Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Notes and Queries Regarding the Authorship of O FOR A BOOKE

O for a Booke and a shadie nooke,
eyther in-a-doore or out ;
With the greene leaves whisp'ring overhede,
or the Streete cryes all about.
Where I maie Reade all at my ease,
both of the Newe and Olde ;
For a jolie goode Booke whereon to looke,
is better to me than Golde.
I came upon this poem earlier this month while compiling My Sentimental Library blog post about my Austin Dobson Collection.  Austin Dobson (1840-1921) included the poem in his 1917 book, A Bookman's Budget.  Researching the poem's authorship led me astray for more than a day!  

 Austin Dobson attributed the poem to the bookseller John Wilson, who died in 1889.  Dobson said he repeated his story in print more than once prior to 1917.  Here is his article in the  Feb 12, 1898 issue of The Academy:

 And the April 21, 1900 issue of the New York weekly  The Outlook,  noted in its own "Notes And Queries" section,  that Dobson had previously attributed the poem to Wilson in the London Athenaeum.

In A Bookman's Budget, Austin Dobson noted that "as far as I know," the poem made its first appearance in Alexander Ireland's Book-Lover's Enchiridion in 1883.

But the poem, in fact, appeared twenty years earlier in the Oct 10, 1863 issues of the British periodical, Notes And Queries.  It was in a "Quotations Wanted" query by "ABHBA."

Rev. Beaver Henry Blacker (1821-1890), using the initials ABHBA, was a familiar contributor to Notes And Queries from 1853 to 1890.  At the time of his query in 1863, Blackwell was assigned to a vicarage in Dublin, Ireland.  A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, Blacker was a a historian as well as priest, and wrote 60 articles for the Dictionary of National Biography under the initials of BHB. He later became editor of the Gloucestershire Notes And Queries.  His Oct 1863 query in the London Notes And Queries, however, is his only recorded entry I could find regarding the authorship of O FOR A BOOKE.

Queries regarding the authorship of O FOR A BOOKE appeared in numerous other periodicals  after its publication in The Book-Lover's Enchiridion in 1883.  But the poem's next appearance in Notes And Queries was in the Dec 19, 1891 issue:

P. J. A. is Peter John Anderson (1853-1926), a noted philatelist who became Librarian of the University of Aberdeen in 1894.  He was a contributor to the D. N. B. as well, under the initials P. J. A. And the query above is the only recorded entry of his I found regarding O FOR A BOOKE.

In the Jan 30, 1892 issue of Notes And Queries, Jonathan Bouchier, grandson of the American loyalist, Jonathan Bouchier, questioned whether the lines were as old as they were thought to be:

 In the Mar 12, 1892 issue, Rev. Edward Marshall (1815-1899), another frequent contributor to Notes And Queries, suggested that the source of the poem may well be a quotation attributed to Thomas A. Kempis:

Translation:  "I have sought everywhere for peace, but I have found it not save in nooks and in books."

The mention of nooks and books is the only commonality between the Kempis quotation and O FOR A BOOKE. 

On a sidenote, there was another poem published in The Book-Lover's Enchiridion that also mentioned a nook and a book, although the poem itself was shortened by four lines.  And that is the poem, "A NOOK AND A BOOK," from William Freeland's 1882 book, A Birth Song And Other Poems." 

In the Feb 22, 1908 issue of Notes And Queries, Charles Christopher Bell, a British Folklore specialist, asked when O FOR A BOOKE was published:

 In the Mar 7, 1908 issue of Notes And Queries, Austin Dobson responded to Bell's post, and used the opportunity to reiterate that the bookseller, John Wilson, was the author of O FOR A BOOKE.  But people still wanted to believe that O FOR A BOOKE was an old English song.

Bells' post also attracted the attention of two other readers, and their responses followed Dobson's remarks.

The printing firm of Mitchell, Hughes & Clarke attest that they too saw the lines to O FOR A BOOKE in an old book twenty years ago (late 1880s).

