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Defoe's An Essay Upon Projects: The Order of Issues by Joyce Deveau Kennedy
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Defoe's An Essay Upon Projects: The Order of Issues
Joyce Deveau Kennedy

An Essay upon Projects, if written in hopes of gaining the Court's favor or of, at least partially, reclaiming his wrecked fortunes, was singularly unsuccessful for Defoe. His projects for social insurance, bankruptcy reform, highway building, and so forth, apparently failed to fall even on deaf ears. In short, excellent though his ideas were, Defoe's book did not sell; and the original sheets, bearing canceled title pages, were reissued a number of times.

The history of the various issues of the Essay's first edition is interesting as a chronicle of Defoe's downhill plunge in the years between 1697 and 1702, which saw the death of William III, the loss of Defoe's Tilbury brickworks, and his arrest for The Shortest Way; and it is equally interesting from a bibliographical standpoint. For instance, seven variant title pages bearing three different dates, which comprise the first edition, have never been accurately catalogued. The last attempt to dispel the confusion surrounding the Essay's various issues was John R. Moore's in "Defoe's 'Essay upon Projects': An Unrecorded Issue," but Moore's explanation, as will be demonstrated, controverts several important facts.[1]

The purpose of this paper is to establish the sequence and dating of these issues, whose title-page descriptions are listed below:

AN ∣ ESSAY ∣ UPON ∣ Projects. ∣∣∣ LONDON: ∣ Printed by R. R. for Tho.


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Cockerill, ∣ at the Three Legs in the Poultrey. ∣ MDCXCVII. (Boston Public Library, Defoe 21.E87.1697A)

AN ∣ ESSAY ∣ UPON ∣ Projects. ∣∣∣ LONDON: ∣ Printed by R. R. for Tho. Cockerill, at ∣ the Corner of Warwick-Lane, near ∣ Pater-noster-Row. MDCXCVII. (Yale Univ. Library, NZ.Z697de)

SEVERAL ∣ ESSAYS ∣ Relating to ∣

  • Accademies, } {Friendly-Societies,
  • Banks, } {High-ways,
  • Bankrupts, } {Pension-Office,
  • Charity-Lotteries, } {Seamen,
  • Courts of Enquiries, } {Wagering, &c.
  • Court Merchants, } {
Now Communicated to the ∣ World for Publick Good. ∣ LONDON, ∣ Printed for Thomas Cockerill, at the ∣ Bible and Three Leggs against Grocers-∣Hall in the Poultrey. 1700. ∣ Price Three Shillings. (Yale Univ. Library, Defoe Collection 697eb)

ESSAYS ∣ UPON ∣ Several Projects: ∣ OR, ∣ Effectual Ways for advancing the ∣ Interest of the Nation. ∣ Wherein are plainly laid down, ∣ The Means by which the Subjects in general ∣ may be eased and enriched; the Poor relie-∣ved, and Trade encreased in the most mate-∣rial Branches of it, viz. in Constituting Sea-∣men to theirs and the Nations Advantage, ∣ for Encouragement of Merchants and Mer-∣ chandizing; for Relief of the Poor of Friend-∣ly Societies; for discouraging Vice, and en-∣couraging Vertue; the Usefulness; of Banks ∣ and Assurances; to prevent Bankrupts; with ∣ the surest way to recover bad Debs; and ∣ many other considerable things, profitable ∣ and conducing to the great Advantage of the ∣ Nation in general. ∣ LONDON, ∣ Printed, and Sold by the Booksellers of London and ∣ Westminster. 1702. (Boston Public Library, Defoe 21.E87.1702)

ESSAYS ∣ UPON ∣ Several Subjects: ∣ [ten lines] ∣ . . . Poor; of . . . ∣ . . . ∣ . . . Usefulness of . . . ∣ [five lines] ∣ LONDON, ∣ Printed, and Sold by the Booksellers of London and ∣ Westminster. 1702. (Library of Congress, PR3404.E7.1702)

