Songs for the pocket (and the pub)

I have a soft spot for glees, a peculiarly English genre of unaccompanied part-song which developed from the madrigal in the eighteenth century.  Percy Young, in his introduction to The English Glee, notes that ‘such music was in the first instance cultivated by lay clerks and vicars choral as respite from the rigours of professional duty’, by which he means these were the songs sung by the men of cathedral choirs after evensong, in the pub.

You see published collections of this kind of music on the market, but I’d never come across this format before:

This is a copy of The Vocal Pocket Companion being a Select Collection of the most Favorite Catches, Glees and Duetts, for Two & Three Voices (London, c.1785), which consists of 52 engraved cards, each 82 × 125 mm; each song takes up one card.  It is dedicated by the editor, George Smart, to the political hostess Fanny Crewe (1748–1818).  The pieces themselves include works by earlier composers such as Thomas Brewer, William Byrd, John Hilton, Henry and William Lawes, and Henry Purcell, as well as eighteenth-century musicians, both well known (Thomas Arne, William Boyce, Maurice Greene, William Hayes, John Travers) and less so (Luffman Atterbury, Joseph Baildon (‘an excellent composer of glees and catches’, according to David Baptie in his Sketches of English Glee Composers, 1896), Michael Festing, Edmund Gregory, Henry Harrington, Charles King).

Smart brought out a follow-up set in 1789/90: The Vocal Pocket Companion, being a new Collection of the most favorite Catches Cannons Glees and Duetts for Two Three and Four Voices, but no other publisher appears to have followed his lead in issuing glees in this way.


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Moscow: an Ode


A couple of months ago, I wrote about the novelist Barbara Hofland’s response to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, Iwanowna; or, The Maid of Moscow.  I recently came across another piece of English literature inspired by the events in Russia, this time a poem by a Yorkshireman called William Margetson Heald (1767–1837), published the same year as Hofland’s novel, 1813.

by John Richardson Jackson, after  George Richmond, mezzotint, mid 19th century

William Margetson Heald

Heald was a surgeon and apothecary, who abandoned medicine for the church.  No stranger to neo-classical poetising, as a student he had published a mock-heroic account of the medical eccentricities of the doctor John Brown (The Brunoniad, 1789), but the present work shows far more ambition, aligning the siege of Moscow with the epic battles of myth and antiquity.  So it is that Napoleon, ‘the Gallic vulture’, is cast as Xerxes, and the Russians gain a noble Alexandrian gloss.

Heald 2

Heald moved in the same ecumenical circles as Patrick Brontë, and Heald’s children William and Harriet were friends with the parson’s prodigious offspring.  Indeed, William—who would succeed his father—was ‘the prototype of Cyril Hall in Shirley’ (Oxford DNB).


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Taking pictures, talking pictures

Just over a year ago, I wrote about the first photographic manual in the world, written in 1839 by the Austrian writer Karl von Frankenstein (1810–1848).  I’d love to find another copy of that book, but I shall have to content myself for the moment with this, a complete run of the first year of a journal Frankenstein edited called the Innerösterreichisches Industrie- und Gewerbs-Blatt:


As one might expect, Frankenstein advertises his book for sale in his journal, in the number for 21 August.  Later, we find advertisements for daguerreotype plates from F. Machts & Comp. in Vienna (6 November) and Franz de Crignis in Graz (4 December).

But the real interest here is an article Frankenstein published across two numbers of the journal, 29 May – 1 June, predating his little book by about three months: ‘Ueber die Darstellung der Daguerre’schen Lichtbilder durch die Cammera obscura.  (Daguerrotypie.)’.  In it, he recounts the birth of photography, discusses the chemical processes involved, and the possibilities which the invention opens up.  He ends by citing two early German photographers, in Dresden and Nuremberg, who have already achieved good results.

In the rare book world, we use the term incunabula (literally, ‘things in the cradle’) to refer to the earliest printed books (i.e. printed before 1501).  This work by Frankenstein is an incunable of photographic literature.


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1001 Afternoons in Chicago


I like this book: the first—and apparently only—edition in Russian of A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago (1922), one of the earliest books produced by the great screenwriter, Ben Hecht (1894–1964; Some like it hot, Gone with the Wind, Mutiny on the Bounty, etc.), himself the son of Russian–Jewish immigrants: ‘journalism extraordinary; journalism that invaded the realm of literature’, as Hecht’s editor at the Chicago Daily News called it.

This 1928 Gosizdat edition reproduces Herman Rosse’s wonderful black-and-white illustrations from the 1922 American original:




The endpapers, however, by P. Suvorov (who also designed the cover), appear to be original to the Russian edition:


The translator is also interesting: Pyotr Fyodorovich Okhrimenko (1888–1975).  He was a translator for the Comintern, and produced numerous translations of American literature in the 1920s and ’30s: Jack London, Mark Twain, Hemingway, Upton Sinclair, and Sherwood Anderson.  A staunch Tolstoyan, he had decided to emigrate to America after the 1905 Revolution.  But he was unable to find work, so he asked Tolstoy himself for help and was provided with a letter of recommendation to Thomas Edison, who took him on in one of his factories.  He returned to Russia in 1911.


