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 Bookplate of Bob and Epsie Morse, by Luis Agassiz Fuertes, c. 1910

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The Reader, by Alexander Ver Huell c. 1880

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  • Memoirs of Psalmanazar.
    In 1703 a man appeared in England calling himself George Psalmanazar and claiming to be a native of Formosa (nowadays called Taiwan). He sustained this pretence by publishing a book, An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island subject to the Emperor of Japan, which purported to be a detailed description of Formosan customs, geography and political economy, but which was in fact a complete invention. As time went on, he was less and less believed, and had to make an honest living. Towards the end of his long life he wrote this memoir for publication after his death, describing his adventures and confessing his impostures. Two things he kept secret to the grave, however: his real name and his country and place of origin.
    Added 2nd June 2022.
  • The Harlot's Progress
    William Hogarth's series of six engravings, depicting the seduction, brief success, downfall and death of an innocent country lass seduced into prostitution, is well known. Less well known is the sequence of poems by Joseph Gay which was written to accompany them. We have managed, with difficulty, to obtain a copy, and have added them to our anthology of 18th Century prostitution, The Covent Garden Calendar. 
    Added 31st March 2022.
  • Camden's Britannia
    First published in Latin in 1586, this immense tome was the first guidebook and gazeteer of Britain, or "chorography" in the language of the time. In his own words "I have attained to some skill of the most ancient British and Anglo-Saxon tongues; I have travelled over all England for the most part, I have conferred with most skilful observers in each county…. I have been diligent in the records of this realm. I have looked into most libraries, registers and memorials of churches, cities and corporations, I have pored upon many an old roll and evidence". The book was soon translated into English, and  was immensely popular in many subsequent translations and expanded editions. Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here for Gosse's article. 
    Because of its size, it will be published in seven parts.
    Part 1.  Introduction and History of Britain -- Added 31st March 2022.
  • The Pilgrims of Avignon
    In 1789, two seekers after religious truth, John Wright, carpenter, and William Bryan, engraver, were instructed by the spirit to go to Avignon in France and there meet a group of disciples of the mystic Emanuel Swedenborg. Despite having no money and no word of French, they set out and after various adventures reached their destination. They stayed there for several months. On their return, both Wright and Bryan published accounts of their journey and what they had learned there.
    Added 1st February 2022.
  • The Colleen Bawn
    The murder of Ellen Hanly was one of the most sensational and widely publicised crimes. of 19th Century Ireland. 
    The case was the basis for Gerald Griffin's novel The Collegians, Dion Boucicault's play The Colleen Bawn, and Julius Benedict's opera The Lily of Killarney. This account by the local clergyman, who had met her and attended her inquest, is the true version of these fictionalised accounts.
    Added 30th November 2021.
  • The Memoirs of a Famous Highwayman
    James Freney was a robber who plagued the counties of Kilkenny and Waterford in the 1740s. He wrote this detailed account of his life and crimes to make some money after giving up his profession.
    Added 30th November 2021.
  • A Cromwellian Cookbook
    In 1665, a curious book called The Court and Kitchen of Elizabeth, Commonly Called Joan Cromwell, the Wife of the Late Usurper was published in London, a few years after the death of Oliver Cromwell. The author is unknown, but was certainly not Mrs. Elizabeth Cromwell. It is a genuine cookery book but in addition there is a great deal of anti-Cromwellian abuse along with the recipes. The recipes themselves are not the expensive and elaborate dishes which might be expected to grace the table of a head of state, but plain solid cooking, such as would be served in the household of a prosperous farmer or merchant. The implication of this, of course, is that the Cromwells did not keep the state appropriate to their position; various anecdotes emphasise her penny-pinching attitude.
    Added 26th September 2021.
  • Captain Cuellar's Escape
    In 1588, the Spanish Armada of 130 ships set sail from Lisbon, its mission to transport a Spanish army from the Low Countries to invade England. As every schoolboy knows, they were defeated by the English defenders, and forced to sail north around Scotland and west of Ireland on their way home. More than 20 ships were wrecked off the Irish coast; those of their crews who managed to struggle ashore were mostly butchered by the English or their Irish allies. A few managed to take refuge in those parts of Ireland still holding out against the English conquerors;  one of these was Captain Cuellar. His journey home included a spell as apprentice to a blacksmith and enduring a siege in a castle which had been abandoned by its Irish occupants, before he managed to get to Scotland and finally to the Spanish Netherlands. On his arrival there, he wrote an account which was discovered and translated 300 years later.
    Added 1st August 2021.
  • A Tour in Lapland, by Carl Linnaeus
    In 1732 Linnaeus embarked on a journey to the far north of Sweden, an area considered as remote as Borneo by the sophisticates of Stockholm.  The major product of this expedition was Flora Lapponica, a detailed account of the plants of the region, in which he first made extensive use of his binominal system of plant nomenclature, which is now universal.  He also kept a journal in which he included his observations on the land, the people and their customs. Translated into English, it was published in 1808 under the title Lachesis Lapponica.
    Added 6th June 2021.
  • The Merrythought, or Bog-House and Glass-Window Miscellany, by "Hurlothrumbo"
    This remarkable collection of graffiti poems from toilet walls was first published in 1730 and offers a unique and fascinating window into Georgian life. The poems are variously misogynistic, erotic, scatological, sentimental and insulting, but they all show a level of literary talent far above their modern counterparts. 
    Added 11th April 2021.
  • The Necromancer, by "Lorenz Flammenberg" (Karl Friedrich Kahlert)
    In Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey the central character, Catherine Morland, has read too many Gothic novels, and under their influence imagines the abbey to conceal lurid secrets. One of these whose identity has been speculated, has now been identified as Der Geisterbanner: Eine Wundergeschichte, written in German by Kahlert under the pseudonym "Lorenz Flammenberg".  Our friend Nina Zumel has tracked down the original English version, translated by T. Dutton, and we are glad to be able to present it. 
    Added 4th March, 2021.
  • Nugae Antiquae, by John Harington.
    John Harington, godson and courtier to Queen Elizabeth I, is best known for The Metamorphosis of Ajax, a description of his invention, the flush toilet, with many learned references from Biblical and classical sources.  Nugae Antiquae ("Ancient Trifles") is a collection of  material published many years after his death, and describes the intrigues and roistering of the court of Elizabeth and her successor James I & VI, Essex's expedition to Ireland in 1599, scandalous anecdotes of England's bishops, and much else besides.
    Added 22 January, 2021.
  • Master Humphrey and Mr. Pickwick, by Charles Dickens
    The Pickwick Papers
    is one of Dickens' most popular novels, but even many Dickens fans do not know that it does not include everything that he wrote about Mr. Pickwick. In 1840 he started a magazine called Master Humphrey's Clock. It included a number of stories about Mr. Pickwick, which are not included in the standard sets of Dickens' work, and indeed have very rarely been republished. They are presented here with the original illustrations.
    Added 14th November, 2020.