ESSAYS ∣ UPON ∣ Several Projects: ∣ [fourteen lines] ∣ . . . Debts . . . ∣ [three lines] ∣ LONDON, ∣ Printed for Thomas Ballard, at the Rising Sun in ∣ Little Britain. 1702. (Yale Univ. Library, NZ.Z702dj)

ESSAYS ∣ UPON ∣ Several Subjects: ∣ [fourteen lines] ∣ . . . Debts . . . ∣ [three lines] ∣ LONDON, ∣ Printed for Thomas Ballard, at the Rising Sun in ∣ Little Britain. 1702. (Boston Public Library, Defoe 21.E87.1702A)

Two questions are involved — the original date of publication and the dates of the reissues. Both of these can be answered by investigating the history of Thomas Cockerill's business.

Several different dates of original publications have been suggested by Defoe's biographers. One group has followed George Chalmers in dating the original publication January 1696/7; the other, William Lee, who claimed that the Essay, though dated 1697, was not published until 29 March 1698.[2] A check of available material, that is, contemporary newspapers


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and catalogues, fails to reveal the source of Lee's dating, and he nowhere indicates how he arrived at it. On the other hand, existing evidence in the London Gazette and Term Catalogues supports the January 1696/7 dating; and an analysis of Thomas Cockerill's shifts of establishment not only confirms the earlier date but also indicates in what sequence the issues appeared.

An Essay upon Projects was first advertised in the London Gazette (#3256) for 25 January 1696/7 as follows:

An Essay upon Projects. Printed for Thomas Cockerill at the Three Legs in the Poultry; and to be sold also by Mr. Hensman in Westminster Hall, and Mr. Goodwin in Fleet Street.

It was advertised again in the Hilary Term Catalogue (III, 8) for 1697 as:

16. An Essay upon Projects: viz. of Banks, of Highways, of Friendly Societies, A Proposal for a Pension Office, of wagering, of Academies, of a Court Merchant, and of Seamen. Octavo.

17. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Both printed for T. Cockerill, at the corner of Warwick lane, in Paternoster row.

These are the only notices until Trinity Term 1700, when the following entry appeared in the Term Catalogue (III, 200):

9. Several Essays relating to Academies, Banks, Bankrupts, Charity-Lotteries, Courts of Enquiries, Court Merchant, Friendly Societies, High-ways, Penjean-Office, Seamen, Wagering, etc.; now communicated to the World for publick Good. Octavo. Printed for T. Cockerill at the Three Leggs in the Poultrey. Price 3s.

Clearly, the Essay was in press before Cockerill moved from the Poultry around February 1696/7. Furthermore, it seems safe to assume that the latter two advertisements reflect subsequent moves.

The history of Cockerill's business in Plomer's Dictionary does not record the Warwick Lane address but merely notes that Cockerill began at the Atlas in Cornhill and then moved to the Three Legs in the Poultry, where he spent the best part of his life.[3] This brief summary can be supplemented by appeal to the Term Catalogues, in which Cockerill's first advertisement appears in Trinity Term 1674 (I, 176) at the sign of the Atlas in Cornhill. The last time this sign was used was Trinity Term 1677 (I, 283), for in the Hilary Term 1677/8 he was advertising "at the Three Leggs in the Poultry" (I, 304). Cockerill continued at this address for the next eighteen years; his final listing in the Term Catalogues for the "Three Leggs in the Poultrey" was Trinity Term 1696 (II, 584). Sometime between this date and Hilary Term 1696/7, when he appeared "at the corner of Warwick lane, Paternoster row" (III, 3), Cockerill moved his


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place of business. For the short time that Cockerill remained at the Warwick Lane address, H. Walwyn took over the Three Legs sign; but when Cockerill moved back to the Poultry — as he did, according to an advertisement in the London Gazette (#3492) 4 May 1699, which lists him as "Thomas Cockerill, who is removed from Amen-Corner to the Three Legs over-against Grocers-hall in the Poultry," and from entries in the Term Catalogues beginning with Easter Term 1699 (III, 123, 127 ff.) — he shared the Three Legs sign with Walwyn for a short time, and then probably to avoid confusion he changed it to "the Three Legs and Bible in the Poultry" (III, 148 ff.). From Michaelmas Term 1700 until his last entry in the Term Catalogues, Hilary Term 1702, he consistently advertised at this sign (III, 211-289).

