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Ephemeral Publishing 1792-96
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Ephemeral Publishing 1792-96

Richard Edwards of New Bond Street had a hand in—or at least an imprint on the titlepage of[11] —at least thirty-seven publications from 1792 through 1798:

  • Richard Edwards's Publications in Chronological Order
  • 1792
  • 1. Anon., History of the Reign of George the Third 2. Anon., Review of . . . the Parliament of 1784 3. Anon. (Plain Man), Ten Minutes' Caution 4. [William Cooke] Memoris of Hildebrand Freeman 5. [C. E. De Coetlogon] Hints to the People of England 6. [C. E. De Coetlogon] The Nature . . . of Human Reason; also 2nd Edition 7. C. E. De Coetlogon, The Peculiar Advantages of the English Nation 8. Magazin des Savans, I (Jan-May) 9. [Francis Wrangham] Reform: A Farce
  • 1793
  • 10. Anon., A Brief Review of Parliamentary Reformation 11. Anon., Opinions . . . for the Support of Government 12. Anon. (Philo-Patriae), A Letter to a Friend Concerning the Effects of the French Revolution on the People of England 13. L. C. Bigot de Saint-Croix, Histoire de la Conspiration du 10 Aout 1792 14. [E. D. Clarke] A Tour through the South of England 15. ?C. E. De De Coetlogon, A Concise Sketch of the Life and Character of Moses 16. ?C. E. De Coetlogon, Essay on the Nature of True Virtue 17. C. E. De Coetlogon, The Patriot King, and Patriot People 18. [C. E. Coetlogon] Reflections . . . on the Murder of Louis the Sixteenth 19. C. E. De Coetlogon, Ten Sermons 20. Mrs Thomasen Head, The Pious Mother
  • 1794
  • 21. D. Alexander, Treatise on the Croup; also 2nd Edition 22. J. R. Brissot, To his Constituents [Tr Wm Burke, perhaps assisted by his cousin Edmund]
  • 1795
  • 23. Anon., A Collection of . . . Tracts . . . from the Sommers-Collection 24. Anon., Lodowick, 6 vols. 25. [Archibald Cochrane] Earl of Dundonald, A Treatise . . . [on] Agriculture and Chemistry
  • 1796
  • 26. Anon., An Address to both Houses of Parliament, 2nd Edition 27. William Cooke, Conversation: A Didactic Poem 28. [J. Merigot] Views and Ruins in Rome, 2 vols. (1796-98) 29. Joseph Strutt, The Dress and Habits of the People of England, Vol. I 30. [Charles Symmons] Inez, a Tragedy 31. John Vancouver, An Enquiry into . . . Poverty 32. Edward Young, Night Thoughts prospectus
  • 1797
  • 33. [J. Merigot] Views and Ruins in Rome (1796-98) 34. Edward Young, Night Thoughts
  • 1798
  • 35. [J. Merigot] Views and Ruins in Rome (1796-98) 36. A New and General Biographical


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    Dictionary, 15 vols. 37. George Vancouver, A Voyage . . . to the North Pacific Ocean, 3 vols.

For a few of these works, Richard Edwards was merely the co-publisher of a book probably initiated by his prosperous elder brother James (No. 28-29, 34), and in later years he joined a few congeries independent of his brother (No. 24, 36). However, for most of them Richard Edwards acted a remarkably independent rôle: For nine of them he is the only publisher (No. 3-4, 6, 12-13, 22, 25-26), for fourteen more the titlepage says the work was Printed for R. Edwards (No. 2, 5, 7-11, 14, 18, 23, 30-32), and in three more (No. 17, 20, 28), Richard Edwards's name is listed first in a congery, in defiance of the apparent convention that booksellers were named in chronological order of their membership in the City companies. For most of these works, the chief commercial initiative and risk was probably that of Richard Edwards.

This is not to say, of course, that most of these works are of independent or significant importance. An unusually high proportion (fifteen of thirty-seven) appeared anonymously. Seven of Richard Edwards's publications (No. 1, 4, 15-17, 19, 27) are so fugitive that no copy appears to have survived in The British Library, Bodley, the hundreds of North American collections covered by The National Union Catalog, The Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue, or anywhere else I have looked. At first, 1792-93, the works he initiated were very modest in size (only five are over one hundred pages) and in price (averaging 2s 3d), and the highest price of a work for which Richard Edwards bore the prime responsibility was £1.5.0, or £1.1.0 for the first part (the only part printed) of Young's Night Thoughts (1797), one of the last works he issued.

