Peter Garside »

Peter Garside taught English Literature for more than thirty years at Cardiff University, where he became Director of the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research. Subsequently, he was appointed Professor of Bibliography and Textual Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He served on the Boards of the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels and the Stirling / South Carolina Collected Edition of the Works of James Hogg, and has produced three volumes apiece for each of these scholarly editions. He was one of the general editors of the bibliographical survey The English Novel 1770–1829, 2 vols (Oxford University Press, 2000), and directed the AHRB-funded online database British Fiction 1800–1829 (2004). More recently, he has co-edited English and British Fiction 1750–1820 (2015), as volume 2 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English; as well as an edition of Scott’s Shorter Poems (2020), along with Gillian Hughes, for the Edinburgh Edition of Walter Scott’s Poetry.

Gillian Hughes »

Peter Garside was Director of the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research at Cardiff University, from 1997 to 2004, and is now Visiting Professor in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He is a member of the Editorial Boards of the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels and Stirling/South Carolina Research Edition of the Collected Works of James Hogg. and the volume editor of Scott’s Guy Mannering (1999) and Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (2001). He was also one of the general editor of The English Novel, 1770–1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction Published in the British Isles (2 vols, 2000) and Project Director of British Fiction, 1800–1829: A Database of Production, Circulation & Reception (2004,

Gillian Hughes is joint general editor of the Stirling/South Carolina Research Edition of the Collected Works of James Hogg, for which she has edited Tales of the Wars of Montrose (1996), Lay Sermons (1997, with Douglas S. Mack), The Spy (2000), Altrive Tales (2003), and The Collected Letters of James Hogg: Volume 1, 1800–1819 (2004, with associate editors Douglas S. Mack, Robin MacLachlan, and Elaine Petrie). She also edits the annual journal Studies in Hogg and his World. Forthcoming publications include the two remaining volumes of Hogg’s letters and a biography. She is currently James Hogg AHRB Research Fellow at the University of Stirling.

Copyright Information

This article is copyright © 2005 Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, and is the result of the independent labour of the scholar or scholars credited with authorship.  The material contained in this document may be freely distributed, as long as the origin of information used has been properly credited in the appropriate manner (e.g. through bibliographic citation, etc.).

Referring to this Article

P. D. GARSIDE & G. HUGHES. ‘James Hogg’s Tales and Sketches and the Glasgow Number Trade’, Cardiff Corvey: Reading the Romantic Text,

14 (Summer 2005).

Online: Internet (date accessed):

James Hogg’s Tales and Sketches and the Glasgow Number Trade


Abstract Tags

In the years immediately following Hogg’s death late in 1835, the Glasgow firm of Blackie & Son brought out two collected sets of his writing, Tales and Sketches by the Ettrick Shepherd, in six volumes, which was shortly followed by The Poetical Works of the Ettrick Shepherd in five volumes. Passing through various recycled forms, the sets together provided the main record of his literary output throughout the later nineteenth century. However, the texts in these sets can differ substantially from what was originally authorised by Hogg. Furthermore, as this article will attempt to demonstrate, such changes sometimes occurred for reasons which are inextricably connected with their mode of production.

A number of apparent inconsistencies within and between different copies of the two collections have had a confusing effect in some library catalogues. In the case of what is apparently the first issue of Tales and Sketches there is a disparity between on the one hand the dates of the engraved title pages, which have 1836 in the first two volumes and 1837 in the remainder, and, on the other, the imprints on the title pages proper which are all dated 1837—some libraries consequently list the set as 1836–37 and others as 1837. Further difficulties have been caused by what is generally taken to be a subsequent issue of the same set, in which both the titles are normally undated, and which has been speculatively catalogued with a variety of dates around 1850 (such conjectures possibly being guided by the advertisement lists which are commonly found in copies). In the case of the Poetical Works the printed titles of the first issue are usually dated 1838 (volumes 1–3), 1839 (volume 4), and 1840 (volume 5), but again there are inconsistencies with the engraved titles, and the apparent ‘second’ issue is to be found in either dated or undated forms. [1]

Surviving copies of both sets which have not been rebound indicate that they first appeared in maroon cloth, [2] and this, together with a similar (18mo) format, invites comparison with the Magnum Opus edition of Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels, whose single volumes in crimson cloth-covered boards at five shillings were issued monthly starting June 1829. In fact, the relative sizes of the different collections in a complete state might be taken as a physical measure of the significance of the two writers at the onset of the Victorian period, with Hogg seemingly a pale imitator. (In Scott’s case the forty-eight volumes of the Magnum, completed in 1833, went on to combine with physically similar editions of his poetry and prose and then with J. G. Lockhart’s Memoirs, making in all nearly a hundred volumes in testimony to his work and life.) [3] Yet, in spite of his image as the naive ‘Ettrick Shepherd’, a rustic intruder on the polite literary culture of the city, Hogg was interested in and well informed about the latest developments in publishing and printing and keen to make use of them in the dissemination of his own work. Examination of the actual circumstances underlying the planning and production of the Tales and Sketches, the one set in which Hogg can be said to have played some part, has made it possible to put together a more complete picture, one which shows a Scottish author attempting to operate positively at a significant moment in publishing history. The same investigations have also helped uncover a number of hitherto unrecognised bibliographical factors about the Blackie sets.

The idea for a collection of Tales, founded on rural stories but finding circulation among a new and expanding audience, can be traced back to an early point in Hogg’s literary career, the first manifestation in several respects being his weekly serial The Spy (1810–11), which includes prototype versions of stories expanded in his later works. It is evident, for example, in his proposal to Archibald Constable in 1813, a year before the appearance of Scott’s Waverley, to publish ‘Rural and Traditionary Tales of Scotland’, under the pseudonym of ‘J. H. Craig of Douglas, Esq’: [4] an abortive scheme which later found partial expression in Winter Evening Tales (1820), his second and in terms of sales most successful single work of fiction, published from Edinburgh by Oliver & Boyd. [5] Another (unexpected) sighting appears in the Longman Letter Books, in August 1823, at the point when the project which was to become Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was being mooted, the firm offering to consider Hogg’s ‘Tales of the Scottish Peasantry’ once revisions had been made, though advising compression. [6] In fact, in some respects it might be claimed that Hogg in the early 1820s was being forced into the channel of polite conventional three-decker style fiction, when his true instincts attracted him to more diverse and broadly popular forms of story-telling in print.

