Author Archives: megowanc

Tracking the Leviathan

In 1651, Thomas Hobbes published Leviathan, which outlines his theory of moral and political philosophy. The book’s title comes from a metaphor of the state as a giant made up of individuals in the way that an individual is made up of molecules: “For by Art is created that great Leviathan called a Commonwealth, or State, (in latine Civitas) which is but an Artificiall Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Naturall, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which, the Soveraignty is an Artificiall soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body.”

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Detail from the engraved title page of Leviathan (London: Andrew Crooke, 1651) showing the sovereign as the head of a Leviathan composed of citizens of the commonwealth.

In Leviathan, Hobbes hypothesized that in their natural state, without government or societal bonds, people are motivated predominantly by self-interest, especially self-preservation. In such a state, every individual would be in competition with every other, and life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Human reason, which pursues our long-term self-interest rather than immediate desires, suggests that peace is desirable for our self-preservation, but is impossible while every individual is the sole arbiter of his or her own behaviour. Therefore, it is in our collective best interest to join together to form a commonwealth in which individuals hand over certain natural rights to a sovereign in exchange for protection from violence. The sovereign wields absolute power for the purpose of maintaining peace, but the sovereign’s right to rule extends only as far as his ability to  protect his people. 

This theory rejects the divine right of kings, and replaces it with the idea that sovereignty comes from a social contract between a ruler and his subjects. Published at the end of the Civil War in England, these arguments made Hobbes many enemies on both sides of the political conflict, as well as in the church. Parliamentarians took offense at his support of absolute monarchy, while royalists rejected Hobbes’ claim that because the king could not protect his people in England, their self-preservation was best served by accepting the authority of the new regime. Meanwhile, the church was outraged at his assertion that because supreme authority derives from the consent of the governed and not from God, the authority of the church must be subordinate to that of the state.

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Pamphlets like this one criticizing Hobbes’ philosophy appeared soon after Leviathan‘s publication.

Almost immediately after the publication of Leviathan, critics began to publish scathing attacks on Hobbes’ arguments. The Catholic Church placed Leviathan on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, and Oxford dismissed faculty who were sympathetic to Hobbes’ arguments. In spite of, or perhaps because of this notoriety, Leviathan enjoyed tremendous popularity—a fact which is can be seen in its early publication history.

After the appearance of the first edition in 1651, any further printing of Leviathan in the vernacular was prohibited. Nevertheless, the book remained in high demand. Consequently, 17th century publishers were reluctant to put their own name to the publication, but were even more reluctant to miss out on an opportunity for profit.

According to Hugh Macdonald and Mary Hargreaves’ bibliography of the works of Thomas Hobbes, “there are three editions of Leviathan each bearing the imprint ‘Printed for Andrew Crooke at the Green Dragon in St. Paul’s Church-yard’ and the date 1651,” but only one of these imprints is true. The three editions are commonly referred to by the woodcut ornaments on the printed title page: a head with scrolls and tassels, a bear with foliage, and five rows of fleuron ornaments. The Cardiff Rare Books collection includes two copies of Leviathan, both from the “head” edition.

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Three editions exist with the same imprint, but different ornaments on their title pages. The “head” edition shown here comes from the Cardiff Rare Books collection; the other two are from Early English Books Online.

Using evidence taken from the errataengraved title page, typefaces, and watermarks in the paper, it is possible to determine roughly where and when the three editions were produced. In the “head” edition, all of the mistakes identified in the errata are still present in the text, and the plate from which the engraved title page was printed appears to have been in good condition at the time. The evidence suggests that this is the true first edition published by Andrew Crooke in 1651.

In the “bear” edition, the errata list is identical to that of the “head” edition, but some of the mistakes have been corrected in the text, and the engraved title page shows signs of wear to the plate. The Italic typeface used in the “bear” edition is unlikely to have been used in England before the end of the 17th century. Macdonald and Hargreaves traced the use of the bear ornament in other publications, revealing that it was used only in books printed in Holland between 1617 and 1670, suggesting that this edition was most likely printed in Holland not long after 1651.

In the “ornaments” edition, there is a new misprint in the errata list itself, and more of the mistakes have been corrected than in the “bear” edition. The engraved title page shows signs that the plate has been retouched; much of the detail on the tiny figures within the leviathan has been lost. The typeface and paper can be identified as having been in use much later than 1651. More specifically, Anthony Wood’s Athenae Oxonienses mentions an edition of Leviathan “Reprinted there again with its old date, an. 1680.” This statement would place the “ornaments” edition the year after Hobbes’ death, a time when Hobbes’ writings are known to have been much discussed in the coffee-houses around London.

The existence of these two concealed editions provides an intriguing glimpse of a time when the public’s appetite for philosophical writing was great enough to motivate publishers to defy church and government censorship. It’s also a good reminder for cataloguers and researchers alike that books are not always what they claim to be!

 

Second best, or Second and Best?

In Latin, the word “secundus” can mean both “second” and “favourable.” Today, many book collectors focus on first editions, but our modern fixation with firsts is a relatively recent phenomenon. The entry on “The Chronological Obsession” in John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors states that “the average 19th-century collector was as much interested in the finest looking or best-edited edition as in the first.” Second and subsequent editions often incorporate new information and new insights that make them textually superior to their predecessors. In this week’s blog post, we’ll examine some of the reasons you may want to look favourably on the second edition of Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

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The second edition of Lyrical Ballads (London: T. N. Longman and O. Rees, 1800) from the Cardiff Rare Books Collection.

Lyrical ballads was originally published in 1798. It consisted chiefly of poems by Wordsworth with four contributions by Coleridge, although neither poet’s name appeared anywhere in the volume. A five-page “Advertisement” in the first edition asserted that many of the poems were “to be considered as experiments… written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure.” Going sharply against the contemporary fashion for highly sophisticated verse, Wordsworth and Coleridge eschewed the “gaudy and inane phraseology of many modern writers” in favor of “a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents.” 

