Monday, September 26, 2011

Biographical Notes on Francis Cogan, Bookseller

(Updated November 16, 2011)

A brief break from bibliography...

When I began blogging, one of the things I hoped to do was to document some of my research that is unlikely otherwise to see publication. Here's a first example.

Bookseller Francis Cogan was Hoyle's first publisher and even with the enormous popularity of Hoyle, the venture was a financial disaster for Cogan as I wrote in "Pirates, Autographs, and a Bankruptcy." As I did research for the article, I wondered how much the Hoyle debacle contributed to Cogan's 1746 bankruptcy. I studied everything I could find about Cogan's life and professional career and concluded that Hoyle was just one in a series of disastrous ventures for Cogan. I'm left with a lot of research about Cogan that I have no plans to publish. This post will be a (rather dry) chronology of facts about Cogan with pointers to a number of primary sources. The next essay will focus on his output as a publisher. Perhaps some PhD candidate will treat this as a starting point for a dissertation!

The father of our Francis Cogan was Francis Coggan (note the different spelling), a bookseller apprenticed to William Miller on July 10, 1689. When Miller died, he continued his apprenticeship with Daniel Browne. (McKenzie 1974) His imprints appear in ESTC from 1697 to 1708. Coggan's will dated December 27, 1707, identifies his wife Margarett, sons Francis and William and daughters Elizabeth and Margarett. He leaves his stock of bound books to be sold at auction, unless his wife "thinks fit to continue on the trade which I would adviser her to doo for some time." (The National Archives (TNA): Public Records Office (PRO)  prob 11/499) After his death in 1707, his wife Margaret Coggan carried on the trade from 1708-9. (ESTC)

Son Francis Coggan was christened on August 26, 1703 at the Temple Church of England in London (parish records). He was apprenticed to Robert Gosling on October 5, 1719 for seven years, for which Gosling was paid £50. He was freed on February 2, 1731 as Francis Cogan, adopting the more familiar spelling. (McKenzie 1978)

March 18, 1729: Cogan set up at the Blue Ball without Temple Bar.

February 26, 1730: Cogan moves his shop to the Middle-Temple Gate, Fleet Street. (Plomer)

February 2, 1731: Cogan takes on Charles Scott as an apprentice. (McKenzie 1978)

January 4, 1733: Cogan and Nourse contract with Theodore Barlow to write a treatise concerning the duty and office of a Justice of the Peace, to be "the same quantity of letter as the first edition of Parish Law", a book by Joseph Shaw, also published by Cogan and Nourse. (British Library, Add. 38728 f.20) Much of his early work appears to be in the field of law, something he likely learned from his master Gosling.

March 15, 1734: Cogan and Nourse buy the copyright to Eliza Haywood's History of the British Theater Volume 1 for 16£ 4s. (Add. 38728 f. 112). He sold his share to Nourse at a trade sale on September 9, 1745 and was paid on September 26. (see below)

1735: Cogan subscribed to Oldmixon, The History of England

November 15, 1739 Cogan, Nourse and others begin to publish a thrice-weely newspaper, The Champion. (Harris)

October 1, 1742: Cogan sells to Nourse his one-half share in the treatise on the Justice of the Peace, and other copyrights and physical books in consideration for Nourse having paid off several debts owed by Cogan including printing charges for a later edition of Parish Law owed to Henry Lintot. (Add. 38729 f. 29) There is substantial archival material leading up to this transaction and it would well be worth further study. It shows conclusively that Cogan was in financial difficulties well before his dealings with Hoyle.

January 26, 1743: Cogan buys the copyright to Eliza Haywood's Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman for 26£ 5s. (Cogan v Cave, TNA: PRO C 12/2204/24, m. 1)  As will be discussed more in the next essay, the book was published under the fictitious name J. Freeman.

February 4, 1743: Cogan buys the copyright to Hoyle's Whist for 100 guineas. (Cogan v Chapelle, TNA: PRO C 12/1817/42, m. 1.)