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Up, up, and away

‘Auffahrt des Luftschiffers Blanchard zu Nürnberg’, engraving by A. W. Küthner, 1788

As I have written before, the 1780s saw a craze for all things ballooning.  Above is a coloured engraving of an ascent made by the famous French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard in Nuremberg on 12 November 1787.  As one can imagine, such ascents were exceedingly popular with the public, but there was also an element of danger involved.  A broadside I had recently illustrates this, and shows us that the local authorities were keen both to prevent accidents, and to avoid sudden price changes in foodstuffs, accommodation, stabling, etc., for what was to be a major event.


Issued exactly two weeks before the ascent itself, the broadside (362 × 434 mm) was evidently intended for public display.  It warns citizens of the closure of some city gates, and describes the one-way system which is to be introduced; coaches, carriages, and those on horseback are to use one route to and from the Judenbühl (as the city park, from which the ascent was to take place, was then called), pedestrians another.  The problem of parking is also dealt with.

Everyone must have a ticket to gain admittance to the Judenbühl itself.  Those without tickets are warned, on pain of a fine, not to cause a disturbance, either through unseemly shrieks or other disorder, damaging or climbing on trees, or spoiling the fields round about.  Security patrols have been set up, and a surgeon has been engaged to provide first aid cover.  Local traders wishing to sell food and drink on the Judenbühl must apply to the authorities for the required token.  Finally, warning shots will be fired—three shots two hours before, two shots one hour before, one shot half an hour before—before the ascent itself takes place.

The event was a great success, with over 50,000 people coming to watch, and predictably souvenirs followed, such as the engraving illustrated above.  Among the collections of the Science Museum in London is a medal struck for the occasion: ‘Gallia saepius plausit. Iam Germania Plau:’ (‘France has applauded often.  Now let Germany applaud’).


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The first English-speaking black writer to gain a European readership?

As it’s Black History Month, I thought I’d share this, the rare first edition in German of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789), a foundation text of black literature which, in its original English version, is still in print: ‘a work of enduring literary and historical value’ (Penguin Classics).


‘Equiano’s autobiography remains a classic text of an African’s experiences in the era of Atlantic slavery.  It is a book which operates on a number of levels: it is the diary of a soul, the story of an autodidact, and a personal attack on slavery and the slave trade.  It is also the foundation-stone of the subsequent genre of black writing; a personal testimony which, however mediated by his transformation into an educated Christian, remains the classic statement of African remembrance in the years of Atlantic slavery’ (Oxford DNB).

In his preface, the translator, the young philologist Georg Friedrich Benecke (1762–1844), notes the number of English editions which have been published (he has the third) and that a Dutch translation came out in 1790.  All this set me thinking: is this the first book by an English-speaking black writer to gain a European audience?


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The Grand Old Duke of York

Oh, the Grand Old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Today is National Poetry Day here in the UK.  The Grand Old Duke of York must be a poem known to pretty much everyone in the country, and recently I came to revisit the nursery rhyme when the following book came in:


It’s another poem about the Duke, published in Hull in 1828.  It’s a rousing poem on military themes, and the triumphs and tragedies of the royal family, which eulogises Prince Frederick, Duke of York (1763–1827; the second son of George III) and his public works, such as the Royal Military Asylum in Chelsea (now The Duke of York’s Royal Military School), founded by the Duke to educate the children of non-commissioned officers and soldiers.

The Duke’s immediate posthumous reputation was largely dogged by the financial troubles that beset him in life, but his conduct as commander-in-chief had considerable influence on the history of the British army.  He supported the commanders’ efforts to revive military spirit, looked after the soldiers and their comforts, and did much to eradicate political jobbery and systematic corruption in military appointments.  Nevertheless, despite these contributions, ‘the Duke is now chiefly remembered in the public mind as a man who marched his army up and down a hill and ran it as a commercial proposition’ (Oxford DNB).

As you’ll have seen from the first image, the poem is printed on yellow paper.  The book has been inscribed by the author, Thomas Eastoe Abbott (1786–1854), to the Marquis of Londonderry, with a note that only six copies were thus printed on coloured paper.  It’s also what’s known as a large paper copy, i.e. ‘one of a (usually small) number of copies printed on a larger size of sheet than the main bulk of the edition’ (Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors).  You can see the difference in size here (274 × 216 mm as opposed to 213 × 126 mm), as I also have an ordinary copy of the book:



Both are included together in my latest e-list of 20 Recent Acquisitions.


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Your future on the cards

I like things like this: a rare game of divination, published in Graz, Austria, in 1846, which shows the international legacy of Marie-Anne Lenormand, who had died three years before.


