappho on the map of Europe dedicated to her.

Apart from topographical items, other titles among these earliest Exeter imprints were of more than parochial importance. Dr William Musgrave (1655-1724) was editor of the Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society, a learned antiquary and a noted medical practitioner. In the 1680s he was engaged in medical research in Oxford where he was a founder member of the Oxford Philosophical Society. In 1691 he had moved to Exeter where he practised until his death. He could certainly have found a London publisher for his contributions to classical scholarship and medical knowledge which appeared between 1703 and 1720. Instead he chose a series of Exeter printers, perhaps because he could be on hand to supervise the printing of the frequently complex and obscure Latin texts, although he continued to contribute in English to the Philosophical transactions throughout his life. The first of the Latin medical texts to appear was De arthritide symptomatica, printed by Farley in 1703 and the second De artritide anomala published, again by Farley, in 1708. These early textbooks of rheumatology described for the first time the condition known as Devonshire colic. He also described many associated conditions of this group of diseases including gout and melancholic disorders. A third work De arthritide primigenia et regulari was seen by Stukeley when he visited Exeter in 1724. It was taken to the Clarendon Press by his son after his death that year and was only published in 1726. The second editions of the other two works, which appeared in 1715 were also printed outside Exeter. When Musgrave turned his attention to his antiquarian researches, these too were entrusted first to Farley and from 1714 to Philip Bishop. Iulii Vitalis epitaphium (1711) described the inscription discovered in Bath in 1709. In 1715 he published Geta Britannicus, with three essays, on an equestrian statue found near Bath, a chronological account of the family of Severus, and De icuncula, an essay on Alfred's jewel, the amulet found at Athelney and now in the Ashmolean Museum. His antiquarian works were gathered together in three volumes under the title Antiqutates Britanno-Belgicae in 1719 with a fourth volume added in 1720. For these publications Musgrave was rewarded by George I with a diamond ring on 6 August 1720 (Cameron 1998). They were printed by George Bishop and illustrated by plates engraved by Joseph Coles, the first known copperplate engraver to be active in Exeter who was probably also responsible for the unsigned maps in Reynolds's 1711 edition of Pomponius Mela. The map of Lycia in that publication was dedicated to Musgrave.

This page last updated 12 Mar 2001
© Ian Maxted, 2001.