Of particular interest here, indicating as it does a shift towards a new outlet, is a letter to William Blackwood of 19 March 1826: ‘I think the whole of my select Scottish tales should be published in Numbers one every month with the Magazine [i.e. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine] to be packed with it and a part of the first No sent gratis to some of your principal readers’. [7] This indicates that Hogg entertained possibilities for a popular monthly issue before the full conception of Scott’s Magnum (earlier plans for an annotated edition of Scott had envisaged expensive volumes), [8] and much at the same time as Constable’s ground-breaking Miscellany idea, the first volume of which was in print (though not published) in December 1825. [9] Hogg continued to press the idea of an extensive collection on Blackwood, with the Magnum in turn becoming the offered model, most notably in a letter of 26 May 1830: ‘There is another [i.e. plan] which I think might raise me a supply[.] It is to publish all my tales in numbers like Sir W Scott’s to re-write and sub divide them and they being all written off hand and published without either reading or correction I see I could improve them prodigiously’. [10] Blackwood nevertheless remained unmoved, even as Hogg in desperation claimed to have procured Lockhart as an editor and Scott as a patron, [11] and after the breakdown of their relationship in December 1831 Hogg turned to the alternative publishing option of London.

The result was his Altrive Tales (1832), published by James Cochrane, whom Hogg evidently had met near the start of a three-month visit to the metropolis, guided it would seem by a recommendation from the Edinburgh publisher, John Anderson. [12] Shortly before leaving for home in March, Hogg left a list outlining contents for the first seven volumes, this comprising a mixture of old, new, and revamped materials. [13] An opening leaf found in some copies of the first (and only) volume of Altrive Tales, dated 31 March 1832, announces the series as ‘Just Published, price 6s a volume, handsomely bound in cloth’, and ‘to be completed in twelve volumes, one every month, printed uniformly with the Waverley Novels’. While this last detail might again invite the idea of a Scott spin-off, it is worth bearing in mind that there were now other models for what was then an innovative attempt to break the mould in the marketing of fiction, by producing cheaper volumes for an extended audience, and in particular there are signs that Cochrane used the volumes of ‘Roscoe’s Novelist’s Library’ as a template. [14] There can be no certainty as to how the venture might have fared without Cochrane’s financial failure, which Hogg first heard about late in April shortly after his return, but in view of Hogg’s lionisation during his London visit, linking no doubt as this did with the new ‘populist’ atmosphere of Britain in the months leading up to the passing of the Reform Bill, the prognostications were surely reasonably good. Hogg was devastated by the series’ collapse, and immediately set about investigating alternative outlets, with Smith, Elder, & Co., the publishers of the annual Friendship’s Offering, being one of the earliest nominated. [15]

Nearer to home, Hogg evidently had on his list Archibald Fullarton, who was based in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and with whom Hogg had very recently contracted to provide materials for an edition of the works of Robert Burns with an original memoir. [16] Fullarton’s main trade involved the sale of books in numbers or parts, issued in paper covers, and through which customers of limited means were enabled to purchase in instalments family bibles and other standard and literary works that otherwise would have been beyond their pockets. Fullarton had previously been in partnership with John Blackie in Glasgow under a variety of arrangements, until 1831, when the stock and plant were divided into two equal portions and the agencies shared out. Hogg cannot have mistaken the nature of Fullarton’s trade—the first volume of the edition of Burns was eventually published in three parts, beginning 1 April 1834—and this factor must have been at least partly in his mind when making an awkward-seeming salvage attempt in a letter of 14 September 1832 (‘By the by will you take my Altrive Tales?’), the same letter showing a willingness to accept terms of a sixth rather than a fifth part of the retail price as author. Clearly refusal rankled: in another letter, a month later, Hogg calls Fullarton a ‘d—d fool not to proceed with the Altrive tales’. [17]

Yet it was through Fullarton, albeit by mistake, that Hogg found an unexpected solution. The rough gist of what happened is given in Agnes Blackie’s concise history of the firm, according to which a letter of Hogg’s addressed to Fullarton’s office was delivered to the house of Mr [Alexander] Martin, the Blackies agent in Edinburgh, and inadvertently opened by Martin’s wife, Martin then hastening to Hogg’s Edinburgh lodgings to apologise, and soon finding himself discussing a possible publication of Hogg’s Tales. [18] The rediscovery of Alexander Martin’s letters to his employers, in the Blackie Archive, together with the survival of Hogg’s letters to the firm during these manoeuvrings, makes it possible to trace in greater detail what kind of negotiations took place. The first of Martin’s three letters, headed 6 February 1833, in addition to outlining the circumstances of Mrs Martin’s mistake, reports Hogg as saying that he had wanted to be ‘connected’ with Blackies, but that he was ‘not fond of selling Copyrights’; and ends with Martin stating that he had suggested a meeting of parties ‘either by letter or otherwise’. Martin’s suggestion that ‘Mr J. B. Jr.’ [John Blackie, son of John Blackie the firm’s founder] might make a meeting in Edinburgh in fact comes from his following letter of 7 February, fixing this at 1 p.m. on Saturday [9 February] at 5 South College Street. [19] Perhaps unbeknown to the eager Martin, Hogg had already sent a letter on 5 February to Blackie & Son in Glasgow, offering them a much-expanded ‘Winter Evening Tales’, capable of being drawn out to twenty volumes ‘if the subscription went on successfully’. The same additionally states ‘one sixth part of the retail price’ to be his terms as author, and also floats as a suggestion that the printers be Oliver & Boyd in Edinburgh, this no doubt reflecting a desire to keep some control over his text. A further letter of Hogg’s to the firm, 11 February, records his response to the actual meeting, where he had found ‘Martin at his post and your letter to me’. While vaunting his own popularity especially in England, he intimates a preparedness to take less in profits, especially ‘if there are to be plates’; he also holds out an invitation to the firm’s principals to visit him at Altrive Lake (see Figure 1), his home in Selkirkshire, and proposes the ‘beginning of Novr’ (i.e. the start of the ‘reading season’) as an appropriate start-up time. [20]

Fig 1. Vignette Title Page Illustration to Vol. 5 of Tales and Sketches by the Ettrick Shepherd, Showing ‘Altrive’.
The figures in the foreground are possibly meant to represent Hogg and his family.