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The opening of “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey,” in Lyrical Ballads (London: T.N. Longman and O. Rees, 1800)

The collection began with Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancyent Mariner” and ended with “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” works which are now hailed as the beginning of a new literary epoch. At the time, however, critical reception of the volume was cool, particularly in response to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Reviewers complained about its use of antiquated spelling, archaic vocabulary, inverted word order, and general inaccessibility. In 1799, Wordsworth wrote that he believed that Coleridge’s poem had been harmful to the Lyrical Ballads, and considered omitting it from the second edition.

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Illustration by Willy Pogány for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1910).

In 1800, Wordsworth and Coleridge began working towards the publication of a second edition. The process turned out to be a long and difficult one, with the volume finally leaving the press in January 1801 (although the title page bears the date 1800). This edition would add a second volume of new poems, including “Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known,” “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways,” and “Lucy Gray.” This time, the title page bore Wordsworth’s name, although the preface acknowledges the poetical contributions of “a Friend” which have been included “for the sake of variety.” “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was moved near the end of the first volume and heavily edited by Coleridge, who removed some of the elements which had so offended critics in the first edition. He modernised around 40 spellings and terms, deleted 46 lines and added seven new ones.

It was originally planned that Coleridge would contribute a lengthy poem, “Christabel,” as the final piece in the second volume. Wordsworth anticipated that it would serve as a capstone for the collection in much the same way that “Tintern Abbey” had in the first, but an unfortunate combination of writer’s block, dwindling finances, and a newborn son in poor health prevented Coleridge from completing the poem. With the printing of the second edition already running behind schedule, it was decided that “Christabel” would be omitted from the publication. Wordsworth composed “Michael, a Pastoral” in its place, while Coleridge took on a more fiscally rewarding commitment to write a daily column for the Morning Post

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The Preface to Lyrical Ballads appears for the first time in the second edition.

In preparing the second edition for the press, Coleridge proposed to write a preface which would expand on the brief “Advertisement” which appeared in the first edition, but when he failed to deliver the promised preface before the publication deadline, Wordsworth again picked up the slack. Wordsworth’s preface, spanning 42 pages, outlined his and Coleridge’s poetic aims in composing the lyrical ballads, becoming a kind of manifesto for English Romanticism and earning it a place on the reading list of essentially every literature course covering the Romantic period. Wordsworth further revised and expanded the preface in the 1802 third edition of Lyrical Ballads, but for some collectors and many scholars, the preface’s first appearance in 1800 makes the second edition the preferred one.

Shelvocke’s Voyage and Coleridge’s Albatross

pogany_verseIn late September of 1719, the British privateer ship Speedwell was cruising near Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost tip of South America. The ship faced weeks of foul weather. Thick fog prevented her crew from using the sun to calculate their position, and driving winds threatened to wreck the ship on icebergs or rocky coastlines. The intense cold claimed the life of a crewman named William Camell, who fell into the water and drowned when his hands and fingers became too numb to hold onto the rigging. In gloomy spirits, the crew remarked that it had been more than a week since they had seen any living thing besides themselves, apart from:

“… a disconsolate black Albitross, who accompanied us for several days, hovering about us as if he had lost himself, till Hatley, (my second Captain) observing, in one of his melancholy fits, that this bird was always hovering near us, imagin’d from his colour, that it might be some ill omen. That which, I suppose, induced him the more to encourage his superstition, was the continued series of contrary tempestuous winds, which had oppress’d us ever since we had got into this sea. But be that as it would, he, after some fruitless attempts, at length, shot the Albitross, not doubting (perhaps) that we should have a fair wind after it.”

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Title page of the first edition of Shelvocke’s Voyage (London: J. Senex, 1726)

In 1726, George Shelvocke, captain of the Speedwell, published his account of the Voyage round the world by way of the great South Sea, including this evocative scene. In the autumn of 1797, this passage caught the attention of  William Wordsworth, who pointed it out to his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge who was at that time contemplating a poem incorporating gothic imagery and metaphysical overtones.

The poem required that the central character commit some crime which would bring down upon his head a spectral persecution, and Wordsworth suggested that the killing of an albatross might serve that purpose. The next year, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was published as the first poem in Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems by Wordsworth and Coleridge that is now hailed as the beginning of the Romantic movement in literature.

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Detail from an illustration by Willy Pogány for “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” (London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1911)

While the shooting of the albatross is now the most famous moment in Shelvocke’s 468-page monograph, it is far from the only noteworthy episode. On 25 May 1720, the Speedwell was wrecked and the crew marooned for five months on an uninhabited island. Some years earlier, Alexander Selkirk had achieved fame for surviving four years in solitude on an island in the south seas, one of the sources of inspiration for Defoe’s The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Shelvocke’s description of the wreck of the Speedwell and the subsequent construction of a new 20 ton boat out of its remains captured the public imagination. The book also contains one of the earliest depictions of the natives of Baja California, and mentions the discovery of gold in California and the abundance and economic potential of guano in Peru more than a hundred years before their rediscovery and exploitation in the 19th century.

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Shelvocke’s Voyage included an early depiction of “Two Californian Women, the one in a Birds Skin, the other in that of a Deer.”

Not included in Shelvocke’s book is the legal battle that followed his return to England in 1722, which portrays him in a less flattering light. The Speedwell was originally intended to accompany a larger ship, the Success, under the command of John Clipperton (who had served under Captain Dampier). Early on in the voyage, the Speedwell became separated from the Success, and instead of travelling to an agreed-upon rendezvous, Shelvocke struck out on his own, attacking a Portuguese ship along the way. On arriving in back in England, Shelvocke was immediately charged by the ship’s owners with piracy and embezzlement for having withheld large quantities of plunder from the privateering expedition. In his preface to the Voyage, Shelvocke acknowledges that “the unavoidable misfortunes I encounter’d with, gave room for some to censure my conduct in my share of the Expedition; from whence several scandalous and unjust aspersions have been thrown upon me,” and that his design in publishing his account of the voyage was partially to clear his own name.