Perhaps his first act in the publishing business was to establish his own journal, the Magazin des Savans: or Literary Miscellany, in part to puff his own publications. A proposal was evidently issued in the late Autumn of 1791, to which a correspondent replied on Christmas day in a letter published in the January 1792 number. This first number was probably accompanied by the engraved titlepage indicating that it was "Printed for R. Edwards N.142. New Bond Str.t & Halifax Yorkshe & J. Parsons Paternoster-Row".[12] The editor gave his name as James Merlin, but this may be a pseudonym, perhaps for Richard Edwards.

The editor of the Magazin des Savans had a strong biographical bent and sponsored, if he did not write, the accounts of Dr John Brown, the Duchess of York, the Duke of Argyll, the Earl of Bute, and the King of Sweden. The author of biographical anecdotes of the Duke of Argyll was so "violently indisposed" [in April 1792] that he could not continue the biography in the May number, and this indisposition may have given the restive co-publishers an opportunity to reorganize their somewhat infirm journal. In the June issue there was an abrupt change of publisher and, apparently, of editor. A letter to Literary Correspondents in the June issue announced great improvements in the manner of arrangement and variety of matter, several


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series were abruptly discontinued, the title was altered on the typeset titlepage (probably issued with the June number) to Monthly Register of Literature, or Magazin des Savans, and in Vol. II-III (July 1792-Feb 1793) the Magazin des Savans title was dropped entirely. Coincident with these changes, Richard Edwards, whose name appeared on the engraved titlepage and in the imprint for May 1792, disappeared from the imprint for June 1792 and thereafter, being replaced by J. Owen as publisher in Piccadilly opposite Bond Street. The coincidence of change of style (?and editor) and change of publisher suggests that Richard Edwards was at least closely associated with the editor of the Magazin des Savans, if he was not himself the editor, as well as the publisher, and that the putsch which removed him (or his protégé) as editor drove him from among the publishers as well.

The Magazin des Savans was neither very enterprizing nor very interesting as a journal. From the dedication to Her Royal Highness the Princess Frederica-Charlotta-Ulrica-Carolina, Duchess of York and Albany, Princess Royal of Prussia, &c.&c.&c. to its anecdotal biographies of monarchs and noblemen, it had decidedly aristocratic tendencies. It clearly proposed to teach and inform through its monthly moral essays ("on Moral Honesty", "On Gaming", "on Natural and Political Liberty", "on Pride"), its sections on Antiquities and on Arts and Sciences, and in its historical extracts from foreign and domestic publications, and to delight with anecdotes, engravings, and poetry. One of its poetical correspondents was "W. B.", whom one would like to think was William Blake, then working for Richard's brother James on engravings for Stedman's Surinam, though no verse by him was printed in the Magazin des Savans. The journal's sentiments were benevolent rather than political, as in the constitution proposed for the African colony of Bulam, later published in Wadstrom's generous Essay on Colonization, Part II ([?J. Edwards], 1795). The closest approaches to politics in these first four numbers are in the account of the trial of a Gordon rioter (1780) and a speech by Fox (two pages) balanced by Burke's reply (nine pages). The works seem derivative even by the standards of magazines, with sections in the first four numbers copied from Barrett's History of Bristol, Coxe's Travels, Col. Humphry's life of Putnam, speeches of Burke and Fox, the New York Daily Advertiser, The Times, and the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy (to name only those which are identified explicitly). Despite the French title, which might have alarmed anti-Jacobins, the only explicitly Gallic subject is the two-page list of "New Books just Imported" from France which appears in the last number bearing Richard Edwards's imprint.

It was probably not a very profitable journal, as its brief life and departing publishers may suggest, and today it is very uncommon, no complete run of it having been located.

The first part (24 pp.) of the anonymous History of the Reign of George the Third was published by Richard Edwards and John Parsons with the April number of their Magazin des Savans. Richard Edwards may have been the author of the History, for the publication of the book ceased in April


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1792, after 24 pages, when Edwards lost control of its vehicle of publication.

Almost all Richard Edwards's publications advertise their Church and King fervour. In his most prolific years, 1792 and 1793, when he published nineteen works, Richard Edwards gave no author on the titlepages of eleven of them, and eight were by the vocal royalist Charles Edward De Coetlogon. It seems at least possible that one or more of the anonymous works is by Richard Edwards. Among the works which he initiated or was a prime mover in, only Merigot's Views and Ruins in Rome (1796-98) and Young's Night Thoughts (1797) are works worthy of much remark.