Cockerill's moves from the Poultry to Warwick Lane, and back, clearly provide grounds for determining the correct date of original publication, since both of the earliest title pages (according to address and sign listing in the Term Catalogues) bear the 1697 date. Moreover, the Essay was twice advertised in 1697 — once in the Gazette 25 January 1696/7 and again in the Hilary Term Catalogue for 1696/7. Although books inserted in the latter were sometimes not actually published at the date of entry (I, xi), an advertisement in the Gazette for a book that could not be offered for sale until a year later would have been unusual, to say the least. This is the situation encountered if Lee's publication of 29 March 1698 is accepted.

Another argument for discarding the later date is that both 1697 variant title pages are conjugate with preliminaries,[4] a stop-press alteration of the last three lines, which contain Cockerill's address, being the only discrepancy between the Three Legs title page and the Warwick Lane. Since the usual procedure was to print the title page and preliminaries after the entire book had been printed, and since Cockerill was advertising at his new address as early as February 1697, the sheets were undoubtedly ready for sale when the book was advertised in the 25 January 1696/7 Gazette. No evidence has come to light for dating publication in 1698 and much to indicate at least the strong probability that the Essay was published about January 1696/7, when it was first advertised. Unless evidence to the contrary is presented, Lee's dating must be rejected.

One important fact emerging from this study is that the 1697 Warwick Lane title page can no longer be listed as if it alone were the Essay's first issue.[5] Both 1697 title pages being conjugates, they must be described as


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variant states of the first edition's first issue. The sequence of these two states cannot be conclusively determined, since no bibliographical evidence exists to indicate their chronology. However, whether Cockerill, anticipating his move, ordered the printer to run off a certain number of copies representing both his old and new address; or whether, deciding to move in the midst of the Essay's printing, he ordered the printer to make a stoppress correction of address, it seems more than likely, in either case, that the Three Legs title page would have been first off the press, and hence represents the earliest state of the first issue.

Although only one edition of An Essay upon Projects appeared in Defoe's lifetime, there were several subsequent issues of the original sheets with canceled title pages. Moore attempts to account for the 1697 title page bearing the "Three Legs in the Poultrey" address by suggesting that, when Cockerill moved from Warwick Lane to the Poultry in May 1699, "he substituted a new title page to indicate his change of address, but he retained the original title and even the original date of publication."[6] This explanation is clearly erroneous, since the Essay was first advertised at the Three Legs sign, and since, as was noted above, when Cockerill moved back to the Poultry in 1699, he advertised the Essay in the Term Catalogue (III, 200) under a new title and new date (the 1700 title page listed above).

In 1702, the same year that Cockerill disappeared from the London publishing scene, the original sheets were again reissued, with four different title pages, two bearing the imprint of "Thomas Ballard, at the Rising Sun in Little Britain," and two, the imprint "the Booksellers of London and Westminster." Moore theorizes that the unsold sheets were disposed of to Ballard in 1702, and that "later in the same year Defoe reclaimed the unsold sheets and reissued them (with Ballard's title and date) as a private speculation." Moore refers to the fact that in 1703 Defoe issued his True Collection, which bore a similar statement: "London: Printed, and are to be sold by most Booksellers in London and Westminster."[7]

Moore's theory may be valid, but it remains to be proved; several other possibilities exist. One is that Defoe reclaimed the sheets when Cockerill died — sometime early in 1702 —[8] and issued them with two slightly different


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title pages; but that when he was forced to hide from the Government in 1703 because of his Shortest Way, Ballard, a young bookseller hoping to capitalize on Defoe's notoriety,[9] purchased the sheets and revised the title pages to show his imprint. As early as January 1703, in The History of the Works of the Learned (London, 1703), V, 63 — an issue that also contained two pamphlets derogating The Shortest Way — Ballard was advertising "Daniel de Fooe's Essays on several subjects . . . ." under the list of "Books Publish'd this Month and not Abrig'd." Somehow, it seems more reasonable to assume that Defoe would have reclaimed the unsold sheets initially, but that finding himself in trouble, he would have disposed of them as quickly and as best he could.

