The William Maskell Chapter Book Collection

The William Maskell Chapter Book Collection

In 2022 the British Library acquired a collection of uncommon books and manuscripts from the Honresfield Library, initially collected by the industrialist William Legislation (1836-1901). This assortment was bought by the Pals of the Nationwide Libraries and shared amongst a number of UK establishments. THE Honresfield Library comprises a number of objects of serious historic and literary significance.

The Life and Demise of Jenny Wren, for the Use of Maidens and Gents, Hon.129.(12) Many collections have been adorned with easy woodcuts, typically colored, both by the vendor or the proprietor .

Among the many objects which have been attributed to the British Library are a set of curiously small volumes in uniform brown moiré silk bindings with inexperienced backbone labels betraying their contents: ‘Chap Books’. This assortment includes 764 particular person pamphlets, certain in seventy components. The volumes are numbered on their spines and counsel three distinct sequence: 1-48, 1-19 and 4 unnumbered. This division is mirrored and exhibited within the 1891 Sotheby’s sale catalog which lists them:

“48. Chap Books. A Assortment of Many Small Standard Youngsters’s Works, with Woodcuts Organized in 20 Vol. Uncut, vy – An In depth Assortment of Books, Garlands, Youngsters’s Books, and so forth. with Woodcuts Organized in 49 vol. 12mo, uncut, vy – Manuscript catalogs of the 2 sequence by W. Maskell. 70 volumes.[1]

Comparability of the present British Library holdings with the 1891 catalog entry reveals some discrepancies. Specifically, there’s a quantity lacking from every numbered sequence: no no. 49 or no. 20 are within the present holdings of the British Library. Additionally, the opposite 4 unnumbered volumes will not be thought-about right here. Nevertheless, merchandise 49 of the sale catalog consists of eight different volumes of “Chap and Toy Books”, bought to Maggs, which can counsel the origin of those 4 further volumes.

The Sotheby’s entry additionally mentions a manuscript catalogue, dated 1872 and saved within the current assortment. He additionally introduces us to the unique compiler of the gathering, the Reverend William Maskell (1814?-1890). Maskell was a liturgical scholar and collector who used to construct collections of books and artistic endeavors and promote them to public establishments.[2]. The British Museum Library acquired numerous Maskell’s liturgical works throughout his lifetime, with a lot of his assortment being bought to the museum for £2,240 in 1847.[3]. Nevertheless, these chapbooks remained in Maskell’s non-public assortment till his loss of life in 1890 and have been bought by Sotheby’s the next yr. Modern annotations within the sale catalog counsel that the volumes have been bought at public sale by Bain (probably London booksellers James Bain) and have been in all probability acquired by William Legislation shortly thereafter.

A two-page opening from a manuscript catalog containing chapbook entries, owned by William Maskell.

Manuscript catalog of chapbooks, kids’s books, garlands; &vs. &c., Hon.112.(1) William Maskell has preserved an in depth manuscript catalog of his assortment of compendiums. The catalog is organized alphabetically, with entries referring to the numbers discovered on the spines of the certain volumes. For every entry, Maskell gives the amount quantity, brief title, format, place, and yr of publication (if relevant).

The sale catalog additionally attests to the spectacular scale of the gathering: “Such an entire assortment of chapbooks would occupy a few years, even when they have been accessible within the varied cities of England and Scotland by which they have been printed”. The gathering represents print examples from 53 totally different cities in England, Scotland and Eire, masking roughly 1770-1865. These imprints embody the names of printers whose physique of labor is basically absent from the catalogs of analysis libraries.

Title page of A Bad Boy's Misfortunes, with a decorated border, a small woodcut illustration of the eponymous bad boy, and an imprint of Alnick, W. Davison.  Not dated.

The Misfortunes of a Unhealthy Boy, Hon.134.(5) Some chapmen, like W. Davison of Alnwick, produced a number of sequence of collectible folktales. This impression of unhealthy boy misfortunes was no. 21 of a sequence of halfpenny collections produced by Davison within the early nineteenth century.

The gathering additionally varies enormously within the nature of its content material. “Chapbook” is an infamously slippery time period used to explain abbreviations, alphabets, ballads, cries, dreads, fables, garlands, tales, rhymes, singers, and manners, amongst others. Their bodily look and low-cost, typically crude manufacturing are additionally distinguishing marks. Notebooks from this era have been typically illustrated with woodcut blocks, which have been normally reused in publications, typically even shared by totally different printers.[4]. The indeterminate standing of the chapbook is properly illustrated by the big variety of sizes, shapes, themes, and tones of the chapbooks represented in Maskell’s assortment. A lot of the assortment is in remarkably pristine situation, with solely a small choice bearing marks from earlier house owners.[5]. Some volumes embody pencil inscriptions, probably by William Legislation, usually commenting on their contents. Moreover, there’s a booklet titled, A nice and scrumptious dialogue between the trustworthy John and the loving Kate. Go first. (1791) which was loosely inserted alongside a replica of the second a part of the identical story[6]. This title doesn’t seem within the catalog of manuscripts of 1872.

Title page of The Wonderful Benefits of Drunkenness, with a small woodcut illustration and paisley print, 1823.

The fantastic advantages of drunkenness; to which is added Protest in opposition to whisky, Hon.163.(11) Collections have been produced on quite a lot of topics, from people tales for kids to extra severe ethical works. This early nineteenth century Scottish textbook was a pamphlet denouncing the hazards of extreme alcohol consumption.

The Maskell Assortment gives a helpful useful resource for the research of British and Irish chapbook manufacturing within the late 18e and early 19e centuries. It’s also an fascinating instance of textbook collections being collected moderately than used, and gives the chance to additional research Maskell and Legislation as collectors of low-cost printed supplies. This assortment enhances the substantial holdings of low-cost chapbooks and printed matter already within the collections of the British Library. The Maskell assortment has been totally cataloged on-line and is within the Hon.112.(1) – Hon.183.(14) name quantity vary.

[1] Sotheby’s, Gross sales Catalog for the Late William Maskell, February 26, 1891.

[2] deRicci, SMRR, English collectors of books and manuscripts 1530-1930 and their marks of possession1930, p.143.

[3] Harris, PR “The Improvement of the Collections of the Division of Printed Books, 1846-1875.” The British Library Journal 10, no. 2 (1984): 114–46.

[4] Dutta, A., Bergel, G. and Zisserman, A., “Visible evaluation of printed textbooks in Scotland”. In The sixth Worldwide Workshop on Imaging and Processing Historic Paperwork (HIP ’21). Affiliation for Computing Equipment, New York, NY, USA, (2021) 67–72.

[5] See Hon.119.(2), Hon.121.(8), Hon.124.(4), Hon.129.(5), Hon.129.(11), Hon.129.(12), Hon . .138.(4), Hon.138.(5), Hon.140.(6) and Hon.169.(6).

[6] See Hon.156.(6).

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