William Jaggard (1868-1947), a Stratford bookseller and noted Shakespearean bibliographer, referred to an earlier post of his about O FOR A BOOKE in Notes And Queries of Sept 16, 1905 (10 S. iv. 229).

 The volume of early English poems and ballads that Jaggard alleged was the source of O FOR A BOOKE was the "old book" referred to by Dobson in A Bookman's Budget  "that has never been forthcoming."

Jaggard cited the earlier appearances of O FOR A BOOKE  in Notes And Queries, particularly the 1863 article (3S iv 288), to substantiate his claim that the poem came from an old book he had seen, and also to disparage Dobson's claim that the poem was published in one of John Wilson's bookseller catalogue.

The British Museum, however, provided relevant biographical details about John Wilson, noting that Wilson had acquired the business of F. G. Tomlins "c1862."

John Wilson, as you will later see, was printing bookseller catalogues  more than a year before the 1863 Notes And Queries article containing O FOR A BOOKE was printed.

John Wilson died on Aug 30, 1889 at the age of 70.  Unfortunately, his obituary, published in the Oct 9, 1889 issue of The Bookseller provides no information to help resolve the authorship question.

Christopher Morley attempted to help the cause. In Notes and Queries in Sep 1919 (12 S V 237), he asked if anyone could find a copy of one of John Wilson's catalogues containing the poem:

The next month, Oscar Berry, of the accounting firm of Oscar Berry and Co., responded to Morley's query, and questioned Dobson's assertion that John Wilson was the author of the poem.  Berry surmised that if Wilson was the author, Alexander Ireland would have heard  about it and chronologically placed the poem in a later part of the book:

My copy of The Book-Lover's Enchiridion is dated 1890, and is a reprint of the 1888 5th edition.  O FOR A BOOKE was still listed in chronological order with other pieces from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Both Dobson and Jaggard posted notes on the authorship of O FOR A BOOKE to Notes And Queries in November 1919.

Jaggard had a new story to tell about the authorship of O FOR A BOOKE.

Jaggard embellished his previous story adding that his friend Thomas Simmons said that he also had obtained the verse from an Elizabethan book he had purchased.  Jaggard never publicly followed up on his claims regarding the authorship of the poem––at least not in Notes And Queries.  But I researched further and discovered that the poem most likely appeared in at least one of John Wilson's early bookseller catalogues.

 One of John Wilson's bookseller catalogues was advertised in the May 3, 1862 issue of The Saturday Review:

And another one of his catalogues was listed in the Aug 9, 1862 issue of Notes And Queries:

To date, no copy of one of John Wilson's bookseller catalogues containing the poem O FOR A BOOKE has appeared.  And the authorship question of O FOR A BOOKE down through the years has never been fully resolved.  In fact, as you will see, the attribution of the poem has gotten worse!

 In Sir John Lubbock's The Pleasure of Life 1893), the poem is referred to as an Old English Song.

 There is no attribution given in Eugene Field's The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac (1899), leading some readers to believe that Eugene Field was the author.

The 1904 third edition of Thoughts For Book Lovers referred to the old attribution of the poem:  an Old English Song.

The 1912 edition of Cassell's Book of Quotations referred to the poem as "probably modern," but did not cite John Wilson as the author.

Publishers' Weekly attributed the poem to John Wilson in its May 27, 1922 issue!

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations attributed the poem to John Wilson in its 1923 edition and cited the Nov 1919 Notes And Queries article for discussion of the poem's authorship.

In The Book About Books: The Anatomy of Bibliomania, first published in 1950, and reprinted in 1981, Holbrook Jackson cites John Wilson as the author of the poem.

By the late 1960s, however, O FOR A BOOKE had seen its last light of day in many reference books.  It is not listed in The Oxford Book of English Verse (1972), the Dictionary of Quotations (1978), The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999), or Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (2012).

