Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2008 Issue

Part II of 18th Century Works From Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers

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Part II of 17th and 18th century books from Jarndyce.


By Michael Stillman

Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers has issued Part II of their catalogue of Books and Pamphlets of the 17th and 18th Centuries. This one covers 18th century letters I-Z. A wide variety of works may be found here, including fiction and nonfiction, plays, political and religious polemics, and much more. Most books are British, Jarndyce being a London bookseller, but there are a few works here which will challenge your fluency in French. This is a fascinating collection with many intriguing and entertaining stories to tell. Here are a few.

This is a book that seems current again, though over two centuries old: Thoughts on the Causes and Consequences of the present high price of provisions. This 1767 second edition of Soame Jenyns' work has an explanation that may ring true to many in America these days - "...the present high price of provisions arises from...increase of our national debt, and the increase of our riches; that is, from the poverty of the public, and the wealth of private individuals..." Item 7. Priced at £120 (or US equivalent of approximately $234).

If you try hard enough, you can say something nice about almost anyone, as Edward Lewis proved in The Patriot King Displayed: in the life and reign of Henry VIII. King of England: from the time of his quarrel with the Pope, to his death. Interestingly, Henry was more or less sane until the time of his quarrel with the Pope, after which he began to slip into deep paranoia, executing just about anyone he was unhappy with, including a couple of his own wives. Nonetheless, Lewis managed to describe the maniacal ruler as "a person of great sagacity and judgment." He did so despite the book being published in 1769, with two centuries of hindsight from which to know better. Item 56. £110 (US $215).

Here's a biography of someone who could disabuse Mr. Lewis of the notion that Henry was such a nice guy: The Life of Sir Thomas More, Kt. Lord High Chancellor of England under K. Henry the Eighth...By His Great Grandson. More was both a major political figure and writer, most noted for Utopia, but he was also a strong defender of the Catholic faith, even going so far as to approve the execution of some Protestants. This was all well and good until Henry wanted to divorce his wife for Anne Boleyn. More was willing to go along with the divorce, though the Pope disapproved, but when Henry went so far as to overthrow the Church's authority in England, that was a bridge too far. More lost his power and eventually came into too much contention for Henry's taste. Henry's "great sagacity and judgment" was to cut off More's head. This biography by his great grandson was published in 1726, almost two centuries after its subject was beheaded. Item 105. £250 (US $488).

Item 173 is The Man of The World, by Charles Macklin, one of the greatest actors of the 18th century. Macklin pulled himself up from being a poor Irish immigrant to one of the most popular actors in England. This book was published in 1793 to raise money for the actor four years after he retired from the stage. Some have placed Macklin's birth as early as 1690, but more likely it was around 1700, which still would have made him 93 at the time his book was published. £50 (US $98).

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