Prof. Carol Ann Johnston

Month: May 2023

Topsell’s “History of the Beasts”. A collective work seen from contemporary eyes

The Historie of foure footed beastes and The Historie of serpents were compiled by Edward Topsell in the 17th century in his effort to give the English language a treatise on animal biology (this kind of book is also known as a bestiary, and moreover Topsell’s work is more similar to renaissance bestiaries than to scientific works of the 17th century due to its inclussion of fantastic creatures and constant references to classic works) that dignified the vernacular language as no other had done before, according to Topsell himself; scientific works were, at that time, still published in Latin.

The readers of the book were probably university students, as indicated by the presence of marks in the margins with which one could more easily search for the desired information about each creature, natural remedy or reference in some classic author to these animals in his works. In addition to the fascinating content and Topsell’s ambition of wanting to translate four creature treatises into English (although he was prevented from doing so by his death), this book is known for its stunning illustrations, including a version of the rhinoceros that is very reminiscent of Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut engraving dating from 1515.

Nowadays we have a stricter understanding of scientific and academic works, in the sense that they are the result of a process that follows a method through experimentation, verification of theories by means of objectivity, and the possibility of repeating experiments given the circumstances described in the study’s presentation. This being so, Topsell’s work, seen through today’s eyes, does not fall within the same framework and comes as a great surprise to us because of the collective (and fantastic) nature of its creation. This was already explored, in part, when discussing Topsell’s expectation that his contemporary readers would help him continue to complete this ambitious endeavor in the English language. Helen Westhrop, Rare Books Library Assistant at University of Reading, talks about how Gesner’s original “work was made possible by the network of leading naturalists throughout Europe who sent him ideas, plants, gems and animals” (Featured Item). In other words, its origin was already a collaboration of voices.

However, when considering it a collective work, this also applies to another more important part of the book: the illustrations. The reality is that Topsell “borrowed heavily (and directly) from earlier treatises” (University Libraries). To further reinforce this point, Susan Isaac, Information Services Manager at the Royal College of Surgeons of England’s Library, reflects on the case of the rhinoceros. According to her, the illustrations chosen by Topsell, and specifically the one dedicated to the rhinoceros, were “an example of how [he] acknowledged his sources and reused material from them in his book” (The familiar and the fantastic). Isaac also makes it a point that Gesner –the main source of our 17th-century beast compiler– learned of the existence of a rhinoceros from the visit of a German contemporary to Lisbon, which at the same time was the one that inspired Albert Dürer to create his famous woodcut engraving of the exotic animal (it’s even known that it was called Ulysse!).

Albert Dürer’s woodcut of a rhinoceros, 1515

Topsell’s Historie of foure footed beastes’ woodcut of a rhinoceros, 1607

As for the other illustrations in Topsell’s Historie of Beastes, it is believed that already Gesner’s work contained woodblocks from a certain Lucas Schan of Strasbourg, and not all of them belonged to him but mostly the ones referring to birds (S. Kusukawa). It is possible that Topsell collaborated with other artists for his compilation as well, but more accurate information wasn’t found.

The importance of these other illustrations lies in the fact that Topsell may have directly collaborated in their creation, influencing them with his moral and religious ideas. It should not be forgotten that this is a bestiary compiled in English for readers to contemplate the divine creation. For this reason, I am especially interested in Helen Westhrop’s ideas, who even talks about illustrations of animals in this book that resemble human qualities. “The lion has a human expression with a carefully dressed mane and demonstrates Topsell’s belief that his animals have human intrinsic worth and moral qualities as well as a hatred of mankind” (H. Westhrop). This is the kind of content that neither Gesner originally introduced in his work nor could be found in other bestiaries, since Topsell was a man of the church and imprinted this religious morality in all his work. It is, therefore, one more element that makes it a unique work, and thus a rare book.