O FOR A BOOKE is still listed on a number of websites, but the attribution is atrocious!  modernized the spelling of the poem, which is fine.  But it attributed the poem to a John Skinner Wilson (1849-1926) who was an Anglican priest! 

The Quotations Page isn't any better.  It attributes the poem to the Scottish author, John Wilson (1785-1854)

Wikipedia credits the Scottish author John Wilson as well:

Goodreads attributes the poem to a John Wilson who is a contemporary Canadian author of historical fiction and nonfiction!

And Poem Hunter simply attributes it simply as "Anonymous British."

Wikiquote has the correct attribution, and even refers back to the Nov 1919 Notes And Query article.  Bravo!

In closing, I will repeat Christopher Morley's Sept 1919 query. 

Perhaps the British Library has copies of John Wilson's 1862 bookseller catalogues?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Preliminary Examination of a Pamphlet Containing
Two Reviews of Worcester's Edition of Johnson's Dictionary

On my desk lays a pamphlet.  And not just any old pamphlet, although it is old.  The pamphlet contains two dictionary reviews that were published in 1828.  And the two reviews are reviews of a dictionary most dear to my heart:  Johnson's English Dictionary; this one edited by an American by the name of Joseph E. Worcester (1784-1865).

I've written one blog post about this pamphlet already this month:  Some Worcester Sources and Other Discourses Concerning the Dictionary Wars, which is on My Sentimental Library blog.  Now, I will write a little bit about the pamphlet itself.  Thus far, however, I have more unanswered questions than questions answered.  So please consider this endeavor to be a "preliminary examination" of the pamphlet.

Who  wrote these reviews?

"Good luck with that," you're probably saying to yourself.    As in most other periodicals of the 1800s, the contributors were not identified by name when the articles were published.  Surprisingly,  however, this question is the only question I can answer at this time.  The reviews were first printed in The American Quarterly Review  and the North American Review respectively in 1828.  Interestingly, the page header printed in the American Quarterly Review was "English Ortheopy" (pronunciation of words).  And the page header in The North American Review was "English Vocabulary."  The page header on every page in my pamphlet, however, was "Johnson's Dictionary."

In the Widener Library, at Harvard University, there is a copy of  A Vocabulary; or, Collection of Words and Phrases Which Have Been Supposed to Be Peculiar to the United States of America by John Pickering, Boston: 1816.   This particular copy belonged to Joseph E. Worcester, the one who edited the edition of Johnson's Dictionary that was reviewed in the two periodicals. And the book was given to Harvard at Worcester's bequest.

Bound in with Pickering's book were several pamphlets, including the pamphlet containing the two reviews of Worcester's edition of Johnson's Dictionary.

And directly below the title of the review from The American Quarterly Review, someone, possibly Joseph E. Worcester himself, wrote, "by John Pickering."

And on the review from the The North American Review that was appended to Pickering's review, someone wrote, "English Vocabulary, etc. by Sidney Willard."

In his Dictionary of English and American Authors, A. Austin Allibone devotes practically an entire page to John Pickering (1777-1846), and best sums up Pickering in one sentence:
Dr. Pickering was a man of profound learning in many branches of knowledge and in the department of linguistics has been surpassed by very few in any age (1590).
 I can verify that Pickering was the author of the review. But the first verification required a little bit of digging and deducing.

The February 1833 issue of The American Monthly Review  contained a full-page advertisement announcing that the Boston Publishers, Russell, Odiorne and Company, had just published a new edition of Johnson's Dictionary—the one edited by Worcester.  And included in this advertisement is this letter from John Pickering:

