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16 January 2007

Devon Book 44

Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History; 12
A history of the book in Devon, by Ian Maxted
44: Jobbing work and advertisements

One market that tempted printers to the provincial towns like Exeter and Plymouth in Devon at the start of the eighteenth century, and the smaller towns in the region as the century wore on, was the requirements of a nascent bureaucracy. Within a few months of his arrival in Exeter in 1698 Samuel Darker had produced printed indentures of apprenticeship for two booksellers in Exeter, and these have been traced in at least four Devon parishes by 1703. Similarly the first known imprint of Samuel Lott, Honiton's prototypographer, is a certificate of settlement used in the nearby parish of Farway in 1783.

At least 288 single sheet items survive which were printed in Devon to 1801, 246 of them printed in Exeter. Of the remaining 42, 13 were printed in Plymouth. As far as the date of publication is concerned 92 were printed before 1780, 98 in the 1780s and 93 in the 1790s (Maxted 1989). These figures include popular literature, advertisements and other jobbing work but not printed forms, which were among the earliest categories of printed material to be produced in Exeter in 1698. Six books or pamphlets are recorded for this first year but this number of imprints on books is surpassed by five different imprints on apprenticeship indentures as well as two on sacrament certificates in that same year.

Seven printers in Exeter supplied at least 42 different indentures to 15 different booksellers in Exeter as well as one each in Plymouth and Totnes up to 1730. At times forms were printed for different booksellers from the same setting of type, only the imprint being changed. As well as apprenticeship indentures, other types of form included removal orders, orders in bastardy, publicans' recognizances and, from 1754, the largest form of all, the marriage register book. There were more than 450 parishes in Devon guaranteeing a steady demand for forms but such work would be intermittent, a couple of days' work a year probably sufficing for the county's requirements of apprenticeship indentures. The surviving numbers of titles of books or pamphlets in Exeter seldom reach double figures each year before the 1780s, so that other sources of work for printers were required to keep their presses from being idle for long periods.

Besides the newspaper advertisements, which helped them to survive even with minuscule circulations, the printer was called on to produce separate advertisements and posters. About fifteen are recorded in 18th century Exeter. Advertisers include booksellers, carpenters, coach services, linendrapers, and one umbrella maker with the fitting name of B.Dryer.

One special form of advertisement was the playbill. The theatre in Exeter was only open during the season so work was not guaranteed for the whole year but Exeter playbills survive from as early as the 1750s. Although complete sets have not survived, it would appear that printers frequently produced a separate playbill for each day's performance. For example the playbill for the performance of The Castle of Andalusia on 12 August 1783 described it as "never acted here" while a separate playbill for the following day describes it as "acted here but once". In addition the printer had other alterations to make because a different farce was acted at the second performance.

The legal situation of the provincial theatre before new legislation in 1788 permitted up to sixty days performances in "towns of considerable resort" taxed the ingenuity of the theatre-loving typographer Andrew Brice. A statute of 1737 had forbidden anyone "to act, represent or perform for hire, gain or reward, any interlude, tragedy, comedy, opera, play , farce, or other entertainment" outside Westminster unless the monarch was resident. In 1756 his nephew Thomas Brice, with whom Andrew had quarrelled, described his uncle's ruse in his tract Some considerations on the lawfulness and expediency of frequenting the theatre as it is at present circumstanced in Exeter. The Bath Players, widely known as the Brandy Company from their intemperance, had visited Exeter. "The concert was in truth no more than the usual musick at playhouses", that is to say it was the musical interludes that were paid for with the plays performed gratis in between, but this was felt to be insufficient for their protection. "They therefore resolved for the future to take no money at all themselves, but at the same time they found it convenient to enter into a most extraordinary friendship and dearness with Mr. Andrew Brice a printer of this City, & prevailed on him to sell little papers of brick dust under the name of tooth powder or worm powder, and little bits of cerate, or some other plaister still more trifling under the name of a corn plaister, at the prices of 2/- 1/6 & 6d being the same as had usually been paid at their playhouse according to the difference of the entertainment or of the seat desired by the purchaser. And now having settled all matters with Mr. Brice they continued very generously to exhibit plays, intermixed with what they think fit to call Concerts of Musick for the entertainment of the citizens gratis."

Thomas Brice was revealing nothing new as the Town Clerk Henry Gandy had informed Exeter's representatives in Parliament of "these and such-like evasions" in a letter dated 14 February 1748 enclosing a draft bill to outlaw such practices. No action seems to have been taken and Gandy's successor Benjamin Heath took a scholarly interest in the drama, publishing, albeit anonymously, A revisal of Shakespear's text in 1765. These circumstances explain why Brice's playbills often appear to be a cross between a concert programme and a theatre poster. (Radford 1950, 257-60).

The printing press could provide a wider audience for the individual who had something to say. Sermons are the prime example of such early vanity publishing but on a smaller scale Exeter provides several examples of printers being approached to publish statements. Perhaps the most unusual of these is entitled Balloon-concerns. It was a quarter sheet written in 1786 by an east Devon farmer John Wipple who complained that a hot-air balloon had damaged his crops.

Official notices were another source of work for local printers. Indeed the Council of Exeter appointed a series of local printers for this purpose. The Devon Record office has a long series of vouchers containing accounts presented by tradesmen to the Corporation of Exeter in the eighteenth century which suggest that official work would not be a great source of income for a printer. In the year 1793/4 R.Trewman and Son held both the stationery and the printing and advertising contracts and presented an account for £35/10/3d. Of this however only £11/9/6d - less than one third - was for printing and advertising and only £8/14/- for the actual printing work. This can be broken down as follows:

Sep 19 1794.
Printing 300 invitation cards10/6
Oct 1 1794.
Printing 500 invitation cards17/6
Oct 21 1794.
Printing 5000 foolscap 8° audit receipts1/16/0
Mar 31 1795.
Printing 2000 sheets pot folio to regulate the market4/10/0
May 15 1795.
Printing 200 large invitation cards7/0
Jun 30 1795.
Printing 300 quarto bills materials of the wool market for sale6/0
Sep 18 1795.
Printing 200 large invitation cards7/0

Besides printing four batches of invitation cards, one batch of forms and two posters in the course of that year, Trewman received payments totalling 5/- for dispersing two of these publications and £2/10/6 for insertions of four oficial advertisements into his paper, usually for two weeks each.

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