British Fiction, 1800–1829: A Database of Production and Reception
Phase II Report (Feb–Nov 2000) and Circulating-Library Checklist
The second stage of our Database of Fiction 1800-29 project is focused towards the acquisition of contemporary materials which will provide a more comprehensive context for the primary bibliographical data already available. Since her appointment as Research Associate to the project in February 2000, Dr Jacqueline Belanger has been directing her research towards two significant aspects of the early nineteenth-century fiction marketplace: circulating-library catalogues and periodical reviews. At the moment, we are transferring and refining this material into electronic format before processing it in the database at a future time, when a fuller range of these materials has been gathered.
I. Circulating-Library Catalogues
As an initial exercise in the current phase of the project, information from the catalogues of major circulating libraries has now been processed into electronic form. The project has now recorded data from the following library catalogues: Samuel Bettison’s Library (Cheltenham), Robert Kinnear’s Circulating Library (Edinburgh), A. K. Newman’s Library (London), and the Manchester Subscription Library. Approximately 1,750 titles-around 77% of novels from the period 1800-29-are listed in the circulating library catalogues analysed thus far. These four particular catalogues were chosen not only for their comprehensiveness, but also in order to provide an overview of different regional patterns and full coverage of the period 1800-29.
Newman’s Circulating Library (London), covering the years 1800-16, comprises one of the most extensive library catalogues during the early part of the nineteenth century. 1,137 titles in Newman’s circulating-library catalogue have been processed and are ready for entering into the database at a future time. This figure represents 91.5% of all new novels for 1800-16, a figure that surpasses the Corvey Library in its inclusiveness.
For this period, Newman’s library holds all of those titles published by the Minerva Press, which themselves represent 26% of total fiction held in the catalogue. Of the other principal publishers from this period, Longmans (8.5%) and J. F. Hughes (9%) comprise major components in the collection—in both cases, Newman’s Circulating Library holds nearly all the titles brought out by Longmans and Hughes.
This is one of the most extensive circulating library catalogues for this period, and as such represents a major step in the continuing development of the database, as researchers will be able to see, for example, what novels were held in Newman’s library, what proportion of novels published by other publishers were held in the library, title variations, and possibly if multiple copies of a particular work were held, thus pointing to the popularity of a given title.
Kinnear’s Library (Edinburgh) was based in the New Town area the city and extends from 1800 to 1825, thus providing information on what novels were being read by fashionable Edinburgh readers during the first quarter of the century. A total of 1,060 fiction titles are held in the Kinnear Library for 1800-25, nearly 55% of all such works published during the period. For the period covered by the main Kinnear catalogue to 1808, 441 titles are held (nearly 64%) compared with 630 for Newman (91%).
In the appendix and addenda to Kinnear’s main catalogue, often where the author’s name is given on the title page, the catalogue uses the format of ‘by the author of.’ rather than providing the author’s name. This perhaps indicates that this is a title-driven catalogue, one that attempts to interest readers in a particular novel on the strength of the success of earlier titles. In some cases, the ‘by the author of.’ information is not actually on the title page (as given in the bibliography), thus indicating that this information must have been supplied by the compiler of the catalogue or by the title pages of later editions. In the manuscript entries, no author names are provided.
While Newman was still drawing from pre-1800 titles in the appendices to the main catalogue-thus indicating that a general, comprehensive library was being built up-Kinnear appendices indicate that only new, contemporary titles were being acquired. The sole exception to this is Vaughan’s Fashionable Follies (1781)-it is possible that this is a new edition or a reissue.
Bettison’s Circulating Library (Cheltenham) was located in the fashionable spa resort of Cheltenham, and its catalogue extends to 1831. So far, data has only been entered from the ‘Additions’ catalogue which was already held in the Centre, although a recent trip to Cheltenham has enabled us to acquire a copy of the main catalogue itself. There are a total of 995 titles held in Bettison’s circulating library for the period 1800-29. This represents approximately 44% of known novels for this period. (Compare with Newman’s Circulating Library in London, containing 1,137 titles for 1800-16 and with Kinnear’s Library in Edinburgh, comprising 1,060 titles for 1800-25).
Unlike Kinnear, Bettison did take pre-1800 fiction, although the focus of acquisition was still very much on contemporary titles. When the collection is analysed in terms of decades, it becomes obvious how heavily weighted the library was in favour of newer titles: for 1800-9, only 46 novels are listed in Bettison’s ‘Additions’ (approx. 6% of all titles); for 1810-19, 174 titles are held (26%); however, for 1820-9, 410 novels are held (almost 50%), indicative of a dramatic rise in acquisitions.