The last of Martin’s letters in this sequence, headed 13 February, is interesting in casting a rather different light on the meeting—one which no doubt partly accounts for Hogg’s somewhat strident tone in selling himself in his letter of 11 February. While accepting that a deal should be done, Martin states himself to have been suitably insistent: i) that the MSS should be delivered before publication commenced (see also below); ii) that it would not be possible to allow a sixth share each to two Edinburgh publishers, Oliver & Boyd and John Anderson; iii) that an author ‘could not expect to receive as much for the 2d Ed. of any work as for the first’. Blackies, while clearly attracted by the proposal, appear to have been keen to show that they ran their business their own way, were not prepared pay large percentages to authors for repackaged materials, and didn’t collaborate with other publishers. [21]

Agnes Blackie in her house history intimates that the visit to Altrive proposed by Hogg soon followed, but there is no record of such a meeting until November 1833. [22] In fact, for much of the remaining year the bulk of Hogg’s effort went into trying to activate other possibilities, the re-established Cochrane again coming into the frame with plans for an extended Altrive Tales, and Fullarton in September once more having the ‘Winter Evening Tales’ brought to his attention. [23] The main sticking point over Blackies, at least the one Hogg was prepared to acknowledge, was their halving of author’s profits from Hogg’s proposed sixth to a twelfth. Reading between the lines, however, it is possible to discern other negative factors for Hogg, among them the loss of control over printing, the absence of a familiar link with the Edinburgh or London trade, and the apparent desire of Blackie and his son to keep negotiations at arm’s length. Another factor about which Hogg might have had more ambivalent feelings was the Glasgow firm’s reputation as out-and-out number specialists, serving a largely religious and partly artisan readership. On one level, the prospect of enlarged sales was no doubt tantalising, not just as a way of realising larger profits, but also as a means of making contact with that wider audience Hogg seems to have thought to have been at last on the point of materialising. This newly-kindled enthusiasm can be sensed in a letter to Cochrane’s new partner, John M‘Crone, in August 1833 on the subject of an enlarged Altrive Tales: ‘Why not employ a set of poor honest fellows for a per-centage through all the three kingdoms to take in subscriptions like Blackie and Fullerton [sic]? I assure you their sales are immense amounting in some instances to 25,000 copies of very ordinary works.’ [24] It can be sensed likewise in a letter to Lockhart, 17 September 1833, which appears to indicate that Hogg is on the point of acceptance: ‘I have got an offer from a Glasgow subscribing Co. for a dozen vol’s of tales of which they calculate they can sell 20,000!! in numbers’. [25] ‘Numbers’ is somewhat ambiguous, since Hogg had used the term earlier to denote a series of volumes, but in conjunction with ‘subscribing Co.’ there is a good chance that Hogg is entertaining the prospect of an issue initially in parts, themselves forming volumes as they unfolded. If so, as an author, he was facing new and hazardous territory.

Hogg sent the first instalment of copy for his collected prose tales to Blackie & Son, a marked copy of The Brownie of Bodsbeck, with an accompanying letter to the firm dated 11 November 1833, two full years before his death (thus implying that an agreement had then been reached), although the publication was in the event a posthumous one. Its ambiguous status has always posed particular problems for editors of Hogg’s fiction: on the one hand there is evidence that Hogg himself shaped his work for the publication, adding a substantial amount of material, for example, to The Brownie of Bodsbeck, [26] but on the other the fact that the published collection demonstrates drastic bowdlerising and censorship of some of Hogg’s finest writing, such as Confessions of a Justified Sinner. [27] A brief account of the Blackie publishing firm and an examination of the circumstances surrounding the eventual publication of Tales and Sketches by the Ettrick Shepherd will shed further light on it.
John Blackie had been born in 1782 in Glasgow, and become an employee of the firm of W. D. & A. Brownlie, pioneers in the number trade. A work was printed, divided into sections of so many sheets, and a sample prepared to show to potential customers. Travelling was an essential part of the business, canvassing for orders on the basis of the sample, delivering the sections to customers at regular intervals, and collecting payments. The Brownlie business appears to have been relatively modest, and Blackie’s recollections of his youth included driving a cart from place to place himself, delivering orders. [28] Technical innovations in book production clearly favoured expansion and development of the number trade in the first third of the nineteenth century. Stereotype plates, for example, allowed the number publisher to print his copies in instalments according to indications of current sales rather than having to risk the printing of a large impression that might have to be expensively warehoused for some time before it was exhausted. The development of steel-plate engraving (which allowed the London Annuals to flourish in the 1820s and 1830s) also stimulated the number trade: in permitting many copies of engravings to be printed from the same hard-wearing plate the cost per unit was lowered, and high-quality illustrations could be included in relatively inexpensive publications, adding greatly to their attraction for the purchaser. Since the invention of the fly-embossing press in the mid-1820s mechanical embossing provided the opportunity of creating a cheap but showy standard binding. [29]