February, 1743 Edward Cave publishes portions of Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman in Gentleman's Magazine, prompting Cogan to initiate litigation in April. (Cogan v Cave.)

February 19, 1743: Piracies of Whist are advertised in the General Evening Post.

March 4, 1743: Cogan advertises a second edition of Whist in the Daily Post.

March 18, 1743: Cogan advertises a third edition of Whist in the Daily Advertiser.

April 2, 1743: Irish reprints of Whist are advertised in the Dublin Gazette.

April 14, 1743: In in the middle of the Hoyle debacle, Cogan marries Elizabeth Smith at Saint George, Mayfair, Westminster, London. (George J. Armytage, Register of Baptisms and Marriages at St. George's Chapel, Mayfair, London: 1889)

April 15, 1743: Cogan files a Chancery action against the Hoyle pirates. (Cogan v Chapelle)

June 11, 1743: Cogan files a Chancery action against Edward Cave. (Cogan v Cave)

June 29, 1743: Cogan advertises a new book, Backgammon and a fourth edition of Whist. He announces that he has obtained an injunction against the Hoyle pirates. London Daily Post and General Advertiser

March 14, 1745:  Cogan obtains a Chancery order for an accounting in his dispute over fees with John Reyner, who represented him in both chancery actions. (Cogan v Cave, Order: Counsel Fees TNA: PRO C33/383 f 215v–216r)

September 9, 1745: In financial difficulties, Cogan offers some of his copyrights at a booksellers' trade sale. The sale was unsuccessful, with most lots going unsold. (catalogue)

September 26, 1745:  One lot that did sell on September 9 was Cogan's half interest in Haywood's British Theater. John Nourse bought the copyright for 2£ 4s. and Cogan acknowledges payment.  (Add. 38728 f. 112)

March 4, 1746: Cogan takes on James Lymans as an apprentice (bad timing, Mr Lymans). (McKenzie 1978)

May 13, 1746: A bankruptcy commission is appointed against Cogan. The accounting records apparently do not survive.

July 10, 1746: Cogan's copyright are sold at a second trade sale for the benefit of his creditors. (catalogue)

August, 1746: A bankruptcy certificate is awarded.

October 10, 1746: Nourse pays Cogan's bankruptcy assignee for copyrights he bought at the July 7 sale.  (Add. 38728 f. 9)

1746-7: Cogan returns to the trade. A number of his books are offered by subscription, perhaps to minimize his capital expenses. 

1752: Cogan is again adjudged bankrupt. As with the earlier bankruptcy, the accounting records apparently do not survive.

1753: Cogan dies.

1758: A dividend was paid from Cogan's estate the his creditors under the second bankruptcy.

As I said, I don't plan to take this any further. There are a lot of pointers to wonderful primary sources illustrating Cogan's troubled career. What I am struck with is how long it took after the two piracies for Cogan to bring his actions at Chancery. By way of comparison, when the Tonsons, among the elite booksellers, sought an injunction for the pirating of one of their properties, only ten days passed between the advertisement of the piracy and the filing of the complaint. Cogan waited nearly two months. Could his impending marriage have slowed him down?


Michael Harris, "Literature and Commerce in Eighteenth-Century London: the Making of The Champion" in J. A. Downie and Thomas N Corns, Telling People what to Think. Early Eighteenth-Century Periodicals from The Review to The Rambler. London: Frank Cass 1993, 94-115. (see also footnotes 23-5)

D. F. McKenzie, ed. Stationers' Company Apprentices 1641-1700. Oxford: The Oxford Bibliographical Society 1974.

D. F. McKenzie, ed. Stationers' Company Apprentices 1701-1800. Oxford: The Oxford Bibliographical Society 1978.

Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History, "A Checklist of Bankrupts". Available online, 2007. 

H. R. Plomer, et al, A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers Who were at Work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1726 to 1775. Oxford: The Oxford Bibliographical Society 1930.

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