Works consulted:

Isaac, S. (2018, March 16). The familiar and the fantastic: The Historie of Foure-Footed beastes by Edward Topsell, 1607. Royal College of Surgeons. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from

Kusukawa, S. (2010, July). The sources of Gessner’s pictures for the Historia animalium. Annals of Science. 67 (3): 303–328. Retrieved 12th May, 2023, from

University of Washington. University Libraries. “The Historie of Serpents.” Edward Topsell, 1608. Retrieved May 9th, 2023, from

Westhrop, H. (2007, March). Edward Topsell, The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents, 1658. Special Collections featured item for March 2006 by Helen Westhrop, Rare Books Library Assistant. University of Reading. Retrieved May 10th, 2023, from

Owner(s) and readership of Topsell’s “Historie of beastes”

This book, as previously established, does not seem like an edition belonging to those where “The historie of foure-footed beastes” and “The historie of serpents” were published jointly in 1658. In consulting archivist Malenda Triller, I learn that the most plausible way for two books published and printed a year apart to be included in the same codex is that a private individual had them bound into a single one. Reasons such as admiration for both works, the pragmatism of keeping two volumes in one place, faster consultation, or even the guarantee of equal preservation of the manuscripts might be considered, but the true motivations why this was done are unknown, as is the identity of the hypothetical individual who had Topsell’s two works bound together in the same volume. The inscription of a name –Jonathan Yates – and a date –1660– on the first page that we do preserve of the first book might be a piece of potential evidence that could give us more answers to the mistery of the individual who bound both books.

The mystery about the first owner who brought the two books together is not solved either by looking at information about the book’s most recent owner, before it came to the Dickinson College Special Collections Archive. And that is because, although the book arrived here as part of a donation from the Willoughby family, in which many other books from this former professor and scholar were offered to the college library for better preservation, after his passing, often, explained Malinda Triller, an ever-helpful librarian, donated books come with a record with information about their acquisition, their history, or some other piece of information such as the price for which they were purchased, but not in this case.

Going back to its origins and realizing that these are two books from different periods in the same volume, I pay even more attention to the front and back matters, which usually include information for the reader (dedications, epilogues, etc.). I do this in order to focus on learning more about the book, its afterlife and the way it was received. In other words, to better understand the book in its contemporaneity. For example, in the first “Epistle to the Learned Readers”, Topsell states that this book was conceived “to shew to euery plaine and honest man, the wonderfull workes of God in every beast in his vulgar toongue, and giue occasion to my louing friendes and Country-emn, to adde of themselues, or else to helpe mee with their owne obseruations vppon these stories”. Again, in “An Epilogue to the Readers”, I find that the author insists on asking its readers for their collaboration to continue expanding the book. He does it for a very important reason: the more collaboration in this work, the greater the glory for all English speakers, for never before has such an extensive work been written in vernacular English.

If you think my endeauors and the Printers costs necessarie and commendable, and if you would euer farther or second a good enterprize, I do require al men of conscience that shall euer hear, read, or see these Histories, or wish for the sight of the residue, to helpe vs with knowledge, and to certifie their particular experiences in any kinde, or any one of the liuing Beastes: and withall to consider how great a task we do vndertake, trauelling for the content and benefit of other men, and therefore how acceptable it would be vnto vs, and procure euerlasting memorie to themselues, to be helpers, incouragers, ayders, procurers, maintainers, and abettours, to such a labor and needefull endeuour, as was neuer before enterprized in England. (Y y y 2, The Historie of foure footed beastes).

In the front matter of the second book, however, Topsell writes about other issues regarding the reception of the first book. For example, two printing errors in the first book are amended and the translations of certain Latin verses that complicated comprehension are deleted.

Therefore, what we now know from the book is that its reading dignifies souls as would the contemplation of a divine work, and that Topsell had a clear intention to extend this text, to create an unprecedented scientific basis for zoology in the English language.

Despite the fact that it is not the 1658 edition and no other editions of this work are known to us, neither expanded nor revised, Topsell’s work has had an enduring life with much to be squeezed out.

For one, his project –even though he didn’t succeed in finishing it before his death– was crafted and first published (in 1607 and 1608) in the midst of important events for the scientific world, as John Lienhard points out in his brief description of these books. According to Lienhard, “his monumental work was actually an early glimmer of modern science” (Topsell’s Beasts), and therefore constitutes an exemplary work attempting to get closer to what we nowadays understand by “zoology”. The content of the book was, in its origins, according to the author, already relevant and dignifying to its reader not only because of the wealth of knowledge contributed by Conrad, but also because what Topsell proposes is a contemplation of the divine creation in a language that was no longer Latin.