John Blackie seems to have quickly realised the implications of these developments, and by the time Tales and Sketches was published he was the head of a rapidly expanding Glasgow-based empire, tightly controlled and organised with the help of members of his own immediate family, his days of going out with a cart long behind him. By 1816 the business occupied a purpose-built five-storey block at 8 East Clyde Street in Glasgow, and in 1826 Blackie’s eldest son (also John Blackie) became a partner in the publishing firm at the age of twenty-one, the name changing to Blackie & Son when the partnership with Archibald Fullarton was dissolved in 1831. Up to 1836 the printing had been undertaken by George Brookman, Blackie’s salaried partner in what was effectively an in-house printing establishment. By 1837, however, Blackie’s second son, Walter Graham Blackie, had also reached the age of twenty-one and was then made the head of the family printing enterprise, now called W. G. Blackie & Co. In 1829 John Blackie had bought the eastern part of a printing premises at Villafield, taking over the western part as well in 1845 and erecting additional buildings on the site in subsequent years. The printing of engraved plates for the publications was also effectively a family business: William Duncan, a relative of John Blackie’s wife, had trained in London and then been brought to Glasgow to act as manager of that department. By 1836 the five-storey building at East Clyde Street was proving inadequate for the publishing side of the business even with the space created by the removal of the printing works to Villafield, and was transferred to larger and more central premises in Queen Street.

Agencies had been opened in different towns, with a network of men employed as ‘canvassers’ to show samples of publications to potential customers and take their orders, and as ‘deliverers’ to supply customers with the numbers as they were issued:

Of these Canvassers many are constantly employed in the city of Glasgow, and in the surrounding districts, all of them reporting success at the Office in Glasgow. […] Each Deliverer has a given district round which it is his duty to go once each month. In some instances, as in the city of Glasgow, the district is gone round once every two weeks; and in some other few instances, in distant and thinly populated localities, the districts are only gone round once each two months, or once a quarter. Usually, however, the deliveries are monthly.

Fig 2. Stock Edition Book, 1813–64, Blackie Archive,
Archives & Business Records Centre, University of Glasgow, UGD61/4/1/1, Opening 88.

A system of local offices had also been established to control activity in areas at a distance. A circular letter to employees of 4 October 1842 explains that the business of the Deliverer was also ‘to try and ingratiate himself so into the good graces of his Subscribers that they may be ready to support us by a continuance of their favours when they finish their present works’, taking notice of the reader’s taste and bringing suitable works to the attention of theological readers, clergymen, weavers, schoolmasters, farmers, and so on. Readers of a literary inclination should have their attention drawn to ‘Burns, the Book of Scottish Song, the Casquet and Republic, Hogg & Goldsmiths works, &c.’ [30]

Tales and Sketches as first published reflects the status, aims and ambitions of the Blackie enterprise in 1837. ‘Hogg’s Tales’ is entered on opening 88 of the firm’s Stock Edition Book, 1813–1864 (see Figure 2), as consisting initially of thirty ‘Parts @ 1/-’, five to each of the six volumes making up the work. Initially 2,000 copies were produced of parts 1–5 (volume 1) in December 1836, of parts 6–10 (volume 2) in January 1837, of parts 11–15 (volume 3) in March, of parts 16–20 (volume 4) in June, and of parts 21–25 in September (volume 5), while 3,000 copies of parts 26–30 (the final volume) were produced in November. The Stock Edition Book also records new printings of each part at intervals in numbers varying from 2,000 down to 250 copies according to demand. [31] These entries certainly suggest that Tales and Sketches was envisaged as a work published in numbers, a notion reinforced by physical examination of the work, the volumes being similar in size, each consisting of gatherings A–2G in sixes, representing ten Royal sheets in 18mo. [32] Each part, then, would appear to consist of two sheets of the work or 72 pages of text, a calculation seemingly confirmed by a surviving publisher’s sample of Tales and Sketches in Stirling University Library, containing this amount of text, and probably representing the stock-in-trade of one of Blackie’s canvassers on the hunt for orders. [33]

An obvious objection to this theory is that the part calculated often ends in mid-sentence, but clearly the early-nineteenth-century purchaser accepted this peculiar feature of the work with equanimity, since it occurs in other Blackie publications of the time, such as Thomas Stackhouse’s A History of the Holy Bible […], published in twelve two-shilling parts in 1836. [34] More seriously, however, there is no suggestion of an initial publication of Tales and Sketches in numbers in surviving advertising material, contemporary reviews, or the Stirling publisher’s sample, each of which refer only to volume publication at five shillings, a volume appearing at intervals between December 1836 and December 1837. [35] A prefatory advertising leaf in the second volume of what is clearly a set of Tales and Sketches as originally issued in the Bodleian Library (at 37.137–42) compares the forthcoming work to ‘the admired editions of Scott, Byron, Crabbe, Burns’ (and, above, all Scott’s Magnum Opus edition of the Waverley Novels was clearly the model here). [36] On balance it would seem probable that Blackie & Son published the work volume by volume, but that it was carefully constructed to leave the way open for a subsequent number publication and designed to be marketed in the context of their various part-works, with customers taking volume one probably being expected to purchase subsequent volumes as they appeared. The firm’s Stock Edition Book demonstrates that it is comparatively meaningless to discuss the work in the conventional terms of first and subsequent editions since sheets were produced at intervals to meet the demand for fresh copies, clearly from the same stereotype plates. Minor changes were made to the stereotype plates from time to time, while some later sets substitute a number of tales on pages 275–338 for Hogg’s pastoral drama ‘A Bush Aboon Traquair’ in the second volume. [37]

Purchasers were clearly meant to feel that for their five shillings a volume they were obtaining a luxury item, manufactured to the highest standards of modern book production. The original binding of the Stirling sample and Bodleian set has an embossed harp within a laurel wreath, for example, and each volume included an engraved title page and an engraved frontispiece comparable in quality to those of the London Annuals, ‘illustrative of scenes described by the author, or connected with his life’ as the advertising leaf in the Stirling sample expresses it. These engravings were advertised as important features of the collection: a prefatory advertisement in the second volume, for instance, devotes half a page to describing the engravings to the first two volumes and concludes ‘Volume third will appear on the 1st of April, illustrated by a beautiful view of ROSLIN GLEN [see Figure 3], and the ABBEY OF MELROSE’, without any indication of what Hogg tales are to be included in the forthcoming volume. The illustrations were also widely praised in contemporary reviews, even at the expense of Hogg’s fiction. [38] A notable feature of the construction of the Blackie edition of Stackhouse’s History of the Holy Bible is that, while some of its twelve parts end with the text in mid-sentence, each begins with a fine map or other quality engraving and some parts also contain a second illustration, showing the importance of the engravings in attracting and retaining customers.

