- The Pleasures of Bibliophily: Fifty Years of the Book Collector, an Anthology
Here is another handsome volume produced by a team of publishers that, over the past few years, has become exceptionally influential in the discipline known as the history of the book, a discipline that might be better termed the history of communication via the medium of the book. The Book Collector is a periodical known to everyone with even the slightest interest in books, readership, and other fields, in short, in bibliology taken in the widest sense of the word.
The Book Collector emerged from the collapse of Book Handbook or, rather, the collapse of its publisher, the Dropmore Press. A. S. G. Edwards provides a brief history, including an overview of the different editors, in the "foreword" as he stresses the bibliophilic nature of the Book Collector. In the opinion of this reviewer, "bibliophily" is too limiting a word, as is indeed the title of the periodical itself, so wide-ranging is its scope. The initial essay, Nicolas Barker's "The Book Collector: Thoughts on Scoring a Century," expands what Edwards writes in the author's own special, personal, and affable way.
This volume celebrates fifty years of the publication of a journal that has become a leader in its field, so ably directed by Nicolas Barker during the larger portion of its existence, valued for the variety, depth, and excellence of its articles. The major difficulty faced by the editor was how to choose from among so many fine studies the ones that would make up this celebratory volume. Excellence and variety served as inspiration, and fine articles by the top scholars in the fields abound, including Graham Pollard, David Foxon, John Carter, Thomas Tanselle, and David McKitterick, to mention but a few. Aside from the liminary material, the contents of this book have been published before, but the readers of Libraries & Culture will welcome this collectanea, which brings together contributions that are familiar to us all. The addition of an index would have made the volume more useful and helped it to stand on its own from a scholarly point of view, but most will not miss that as they renew acquaintance with studies read sometimes many years ago and discover new ones that they might have missed.
I particularly enjoyed rereading David Foxon's "John Cleland and the Publication of the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure," a novel I recently taught in an undergraduate class. Foxon's scholarship is impeccable as he marries bibliological analysis with textual investigation. He does, however, neglect to mention one small detail that might amuse the general reader. Foxon mentions that, under questioning by the police, Ralph Griffiths, the famous editor of the Monthly Review, confessed to the law clerk in the secretary of state's bureau that he had recommended his brother Fenton publish Cleland's pornographic fantasy. (The novel—frequently known as Fanny Hill—was passed off as being published by G. Fenton, a sort of double subterfuge.) Foxon further notes that "one is entitled to wonder whether Ralph Griffiths was as detached an observer as he makes out. Fenton Griffiths does not seem to have been found by the authorities at the time, or by anyone since" (67); that is, he did not exist. That statement, written in the early 1960s, holds true today. A search of the English Short-Title Catalog (ESTC) for Fenton Griffiths brings up four records, all for editions of Fanny Hill. Two editions are laid at the feet of "Fenton" and two at Ralph's, with notes obviously derived from Foxon's article (unacknowledged). R. Griffiths's name appears in the imprint of an abridged version, no date but 1750 (74). Like all eighteenth-century editions of the book in English, it is very rare. (Two locations are provided by the ESTC: the British Library and Harvard-Houghton.)
Aside from some remarkable archival material...