The very dignifying content in this work, however, did not mature well over time. For instance, one does not believe nowadays the following description of the way in which mice procreate: “The generation or procreation of Myce, is not onely by copulation, but also nature worketh wonderfully in engendering them by earth and small showers” (The Historie of Foure Footed Beastes, Of Wilde Myce), or that “It is also very certaine that Mice which liue in a house, if they perceiue by the age of it, it be ready to fall downe or subiect to any other ruin, they foreknow it and depart out of it”, found in a passage subtitled “Presages and forknoledge of mice”, nor is it nowadays conceived a book of knowledge about animals to additionally include indications for natural remedies, medicines, spiritual or fantastic matters, such as long descriptions of the types of horns a unicorn may possess.

What makes it rare, not just because of its binding, but concerning its content, is precisely these out-of-date conceptions of nature, of authority, and moreover the evidence of a quest for objectivity, which is demonstrated by the extensive documentation used to talk about the creatures, in the midst of so much fantastic information about mythical creatures. Now considered obsolete, what brings us closer to this nearly 1000 page-long compilled volume of wisdom is the possibility offered by the work to immerse ourselves in the study of the natural world as it was understood in the seventeenth century, of reasoning, of the limits (or lack thereof) between truth and fiction, documentation and objectivity, of the weight of authors’ references versus what they themselves know or can attest to through their own experience (or, again, lack thereof).


Works consulted:

“Topsell’s Beasts” Engines of Our Ingenuity. Houston Public Media, 2000. John Lienhard, University of Houston. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from

Isaac, S. (2018, March 16). The familiar and the fantastic: The Historie of Foure-Footed beastes by Edward Topsell, 1607. Royal College of Surgeons. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from


The Life of Merlin, Surnamed Ambrosius by Arthur Heywood: Part Three

Beyond the intriguing political climates surrounding the origins of the actual printing, the copy of The Life of Merlin that I have had the chance to study has had a bit of a journey beyond the printing press (which is of course to be expected from a book created in 1641).  

Regarding publishing, The Life of Merlin had three print runs– the original 1641 edition, a 1651 edition, and an 1812 printing. The 1651 edition is mostly a reissue, published by a bookseller named Thomas Pierrepoint at “at the singe of the Sun in Paul’s Church-yard” but makes the acknowledgement of King Charles’ death (Figure A).


Figure A. The cover page of the 1651 edition of The Life of Merlin– note that it now says “to the Reign of the late King” as opposed to King Charles.  Photo from Freeman’s Auction (ninth source on Works Cited)

It’s probable that this was why the book was reprinted in the first place.  

In the 1812 issue, there are stylistic changes– for example, the “Prophecies and Predictions” part of the title is in blackletter typeface now– but the same hand-marbled cover and content carry over from the previous edition (Figure B).

Figure B. The cover of an 1812 version of The Life of Merlin.

Image from Rooke Books’ seller listing.  

From what I can tell, according to the listing of one such copy on the Biblio database of rare book auctions from Rookes Books, the printing is more refined in the 1812 edition. The marginalia are gone, and the text is formatted in a way more reminiscent of our modern books. There are indents, little to no ornamentations (from the previews I saw), and when quotations are done, they’re not italicized but quoted in a more modern, standardized manner. The 1812 edition was published by the Carmarthen company– by J. Evans and Messrs Lackington. This edition of the book is listed as both “very scarce” and historically “interesting,” according to the Biblio listing from Rookes Books. 

If we look further into the differences between the 1812 edition and the original 1641 printing, the former is far easier to find both digitized and on databases. Additionally, Google digitized the 1812 edition onto Google Books, but there is no mention of the 1641 edition anywhere, at least not in Google’s databases.  

Multiple editions aren’t where the book’s journey ends– the copy of The Life of Merlin that I have has an ex-libris before the Sellers name and the dedication to Helen Gilbert. After I did a reverse image search on it, shown in Figure C, it appeared to be a coat of arms.

Figure C. The bookplate inside The Life of Merlin. 

Looking at the “House of Hill” webpage on European Heraldry, the claim that it is an armorial bookplate of Rowland Clegg Hill, or the Hill family, proves true. There is still some mystique here, though—according to the images on the website, the bookplate could’ve belonged to either Rowland Hill, who lived from 1800–1875 and was the 2nd Viscount of Hill of Hawkestone and Hardwicke, or his son Rowland Clegg-Hill, the 3rd Viscount. The Hill family crest is outlined in Figure D and again on the “House of Hill” website.

Figure D. The Hill family crest/coat of arms.

Image from European Heraldry’s House of Hill. 

Anne Clegg’s coat-of-arms is also somewhat adapted in the bookplate, and she is the mother of Rowland Clegg-Hill, which is why I’m unsure as to whose coat of arms this is.  

