Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The "Webster" Piracy: Collation

In this blog, I have largely refrained from repeating material covered in my article "Pirates, Autographs, and a Bankruptcy" (available for download here). That paper discusses the editions of Hoyle's A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist published from 1742 to 1744 in terms of both the physical books (descriptive bibliography) and their publication and marketing by copyright owners, pirates, and Irish reprinters.

In some of my blog essays, I have included small pieces of recent research that would have fit well into "Pirates:"
  • It is clear that the Cogan's investment in the Hoyle copyright was a financial disaster. I stated in the article that it was impossible to know to what extent that transaction contributed to Cogan's 1746 bankruptcy. (p152). Since I wrote the article, I learned that Cogan was forced to sell books and copyrights in October 1742 to satisfy debts (see "Biographical Notes on Francis Cogan, Bookseller"). Clearly, Cogan's problems predate his purchase of the Hoyle copyright.
  • I also wondered why Cogan waited two months to sue the pirates. In the same blog essay on Cogan, I noted that he was married in April 1742 and speculated that the marriage might have delayed his prosecution of the Hoyle pirates. 
  • In "Were there Cogan collections of Hoyle?" I demonstrated that Cogan published collections of the individual treatise—that would have been something worth noting in the appendix to my article. 
In the next several essays, I want to revisit the first piracy of Whist. It is a remarkable book and while I discuss it extensively in "Pirates," I find there is much more to say, both in words and pictures. This essay will correct an actual error in "Pirates," though frankly not one I am terribly embarrassed about.

The piracy is nearly a word-for-word reprinting of the November 1742 first edition—the pirate added an advertisement, a letter from a Gentleman at Bath, purporting to tell how he came to print the book. There is also a minor textual change that indirectly hints at the identity of the pirate.

first piracy of Whist,
for "Webster" (1743)

The title page, at right, omits Hoyle's name and is attributed to "a Gentleman." The imprint, wholly false, is "Bath printed, and London reprinted for W. Webster near St. Paul's." The book was never printed in Bath, nor was there a bookseller named W. Webster. For the identity of the printer, the remarkable story of how he came to acquire the text (decidedly not the story told in the advertisement), and the steps that copyright owner Francis Cogan took to combat the piracy, I direct you to "Pirates."

I just acquired another copy of the book, pictured below, and it is a bibliographer's treasure. Do click on the pictures to enlarge them. You can see the book is remarkably in original condition, just as issued. The front leaf is the half title and the back leaf is a final blank, often absent. The book has never been bound—the original stab sewing is clearly visible on the back. The pages have never been trimmed. The spine has never been glued. Yes, there is a bit of curling to the paper, but of all the copies that have survived, this is the closest how it would have looked in the shop of one of the piratical booksellers.

(left) half title at front of book
(right) final blank and spine

When I wrote "Pirates" I believe I had seen 8 copies of the book and digital reproductions of another five. I gave the collation as 8°: [A]4 (A4+2) B–M4. The formula means that the book was printed as an octavo (eight leaves or sixteen pages to the printed sheet) and assembled in gatherings of four leaves or eight pages. The A4+2 indicates that there are two leaves (in this case, the table of contents) inserted after leaf A4. What I could never tell was whether those were two single leaves were conjugate—that is from the same sheet of paper folded in half, or disjunct—two single leaves. Every copy I had seen had been so tightly bound that I could not determine the structure.
Aside: Paper often provides a clue to structure. See this glossary (and the detail of a paper mould) for definitions of chain and wire lines and how they are oriented in different book formats. Had the Webster piracy been a quarto with horizontal chain lines, I might have been able to determine whether the leaves were conjugate. If so, they would have had continuous chain lines running across the two pages. However, an octavo has vertical chain lines which do not help. Perhaps others could have looked at the wire lines and figured out whether they were continuous—I could not.
Given my uncertainty, I thought it more conservative to record the pages as two disjunct leaves in the collation formula.

I've now seen 17 copies and had reports from the institutional or private owner about the other 21 copies I know about. Even so, it is only from my newest copy, that I can tell conclusively that the table of contents is made up of a fold and not two disjunct leaves. My collation formula was wrong, and it is properly 8°: [A]4 χ2 B–M4. The symbol "χ" is used for an unsigned gathering in the middle of the book and the superscript "2" indicates that it is two conjugate leaves. See the image below of the bottom spine of the book, with the A, χ, and B gatherings labelled in red. It is clear that the χ gathering is a fold and not two disjunct leaves.

Detail of spine showing book structure.

There will be much more to say about the Webster piracy in the next few essays, which may be a bit delayed due to the holidays and travel plans. Here, I 'fess up to an erratum that crept into my my published writing: [A]4 χ2 rather than [A]4 (A4+2). I'll get it right when I publish a full-blown bibliography of Hoyle!

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