  • Gerard's Herbal.
    This vast and exhaustive work of early modern botany, illustrated with over 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  anecdotes of the plant, its discoverers and much more. Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here for Gosse's  article.
    Volume 1 added 21st August 2018.
    Volume 2 added 3rd March 2019.
    Volume 3 added 15th July 2019.
    Volume 4 added 24th April 2020.
    Volume 5 added 18th October 2020.
  • A Tour in Ireland in 1775, by Richard Twiss
    Twiss published his account of a few months spent in Ireland in 1775.   It was very disparaging and sarcastic and was not well received by the Irish; in fact, a chamberpot was sold with a picture of him on the inside with the words "Let everyone piss/On lying Dick Twiss."
    Added 9th October 2020.
  • Two Blasts.
    Two early modern pamphlets most of us have heard of, but few have read, are John Knox's A First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, and King James VI & I's A Counterblast to Tobacco.The first was published in 1558 as a response to the persecution of Protestants by Mary I in England and Mary Queen of Scots in Scotland. Knox goes far beyond condemning the persecution, however. He declares that it is a blasphemous flouting of God's will to allow women any authority whatever; which they are in any case wholly incompetent to exercise.
    King James condems tobacco from several different angles, culminating in a rousing peroration describing tobacco as "A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless."
    Knox's opinions have not worn well, but King James's, after many yearsof being called silly and puritanical, are now widely accepted. 
    Added 18th September 2020.
  • Love and Madness, a Story too True, by Herbert Croft
    In 1775,  Mr James Hackman, an army officer who later became a clergyman, met and fell in love with Martha Ray (or Reay), a singer and for many years the mistress of the Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty (and inventor of the eponymous snack) who treated her generously and had given her several children. After (perhaps) some initial encouragement she rejected Hackman, no doubt thinking that mistress of a nobleman was a better condition than wife of an impoverished rural parson. Hackman, in a frenzy of jealousy and frustration, shot her and then himself in front of the Covent Garden Opera House on 7th April 1779. She was killed outright, but he survived to be hanged. This book purports to be a collection of their correspondence, showing the progress of the affair to its tragic end. However, it is actually a work of fiction published the following year. It includes a long account of Thomas Chatterton, whose Rowley Poems are also on this site.
    Added 28th June 2020
  • 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; Moncrif 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 by Nathaniel Smith
    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 Fox himself.
    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 OEnoe 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"), intended to be a fuller account of Elizabethan low life and low-lifes, 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. Middleton cashed in on Greene's popularity by appropriating his title for this pamphlet. In it, the Devil makes a tour of his minions in London, visiting brothel-keepers, swindlers, gamblers, corrupt officials and others of his followers.
    Added 9th September 2019
  • More Crimes from the Newgate Calendar
    Another batch of  18th Century pirates and  highwaymem 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, however it is 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.
  • The Diary of a Lover of Literature by Thomas Green
    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-taugh tintellectual.  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 the character of  Dugald Dalgetty, the valorous soldierof 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 Faith". 
    Added 30th October 2017.
  • TheHistory of Pompey the Little by Francis Coventry
    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 plausible one. Part of our Gossip in a Library project -- see here  for Gosse's article
  • Added 20th July 2017

  • 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.

  • Studies in the Art of Rat-Catching, by H. C. Barkley
    The classical education provided by English schools in the 19th century was 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.
  • The 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 
    During 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
    Hans Christian Anderson rewrote this mediaeval Spanish tale for the more fastidious audiences of the 19th Century. The original is well worth reading. 
    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
    The first flush toilet, described together with a wealth of cloacal learning and philosophy by Queen Elizabeth I's scapegrace godson.
    Added 4th September 2015.

  • The Poems of John Skelton
    John 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 figuresof English poetry."
    Added 13th July 2015.

 

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Bookplate of Urling Sibley, by Frances W. (Fanny) Delehanty, 1910

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