Much of the evidence against Shelvocke came from William Betagh, a member of the crew of the Speedwell who published his own account, entitled Voyage Round the World, in 1728. Betagh depicts Shelvocke as a Machiavellian villain who conspired to defraud the ship’s owners of the bulk of their profit, cause the death or capture of those who opposed him, and lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of his victims. Betagh himself was captured by the Spanish early in the voyage, however, and consequently much of his testimony is hearsay.

In 1757, George Shelvocke’s son released a second edition of the Voyage round the world by way of the great South Sea. He made extensive corrections to the text in an attempt to vindicate his father from the charges of embezzlement and piracy, and this editions is now considered by some to be textually superior to the first. Cardiff University holds copies of both editions: the 1726 first edition in the Salisbury Collection, and the 1757 second edition in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection.

Multiple Versions Found

On this blog, we spend a lot of time talking about editions—first editions, modern fine press editions—but what do we really mean by an edition, and why is it important? Bibliographically speaking, an edition is all the copies of a book printed from substantially the same setting of type. It reflects a financial decision on the part of the publisher, influenced by social factors, and manifested in typographical differences between editions.

By using these typographical differences to sort books into editions, we can make educated guesses about the social and economic factors that led to their production. For example, if a book was printed in a large format with wide margins and plenty of illustrations, it was probably an upmarket edition, whereas the same text printed in pocket size would have been aimed at less wealthy customers. If a book went through multiple editions, it must have been popular enough to justify investing in another print run. We can trace minor editorial changes in the text over time, signalling the influence of the author, the censor, or the tastes of the reading public (or possibly all three).  If an edition survives in hundreds of copies, we might guess that its publishers were confident enough in its success to produce a very large print run, whereas a niche publication may only survive in a single exemplar or as a reference in another text.

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Cardiff University’s LibrarySearch collapses multiple editions into a single search result, so it’s worth clicking through to see everything we hold.

Many researchers who come to special collections do so because they are looking for a specific edition of a text. Most of the time, the difference between editions is obvious, like a different date or the phrase “A new edition” on the title page. Other times, it can be almost impossible to distinguish between two editions without comparing them side by side.

One of ways that rare book cataloguers tease apart similar editions is by consulting published bibliographies, and citing a unique identifier for the edition in our catalogue records. At Cardiff University, we’ve been concentrating on cataloguing our early British books, so the resource that we use most often is the English Short Title Catalogue, or as it’s commonly called, the ESTC.

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These two editions are nearly, but not quite identical. Can you spot the differences between our copy on the left and the microfilmed copy from EEBO on the right? (Hint: the answer is in the catalogue record.)

If you’re not already familiar with it, the ESTC is a database which seeks to record every book, pamphlet, serial, and broadside printed before 1801, either in the British Isles, Colonial America, United States of America, Canada, or territories governed by England or Britain before 1801; or wholly or partly in English or other British vernaculars; or with false imprints claiming publication in Britain or its territories. Each record includes a list of libraries that own a physical copy of the item, as well as links to digitised copies in Google Books, Early English Books Online (EEBO), and Eigtheenth Century Collections Online (ECCO).

It currently has records for more than 480,000 separate editions held by more than 2000 libraries worldwide, but it’s still far from complete. Many works have been lost through the centuries, possibly because they are relevant only for a limited period of time (like almanacs and news bulletins), because they were used and re-used until they fell apart (like textbooks), or because they were produced in such small print runs that none of them have survived (that we know of). As libraries continue the never-ending struggle to catalogue their backlogs, however, “new” editions resurface. In 2016, Cardiff University cataloguers submitted 27 new records to the ESTC—not bad, considering that these books have avoided detection for at least two centuries!

This doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re rediscovering long-lost plays by Shakespeare or scientific treatises by Isaac Newton. For the most part, we’re filling in gaps in the publication history of known works. Many of the records that we contribute to the ESTC are for books that we were reasonably sure must have existed, but hadn’t ever been catalogued before. For example, if the ESTC has records for the first, fifth, and seventh edition of a particular work, it’s relatively safe to assume that the second, third, fourth, and sixth editions must exist somewhere. Sometimes, what we discover is a slight variation of another edition. (That said, new first editions of well-known works do sometimes crop up).

Here are just a couple of the new editions that we’ve reported to the ESTC this year:

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Our 1664 edition of Homeri Ilias (left) and another version published by Joannes Field the same year (ESTC R27415).

The ESTC had previously recorded a 1664 edition of Ομηρου Ιλιαδοσ: Homeri Ilias published in Cambridge by Joannes Field, calling itself “editio postrema” (latest edition).  Our copy, however, omits the Greek version of the title and calls itself “editio novissima” (newest edition). Once you look past the title page, however, the two editions are awfully similar. In fact, they’re identical. Both versions have dozens of pages numbered incorrectly in exactly the same way, suggesting that Mr. Field simply sold the same printed sheets with two different title pages.

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Our copy says it was sold by J. Robinson, but other versions of this edition have Richard Wilkin and J. Wyat’s names on their title pages.

Three slightly different versions of this edition of A discourse concerning the authority, stile, and perfection of the books of the Old and New Testament were published simultaneously in 1693. Two versions, bearing the names of Richard Wilkin and J. Wyat, were already recorded in the ESTC, but our version, with “J. Robinson” in the imprint had never been documented before.Each of these variants has a different name in the imprint, showing the business relationship between three different booksellers around London. Two versions, bearing the names of Richard Wilkin and J. Wyat, were already recorded in the ESTC, but our version, with “J. Robinson”, adds another name to the partnership. Even though J. Robinson’s name appears on the title page, the last page of the book advertises “books sold by Richard Wilkin”.