Marie-Anne Lenormand (1772–1843) was a clairvoyant, publisher, and self-publicist extraordinaire.  Orphaned at an early age, she was raised in a Benedictine convent where she first came to believe in her powers of fortune-telling.  Instead of taking orders she moved to Paris, where she began to ply her trade.  Extraordinary success followed, and at the height of her career she is said to have advised the likes of Robespierre, Talleyrand, Metternich, and the Empress Josephine herself; others argued that the whole thing was a sham, and she was frequently arrested, spending several weeks in prison.

Whatever the truth about her soothsaying abilities, Lenormand was certainly a canny publicist who promulgated notions of her own exclusivity, and maintained a physical air of exotic mysticism.  This self-fashioning impulse extended to books, and she published quite a number.  Her literary career began in around 1810, when she purchased the retail premises of the bookseller Fréchet in the rue Saint-Sulpice.  Crucial to her success was her ability to give only tantalizing hints at the specifics of her craft; the books were not instructions in the art of divination, but often scandalous and always controversial commentary on her life and times.

Lenormand was a European phenomenon.  The cards in this game depict, as well as Lenormand herself, fortune-tellers from Naples, Leipzig, Brussels, Milan, Stockholm, London, Warsaw, and Pest.  The game begins by one player, denoted ‘Zooraster’ (sic), shuffling the cards.  Each player then draws a card, lays it down, and chooses one of the questions printed on it (‘What do I wish for most?’, ‘Is my wife faithful?’, ‘’Who is my true friend?’, etc.).  Zooraster then finds the corresponding page of answers, numbered 2–12, to that question in the book.  A roll of two dice then leads to an answer to the original question.


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A novel response to Napoleon

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a piece of music written in celebration of Russia’s victory over Napoleon in 1812.  Here’s another book produced in the wake of the campaign, but this time it’s a novel.  In fact, according to Anthony Cross (The Russian Theme in English Literature, p. 23), it’s the first English novel to respond to Napoleon’s ill-fated Russian campaign.


The author was the prolific nineteenth-century writer Barbara Hofland (1770–1844), and her eclectic cast of characters and settings reminds a modern reader of the sprawling war epics of later Russian novelists.  The eponymous heroine faces the usual setbacks in love, but these are framed against an acutely conceived contemporary political backdrop; the first ‘letter’, from the spirited Iwanowna to her sister Ulrika, is dated just a month before Napoleon’s invasion, and his motives and movements are heatedly discussed in the novel.  As the conflict unfolds, Hofland’s characters provide a surprising amount of detail regarding the campaign, such as the requisition of horses by the Russian government.  The pretence for this level of military knowledge is Ulrika’s marriage to a Russian general, and Iwanowna’s suitors and adventures in that sphere.  One month before Napoleon invades Hofland’s characters anxiously ponder the likelihood of his doing so, and it is from the general’s perspective that the reader learns of the Russian victory, and that ‘Herman Platoff offers his daughter, with an immense dower’ to the soldier who captures Napoleon.  The anti-Napoleonic bias works well in the Russian setting, offering an alternative to the usual British invective.


Barbara Hofland

The novel was even dramatized: in 1816, Sadler’s Wells advertised a production entitled ‘Iwanowna, or The Maid of Moscow, which will introduce a grand panorama of Moscow in Flames’.  Quite how much of Hofland’s material was used in this play or tableau vivant is hard to determine, although her stirring account of the Fire of Moscow (14–18 September 1812), during which Napoleon entered the city and the Russian troops, and many of the populace evacuated, would certainly transfer well to the stage.


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The Adventures of Bob

Sometimes, as a bookseller, you come across a book you just can’t find anywhere.  You check the title, make sure you’re spelling it right, and still the online databases are silent.  But to find two copies of that otherwise apparently unknown book?  Well…


It took a bit of sleuthing to work out exactly what the book was, but it turned out that I had two copies (in variant bindings and with different numbers of illustrations) of the first edition in Russian of a children’s book called Klein-Rainers Weltreise (Munich, 1918), translated (as ‘The Adventures of Bob’) by the political satirist–poet Sasha Cherny (‘Alex the Black’, a pseudonym of Aleksandr Glikberg, 1880–1932) and published in Berlin in 1924.  Cherny had become a banned writer following the 1905 revolution, but his books for children remained popular.  ‘Even as an émigré in [Germany and] France, Cherny remained interested in children’s literature.  In his eyes it now had the function of a vital bond with a lost Russia; the émigré child’s feelings for Russia and the Russian language should be strengthened through good literature’ (Hellman, Fairy Tales and True Stories: the History of Russian Literature for Children, 2013, p. 243).

Hilde 2

The original German verse text and striking collage illustrations were by Lily Hildebrandt (1887–1974), a Stuttgart-based artist specialising in reverse glass painting, who wrote the book for her son, Rainer (1914–2004; later a resistance fighter in Berlin, and founder of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum).  It was her only children’s book.

The book's rather wonderful endpapers.

The book’s rather wonderful endpapers.


Posted in Cross-cultural material, Germany, Russia | 1 Comment