Either way, the two of them were British politicians; according to the biographical entry on Rowland Hill from The History of Parliament and the biographical entry for Rowland Clegg-Hill in Prabook, both had military careers, with the 2nd Viscount serving as part of the Royal Horse Guards and eventually becoming Lord Lieutenant of the Shropshire Yeomanry and the 3rd Viscount also serving until 1879. Rowland Hill was a Tory politician who was in parliament for Shropshire from 1821–1832, and he became Baronet of Hawkstone in 1824, serving in the House of Lords in 1842. Rowland Clegg-Hill was a Conservative Member of Parliament for North Shropshire from 1857–1865. He succeeded his father in the viscountcy in 1875, becoming part of the House of Lords, but became bankrupt in 1894 with a debt of £250,000. Perhaps that’s how this book ended up at large again.  

In addition to the bookplate, the frontmost pages contain the name “Coleman Sellers” and the numbers 28/98 (Figure E).

Figure E. The inked-in mention of “Coleman Sellers” at the

beginning of The Life of Merlin. 

At first, I thought this was a bookseller’s company name, but it’s the family name of Charles Coleman Sellers. It’s unlikely Charles Sellers himself wrote in the book, given that if “Jany 28/98” is a date, 1998 doesn’t line up with Charles’ life and neither does 1898. I then assumed that this was something his father owned– however, the name Coleman Sellers goes back a long time. While perusing Charles Coleman Sellers’ files in the archive, I came upon a section of his will that said he was leaving a painting called “Coleman Sellers” to his son and daughter that was done by C. W. Peale. Charles Willson Peale was his great-great grandfather, a painter known best for being the first to paint portraits of George Washington. He was also the founder of one of the first American natural art and history museums, according to the National Gallery of Art’s webpage on him (listed below). If mentions of “Coleman Sellers” go back that far, it’s an old name.  

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in Helen Gilbert’s file beyond a sketch shown in Figure F, a photo of her from junior high and a poem in a small magazine from 1925.

Figure F. A sketch of Helen Gilbert, unknown artist.  

Archivist Malinda Triller told me she believed Helen Gilbert to be Sellers’ first wife. According to page on Sellers from the American National Biography, she was “an actress, poet, and author of children’s stories, whose work was published in Poetry Magazine and Sewanee Review,” and they ran a small bookstore called Tracey’s Bookstore in Hebron, Connecticut, where she was originally from (Soltis). This went on until Sellers got his job as a bibliographic librarian at Wesleyan University. In this way, the dedication of the book in her memory when donated to Dickinson College then makes sense.  

Sellers’ file was significantly larger. Going through various news clipping from Dickinson regarding his job, his awards for research work and his honoring of his great-great grandfather, I uncovered the history of a very dedicated man. According to a statement issued by Sam A. Banks titled “Dickinson College Newsletter detailing Charles Coleman Sellers’ passing,” Charles Coleman Sellers was born in 1903, was educated at Haverford College and Harvard University, and came to Dickinson College in 1949 as a curator and a teacher in the fine arts. Beginning in 1956, he was librarian for 12 years. He was dedicated to preserving the history of his great-great grandfather Charles Willson Peale, and retired in 1968, but worked tirelessly to capture the history of Dickinson and beyond. He passed away on January 31st of 1980. From what I can tell, he was a meticulous librarian with a love for both books and history– it seems only right that such a book like The Life of Merlin should have ended up with him, considering it’s about both.  

Beyond knowing that it was likely Mr. Sellers donated the book, I’m not entirely sure how it got here. The number attached to it meant that the book was likely added around the 1960s, which would be in line with Sellers’ retirement and subsequent passing, but I’m not sure if it ended up with the large group of appraised books from a subsequent piece of paperwork or if he donated it while he was still alive, as the donation is in his first wife’s name.  

It was certainly lovely to learn about a man so dedicated to the preservation of books and history, especially after having spent time in the archives these past weeks.  




Works Cited 

“Armorial Bookplate of Rowland Clegg Hill, 3rd Viscount.” Flickr, Accessed 26 March 2023. 

Banks, Sam A. “Dickinson College Newsletter detailing Charles Coleman Sellers’ passing.” Dickinson News. 11 February 1980.  

“Charles Willson Peale.” National Gallery of Art, Accessed 15 May 2023. 

Heywood, Thomas. “The Life of Merlin: Digitized by Google Books.” Google Books, Accessed 26 March 2023.   