An examination of the four title pages reveals that all were printed from substantially the same type setting. The two Booksellers title pages, however, share certain characteristics (in rule enclosures and slight shifts of type line) which distinguish them from the two Ballard title pages. Furthermore, these slight discrepancies suggest that one set was printed, after an indeterminate time lapse, from the standing type of the other. The Ballard title pages are identical except for the partial resetting of line three, one reading "Subjects," the other, "Projects"; the Booksellers are identical but for the partial resetting of several lines of type.[10] The reading "bad Debs," which occurs in both variants of the 1702 Booksellers title pages, was quite possibly corrected to the "bad Debts" in Ballard's, if one supposes, as I have, that Ballard was the last to handle the sheets.

As in so many of the episodes that involve Defoe, the story behind the issues of An Essay upon Projects may never be fully known. Hopefully, by establishing the sequence and dating of the issues of Defoe's first book, this paper will help illuminate one of the more shadowy figures in English literary history.



Notes & Queries, CC (March, 1955), 109-110. In A Checklist of the Writings of Daniel Defoe (1960), p. 7, Moore mentions the possibility of at least seven issues, but he does not elaborate.


The Life of Daniel Defoe (1841), p. 12, and Daniel Defoe: His Life and Recently Discovered Writings (1869), I, 38. Those in the Chalmers' camp are Wilson, Hazlitt, Wright, Trent, Jacob, and Moore; those in Lee's, Dottin and Sutherland.


Henry Plomer, A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers Who Were at Work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1668 to 1725, ed. Arundell Esdaile (1922), p. 76.


Of the three 1697 Three Legs copies examined, two have obviously conjugate title pages — the copy in the Kress Collection, Baker Library, Harvard University, and Boston Public Library's Defoe 21.E87. 1697A; and one looks conjugate but the binding is too neat and sturdy for positive evaluation — Yale University's Ik.D362. 697i. Of the three 1697 Warwick Lane copies, only Yale NZ.Z697de can be positively identified as conjugate. Both BPL G4079.22 and BPL Defoe 27.67 title pages are parts of rebound or altered copies.


J. W. Ball, "A Commentary on Daniel Defoe's An Essay upon Projects" (Unpub. Diss. Cincinnati, 1947), p. 6, basing his findings on the Term Catalogues, asserts that the 1697 Three Legs in the Poultry address probably predated the 1697 Warwick Lane. However, he seems not to have known about the other issues or to have seen the 25 January 1696/7 Gazette advertisement.


N & Q, CC (March, 1955), 110.




John Dunton, Life and Errors (1705), p. 290, mentions that Mr. Nathaniel Taylor preached Cockerill's funeral sermon. Since, according to John Shower, A Funeral Sermon Occasion'd by the Sudden Death of the Reverend Mr. Nathanael Taylor (1702), p. 32, Mr. Taylor's last discourse in his church was 21 April 1702, Cockerill must have died in the early spring of 1702.


By late 1702 Ballard had been in business for only four years, but Dunton, Life and Errors, p. 300, notes that Ballard is "a young Bookseller, in Little-Britain, but is grown Man in Body now, but more in Mind."


Specifically, "Projects" has been changed to "Subjects" (l. 3); the semicolon separating "Usefulness" and "of" (l. 16) has been deleted and the line justified to remove the resulting gap; and a semi-colon has been inserted in place of the type space between "Poor" and "of" (l. 14).