- Gerard's Herbal.
This vast and exhaustive work of early modern botany, illustrated with
nearly two thousand woodcuts, had its final edition in 1633.
Almost every plant known to European herbalists at the time
is included, with a picture, description, uses, and
the plant, its discoverers and much more. Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 (of 5) are
now available - the final volume will follow by year-end 2020. Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here for Gosse's article.
Volume 4 added 24th April 2020.
Volume 3 added 15th July 2019.
Volume 2 added 3rd March 2019.
Volume 1 added 21st August 2018.
- Cats by Francois-Augustin Paradis de Moncrif
This charming book of anecdotes and poetry about cats was published in
1728. Moncrif, a member of the French Academy, is largely
forgotten except as its author. Nowadays such a work would be
quite ordinary, but it was the first ever of this kind. In that
Augustan age, writing on such a subject was considered a trivial
waste of time for an author with any pretensions to gentility; Augustin
was subjected to so much mockery that he withdrew the book from
circulation. Nonetheless, we can enjoy it as it was intended; even
cat-haters might find entertainment here. Our version has both an
English translation and the original French.
Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here for Gosse's article.
Added 13 April 2020
- The Quakers' Spiritual Court Proclaimed
We first came across this little curiosity
in a note to Hudibras by Samuel
Butler. It is a short pamphlet published in 1669
by a disillusioned ex-Quaker, and consists largely of abuse, both theological
and personal, of that sect. Smith was involved in a dispute with a fellow-quaker, and
expelled after what he regarded as a grossly unfair trial, conducted by George
Added 28th February 2020.
- The Covent Garden Calendar
As a kind of companion piece to The Newgate Calendar, we have prepared an anthology of accounts of prostitutes, courtesans and mercenary spouses in 18th
Century Britain. It is in three parts: Book 1:
The Night-time Scene has a number of essays describing of the milieu; Book 2: Individual Courtesans gives the
lives of eight ladies of the Ton, and
finally Book 3: Fiction has four
short novels about prostitutes. The
pieces chosen are almost all contemporary, ranging from 1696 to 1803, and in
attitude run the gamut from picaresque approval to moral condemnation to
compassion for the suffering of the women forced into prostitution.
Added 13th January 2020.
- The Silver Fox, by Somerville and Ross
Edith OEnanthe Somerville and "Martin Ross" (Violet Martin) are best known for their humourous Irish R.M. stories; their novels The Real Charlotte and The Big House at Inver are also still deservedly popular. The Silver Fox
, a short novel, was first published in 1898 and reprinted several
times in the next ten years. It seems to have then fallen into complete
obscurity and has not been republished since. This is a pity, for it is
a miniature masterpiece. It has been included here at the request of
Professor Declan Kiberd of University College, Dublin. Prof. Kiberd
devotes an entire chapter of his definitive Irish Classics (Granta Books, 2000) to The Silver Fox, describing it as "a novella of true genius". We agree.
Added 2nd January 2020
"No odder book than John Buncle was published in England throughout the long life of Amory. Romances there were, like Gulliver's Travels and Peter Wilkins,
in which the incidents were much more incredible, but there was no
supposition that these would be treated as real history. The curious
feature of John Buncle is that the story is told with the
strictest attention to realism and detail, and yet is embroidered all
over with the impossible. There can be no doubt that Amory, who belonged
to an older school, was affected by the form of the new novels which
were the fashion in 1756. He wished to be as particular as Mr.
Richardson, as manly as Captain Fielding, as breezy and vigorous as Dr.
Smollett, the three new writers who were all the talk of the town. . . . . . . To lovers of odd books, John Buncle
will always have a genuine attraction. Its learning would have dazzled
Dr. Primrose, and is put on in glittering spars and shells, like the
ornaments of the many grottoes that it describes. It is diversified by
descriptions of natural scenery, which are often exceedingly felicitous
and original, and it is quickened by the human warmth and flush of the
love passages, which, with all their quaintness, are extremely human"
Added 27th October 2019
- The Black Book by Thomas Middleton
Robert Greene, auhor of The Complete Cony-Catcher and A Groatsworth of Wit, promised a work called The Black Book (in his "Black Book's Messenger")
but did not live to write it. Middleton is best known as a
dramatist, but could turn his pen to anything that would bring in some money.
He cashed in on Greene's popularity by Middleton appropriated his title for this short account of
Elizabethan low life and low-lifes, bringing forth a pamphlet called The Black Book in 1604. In it, the Devil
makes a tour of his minions in London, visiting brothel-keepers, swindlers,
gamblers, corrupt officials and other of his followers.
Added 9th September 2019
- More Crimes from the Newgate Calendar
Another batch of 18th Century pirates and highwayme to add to our existing collection from the ex-classic compendium of crime. These are all taken from Johnson's History of Pirates and Highwayman etc.
Added 15th Feb. 2019.
- The History of the Human Heart.
The History of the Human Heart, or
The Adventures of a Young Gentleman was published
anonymously in 1759, the same year as John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill), and is another high point
in 18th Century erotica. It is set in the same milieu of seduction
and brothels, it is however written from a male point of view. The protagonist
Camillo, like many young men, is led by his penis, and being from a wealthy
family, has the means to go where it leads him. He is not a wicked person, but
he is headstrong, impulsive and thoughtless, and he undergoes sexual adventures
and misadventures which are variously hilarious and horrifying.