Whenever we find an edition that hasn’t yet been documented, we share our catalogue records with the ESTC and Worldcat so that researchers and cataloguers around the world can find it. Regardless of what the book is, it’s always exciting to be able to add another piece to the jigsaw puzzle of book history.

Robinson Crusoe in 36 Pages

Daniel Defoe was an extremely prolific author, producing more than 500 books, pamphlets, and journals during his lifetime. Perhaps the best-known of his works is Robinson Crusoe, whose title character is shipwrecked on a remote tropical island for thirty years, and must feed, shelter, clothe, and defend himself.  The first edition appeared in 1719, and ran to more than 360 pages.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened this slim little volume—just 36 pages—and saw the rather impressive title: The surprising life, voyages and adventures of Robinson Crusoe, a seaman of York: who, after suffering many hardships by Sea and land, was shipwrecked on the coast of America, and cast ashore on an uninhabited island, where he lived twenty-eight years, without any one to assist him, or converse with, but an American savage, whose life he saved. With his wonderful discovery and deliverance, by an English captain.

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A chapbook edition of Robinson Crusoe, published by Dean & Munday sometime between 1808 and 1816.

Intrigued by this rather aggressive abridgment, I soon learned that Robinson Crusoe has a long history of truncation. The earliest abridgments appeared the very same year as the first edition, shortening the text by more than 100 pages. During the remainder of the 18th century, the original text of Robinson Crusoe was republished in an impressive 57 editions, but the number of abridged editions outnumbered Defoe’s original text more than three-to-one. Not only did the shorter versions sell for a fraction of the price of the original, many contemporary readers actually viewed these abridgments as an improvement, retaining all of the best bits while trimming away excess verbiage. In “Eighteenth-Century Abridgements of Robinson Crusoe”, Jordan Howell argues that Robinson Crusoe achieved its place in the literary canon as much due to the popularity of the story as told through abridgments, as to Defoe’s literary style. 

Most of these abridgments, however, retained much of the action and character of the original, sitting comfortably at 200+ pages. The little copy I had found belonged to a different genre entirely: the chapbook.

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At 68 words, the title is longer than some of the pivotal scenes in this 36-page abridgment.

Intended for sale by itinerant merchants among the poorer (but increasingly literate) classes, chapbooks are generally printed on a single sheet of paper, folded to 24 pages (although they sometimes reached as high as 36 pages) and illustrated with woodcuts. Chapbooks covered a staggering array of subjects, including folk tales, nursery rhymes, almanacs, histories, and religious instruction. Contemporary novels were not often squeezed into chapbook format, but works by Defoe, Bunyan, and Swift were noteworthy exceptions. According to Andrew O’Malley’s “Poaching on Crusoe’s Island: Popular Reading and Chapbook Editions of Robinson Crusoe“, during the 18th century, the novel went through no less than 151 chapbook editions.

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The frontispiece, the book’s only illustration, depicts a scene which is barely mentioned in the text.

Different chapbook editions emphasized different aspects of the story, moulding them to conform to the generic conventions that were familiar to working-class readers. O’Malley writes that, “By rejecting certain key elements of Defoe’s work while amplifying others to the point of distortion, these chapbooks shed light on how the laboring classes interacted with the dominant cultural and ideological formations of the period.” For example, some versions linger over Crusoe’s capture by mutineers and enslavement by Moors, in keeping with lower-class readers’ expectations for a seafaring tale. Others might skip over the details of Crusoe’s means of survival on the island or his religious awakening. These omissions cast Crusoe in the role of a traditional folk hero like Jack the Giant Killer, whose good fortune is the product of luck rather than hard work and spiritual devotion—a narrative which might resonate with a working-class audience with few opportunities for social or economic advancement. 

Our chapbook edition is a relative latecomer to the scene. The title page is undated, but it was most likely published between 1808 and 1816 (based on the years that the publishers, Dean & Munday, based their business at the address given on the title page). The paper is cheap, flecked all over with dark brown fibres, and the type has been very unevenly inked, evidence of its downmarket price point. The narrative does not linger over any one episode, but describes all the most noteworthy events with equal (and impressive) economy. Gone, however, are any meditations of a spiritual nature. At 36 pages, it is voluminous for a chapbook, but unlike most 18th century chapbooks, it contains only one illustration. If you fancy a more substantial read, however, we also hold three 19th century editions of Robinson Crusoe in Welsh (84, 90, and 118 pages), one in French (3 volumes) published 1720, and an illustrated edition in English(363 pages), published in 1847.

The Shakespeare Manuscripts of William Henry Ireland

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, and Shakespeare-related exhibitions have been popping up across London and beyond. Although Shakespeare’s work is known and loved throughout the English-speaking world, we have surprisingly little material evidence about his life. Only six documents bearing his signature survive. This lack of evidence, combined with his humble origins, has led some people to believe that he could not have written the plays and poems which bear his name. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there have always been those who are only too eager to believe even the most dubious claims of Shakespearean authorship.

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This mortgage deed, owned by the British Library, is one of only six documents known to bear William Shakespeare’s signature.

In 1623, a group of friends and admirers published a large-format edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays: the First Folio. The book sold well enough to merit a second edition in 1631, and a third in 1663. By that time, the public was mad for all things Shakespeare, and the third edition included seven new plays: Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Locrine; The London Prodigal; The Puritan; Sir John Oldcastle; Thomas Lord Cromwell; and A Yorkshire Tragedy. Of these seven plays, only Pericles is now widely accepted as part of the Shakespearean canon.

