Friday, July 25, 2014

Imag(in)ing a Printing Revolution

Comedian Paul Foot finishes a stand-up riff on what the decline of the number of shire horses since the 18th-19th centuries means to us today (or doesn't), by asking for us to look at the situation from the point of view of the shire horse. One might also ask about the relation between print and the Glorious Revolution. That is, historians have shown us the important role of pamphlet, broadside, and news in the descent on England of William in 1688 and the revolutionary changes that followed. The stadholder brought along his own printing press to jump start the PR campaign. But what of the point of view of the printers themselves? For some, it was a chance to offload back catalog numbers that might have some relevance to the momentous events and ensuing political debates, however vague. Mark Goldie long ago provided us with a useful checklist of works republished and flogged: A Brief History of the Succession from 1680? - perfect (1688/89); A Treatise on Monarchy from 1643? - great, in fact, 2 editions (1689); Killing No Murder, an attack on Oliver Cromwell, from 1657? - well, why not (1689). People tune in to the news networks today in times of crisis; they turned to pamphlets for the same reasons in the seventeenth century. So a bonanza for anyone in the publishing business, yes?

Englands Chronicle (1689)
But what of those that had projects in the work that became overtaken by events? Of course there were James II's printers. But there were other printers, publishers, and engravers who must have jettisoned some projects, and sought new product for others. Publishers Benj. Crayle, N. Bodington, and G. Conyers must have been among the first to issue a post-Revolution history of England's monarchs: Englands Chronicle: Or, The Lives & Reigns of the Kings and Queens from the Time of Julius Cæsar to the Present Reign of K. William and Q. Mary (London, 1689). The work's scope is timely, right up to the meeting of the Convention of the Estates in Scotland (no mean feat for a work that begins with the giant Albion and other "conjecturals," before launching into Caesar and other Romans and the "Britains," etc.). The work is supposedly by James Heath, but since he died in 1664 and didn't publish a similar work before his death....

But the publishers ran into a bit of problem in providing "copper cuts" equally as timely. Surely the engraver had had quite a different tile in mind when he placed the previous ruler in the center of the engraving, and, indeed, between pillars and garlands? The publishers amended the omission of any image of William and Mary (other than William I and II, and Mary I), by inserting a frontispiece of the current rules for the 1691 edition, which took the story down to the Battle of the Boyne and beyond. Are there other similar refashionings? (By the way, don't those rows of monarchs look like the old children's game "Guess Who?" - gender imbalance and all?)

Another imaging problem I wonder about comes from the school room. E. Cole, The Young Schollar’s Best Companion: Or, An Exact Guide or Directory for Children and Youth was issued in 1690. Its jaunty comparisons between "popery and paganism" and lists of the martyrs of  "popish tyranny" would have been unwelcome in the previous reign. What interests me is school room on the frontispiece surmounted by portraits of William and Mary. When I was young, classrooms usually had portraits of the current American president. Would similar ones of current monarch have been likely in early modern England? And, if so, who held the rights to issue those?

Reference: Goldie, “The Revolution of 1689 and the Structure of Political Argument,” Bulletin of Research in the Humanities 83 (1980): 473–562.

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earlymodernengland by Newton Key.

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