Bettison’s library also contained a large number of travel narratives (based on a cursory overview, the second-largest category of titles after fiction), as well as histories, poetry, memoirs, moral and religious tracts, reference works, and periodicals such as the American Museum, or Universal Magazine; Asiatic Journal, and Monthly Register for British India and Its Dependencies; Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine; the New Monthly Magazine; and the Sporting Magazine, or Monthly Calendar.
Manchester Subscription Library consists of two catalogues: one catalogue for 1818 (identified as MANS in short title list), which lists 138 novels for 1800-18. Indications of popularity of novels given in notations that two sets of certain novels are held (such as D’Arblay’s Wanderer, Surr’s Winter in London, Scott’s Tales of My Landlord, The Antiquary, Guy Mannering).
The Catalogue for 1831 (identified as MANS1 in short title list) lists 267 new novel titles. Most of the earlier novels from the 1818 catalogue are retained in the 1831 catalogue, and most of the new titles given in the 1831 catalogue are post-1820 publications, although there are some pre-1820 titles listed as well that were not listed in the 1818 catalogue. For the 1831 catalogue, 19 titles are listed as having two sets in the library, again indicating popularity. Of these instances where two copies are held, most are by Walter Scott.
The total number of novels from the period 1800-29 in Manchester Subscription Library is 405 (18%). There are 72 titles held in the Manchester Subscription Library that are not held in any other library examined so far (Newman, Bettison, Kinnear). 66 of these are in the 1831 catalogue-this is not necessarily an indication that the Manchester Subscription Library is taking more obscure or unpopular titles than the other libraries, but that the other libraries do not have have as great a concentration of 1820s titles as the 1831 Manchester catalogue.
The project has therefore gathered and processed information covering libraries from London, Scotland, a fashionable resort, and an industrial town, and the data from these catalogues covers the entire span of novels produced from 1800 to 1829. The completion of such research represents a significant step in the continuing development of the database, as researchers will be able to see e.g. which novels were held in Newman’s library, what proportion of novels published by other concerns were held in this library, title variations, and possibly if multiple copies of a particularly work were held, thus pointing to the popularity of a given title. It will also now be possible to compare the holdings of different libraries in order to examine any regional differences: e.g. if Kinnear’s library displays a preference for Scottish fiction and/or publishers. Some initial conclusions about the popularity of specific titles may also begin to be drawn from such a resource.
The next step will be the input and analysis of matter from the catalogues of library societies (to complement the commercial circulating libraries detailed above) and Mechanics’ Institutes, already begun with the Manchester Subscription Library. Preparation has begun on acquiring catalogues from circulating libraries in provincial towns such as Norwich and Canterbury, as well as catalogues from libraries in Irish towns and cities, such as Belfast, Cork, and Dublin (currently the Tyrell Circulating-Library (Dublin) catalogue is being processed).
II. Collection of Periodical Reviews
Reviews and notices for the entire period 1800-29 have now been acquired from the Anti-Jacobin Review, British Critic, British Review, and Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, as well as from smaller periodicals such as the Belfast Monthly Magazine. Similar material from the Critical Review is currently in the process of being collected. Thus far, in excess 1,000 book reviews have been collected, stored, and catalogued for the database project, both as a matter of policy and through copies held by various members of the Centre. Where the review or notice is relatively brief, the entirety of the review/notice will be processed; if longer, apposite extracts and summaries of the tenor of the article will be entered. It is anticipated that within the next months, complete runs of the Annual Register, Christian Observer, Edinburgh Review, Literary Gazette, and Quarterly Review will have been examined for the relevant reviews and notices, thereby creating one of the largest sources of review information on novels of this period.
III. Collection of Anecdotal–Intertextual Material
To complement our acquisition of contemporary responses to new fiction from 1800-29 in the form of periodical reviews, we are also collecting as much anecdotal and intertextual comments on novels from a variety of sources. Professor Peter Garside is responsible for the gathering of this data, and so far material from writers such as Austen, Burney, and Byron, as well as mention of other works in novels of the period has been collected.
IV. Publishers’ Records: Longman Archives
Preliminary examination of Longmans’ Impression Books-acquired early in 2000 by the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research-has enabled a close analysis of print runs of various editions, author payments, etc., which has just been completed. As well as representative of respectable, middle-of-the-road fiction Longmans published approximately 8.7% of all new titles for 1800-29, making them the second most prolific publishing concern after Minerva (23%). The next stage of this branch of research will be to examine the Longmans Divide Ledgers to gather a clearer picture of the costs and profits of novel publication during the Romantic era.
View the circulating-library catalogue checklist (print-optimised).