Every time a new piece of Shakespeareana surfaces, it attracts plenty of media attention. Most recently, in 2014, two New York booksellers, George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler announced to the world that they had found Shakespeare’s dictionary: a copy of John Baret’s Alvearie with anonymous handwritten notes in which they found parallels to certain lines in Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Unlike the media, however, the scholarly community is often reluctant to accept any but the most definitive proofs of authenticity, and for good reason. The popularity of all things Shakespearean (and our willingness to pay top dollar for them) has led to the “discovery” of several new Shakespeare manuscripts down through the ages. Sometimes, these discoveries are made in good faith by over-enthusiastic or gullible collectors, while others are deliberate forgeries.

Perhaps the most famous of these cases is that of William Henry Ireland, who in 1794 presented his father Samuel Ireland with an antique deed bearing the signature of William Shakespeare. William Henry claimed that it had been found in an old trunk belonging to a wealthy gentleman who wished to be known only as “Mr. H.” Mr. H. purportedly had no interest in old documents, and invited William Henry to take whatever interested him. Samuel Ireland, who was an antiquary and a devoted admirer of Shakespeare’s work, was overjoyed, and other documents soon followed. He proudly displayed the papers for the likes of James Boswell, Henry James Pye, and John Pinkerton, who inspected them and deemed them genuine.

In early 1796, Samuel Ireland published Miscellaneous papers and legal instruments under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare. It contained transcriptions and detailed reproductions of several of the documents, including a letter to the earl of Southampton, a confession of faith, theatrical contracts, a love letter and poem to ‘Anna Hatherrewaye” accompanied by a lock of hair, a letter from Queen Elizabeth, an original manuscript of King Lear, and various other business receipts. Ireland even went so far as to produce a deed which ceded all property in Shakespeare’s papers to a fictional ancestor, also named William Henry Ireland, as a reward for saving the poet from drowning. Another deed of gift mentioned an illegitimate child, hinting that Ireland himself might be a blood relative of the poet.

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To create his forgeries, Ireland cut seals from other Elizabethan documents.

The volume sold so well that it went through a second edition that same year. A “lost” play, entitled Vortigern and Rowena, was performed at Drury Lane on 2 April. By then, however, rumors had begun to circulate that the documents were forgeries, and the play failed catastrophically. On 31 March, two days before the performance, Edmond Malone had published An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers, an exhaustive 424-page critique which pointed out anomalies in the language, orthography, and palaeography of the documents.

 

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Ireland’s forgeries included an “original manuscript” of the Tragedye of Kynge Leare

Later that year, in an attempt to restore his father’s reputation, William Henry Ireland claimed full responsibility for the forgeries in An Authentic Account of the Shaksperian Manuscripts, &c. In spite of this account, sceptics doubted that William Henry, only 19 years old when he produced his first forgery, could have so successfully imitated Shakespeare’s language and handwriting. His own father insisted that the manuscripts were genuine, on the grounds that his son was too stupid to have fabricated them.

In 1805, William Henry published one further attempt to set the record straight, entitled The Confessions of William Henry Ireland. In this autobiographical account, he explains how he became familiar with 16th century handwriting and language by examining old documents in the legal office where he worked. From that same source, he cut out blank endleaves from antique books and removed wax seals from authentic documents for use on his fabrications. He experimented with various formulas for “Elizabethan” ink and methods of making it appear darkened with age.

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Ireland’s love letter from Shakespeare to “Anna Hatherwaye.”

Following his exposure as a forger, William Henry Ireland gradually fell into poverty, working as a hack writer and producing some ninety literary works in various genres—this time under his own name. In spite of the scandal, he looked back on his forgeries with considerably more pride than contrition, fondly remembering a time when his own writing was (mistakenly) praised as that of the greatest English poet. Throughout his life, Ireland continued to produce “Elizabethan” documents on demand as curiosities, and to authenticate his claim that he alone was responsible for the manuscripts.

Cardiff University holds a copy of the 1795 first edition of Miscellaneous papers and legal instruments under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare (London, 1796). It is an impressive volume measuring nearly 43 cm tall, with wide margins and painstakingly detailed engravings. More than 120 names appear in the list of subscribers, many of them bearing titles of nobility. When originally published, it cost four guineas, approximately two months’ wages for a working man. In the preface, Samuel Ireland states that, “It might have been produced at a lower price; but it was his [i.e. Samuel Ireland’s] earnest desire to give such a variety of fac-similes of the hand writing, as to enable the reader to form a complete judgment of the general character of the manuscript.” Incidentally, a mere seven paragraphs are spent sincerely reassuring the reader as to the authenticity of the manuscripts.

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Celebrating Professional Librarians

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As a young man, Ducarel was blinded one eye, which is why it appears cloudy in this portrait. From A Series of above two hundred Ango-Gallic, or Norman and Aquitain coins… (London, 1757). 

On Wednesday, 14 July, the United States Senate confirmed Dr. Carla Hayden as the new Librarian of Congress. In addition to being the first woman and the first African-American to hold the post, she is also the first professional librarian to head the Library of Congress in more than 60 years. Most of the previous appointees have been scholars or writers who did not necessarily hold professional qualifications as librarians. (In the United States, this means a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from an ALA-accredited programme). Inspired by this historic appointment, today’s blog post looks at another noteworthy librarian, Andrew Coltee Ducarel, who was the first professional librarian of Lambeth Palace.

Andrew Ducarel was born in Paris on 9 June 1713 to a family of Huguenots from Normandy. Fleeing from persecution in France, his family stayed briefly in Amsterdam before settling in England in 1721. After studying law at Oxford and Cambridge, Ducarel was admitted to the College of Advocates (Doctors’ Commons) in November 1743. It was at Doctors’ Commons that he first tried his hand at library work, serving as its librarian from 1754-1757 in addition to his regular legal work.

Ducarel had a keen interest in history and antiquities, and was admitted to the Society of Antiquaries at the the age of twenty-four. Throughout his life, he published several tracts on English and Norman antiquities, especially coins and medals. He was elected a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Cortona in 1760, a fellow of the Royal Society in 1762, of the Society of Antiquaries of Cassel in 1778, and of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1781.

