British Fiction, 1800–1829: A Database of Production and Reception
Phase I Report
The early decades of the nineteenth century represent a period of unparalleled development in the novel. While many of the ideological battles surrounding fiction had been fought in the charged atmosphere of the 1790s, the anti-Jacobin reaction to the polemical aspects of the novel necessitated a reinterpretation of the role of the novel at the turn of the century. Writers such as Maria Edgeworth and Hannah More, and later Walter Scott and Jane Austen, did much to make this period significant. However, the era was also the time of less notable, but still prolific, writers, such as Mary Meeke, the Porter sisters, Anthony Frederick Holstein, and Barbara Hofland.
The initial aim of the database project was to create a tool to allow a broad and sophisticated level of analysis of over two thousand titles from the period 1800-29. Fields allowing analysis of gender distributions, publisher popularity, authorial status, prices, translations, etc. were created during the first phase of the database. As well as enabling the study of broad statistical data, fuller bibliographical information can also be consulted on a per-record basis. Thus, analysis can take place on two levels: the general (for spans of years, types of fiction, specific authors) and the individual (studies of individual texts, with rich information about the work concerned).
The first phase of this project has involved extrapolating basic bibliographical details of over 2,200 fictional works from the period. This led to the creation of specific fields forming part of an Access 97 database, which were divided into different types of categories:
The main fields of the database refer particularly to the bibliographical details of the titles concerned, and can be analysed in a variety of ways from a record-by-record basis to a full statistical gathering over the three-decade period.
- Author and Date: provide standardised information of authors, including variant spellings and married names, as well as the year of first publication for the title concerned
- Title: both full titles (for close examination) and short-titles (for quick consultation) are provided
- Gender follows seven categories split along two axes: i) gender type—male, female, unknown; ii) status of gender ascription for male and female—named (i.e. a gender-specific, authentic name appears on title-page), identified (gender has been ascribed through scholarship, authorial chains, etc.), implied (gender has been defined through unidentified pseudonyms, generic phrases such as ‘By the daughter of a clergyman’, ‘By an officer .’, and so on). The Broad Gender field offers a summary of the (detailed) Gender field by condensing these variations into simple Male, Female, Unknown categories for a more general analysis
- Authorial Status records whether a title was published anonymously, pseudonymously, or with the author’s name explicitly stated (nominally).
- Established Gender: unlike the Broad Gender field, this simply records texts about which modern scholarship can be absolutely sure as far as authorial gender is concerned (i.e. ‘By a Lady’ does not provide enough evidence that a woman wrote the text, and is therefore treated as Unknown). This is most useful when combined with the Authorial Status field to provide an accurate record of how many men and women we can be sure wrote were writing using their own name or not
- Subscription details list the number of subscribers and page numbers of subscription lists featured in the work concerned
- Translation details provide information on the name of the translator of a foreign work into English; whether the work is an authenticated foreign original or whether it is an ‘implied’ translation; and first located translations into French and/or German
- Additional fields give details of all known prices, reviews, library holdings, further editions, and miscellaneous textual-bibliographical notes
The Publisher fields represent detailed aspects of the text as a manufactured item in the publishing world, rather than as an authored work. It was necessary to provide a separate section for this aspect of the database because there are cases of a single title being issued by different publishers in different forms at different prices.
- Primary publisher: the main publishing partnership (i.e. those that generally appear at the beginning of the publisher’s imprint) with the fullest names of partners is provided as a field
- Concern: for the sake of standardised searches the varying partnerships which constituted ventures are also subsumed into a more generic field, allowing continuity of searches (e.g. William Lane, the Minerva Press, A. K. Newman, are all grouped under ‘Minerva’ allowing users to search all Minerva titles without worrying about the changing nature of the firm)
- Volume details include number of volumes, pagination, and format (octavo, duodecimo, etc.)
- Price details for individual volumes are taken as a subset of the all known prices field, where sources indicate a preponderance or agreement as to price (e.g. two out of three reviews agree on a price, which is then recorded in this field). Prices have been converted into decimal figures, for the sake of statistical analysis: e.g. 10s 6d is entered as 10.5, etc. In total, 83.5% of all records in the database have an ‘agreed’ price
- Secondary publishers (cases where firms have played a subsidiary role in a publishing enterprise, and appear after the first firm on the publisher’s imprint) are also recorded, so that users can see which publishers played ‘second fiddle’ more often than others (e.g. ‘A. K. Newman & Co’ was secondary publisher in only a negligible number of cases as compared to well over 500 titles where his firm was primary.