Fig 3. Frontispiece Plate to Vol. 3 of Tales and Sketches by the Ettrick Shepherd, Titled ‘Roslin’.
[A vignette illustration of ‘Melrose Abbey’ follows on the title page.]

The preponderance of religious works in the publications of Blackie & Son during these years and the fact that the heartland of the firm’s operations was in the devout Presbyterian and evangelical west of Scotland suggests that the bowdlerisation of Confessions in the Tales and Sketches was probably the work of the firm rather than Hogg himself, Blackies being ‘exceptionally keen not to cause offence amongst their main constituency of subscribers’. [39] In other instances Blackies and their employees might have needed to make adjustments to the length of tales to create an exact fit for their space limit of ten sheets per volume. ‘The Fords of Callum’ (originally published in Friendship’s Offering for 1830, pp. 187–96), for example, when it was substituted for part of ‘The Bush Aboon Traquair’ in later sets of Tales and Sketches was deprived of two passages relating to an old peasant couple’s scepticism about the existence of supernatural beings and Hogg’s comment on it—these particular passages may have been eliminated from a desire to avoid the suggestion that Hogg himself was superstitious, but clearly the tale had to be cut somewhere so that it did not overrun the pages formerly allotted to Hogg’s pastoral drama. Hogg’s death would leave the Glasgow firm with a relatively free hand to censor in deference to reader sensibility, and to make any cuts demanded by the tight format of their publication.

It is also worth considering that the success of the number trade was heavily dependant on the publisher’s punctuality and reliability. If subsequent instalments were delayed or failed to fulfil the promises made for them, then subscribers might discontinue the work. This was clearly a risk in any case, the surviving paper cover for Stackhouse’s A History of the Holy Bible stating firmly and probably with a degree of wishful thinking, ‘Those taking the First Part are bound to take the whole Work’. A surviving printed notice to the subscribers for the Blackie edition of Aikman’s History of Scotland shows that the author and publishers had differed about the length of the work and the provision of an Index as the numbers were produced, and that this had inconvenienced purchasers. The later companion set to Hogg’s Tales and Sketches of his Poetical Works was to be similarly hampered by John Wilson’s failure to deliver his much-advertised memoir of Hogg in the final volume of the five-volume set. ‘A Life of the Author, by Professor Wilson, of the University of Edinburgh’ had featured prominently in advertisements for the collection, set in large type above the line mentioning the engravings at the head of the prefatory advertising leaf to the first volume of the set, which also referred to the closeness of Christopher North and the Shepherd (in the ‘Noctes Ambrosianæ’ series in Blackwood’s Magazine) and pronounced of Wilson that ‘of all men he is the one to whom we should look for biographical reminiscences and characteristic sketches of the Poet’. The bitterness towards Wilson of Blackies’ letter to Mrs Hogg of 23 August 1841 is therefore understandable: ‘We fear no hope need be entertained that Professor Wilson will fulfil his promise—indeed were he to do so now we question whether any benefit would arise’. Clearly Wilson’s failure had adversely affected sales. [40] The firm’s Edinburgh agent, Martin, in his account of negotiations with Hogg in February 1833 was probably expressing a general Blackies view in stating, ‘My own opinion is, that it were preferable in most cases, to have the Mss. out of the author’s hands before we proceeded to publish’. [41] It seems likely that Hogg would have expected his work to be published volume by volume as he supplied copy, and that Blackie & Son wanted the whole work or most of it in hand before beginning to publish. Ironically, Hogg’s death would make all his prose work that then existed into final copy for publication once an agreement had been reached with his widow as the copyright holder in his work.

The whole Blackie enterprise was designed to provide a centralised system of book production, where the publisher was effectively printer, engraver, and sales staff too, and where the author’s role was limited to handing over his copy and then receiving his profits subsequently. The traditional space between printer and publisher which Hogg had so successfully occupied on numerous occasions to influence the production of his work had simply been closed up. Blackie & Son required an absent author, and by 1837 they had got one.

As the century progressed the firm’s grip on the two collected sets tightened, and at the same time the number-driven nature of the operation becomes more transparent in their records. A receipt signed by Mrs Hogg shows that on 26 October 1860 for a sum of £150 she relinquished all interest in the copyright of the materials contained in them. [42] By this point, the firm had already been engaged in a number of methods for disposing of old stock, including sets at reduced prices, sales of individual volumes with altered title pages matching the specific contents, [43] and the issuing of sets in parts. The clearest indication of the last mode is found in an advertisement in an undated catalogue listing Tales and Sketches as ‘In 6 vols. price 5s or Parts, 2s. each’, and likewise the Poetical Works as ‘In 5 vols. at 5s., or Parts, 2s. each. [44]

A few years after Mrs Hogg had sold any remaining rights, the whole collection was again reset in larger format under the editorship of the Revd Thomas Thomson (who provided a Life of the author), and in this instance a number issue clearly preceded any sale in volumes. The Stock Edition Book, 1838–1900, shows the serialisation in detail, through twenty-six parts, from inception in June 1863 through to September 1865, with an initial run of 2,000. [45] The option to buy in book form (volume 1, Tales; volume 2, Poems and Life), clearly came on its completion, an advert from a Catalogue of 1865 offering the New Edition ‘In 26 parts, super-royal 8vo, 1s. each; or 2 vols., cloth extra, 32s.’—the last price presumably incorporating the extra for cloth binding. The Stock Edition book then records another issue in thirty parts late in 1873; and a Catalogue of 1874 offers for sale the ‘Centenary Edition’ ‘In 15 parts, 2s. each, forming two handsome volumes super-royal 8vo’. Finally, after another reprinting itemised in thirty parts in the Stock Edition Book, the Centenary Edition is advertised in a catalogue of 1884 as ‘In 15 parts at 2s. and 30 parts at 1s. each; forming 2 volumes sup.-royal 8vo, 36s’. [46]