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Ducarel’s antiquarian interests included numismatics, the study of coins and medals. Illustration from Ducarel’s A Series of above two hundred Ango-Gallic, or Norman and Aquitain coins… (London, 1757).

In March 1754, Archbishop Thomas Herring asked Ducarel to prepare an account of Croydon Palace and its surroundings. Assisted by his friend, Edward Rowe Mores, Ducarel presented the Archbishop with a manuscript copy of “Some account of the town, church, and archiepiscopal palace of Croydon” in 1755. (It was not published until 1783.) While preparing the research for this account, the two men spent several weeks in Lambeth Library, sorting and labelling nearly 2000 old records.

At least partly thanks to his work with the Lambeth records in 1754-1755, Ducarel was formally appointed to the position of librarian at Lambeth Palace in 1757, for which he received a salary of £30 per annum. Ducarel was the first layperson appointed to the position, and would become its longest-serving librarian, working under five archbishops over twenty-eight years, until his death in 1785.

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Cardiff University holds two books with Ducarel’s armorial bookplate.

Although the post had previously been viewed as a stepping-stone on the path to greater preferment, Ducarel made caring for the library his life-long occupation. He continued the work of organizing and cataloguing its records, but also acquired, accessioned, and arranged for the binding of new books, pamphlets, and manuscripts; he dealt with visitors and enquiries, drew up surveys and reports in support of the building’s maintenance and repair, and researched the history of the palace and library. Ducarel frequently turned to his antiquary friends for assistance in writing the tracts which bear his name, preferring to devote his attention to organising and indexing the holdings of the library.

After his death. Many of Ducarel’s personal books and manuscripts were left to his friends Richard Gough and John Nichols, and were later sold at auction in 1786. Today, the bulk of his library is divided between Lambeth Palace, the British Library, and the Bodleian Library at Oxford, but at least two volumes from Ducarel’s library now reside at Cardiff University. One of these volumes is Dugdale’s Origines juridiciales (London, 1671). The other is a collection of seven tracts by Ducarel, including his first published work, A tour through Normandy, described in a letter to a friend (London, 1754), four Four letters concerning chesnut and other trees, and biographical notes on Browne Willis. Of the seven tracts, two have not previously been recorded in the English Short Title Catalogue

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This volume from Ducarel’s personal library contains seven of his own tracts bound together with a handwritten contents list.

Stephen Duck, Thresher and Poet

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Portrait of Stephen Duck, from Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1764)

Although now largely overlooked, the “Thresher Poet” Stephen Duck was an 18th-century celebrity. Critics and scholars have been generally dismissive of the quality of his verse, yet he enjoyed the patronage of Queen Caroline from his introduction at court in 1730 until her death in 1737, and was rumored to have been considered for the laureateship.

Duck spent his early years as a poor agricultural labourer, receiving a rudimentary education until the age of 14 when he left school to work in the fields. According to “An account of the author” written by his friend and supporter Joseph Spence, he “had a certain Longing after Knowledge; and when he reflected within himself on his Want of Education, he began to be particularly uneasy.” Duck would work extended hours in the fields to earn extra money which he spent on books. Once he had the books, he finished his work as quickly as possible, “that he might get Half an Hour to read a Spectator, without injuring his Master.” Together with a friend who had lived in London and amassed a small library, Duck would read, re-read, and discuss the few dozen volumes that were available to him. Spence, describing this early period in the poet’s life, records their collection as follows:

“Perhaps you would be willing to know what Books their little Library consisted of. I need not mention those of Arithmetick again, nor his Bible: Milton, the Spectators, and Seneca, were his first Favourites; Telemachus, with another Piece by the same Hand, and Addison’s Defence of Christianity, his next. They had an English Dictionary, and a Sort of English Grammar, an Ovid of long standing with them, and a Bysshe’s Art of Poetry of latter Acquisition: Seneca’s Morals made the Name of l’Estrange dear to them; and, as I imagine, might occasion their getting his Josephus in Folio, which was the largest Purchace in their Collection: They had one Volume of Shakespeare, with Seven of his Plays in it. Beside theses, Stephen had read three or four other Plays; some of Epictetus, Waller, Dryden’s Virgil, Prior, Hudibras, Tom Brown, and the London Spy. You may see I am a faithfull Historian, by giving you the Bad with the Good.”

Duck was particularly drawn to Milton’s Paradise Lost, reading it over “twice or thrice with a Dictionary, before he could understand the Language of it thoroughly… [H]e has got English just as we get Latin. He study’d Paradise Lost, as others study the Classics.” Inspired to try and imitate Milton’s verse, began to compose a few poems, most of which he claims to have thrown onto the fire, considering them to be of little or no literary merit. When rumors began to circulate about a poor thresher who could write couplets, a young gentleman of Oxford requested of him a letter in verse. The result, Duck’s first composition of more than a few disconnected lines, is preserved as “To a Gentleman, who requested a Copy of Verses from the Author.”  

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Cardiff University holds the 1733 edition of Poems on Several Subjects, and the 1753 and 1764 editions of Poems on Several Occasions.

The letter’s favourable reception inspired Duck to continue his efforts, which were published in up to ten pirated editions between 1730 and 1733 under the title, Poems on Several Subjects. These early editions attracted attention on a much wider scale and earned him an audience in the court of Queen Caroline. Duck was well received by the queen, who rewarded him with an annuity of £30 or £50, a house, and, in 1735, a position as keeper of the queen’s library in Merlin’s Cave, a Gothic building in Richmond Gardens. He was introduced to literary giants such as Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope, both of whom subscribed to his 1736 volume of poems. Although they had nothing good to say about his poetry, Swift and Pope both spoke highly of Duck as a humble, genial, and virtuous man.

