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Autumn 2020

The Book Collector Autumn 2020 Cover

This is our eighteenth-century issue, long (and pleasurably) in the planning and impossible without the help of Celine McDaid, the Donald Hyde Curator at Dr Johnson’s House in London’s Gough square. Even more than help, she has written for us: ‘Fixing the Language’, which gives the background to the desire to self-improve in this period and goes on to describe in glorious detail how Dr Johnson was commissioned to put together his dictionary of 1755, how he and his helpers laboured in the long room at the top of the Gough Square house, looking out to St Paul’s, and how his work withstood the passage of time until the publication of the last fascicle of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1928. Also on Dr Johnson is ‘A little charity’ by Michael Bundock, which tells the poignant tale of his household’s comings and goings and in particular of Francis Barber, who as a boy had been brought to London from Jamaica, where he’d been born into slavery. It was in 1752 that he came to Johnson: over thirty years later, he was one of the two men who watched over Johnson on his deathbed. Julian Pooley’s ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ tells us where to find everything we would like to know about eighteenth-century life and culture and Nevil Tomlinson, the librarian at Strawberry Hill, does the same for Horace Walpole’s great creation. Can one ever read enough by Martin Brayne, editor of the Parson Woodforde Society newsletter? Of course not! Here he talks about the books the parson bought read and how the subscription system worked for publishers, among whom we are grateful to number Jacob Tonson, the publisher of Dryden, Pope, Addison and various editions of Shakespeare. Stephen Bernard leads us through the story of Crewe MS 21, a collection of Tonsoniana that only surfaced a few years ago. It took sixty years for the 23-volume Yale edition of the works of Samuel Johnson to be published which gives one a good idea of the complexities of such a business. Robert Demaria Jr. tells the absorbing tale. And finally, your mind might start wandering as you contemplate David Pearson’s title, ‘Bugs and Binding: Insect Rolls Used on Eighteenth-Century Bookbindings.’ Do not let it! It may look dry but aided and abetted by superb illustrations, it’s totally fascinating.

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