III. Analysing Data
The first phase of data entry is now complete, and the current records are closed. The flexibility of Access 97 allows information to be parsed in a number of complementary ways.
|Fig 1a. Forms allow users to view and manipulate data in a number of ways. In this example, a tabbed system is used with related fields grouped in separate pages: Main, Publication Details, Formatting/Price, Translations, and Notes.|
Forms display material on a record-by-record basis, and allow users to examine each title on an individual basis (e.g. see Figs 1a and 1b). Because forms can be designed relatively quickly, they can display full or partial details as the user requires.
Standard searches can be made in any field: for instance, users can search for keywords in titles, author names, publishers, and so forth.
Forms also allow the application of Filters, which enable users to specify criteria in fields on the form in any combination: the application will then search through all the records and only return those which follow these conditions.
For instance. a user could fill in a form to return the following details: All Female-gendered authors published by Longmans after 1810. The database would then display each individual record for analysis at whatever level of detail the form has been designed.
|Fig 1b. This second example of a form contains all the details for each record on one sheet. While not particularly suitable for viewing data, it is ideal for the actual process of data-entry itself.|
Filters can be applied on records which have already been filtered to provide an even more localised level of specificity. Filters can also be saved as queries (see below) for use later.
Queries offer a far more sophisticated degree of analysis than the simpler forms, and tend to return data on a larger scale. They can be constructed either to return information such as bibliographical details (e.g. author names, titles, publishers), or more significantly statistical information (e.g. total works by female authors; numbers of titles published within specific period; maximum, minimum, average, most frequent prices of texts, etc.). See Fig 2 for an example of a simple query design.
Queries can be constructed by selecting the relevant fields for analysis from a list, specifying conditions, and the ways in which the data should be analysed. The usual method would employ a simple query, which returns the data in list form (see Fig 3a), or one which seeks to return statistical data such as totals, percentages, etc. within specific categories (see Fig 3b).
Users can also employ Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to include and exclude different criteria: e.g. a query can be set up for all titles in the 1820s by non-male authors, published by Longmans or Colburn, with the word ‘domestic’ in the title-page).
If an even more sophisticated level of analysis is necessary than the usual query boxes, complex searches can be created using Structured Query Language (SQL), a standard way of constructing database queries. By entering an appropriately organised SQL statement, users can return detailed statistical figures with complex selection procedures, such as the percentage of women writers from the 1810s using pseudonyms, as they figured in the London and Edinburgh markets. The more simplistic example of an SQL statement below actually returns the annual totals of foreign works translated into English, and sorted by gender (‘Main Listing’ refers to the table containing the Main Fields listed in section 2):
TRANSFORM Count([Main Listing].ID) AS CountOfID
SELECT [Main Listing].Year
FROM [Main Listing]
WHERE ((([Main Listing].[Implied Translations From]) Is Not Null)) OR ((([Main Listing].[Translations From]) Is Not Null))
GROUP BY [Main Listing].Year
PIVOT [Main Listing].Gender;
|Fig 2. A simple query design, which surveys annual totals of output by gender.|
Summaries of queries can also be prepared for output—whether as printed copy or as HTML pages ready for the web. Access enables this through the use of Reports, which can be designed on a single page as simply as forms, while running for hundreds of pages once the data has been processed through the forms. A typical example of this usage in ongoing research has been the providing of checklists with Author, Year, Short-Title, and Publisher details in order to examine the output by the top five publishers of the period.
Manipulating the Results
Once the user has acquired the data needed from Access, it is a simple matter of exporting into a suitable package as requirements demand. If the material is to be further examined it can be exported (at the click of a button) as a spreadsheet into Excel 97, which is far more flexible and sophisticated than Access as far as statistical analysis is concerned. These spreadsheet data can then be used as the basis for creating graphs to illustrate trends, preponderance, etc. The graphs which feature in our Cardiff Corvey articles have been constructed using this procedure. The examples which follow also demonstrated (albeit at a rather simplistic level) the kinds of information which can be acquired from the database.
If more detailed information, with less of a statistical bent, is required, then reports can be exported as rich-text documents as simply as the transfer into Excel. These documents can then be used in any word processing package for incorporation into studies, checklists, and so on. Again reports can also be exported as HTML documents for use on the web. The checklist accompanying the report on our Corvey Microfiche Edition (CME) cataloguing project, which employs a similar system of data-keeping as our fiction database, was presented using this function.
|Fig 3a. This screen capture shows a part of a comprehensive listing of all short-titles published in the 1810s by the Minerva Press, arranged alphabetically by author.|
Query 1: This first request from the database took less than two minutes to construct and run: it requests the top ten female novelists during 1800-29 whose own names appeared on first edition title-pages. It also lists the total numbers of their works published this way.