                                                                                                                                                          Boston, June 1, 1829
I have examined your new edition of Johnson and Walker’s Dictionary, which, as we are  informed by the editor, Joseph E. Worcester, Esq., ‘Is founded upon the great work of Johnson, corrected and enlarged by Mr. Todd,’ and includes ‘the entire labors of Walker on the pronunciation of the language;’ the work being intended ‘to comprise all the most important materials, and to answer all the essential uses of a dictionary for understanding, writing, and speaking the English language, and at the same time to enable the reader to see, as far as possible on whose authority everything rests.'    From the examination which I have made of the work, (without meaning to extend this remark to the whole American part of the Appendix) I am of opinion, that it is well adapted to the use intended, and will for all common purposes supply the place of the more copious works which are the basis of it.  The editor has performed his part of the labor with much care, and the volume is printed with great correctness; and in this and other respects it is far preferable to any manual of the kind in use.
                                                                                                                                                    JOHN PICKERING
Now someone reading this letter in 1833 might think Pickering's letter was addressed to the booksellers, Russell and Odiorne.  But Russell and Odiorne didn't publish their edition of the dictionary until 1833 ( I have a copy of their edition in my library). And theirs, according to J. D. Fleeman, was already the seventh impression of Worcester's edition of Johnson's Dictionary.  Charles Ewer and T. Harrington Carter were the publishers of the first two editions of Worcester's dictionary (1828 and 1829).   And they are the publishers identified in both reviews published in 1828.  Pickering's letter could only have been addressed to them.  And he wrote about examining their dictionary in The American Quarterly Review in 1828.

The best Pickering verification comes from Pickering himself.  John Pickering's review of Johnson's Dictionary is identified in a list of published writings in his memoir, which was published in 1846 in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

And here's a third verification:  Anonyms:  Dictionary of Revealed Authorship by William Cushing, Cambridge, Ma. 1889:

Sidney Willard (1780-1856) is harder to verify as the author of the review in The North American Review; however, in an article by Julius H. Ward,  which appeared in The North American Review in 1915, Sidney Willard is listed as one of the leading contributors to the periodical for the period 1815-1830.  Willard, the son of a former President of Harvard University, was the Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard from 1807 to 1831.  I should note that Allibone's Critical Dictionary ... records that Willard was also the Professor of the English Language (2731).  Willard later reviewed Worcester's 1846 dictionary: Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language as well.

Who printed the pamphlet?

Good question!  In 1828, Hiram Tupper, printer for the Examiner Press, Boston, printed Pickering's dictionary review that first appeared in The American Quarterly Review.  But the pagination was different than the pagination of the pamphlet that Worcester gave to Harvard, which is identical to the pamphlet I have.   Moreover, Tupper's pamphlet did not have Willard's review appended to it.  I believe Tupper printed Pickering's review for Pickering.  And a still unidentified printer printed both reviews for Worcester.  In the list of pamphlets bound with Pickering's vocabulary book,  someone wrote, "Phil.? 1828, as the place and date of publication of the review of Johnson's Dictionary.  However,  I believe the pamphlet was printed in either Boston or Cambridge, and most likely by a printer known to either Worcester or Willard—or both.

Who was the former owner of the pamphlet?

Written in the top right corner of my copy of the pamphlet is the name, "Wm H Spear."  Now there were a number of individuals who shared that name.  One of them was the proprietor of the Roxbury Female School in Roxbury, Ma., who later was associated with the American Institute of Instruction.   I believe this is the William H. Spear who signed his name to my pamphlet.  He would have wanted Pickering's review for his students because Pickering not only reviewed Worcester's dictionary, but provided a concise history of dictionaries up to that date.  Pickering's review is well worth reading even today.

Another "Wm H Spear" was William Henry Spear (1807-1879),  the grand nephew of John Hancock, and the heir to the Hancock estate.  Could these two Speares be one and the same?  Further research is required.  For now, I have Wm. H. Spear's signature.  And I have a promising lead on one of the Speares!

On April 14, 2015, Swann Auction Galleries sold an archive of Spear-Perkins family papers relating to the John Hancock estate.  Included in lot 162 were the papers  of William Henry Spear (1807-1879).   I will ask Swann Galleries to contact the winner of lot 162 and see if he or she will compare the Spear signature I have to that of Hancock's grand nephew, William Henry Spear.

Wish me luck on my further research!