A rare copy of an early number of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine has recently been found in SCOLAR.
The issue, from the 1817 edition of the magazine, was printed in small numbers before being suppressed due to its scandalous and inflammatory content. The issue was censored and reprinted, and it is this reprint, containing the following apology from the Editor, that is most likely to be found in libraries today.
SCOLAR is fortunate to have a copy of the original issue, which contains the offending item: the “Chaldee MSS”. This was purported to be a translation from a newly discovered Biblical text, but was in fact a thinly veiled satire of the Edinburgh literary scene, written by James Hogg.
Blackwood’s was relying on the outrage the piece would cause to promote their new magazine, and they were not disappointed. Its irreverence caused offence far beyond the bounds of Edinburgh, and made Blackwood’s name notorious throughout the UK.
It was not to be Blackwood’s last brush with scandal. In 1821, John Scott of the rival London Magazine accused Blackwood’s of libel, and challenged its editor to a duel. John Scott was shot during the duel and died of his wounds ten days later. His opponent was acquitted of any wrongdoing.
The existence of such variant editions are of great value to literary scholars, especially since the editor took the opportunity of reprinting the issue to rewrite and tone down several critical articles which appeared in the suppressed version.