GENLIS, Stéphanie Félicité, Comtesse de 
WARD, Catherine George 
HOFLAND, Barbara 
STANHOPE, Louisa Sydney 
HARVEY, Jane 
MEEKE, Mary 
ROCHE, Regina Maria 
OPIE, Amelia Alderson 
PORTER, Anna Maria 
MOSSE, Henrietta Rouviere 
The results are interesting because if the top ten female novelists were required, whether they published pseudonymously, anonymously, or under their own names, Anna Maria Porter and Henrietta Mosse fall into 11th and 13th places respectively, with ten titles each in total. In fact, many of the figures are rearranged, with Barbara Hofland at the top, followed by Mary Meeke.
Query 2: A user can easily request a listing of all the works of a particular author by dates of publication and publisher through another simple database query: additionally a query can list the main holding library for the source text (here the presence of first editions in the Corvey Microfiche Edition (CME) is listed with an asterisk followed by the ISBN). In this case, ‘Ann[e] of Swansea’ (i.e. Anne Julia Kemble Hatton):
CAMBRIAN PICTURES (1810. London. Kerby, Edward)
SICILIAN MYSTERIES (1812. London. Colburn, Henry) *CME 3-628-48690-4
CONVICTION (1814. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48744-7
SECRET AVENGERS (1815. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48805-2
CHRONICLES OF AN ILLUSTRIOUS HOUSE (1816. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48743-9
GONZALO DE BALDIVIA (1817. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48802-8
SECRETS IN EVERY MANSION (1818. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48806-0
CESARIO ROSALBA (1819. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48742-0
LOVERS AND FRIENDS (1821. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48804-4
GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY (1822. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48803-6
WOMAN’S A RIDDLE (1824. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48789-7
DEEDS OF THE OLDEN TIME (1826. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48797-8
UNCLE PEREGRINE’S HEIRESS (1828. London. Minerva: Newman, Anthony King; & Co) *CME 3-628-48788-9
The user could easily request far more detailed information for these titles, such as the full title as it appears on the title-page, further editions, translations, etc.
Query 3 (Fig 4): The final example shows how the database can again be used as the basis of complex and/or significant analysis of broad sweeps of data from the period. In this case, a graph of price fluctuations has been calculated, showing the minimum, maximum, and average prices per volume. A query requesting analysis of the Year field followed by the Min, Max, and Average options for an expression Price/Vol was run, imported into Excel 97, and a graph was created from this data.
Fig 4. Example Graph Extrapolated from Database
IV. Phase Two
The first phase of the database project, involving the entry of basic bibliographical data for each title, was completed early in 1999 after two years’ work. There are a few minor elements of data entered from the first phase that could be developed more appropriately for statistical analysis. For instance, our Translation and Further Editions fields at the moment are simply entered as notes: an appropriate forward move would be to split the information contained in these into separate fields, as with our Publisher category, specifying Year, Place of Publication, and Title.
The main thrust of future development, however, will be towards the individual records themselves, in terms of production and especially readership. In May 1999 a research application made by the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research to develop a second phase was rated Alpha Plus by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, resulting in the award of funding in the amount of £30,000, to support the employment of a post-doctoral Research Associate.
The aim of Phase Two will be consist of one year’s extensive data-collection, concentrating especially on library catalogues and reviews, followed by the processing of the material after collection. To this end a post for a Research Associate who would be responsible, from January 2000, in the first year for gathering pertinent information is now available (see section 5 for more details). This would involve the examination of a variety of sources for information which would then be added to the records as appropriate, in order to build on our perceptions of the presentation of and reaction to fiction of the early nineteenth century. Sources marked for examination include the following:
- Details of holdings in circulating library catalogues: the project already holds xeroxes of a substantial number belonging to the period (we have already processed those from the Newman (London), Kinnear (Edinburgh), and Bettison (Cheltenham) circulating libraries
- Subscription lists: the project has xeroxes of more than 60 lists
- Reviews: this new phase of the project will enable inclusion of material from a wider band of contemporary journals
- Newspaper announcements and advertisements
- Publishing papers: details from archives such as the Longman Papers (the microfilms of which are being purchased by the Centre) concerning print runs, copies sold, etc.
- Anecdotal information: collected from contemporary memoirs, etc.
In terms of miscellaneous additions, it is our aim to also improve the database by the possible inclusion, whenever possible, of information such as biographical details of authors, review transcripts, facsimiles from title pages, and other significant matter (e.g. illustrations), etc. As well as this, we would improve on our user interface, so that standard searches can be made by non-specialist users with as much ease as possible.
Our aims at this stage are clear and appropriately narrowed, however, and we are focused on developing the aspects of reception we have detailed above before proceeding—in the longer term—on the inclusion of further materials.