Today, scholars are beginning to revisit Stephen Duck’s literary contributions. In her chapter in A Companion to Literature from Milton to Blake, Bridget Keegan suggests several areas of study where Duck’s work is of value, such as documenting the everyday lives of 18th century working-class people; or the concept of “genius” in the 18th century literary landscape. She argues that Duck’s success may be seen to pave the way for the rise of the Romantic movement and other self-educated poets such as Robert Bloomfield, Robert Burns and John Clare.

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The opening verse of “The Thresher’s Labour,” from the 1733 edition of Poems on Several Subjects.

With its mock-heroic language and inversion of traditional pastoral imagery, Duck’s poem, “The Thresher’s Labour” anticipates the themes of destruction and corrupt greed in Goldsmith’s “Deserted Village.” As the first writer in what would become a class of “peasant-poets,” Duck also inspired many contemporary imitations and responses from other working-class authors, including Robert Tatersal (The Bricklayer’s Miscellany) and John Bancks (The Weaver’s Miscellany). Perhaps the most famous of these responses is The Woman’s Labour by Mary Collier. Offended by Duck’s portrayal of female agricultural workers as lazy chatterboxes, she composed a rebuttal in verse, cataloguing her own struggles as a washer-woman in London. Despite their literary sparring, however, Collier acknowledged her admiration for Duck and composed an Elegy on his death many years later.

Sadly, Stephen Duck’s story does not end well. After Queen Caroline’s death in 1837, he found himself without a patron as his celebrity waned. Rather than continue his literary career, he devoted himself to scholarship and took holy orders in 1746. He served as a military chaplain from 1747 to 1751, then briefly as preacher to Kew chapel. In January 1752 he was appointed to the rectory of Byfleet, Surrey where he proved a hard working and popular parish priest, but between 30 March and 2 April 1756 committed suicide by drowning at Reading.

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The frontispiece of the pirated 1733 edition of Poems on Several Subjects.

 

John Donne’s Biathanatos

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Portrait of John Donne by Unknown English artist, oil on panel, circa 1595. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

This week’s cataloguing efforts have uncovered another noteworthy item in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection: a first edition of Biathanatos (London, 1644) by John Donne.

The full title of the book is Βιαθανατος : a declaration of that paradoxe, or thesis, that selfe-homicide is not so naturally sinne, that it may never be otherwise. Wherein the nature, and the extent of all those lawes, which seeme to be violated by this act, are diligently surveyed. The paradox was a literary genre popular during the English Renaissance in which the author puts forth an argument in support of a thesis which contradicts common sense or questions a commonly-held belief. As a young man, Donne wrote several paradoxes, generally on comparatively trivial subjects such as, “That old Men are more Fantastique then younge,” or “Why have Bastards best fortune.”  In his personal correspondence, Donne claims that his paradoxes were made “rather to deceive time than her daughter truth,” and “are rather alarums to truth to arme her then enemies.” Donne’s use of the genre for a discussion of suicide suggests that it is not intended to be taken at face value, but rather to encourage thoughtful discussion and contradiction.

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Title page of the 1644 first edition of Biathanatos.

Biathanatos was written during a lengthy period of unemployment, during which Donne suffered from low spirits. In 1608, around the time that Biathanatos  was originally composed, Donne wrote to his friend Henry Goodyer, “Every Tuesday I make account that I turn a great hourglass, and consider that a week’s life is run out since I writ. But if I ask myself what I have done in the last watch, or would do in the next, I can say nothing.” Although John Sym’s Lifes Preservative Against Self-Killing (London, 1637) was published earlier, Biathanatos was the first book written in the Western tradition on the subject of suicide.

Donne’s treatise is divided into sections discussing the rational, legal, and theological arguments against suicide. Its controversial thesis proposes that while most motivations for suicide (including despair, self-aggrandizement, fear of suffering, or impatience to reach the afterlife) are selfish and sinful, suicide is justified when, like submission to martyrdom, it is done with charity and for the glory of God. Donne even goes so far as to say that Christ himself, in allowing himself to be killed on the cross, was in fact a suicide. Donne’s case is supported by thousands of citations from more than 170 authors (though Donne admits in the introductory matter that, “In citing these Authors…I have trusted mine owne old notes; which though I have no reason to suspect, yet I confesse here my lazines; and that I did not refresh them with going to the Originall”).

Although the subject matter may be uncomfortable to some, this treatise has an intriguing history. Aware that Biathanatos dealt with “a misinterpretable subject,” Donne carefully controlled its circulation in a small number of manuscript copies which he distributed among his close personal friends.

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From a letter from John Donne “To Sr Robert Carre now Earle of Ankerum, with my Book Biathanatos at my going into Germany,” published in Letters to severall persons of honour (London, 1654).

Donne’s reluctance to publish Biathanatos is not remarkable in itself; many of Donne’s works, including the poems for which he is best known today, were not published during his lifetime. Nevertheless, his attitude toward Biathanatos seems particularly ambivalent. In entrusting the manuscript to to Sir Robert Ker, he writes: 

“I have always gone so near suppressing it, as that it is onely not burnt: no hand hath passed upon it to copy it, nor many eyes to read it: onely to some particular friends in both Universities, then when I writ it, I did communicate it … Keep it, I pray, with the same jealousie; let any that your discretion admits to the sight of it, know the date of it; and that it is a book written by Jack Donne, and not by D. Donne: Reserve it for me, if I live, and if I die, I only forbid it the Presse, and the Fire: publish it not, but yet burn it not; and between those, do what you will with it.” (from Letters to severall persons of honour).

He is eager to distance himself from the work, ascribing it to the his younger self, Jack Donne, rather than the mature Doctor Donne, but he still insists on preserving its existence. Equally fearful that his work would be either lost or misunderstood, Donne never sent it out unaccompanied by letters of introduction like the one quoted above. The transmission of the manuscript copies is a fascinating story in itself, discussed in detail in Peter Beal’s book, In praise of scribes: manuscripts and their makers in seventeenth-century England.