Scholars and bibliographers are still liable to think of the Thomson-edited Works as comprising two large and narrowly printed volumes, but the Blackie records make it unquestionably clear that the initial sale was in numbers, and that thereafter the option of purchasing in parts held at least equal weight with sales of entire volumes. In such respects, this second operation offers a useful retrospective insight into the original 1836–37 production of the Tales and Sketches, where spatial as well ideological considerations may well have played a significant part in distorting Hogg’s original work.

1. The Nineteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (CD-ROM version, 1996) records datings for Tales and Sketches of [1836], 1837, [185–?], and [1852?], and for the Poetical Works of 1836/40, 1838, [1838?], [183–], and 1855.

2. Sets of the original issues of Tales and Sketches and Poetical Works are found in the Bodleian Library (at 37.137–42 and 10 THETA 74–78 respectively). The bindings have turned greyish, and the front hard covers bear a harp design, with the legend ‘Naturæ Donum’. A similar, though less plain design, with gilding and a more elaborate harp, is found in later sets. In both instances, the poetical works were uniformly bound with the prose.

3. For the most authoritative account of the planning and production of the Magnum Opus, see Jane Millgate, Scott’s Last Edition: A Study in Publishing History (Edinburgh: EUP, 1987); the uniform nature of the later sets is described there on p. 48.

4. Letter of 20 May 1813, Hogg to Archibald Constable, National Library of Scotland (hereafter NLS) MS 7200, fol. 203. We are grateful to the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland for permission to quote from this and other manuscripts.

5. The work was published in association with G & W. B. Whittaker in London, with Oliver & Boyd retaining the management. It is noticeable that at a later point Hogg was contemplating a reunification of Winter Evening Tales with his first published fiction, The Brownie of Bodsbeck; and Other Tales (1818), which had fared poorly in the hands of William Blackwood and John Murray: ‘I want The Brownie &c […] all published in a set as Winter Evening tales and either a continuation in other two vols or not as you please’ (NLS Accession 5000/188, Hogg to George Boyd, 17 Oct 1822).

6. Longman Archives, Part I, Item 101, Letter-book 1820–25, no. 396C (Longman & Co. to Hogg, 11 Aug 1823; typed transcript by Michael Bott). A subsequent letter to Hogg from Owen Rees, giving the green light for the ‘Confessions’ project, throws doubt on this other scheme: ‘With respect to the Scottish Tales &c, before you can do any thing it will be necessary for you to have the consent of Messrs Oliver & Boyd; and after all it may be doubtful whether a republication at this time would answer’ (25 Oct 1823; no. 388B, typed transcript). We are grateful to the University of Reading Library for permission to quote from the Longman Archives in this paper.

7. NLS MS 4017, fol. 138.

8. The volume price proposed by Archibald Constable late in 1825 had been a guinea (21s) a volume: see Millgate, Scott’s Last Edition, p. 5.

9. Basil Hall’s Voyage to Loo-Choo, not published until January 1827, owing to Constable’s financial failure: see Millgate, Scott’s Last Edition, pp. 91–94.

10. NLS MS 4036, fol. 102.

11. In a letter of 30 Sep 1830 to Blackwood, Hogg claims to have got Scott’s support for ‘our proposed publication of my Scottish tales in monthly numbers’ (NLS MS 4027, fol. 194).

12. That John Anderson was the link is suggested by a letter of Cochrane to Hogg, 18 June 1835: ‘I was delighted to see your friend John Anderson in London […] It was Mr Anderson who introduced my name to your notice & I have always felt grateful to him’ (NLS MS 2245, fol. 262). This most likely refers to John Anderson, junior, whose shop was at 55 North Bridge Street; the designation ‘junior’ was used to distinguish him from another bookselling John Anderson, whose premises were in the High Street. We are indebted to Richard Jackson for information about John Anderson. A detailed account of the presentation of this single volume is given in the Introduction to the Stirling/South Carolina Edition of Altrive Tales, ed. Gillian Hughes (Edinburgh: EUP, 2003).

13. Letter to [?Roscoe and Richie], 19 Mar 1832, in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University: James Hogg Collection, GEN MSS 61, Box 1, Folder 17. For the probable recipients see Hogg’s letter to John McDonald of [c. 18 May 1832] in NLS MS 2245, fols 168–69: ‘I hope you have the list of what tales each vol. is to consist […] I left the charge with Roscoe and Richie who were Cochrane’s correctors of the press […]’.

14. The copy of Altrive Tales in the Bodleian Library (at 256.e.14869) contains a last (unnumbered) leaf advertising ‘The Novelist’s Library’, with biographical and historical notes by Thomas Roscoe. This series, published by Cochrane and Pickersgill, ran for nineteen volumes, 1831–33; the original bindings (though yellow rather than green) resemble in basic design Altrive Tales.

15. See Hogg’s letter to John M‘Donald, 3 May 1832, which suggests that ‘Smith, Elder, and Coy [sic]’ take over the 2,000 (from 3,000) copies of Altrive Tales which, according to Hogg, have not been released (in Mrs Garden, Memorials of James Hogg, The Ettrick Shepherd, 3rd edn (1885; Paisley: Alexander Gardner, 1904), pp. 268–71). Hogg probably knew of the firm through his friendship with Thomas Pringle, the editor of Friendship’s Offering.

16. Fullarton’s letter offering terms, which included a fee of 100 guineas to Hogg, is in NLS 2245, fols 208–09; a copy of the same by Hogg, with Hogg’s letter of acceptance, both also dated 23 Apr 1832, is in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University: James Hogg Collection, GEN MSS 61, Box 1, Folder 47.