“House of Hill.” European Heraldry, Accessed 26 March 2023.  

“Hill, Rowland (1800-1875) of Hawkstone, Salop.” History of Parliament Online, Accessed 15 May 2023. 

“Hill History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms.” House Of Names, Accessed 26 March 2023.  

Last will and testament of Charles Coleman Sellers. 14 November 1978. 

“Listing of Merlin’s Prophesies and Predictions Interpreted.” Biblio, Accessed 26 March 2023. 

“Listing of The Life of Merlin Surnamed Ambrosius.” Biblio, Accessed 26 March 2023.  

“Merlin’s Prophesies and Predictions with the Life of Merlin.” Freeman’s Auctions, Accessed 26 March 2023.  

Mosley, Charles. Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage. Burke’s Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003.  

“Rowland Hill.” Prabook, Accessed 15 May 2023. 

Soltis, Carol Eaton. “Sellers, Charles Coleman (1903-1980), biographer and librarian.” American National Biography, Oxford University Press, Accessed 15 May 2023.  

“1812 The Life of Merlin Surnamed Ambrosius.” Rooke Books, Accessed 26 March 2023.  

Ralph Brooke’s Catalogue: Audience

For any readers just joining me, this is my third and final blog post about Ralph Brooke’s 1619 Catalogue. My first is a general introduction, and my second combines analysis of the book’s origins and afterlife. Here, I turn to the book’s provenance.

When Dickinson acquired the Catalogue, any papers establishing its provenance did not come along with it. While we do have some of the receipts from Edwin Willoughby’s purchases between 1943 and 1949, none of these documents mention the Catalogue. That has made the job of reconstructing the book’s provenance rather difficult. What follows is my best attempt; I have had to make several key inferences even to get to this point.

I think I have gained two writers for the price of one. In an earlier post, I identified the inscription on the title page (fig. 1) as a single name, “Sir Samwell Thomas Newman,” but this mystery knight seemed not to exist. Recently, though, I noticed that the ink, the alignment, and the letterforms appear to differ subtly but significantly between the phrases “Sir Samwell” and “Thomas Newman his booke 1640.” While I have received conflicting second opinions about bifurcating “Sir Samwell Thomas Newman,” I think it is worthwhile to entertain the possibility that the two parts of this inscription refer to two separate people, and I have chosen, not without evidence, to treat them as such for the purposes of this post.

Fig. 1: the inscription on the title page.

Christopher John Edwin Newman, a modern-day member of the family, has made a website cataloguing the family history of the Newmans of Fifehead in Dorset, and when we consider the possibility that there are two inscriptions, first by Thomas in 1640 and then later by Sir Samwell, a coherent timeline of family ownership emerges. Two Thomas Newmans, in fact, were alive in 1640, one who died in 1649, and the other, his son, who died in 1668 (C. Newman). Our Thomas Newman could be either; regardless, the timeline works. Sir Samwell Newman, on the other hand, lived from about 1696 to 1747 (C. Newman). His first name, Samwell, is his mother’s last name, and the Samwells and Newmans had not intermarried before then, so it is very unlikely indeed that a yet-unrecorded Samwell Newman even could have existed in 1640. His title “Sir” only makes the possibility of some shadowy 17th century Samwell more unlikely: the Newmans were only granted a baronetcy under the real Sir Samwell’s father, Richard, in 1699 (C. Newman).

The binding also offers clues. Both the front and back covers have been blind-stamped with the letters “TN,” who (if these are initials) very easily could be one of the two Thomas Newmans I have already mentioned (fig. 2). Thomas Newman was certainly not averse to marking up his books. Since the Newman Family Tree’s catalogue only lists two Thomases under the first initial T, identifying TN as Thomas Newman would conclusively date the binding to the seventeenth century. This timeline also raises a major question, though: why are the many annotations throughout the text cut off by the edge of the page? There are, I think, two possibilities. First: the book may have already been annotated by a prior owner in a cheaper binding before it came secondhand into Newman’s possession. Second, Newman could have annotated it himself prior to sending it to a bookbinder. My examination of the book yielded none of the telltale holes that stab-stitching leaves, but these can be difficult or impossible to find in a book that has been rebound.

Fig. 2: The back cover, blind-stamped with “TN.”