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From the dedicatory epistle of the first printed edition of Biathantos (London, 1644), written by John Donne, Jr. sixteen years after his father’s death.

After Donne’s death, his son published Biathanatos against his father’s wishes, writing in the dedicatory epistle, “Two dangers appeared more eminently to hover over this, being then a Manuscript; a danger of being utterly lost, and a danger of being utterly found.” The first edition appeared in 1644, followed by a re-issue with a new title page in 1648 and a new edition in 1700. Both the 1644 and 1700 editions can be found in the Cardiff Rare Books collection.

Following its publication, a number of outraged rebuttals appeared, most notably John Adams’ An essay concerning self-murther. Wherein is endeavour’d to prove, that it is unlawful according to natural principles. With some considerations upon what is pretended from the said principles, by the author of a treatise, intituled, Biathanatos, and others. (London, 1700). More than 300 years later, scholars still debate whether the argument set forth in Biathanatos was intended to be sincere or satirical. Either way, Donne’s paradoxical essay has succeeded in its goal of stimulating thoughtful conversation on a topic which remains controversial even today.

William Dampier: Pirate, Navigator, Naturalist, and Explorer

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Portrait of William Dampier by Thomas Murray, oil on canvas, circa 1697-1698, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

At age 18, William Dampier (1652–1715) was apprenticed to a seaman at Weymouth. He served briefly in the Third Anglo-Dutch War, worked on a Jamaican sugar plantation and aboard merchant ships, before deserting his post to join a buccaneer fleet. After an unsuccessful attack on Panama City, he joined a group of French and English pirates with whom he raided Costa Rica and frequented the buccaneer base at Tortuga before being driven away by Spanish warships. In 1686, Dampier sailed more than 6000 miles across the Pacific from Cape Corrientes, Mexico, to Guam, later carrying on through the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. From there, his ship turned southward and in 1688 became the first English ship to visit New Holland (Australia). His journey continued through India, Sumatra, Vietnam, and the Malay peninsula, until he finally returned to England in 1691, making him the first Englishman to circle the globe since Thomas Cavendish a century before.

A second trading voyage to the West Indies resulted in a mutiny and a change of occupation from trading to piracy. Dampier remained with the ship until the end of his term of employment, but upon returning to London and asked for his back wages, he was instead accused of aiding the mutineers and received no money.

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Dampier published accounts of his voyages in 1697, 1699, and 1703.

From early in his career, he had kept a regular journal where he recorded observations of the winds and tides, geography, plants and animals, and native peoples. In 1697, left with few assets besides these journals, he published his observations under the title, A New Voyage Round the World. Dampier’s account of strange foreign lands was straightforward and practical rather than sensational, and proved extremely popular among merchants, statesmen, and scientists, as well as the general public. Within his lifetime, A New Voyage Round the World went through seven printings in English and translations into Dutch, French, and German.

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“Plants found in New Holland,” from A Voyage to New Holland… (London, 1703).

In 1699, Dampier’s fortunes were on the rise. He published a second volume under the title Voyages and Descriptions and returned to the Pacific, this time as captain of the HMS Roebuck, the first voyage intended specifically for scientific exploration. He sailed around Australia and New Guinea, discovering the island which he named New Britain before the ship’s poor condition forced him to return home, carrying with him specimens of around forty Australian plants (now in the Sherardian Herbarium at Oxford).

Once again, however, Dampier’s return home was not a happy one. He arrived in England to face a court martial for assaulting an officer on board the HMS Roebuck, and was judged to be unfit for command. He returned to the Pacific yet again as commodore of a privateering expedition during which, after a hurried refit on the island of Juan Fernandez, the ship’s master Alexander Selkirk preferred to be marooned there rather than set sail on a vessel he did not believe to be seaworthy. Selkirk would remain on the island for five years before being rescued by another privateer vessel commanded by Captain Woodes Rogers and piloted by none other than William Dampier.

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Views of the Brazilian coastline in A Voyage to New Holland… (London, 1703).

Although Dampier and Selkirk had grated on each other’s nerves during the earlier voyage, it was on Dampier’s recommendation that Rogers appointed Selkirk as mate on board his ship. Selkirk’s abandonment and subsequent rescue, described in Rogers’ journal and in The Englishman magazine, are widely believed to be the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe.

Dampier’s third book, A Voyage to New Holland, in the Year 1699, was published in 1703, and contained the first description of Aboriginal Australians. Although his account unfortunately depicted them as ‘the miserablest People in the world’, his writing nevertheless sparked intense interest in the south Pacific.

Over the course of his career, Dampier would circumnavigate the globe three times, making him the first person to do so.  His books, with their detailed records of weather patterns, safe harbours, disposition of native peoples, sources of food, and advice on maintaining health while at sea, were for a long time considered essential reading for mariners and recommended by the likes of Cook, Howe, and Nelson. Dampier’s writings also inspired literature such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner“. 

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Voyages and Descriptions includes “A Discourse of Trade-Winds,” which was used in compiling Admiralty Sailing Directions as late as the 1930s.

His was the first English language description of breadfruit, plantain, and bananas, and it was Dampier who first introduced the words “barbecue” and “chopsticks” into the English language. His legacy lives on in the names of Dampier Strait in Papua New Guinea, Dampier Land in Western Australia, and the Dampier Archipelago off the west coast of Australia.

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At the time of Dampier’s expedition, much of Australia remained uncharted.

Cardiff University holds the fifth edition of A new voyage round the world (1703), third edition of Voyages and descriptions (1705), and the first edition of A Voyage to New Holland, in the Year 1699 (1703). Although they belong to different editions, they are bound uniformly as a set and bear the property stamp of “T. Falconer,” possibly the English jurist and explorer Thomas Falconer (1805-1882) who served as judge of Glamorganshire, Brecknockshire and Rhayader from 1851 to 1881.

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