17. NLS MS 3813, fol. 66 (Hogg to Fullarton, 14 Sep 1832); Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University: James Hogg Collection, GEN MSS 61, Box 1, Folder 36 (Hogg to Fullarton, 14 Oct 1832). For the issuing of The Works of Robert Burns, edited by the Ettrick Shepherd and William Motherwell, 5 vols (Glasgow, 1834–36), see J. W. Egerer, A Bibliography of Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: Oliver & Boyd, 1964), pp. 167–68.

18. Agnes A. C. Blackie, Blackie & Son 1809–1959: A Short History of the Firm (London and Glasgow: Blackie & Son, [1959]), pp. 11–12. Hogg’s original letter to Fullarton, postmarked 30 Jan 1833, and endorsed ‘To be left at his office / Edinr’, still survives (NLS MS 3813, fol. 71); it makes no mention of any Tales project.

19. Blackie Archive, Glasgow University Archives & Business Records Centre, UGD61/8/1/1, items 6 and 7. We are grateful to the Archivist for permission to quote from the Blackie Archive in this paper and to reproduce the entry from the Stock Edition Book as an illustration.

20. NLS MS 807, fols 16–17, 18–19. These letters were apparently once positioned alongside Martin’s in the same Blackie letter book (see note above), but are recorded there as having been sent ‘To National Library Feb 1937’.

21. Blackie Archive, UGD61/8/1/1, Item 10.

22. Evidence of an eventual meeting can be found in a letter from Hogg to Mrs William Laidlaw of 4 Nov 1833: ‘Mr Blackie of Glasgow was here the other day and I bargained with him for six Vols of Tales offering him sixteen more which he declined contrary to every rule of Grammar’ (Queen’s University of Kingston, Ontario: Miscellaneous Collection). We are grateful to the Queen’s University of Kingston, Ontario for permission to cite this letter in the present paper. In his letter to the firm of 25 Mar 1834, addressed from Altrive, Hogg also refers to his nephew James Gray as someone ‘whom Mr Blackie jun. has met here’ (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University: James Hogg Collection, GEN MSS 61, Box 1, Folder 30).

23. For the idea of an extended Altrive Tales, see James Cochrane’s letter to Hogg of 9 Aug 1833, with plans for ‘1500 Copies of Vols 2 & 3—uniform in all respects with the first volume’ (NLS MS 2245, fol. 230); and for the extended ‘Winter Evening Tales’ plan, Hogg’s letter to Archibald Fullarton, 5 Sep 1833: ‘Mr Blackie was to have called on me before this about The Winter Evening tales but he has not done so and they are as yet entirely unappropriated. He offered me only one twelfth of the retail price which I refused but as he sells to the trade at half price I am not sure that the proffer would not have been advantageous. I should like to have your advice’ (NLS MS 3813, fol. 73).

24. Letter to John [M‘Crone], 3 Aug 1833, owned by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle: Brooke Collection, vol. VI, fol. 83A. We are grateful to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle for permission to cite this letter here.

25. NLS MS 934, fol. 220.

26. Hogg to Blackie & Son, 11 Nov 1833, in NLS MS 807, fols 20–21. See also Douglas Mack’s discussion in ‘Note on the Text’ in his edition of The Brownie of Bodsbeck (Edinburgh and London: Scottish Academic Press, 1976), pp. xx–xxvii (pp. xxiii–xxv).

27. Discussed most fully and most recently in The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, ed. P. D. Garside (Edinburgh: EUP, 2001), pp. lxxii–lxxix.

28. See Agnes Blackie, Blackie & Son, pp. 5–8.

29. See Iain Bain, ‘Gift Book and Annual Illustrations: Some Notes on their Production’, and Eleanore Jamieson, ‘The Binding Styles of the Gift Books and Annuals’, in Frederick W. Faxon, Literary Annuals and Gift Books: A Bibliography 1823–1903, rev. edn (1912; Pinner, Middlesex: Private Libraries Association, 1973), pp. 19–25 and 7–17 respectively.

30. Information on the firm’s changing partnership arrangements and business premises is taken from W. G. Blackie’s privately printed Sketch of the Origin and Progress of the Firm of Blackie & Son, Publishers (Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1897), pp. 16–35, 49. The quotations giving an idea of the work of the firm’s canvassers and deliverers are from two items in the archive of the firm, now in the Archives & Business Records Collection of the University of Glasgow. These are, respectively, a printed Introductory Account of the Number Trade (Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1847), pp. 3, 4, and a letter from the firm to its Deliverers of 4 Oct 1842, both in an album of catalogues (UGD61/4/2/1).

31. Stock Edition Book 1813–1864, opening 88 (UGD61/4/1/1): see Figure 2. The entry for Tales and Sketches continues on openings 96 and 112, while there is an entry for the companion set of The Poetical Works of the Ettrick Shepherd on opening 91.

32. A Catalogue in the Blackie Archive, the estimated date of which is Mar 1843, describes the five-volume Poetical Works, a set uniform with Tales and Sketches, as ‘Roy. 18mo.’ (UGD61/4/2/1), which was also the format of the earlier volumes of Scott’s Magnum Opus edition of the Waverley Novels (see Millgate, Scott’s Last Edition, p. 36).

33. This sample, which includes an advertisement for the work, the engraved title page and frontispiece to the first volume, and seventy-two pages of The Brownie of Bodsbeck in a now-faded binding of the first issue Tales and Sketches is gold-stamped with the word ‘SPECIMEN’ on the front cover (Stirling University Library, Res MAS 810E36).

34. The Bodleian Library copy (at 101.h.137) of Thomas Stackhouse, A History of the Holy Bible […] (Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1836), consists of parts 1–4 and 6–11 of a twelve-part work, the front cover of the first part being bound into the volume as a title page. Each part consists of ten eight-page gatherings, preceded by an engraving.