A few details about Richard Edwards may be gleaned from these works. He was probably a private friend of his chief author, Charles Edward De Coetlogon, and he seems to have been one ("R. E.") of the "small circle of [five] friends" who signed the dedication to De Coetlogon's Human Reason (1792), along with Charles De Coetlogon himself ("C. D."). He was evidently the editor or author of several of his own publications, such as the Magazin des Savans (Jan-May 1792), History of the Reign of George the Third (1792), Tracts . . . from the Sommers-Collection (1795), Merigot's Rome (1796-98), and Young's Night Thoughts (1797), and he probably entered into his publications in this respect more extensively than any other member of his family. He was evidently on friendly terms with others of his authors besides De Coetlogon, and Vancouver wrote the Advertisement to his Enquiry into . . . Poverty (1796) in his shop. Young E. D. Clarke was in such a hurry to publish his Tour (1793) that he did not read the proofs for it—presumably Richard Edwards did so for him.

Richard Edwards doubtless had his share of difficulties with his authors and books. De Coetlogon "hoped the Booksellers will wa[i]ve their usual profits" in sales of his Patriot King (1793) for the benefit of the exiled French clergy, and most copies of Clarke's Tour (1793) were "destroyed or lost", evidently at the instigation of their embarrassed author.

Most of these works are, of course, remarkably fugitive. Doubtless they were of sufficient interest to contemporaries to return the publisher's investment on most of them but scarcely justifying another edition or the attention of posterity. A few of Richard Edwards's publications were in the public domain, such as Mrs Head, The Pious Mother (1650, 1793), Tracts . . . from the Sommers-Collection (1795), Strutt, Dress . . . of England, I (1796), and Young's Night Thoughts (1742, 1797), but most originated with Richard Edwards. Only three achieved popularity sufficiently rapidly to justify a second edition by Richard Edwards—Alexander, Croup (two editions, 1794), [De Coetlogon] Human Reason (two editions, 1792), and Anon., Address to both Houses of Parliament (2nd Edition, 1796)—but several were later reprinted by other publishers: Anon., Ten Minutes Caution (1792), Bigot de Saint Croix, Histoire de la Conspiration (1793), Cooke, Conversation (1796), Strutt, Dress, Vol. I (1796), [Symmons] Inez (1796), [Merigot] Views and Ruins in Rome (1796-98), Vancouver, Voyage (1798), and Young's Night Thoughts (1797). In the last list, the works of importance are Strutt's Dress, Merigot's Rome,


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Vancouver's Voyage, and Young's Night Thoughts, and of these Richard played an important rôle only in Merigot and Young.

It is a small list, rather narrowly focused on politics, history, and religion, but there are a few publications of a more liberal or practical interest. Richard Edwards's commercial independence as a publisher is noteworthy. He published fifteen works entirely by himself, and he called on the assistance of other publishers for only ten. Further, he never published with the same group twice.

In all, Richard Edwards had twenty-three co-publishers for the works he initiated, but with fifteen of these he was associated only once, and six of them (including Edwards of Halifax) were provincial booksellers. He appeared twice or more with only eight of them, but these were the most distinguished in the list, including Debrett (four times), James Edwards (four), Edwards of Halifax (two), Egerton (two), Rivington (four), Robinson (two), and White (three). It is striking that he only cooperated in publishing with his brother James in 1796-98, after he had finished his apprenticeship, as it were, in the second half of his publishing career, and that these are among the more respectable and non-political of his publications. Richard Edwards was not often associated with distinguished publishers, but during the latter part of his career he was in better company.

Richard Edwards had comparatively slight interest in the appearance of his volumes during most of his career. In the majority of them the typography and presswork are, at best, indifferent, and in only six of 1793-1797 is the identity of the printer even recorded: No. 13 ([John Lane] At the Minerva Press), No. 20 (J. Brook of Huddersfield), No. 22 (Sampson Low), No. 27 (J. Nichols), No. 29 (At the Philanthropic Reform), and No. 30 (R. Noble). Of these, Richard Edwards probably had little to do with the production of No. 20, 22, 27; Sampson Low is a distinctly humble practitioner of his art and mystery; and the Minerva Press was notorious for the intellectual and typographical slovenliness of its publications. Of the works for which Richard Edwards bore a prime responsibility, only Merigot's Rome (1796-98) and Young's Night Thoughts (1797) are ambitious or distinguished in appearance.

Not only were Richard Edwards's publications not elegant in appearance; most of them were not even illustrated. Only six works which he originated had plates, and most of these were negligible: Magazin des Savans, I (1792): 11 plates, mostly technical—portraits and music—rather than beautiful; Wrangham, Reform (1792): 1 plate, a learned joke; De Coetlogon, Reflections . . . on the Murder of Louis the Sixteenth (1793): a sentimental frontispiece; Clarke, Tour (1793): 11 aquatints, mostly unsigned; Merigot, Views and Ruins in Rome (1796-98): 62 handsome and ambitious aquatints; Young, Night Thoughts (1797): 43 plates designed and engraved by William Blake.

Only in the last years of his publishing career was Richard Edwards much concerned with the elegance or beauty of his publications, and it is chiefly for these that he should be remembered.