Added 6th November 2018.
Diary of a Lover of Literature by Thomas Green
was a bibliophile who flourished at the end of the 18th and start of
the 19th Century. This is his diary of his everyday doings, and of the
books he read, with his comments on them. A great insight into the mind
of a pre-romantic self-taught intellectual. Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here for Gosse's article.
Added 13th February 2018.
- Gossip in A Library, by Edmund Gosse
The noted bibliophile's reviews of some of his favourite books. Many
are ex-classics, and some are already on our site. We plan to publish
all of them we can find.
Added 11th November 2017.
- The Memoirs of Colonel Monro
Originally entitled Monro his expedition with the Worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keys Regiment.
It describes his seven years' service as a mercenary in the Thirty
Years' War from 1626 to 1634, where he served under Gustavus Adolphus,
King of Sweden, and took part in many battles. Colonel Monro himself
is not wholly unknown to those who have read A Legend of Montrose by Walter Scott; for it was he who
provided a good deal of the material for character of Dugald
soldier of fortune and military theorist, who returned to Scotland just in time
to take part in Montrose's campaigns, and to edify his brothers-in-arms with
endless reminiscences of the time when he followed "the invincible
Gustavus Adolphus, the Lion of the North, and the Bulwark of the Protestant
Added 30th October 2017.
History of Pompey the Little by Francis Coventry
Added 20th July 2017
Pompey the Little was an Italian lapdog. At an early age he was carried
away from the boudoir of his Italian mistress by Hillario, an English
gentleman illustrious for his gallantries, who brought him to
London. The rest of the history is really a chain of social episodes,
each closed by the incident that Pompey becomes the property of some
fresh person. In this way we find ourselves in a dozen successive
scenes, each strongly contrasted with the others. It is the art of the
author that he knows exactly how much to tell us without wearying our
attention, and is able to make the transition to the next scene a
- The Complete Cony-catcher by Robert Greene
The cozeners of Elizabethan England, and their artful ways of robbing and swindling. By the author of A Groat's-worth of Wit.
Added 14th May 2017.
in the Art of Rat-Catching, by H. C. Barkley
The classical education provided by English schools in the 19th century
hated by the pupils and did nothing to qualify them to make a living.
Barkley proposes to solve both these problems by teaching them
rat-catching, which boys love and which is an honourable and useful
profession. This is the definitive text-book of the art.
Added 26th January 2017.
- The True Story of John Carteret Pilkington
The early adventures and misfortunes of the youngest son and amanuensis
of Laetitia Pilkington, whose memoirs are also on this site. Also
contains the correspondence of Laetitia Pilkington and Lord Kingsborough, and some poems and a play scene by J.C. Pilkington.
Added 11th January 2017.
Memoirs of Mrs.Margaret Leeson
The leading courtesan and madam of late 18th Century Dublin, she
published these memoirs in old age. Funny and frankly written, they
show a wide panorama of life from debtors' prison to the Ascendancy
at the height of their power and irresponsibility.
Added 8th October 2016.
- More Crimes from the Newgate Calendar
Another batch of 172 18th Century pirates, highwayman, forgers and
sundry malefactors to add to our existing collection from the ex-classic compendium of crime
Added 26th July 2016.
- Radical Pamphlets from the English Civil War
the English Civil War and in the republic which followed, a wide range
of radical ideas and movements flourished. There were Seekers and
Ranters, Diggers and Levellers, Quakers, Fifth Monarchists and
Muggletonians; and a flood of remarkable pamphlets promoting their
ideas poured from the printing presses. Our selection includes
such classics as A Fiery Flying Roll, The Lamb's Officer is Gone Forth with the Lamb's Message, and the wonderfully-titled Tyranipocrit Discovered.
Added 14th February 2016.
- The Emperor's New Clothes -- Original Version
Christian Anderson rewrote this mediaeval Spanish tale for the more
fastidious audiences of the 19th Century. The original is well
Added 3rd February 2016.
- Lives and Anecdotes of Misers, by F. Somner Merryweather
As read by Silas Wegg to Mr. Boffin in Dickens' Our Mutual Friend.
Added 18th January 2016.
- The Metamorphosis of Ajax by Sir John Harington
first flush toilet, described together with a wealth of cloacal
learning and philosophy by Queen Elizabeth I's scapegrace godson.
Added 4th September 2015.
Poems of John Skelton
Skelton (1460?-1529) is a poet whose works have hovered on the edge of
the canon, never being forgotten or lacking advocates, but never making
it into the schools. Robert Graves thought him better than Milton.
Howard Fish, now the Grand Old Man of American Literary Criticism (and
proud to be the model for David Lodge's Morris Zapp) published a
book-length study of Skelton in 1965, and more recently, Helen Cooper,
professor of English at Cambridge, called him "one of the great figures
of English poetry."
Added 13th July 2015.
All the books as one Zip file
Ex-classics at Other Web Sites