35. An advertisement for the first volume in the Glasgow Argus of 16 Jan 1837 describes Tales and Sketches as ‘Publishing in 6 vols. at 5s. each. Vol. 2 will be issued in February’, while the Stirling sample advertises the work as to be ‘published in volumes, price 5s. each, and will be completed in about six volumes’.

36. The set of Tales and Sketches in the Bodleian Library at 37.137–42 is one of the few that can be clearly demonstrated as being a first issue set, partly because it contains original advertising leaves and has not been rebound and partly because the addresses given on the engraved and printed title pages, printer’s colophons, and publisher’s addresses reflect the changes effected by John Blackie to the firm at the time of first publication. Vols 1 and 2, for instance, were printed by George Brookman, vol. 3 bears the odd colophon of ‘D. Cameron & Co., Buchanan Court’, while vols 4, 5, and 6 were printed by ‘W. G. Blackie & Co., Villafield’. Similarly the engraved title page to volume 1 gives ‘8 East Clyde Street’ as the place of publication with a date of 1836, while subsequent volumes give the Queen Street address and 1837.

37. One such minor correction, made in the stereotype plates to the text of ‘Confessions of a Fanatic’, is noted in Confessions of a Justified Sinner, ed. Garside, p. xcviii (n. 166). An undated set owned by Gillian Hughes, with a more elaborate standard binding than those of the Bodleian set and Stirling sample, includes the replacement tales for ‘A Bush Aboon Traquair’.

38. The advertising leaf cited is in vol. 2 of the copy of Tales and Sketches in the Bodleian Library at 37.137–42. For an example of the emphasis placed on the engravings see the review of the first two volumes in the Glasgow Argus of 2 Feb 1837, which, after a general discussion of Hogg’s character as a peasant poet and his relations with Scott and with Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, states that the ‘elegance of these volumes is especially deserving of notice. We have seen nothing handsomer or in better taste from the Scottish press. The illustrations, two in number to each volume, are superb’. The review then goes on to devote two paragraphs to detailed descriptions of the four engravings of the two volumes published to date, and states, somewhat baldly, ‘we should consider it a work of supererogation as well as beyond the narrow limits of a newspaper critique, to enter into a discussion of the literary merits and characteristics of the Ettrick Shepherd’.

39. Confessions of a Justified Sinner, ed. Garside, p. lxxviii.

40. The paper cover to the first part of Stackhouse’s work is bound into the Bodleian copy at 101.h.137 as a title page. Blackies’ ‘Notice to Subscribers’ is to be found in the Blackie Archive at UGD61/12/3/17, together with another printed notice suggesting that subscribers to Aikman’s History of Scotland had been placated by the addition of two engravings to the work over and above the number originally promised. The advertising leaf may be found in the first volume of the set of Poetical Works in the Bodleian library at 10. THETA. 74–78, while Blackies’ letter to Mrs Hogg of 23 Aug 1841 is in Stirling University Library, MS 25, Box 2 (3). Vol. 5 of some early sets of the Blackie edition of Hogg’s Poetical Works have a separate notice to subscribers dated May 1840 pasted to the front end-papers to explain the substitution of Hogg’s own memoir of his life for the promised memoir by Wilson, with a facsimile of Wilson’s autograph promise that ‘a Memoir of Mr Hogg, on a more extensive scale than was at first contemplated, is now in preparation by Professor Wilson, and will be published […] within a few Months, in the same style and form as these volumes’. The work, however, never appeared.

41. Martin to Blackie & Son, 13 Feb 1833, in UGD61/8/1/1 Item 10.

42. Blackie Archive, UGD61/1/11/2 (Bundle of Assignments with Authors, unnumbered item). A record of royalties paid to Mrs Hogg for the two original sets, 23 Aug 1841, survives in Stirling University Library, MS 25, Box 2 (3). This shows royalties of £270 from 2,000 copies sold of the Tales, £135 from the sale of a further 1,000 of the same, and £42 4s from 500 of the Poems. These sums are calculated at the rate of 10% of a reduced price of 27s and 22s 6d for the two sets respectively (i.e. 4s 6d a volume), the result being marginally better than the one-twelfth of retail price mentioned during the Hogg–Blackie negotiations.

43. In an undated Catalogue [marked in pencil 28 Jan 1852], giving trade and retail prices, the Tales and Sketches are listed at a reduced price of 21s (trade 15s 9d), and the Poetical Works at 17s 6d (trade 13s 2d). In another undated Catalogue, probably for the trade, the volumes are listed as on sale individually (‘in fancy cloth, gilt’) under separate titles: e.g. ‘THE QUEEN’S WAKE, and other Poems’, retail price 3s 6d, and ‘MEMOIRS AND CONFESSIONS OF A FANATIC, and other Tales’, at the same price. This tallies with some surviving volumes which have engraved title pages with these volume-particular titles rather than the old generic headings. Both catalogues mentioned above are found in the Blackie Archive, UGD61/4/2/1.

44. Blackie Archive, UGD61/4/2/1. Immediately following this in the same undated catalogue is a full-page advert for The Imperial Family Bible (‘to be completed in about 36 Parts, at 2s. 6d. each’), the earliest complete edition of which is 1844, with another edition in 1858. Its prominent featuring here under the heading ‘New Works and New Editions’, together with the apparent hedging about the parts needed for completion, argues more strongly for the earlier date here and for the catalogue belonging to the early 1840s.

45. Blackie Archive, UGD61/4/1/2 (Stock Edition Book, 1838–1900), pp. 212–13. The completed 1865 Works contains 148 numbered gatherings of eight pages each, and it would seem that the individual Parts consisted of five or six such gatherings each. Gillian Hughes has seen a surviving paper-covered part in the family papers of Mr David Parr of Nelson, New Zealand, who is a descendant of James and Margaret Hogg.

46. Blackie Archive, UGD61/4/1/2, pp. 213–14, 273–74; undated catalogues, [1865], [1874], [1884], UGD61/4/2/1.