Monday, November 25, 2013

Hoyle's Games Improved (1814): Who was the bookseller Gale?

(updated June 22, 2016 with details about Hoyle's Guide to the Turf)

My last essay, "The Hoyle Copyright in Hoyle's Lifetime (revisited)" resolved a mystery that had long bothered me about the ownership of the Hoyle copyright in the 1760s. This essay untangles a similar mystery a half-century later.

The longish imprint on Hoyle's Games Improved, revised and corrected by Charles Jones Esq. (1814) lists twelve booksellers:
  • W. Lowndes
  • Wilkie and Robinson
  • J. Walker
  • Scatcherd and Letterman
  • Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown
  • Lackington, Allen and Co.
  • W. Stewart
  • B. and R. Crosby
  • J. Richarson
  • J. Mawman
  • J. Asperne
  • R. Baldwin
The handwritten (and often obscure) business records of the Longman firm list shares of copyright ownership for the book. See for example this essay discussing the 1800 edition. The archives note a thirteenth bookseller, with a 1/24 share, who's name appears to be "Gale." Gale never appeared on the imprint of any edition of Hoyle's Games Improved, but it's hard to dispute contemporary business records which record ownership of the booksellers' most valuable assets. Further, shares of ownership determine shares of costs and division of printed books. Who was Gale? Where did his share come from? What happened to it?

 Update (June 22, 2016): Sometimes when Hoyle's Games Improved was published, portions of the book were simultaneously issued with a different title page although generally the same setting of type. The 1814 edition is an example. The first 106 pages were issued as Hoyle's Games of Whist and Quadrille, the first 192 pages were issued as Companion to the Card Table, and pages 460-502 were issued as Hoyle's Guide to the Turf (although Hoyle had nothing to do with the text). The latter work is quite rare, with copies surviving only at the Bodleian and a veterinary library in Hannover, Germany. The German copy has been digitized online and the imprint includes Gale, Curtis, and Fenner. So Gale DOES show up on an imprint.
While I can't establish how Gale came to acquire a share of the copyright, nor why he wasn't on the imprint, I have found records showing that not only did he own a share of Hoyle in 1814, he bought a second piece in 1817. Records also show what happened to those shares.

In the 19th century most of the booksellers trade sales were run by the auction house Hodgson and Co. The catalogues for these trade sales, often annotated with purchaser and purchase price, survive. [See One Hundred Years of Book Auctions. 1807-1907. Being a brief record of the firm of Hodgson and Co. London. 1908. pp19-20, available for download]. Copies of the Hodgson catalogues are available at the British Library, as described here (search for "Hodgson trade sales").

A Hodgson catalogue for May 2, 1817 shows Walker, a name from the 1814 imprint, selling a 1/72 share to a name that seems to read Gale & Co.

Researching Gale in the British Book Trade Index, and WorldCat, I found that Gale did business as Gale, Curtis, and Fenner from 1812-15, and as Gale and Fenner from 1815-1817. Fenner succeeded to the business in 1817, and was not terribly successful, becoming bankrupt in March 1819.

Hodgson auctioned Fenner's copyrights on August 10, 1819. There were two lots of the copyright of "Hoyle's Games by Jones", one for a 1/24 share (the share recorded in the Longman Archives) and the other for a 1/72 share (the May 1817 purchase). There is no annotation showing a purchaser or purchase price as there often is in the auction catalogues. It is likely that Whittaker acquired the shares either at the auction or later--the Longman records show that he owned none of the copyright in 1814 and a large 11/36 share by 1820.

So, Gale DID own a share in 1814 despite the absence of his name on the imprint. He acquired more in 1817. His successor Fenner sold the shares, apparently in connection with his bankruptcy.

Another minor mystery if not solved, then certainly clarified.

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