This book’s binding has also helped me fill in the gap after the Newman family and before Edwin Willoughby. At some point in the mid-nineteenth century, and certainly after 1831, our book came into the possession of Robert Dundas Duncan, 1st Earl of Camperdown, whose gilded armorial stamp can clearly be seen on the front cover (fig 3). How this book made its way from the West Country to Scotland eludes me, and any efforts to establish whether the Newmans and the Duncans intermarried have been unsuccessful. While my dating of the binding to the seventeenth century is tenuous without expert opinion, the presence of the Camperdown stamp on the front cover definitively dates the binding to the mid-nineteenth century or before.

Fig. 3: The front cover, stamped both with “TN” and with the seal of the Earl of Camperdown.

I mischaracterized Edwin E. Willoughby as a mere collector in my previous posts. Dickinson’s archive possesses many of his private documents and his publications, and these make it immensely clear that he had far more than a passing interest in the Catalogue. Willoughby, in fact, returned to the Catalogue several times in his publications, particularly because the Brooke-Jaggard dispute affected the schedule of the printing of the First Folio. In 1928, in graduate school, he wrote a five-page piece entitled “An Interruption in the Printing of the First Folio,” where he tracks the delays in the production of the Folio; a relevant section concerns the delay that Brooke caused (fig. 4). Four years later, Willoughby wrote The Printing of the First Folio of Shakespeare, which expands on the themes in “An Interruption” and discusses the difficulties between Jaggard and Brooke (fig. 5). Finally, in 1934, he published a biography of William Jaggard entitled A Printer of Shakespeare: The Books and Times of William Jaggard. I have had the opportunity to study both his handwritten drafts (fig. 6) and a printed copy (fig. 7).

Fig. 4: The section of “An Interruption” covering the Jaggard-Brooke conflict.

Fig. 5: A mention of Brooke in The Printing.

Fig. 6: Willoughby’s handwritten draft of the beginning of Chapter 13 of A Printer.

Fig. 7: The printed first page of Chapter 13 of A Printer.

Brooke’s Catalogue was clearly relevant to Edwin Willoughby’s research interests, and that is evidently why he owned it. What remains unknown to me, however, is when the Catalogue actually came into Willoughby’s personal possession. While it seems possible that he purchased it to aid his research while working on one of his pieces written during the 1920s and 1930s, I’ve noticed an inscription in in the back of the book: “F. 11.1.43” (fig. 8). To me, that indicates a date: either 1 November or 11 January 1943. Inscriptions of this type or in this hand are nowhere in all other Willoughby books that Special Collections Librarian Malinda Triller-Doran and I checked in the archive, which leads me to believe that Willoughby may not be the writer; he would have purchased the book, then, at some point during or after 1943. We do have a book order from November 1943, addressed to Willoughby from The Export Book Company in Preston, Lancashire, but this mentions only two Bibles from the turn of the 17th century (fig. 9).

Fig. 8: The mysterious 20th-century writing in the back of the Catalogue.

Fig. 9: An invoice from the Export Book Company to Willoughby regarding two Early Modern bibles.

Edwin Willoughby died in 1959, having never married. His sister, Cmdr. Frances Willoughby—an extraordinary figure in her own right, whose achievements included becoming the first woman to permanently achieve the rank of commander in the United States military—donated many of his books and papers to Dickinson after his death (fig. 10), and the College held an exhibition of his collection in his honor. The book has remained in our archives since then. I hope that some of its yet elusive mysteries are eventually solved, but I am grateful to have filled the amount of missing information I have.

Fig. 10: A letter from Charles Coleman Sellers, Librarian of Dickinson College, to Frances Willoughby.

Works Cited

Brooke, Ralph. A CATALOGVE and Succeſsion of the Kings, Princes, Dukes, Marqueſſes, Earles, and Viſcounts of this Realme of England, ſince the Norman Conqueſt, to this preſent yeare, 1619. London, William Jaggard, 1619.

“Duncan, Robert Dundas, 1st Earl of Camperdown (1785 -1859).” British Armorial Bindings, University of Toronto Libraries,

“Edwin Eliott Willoughby (1899-1959).” Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, 2005,

“Frances Lois Willloughby (1906-1984).” Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, 2005,

Newman, Christopher John Edwin. Newman Family Tree, 25 Dec. 2022,

Sellers, Charles Coleman. Letter to Commander Frances Willoughby. 28 December 1959. Edwin E. Willoughby file. Archives and Special Collections, Waidner-Spahr Library, Carlisle, PA.

The Export Book Company. Invoice to Edwin Willoughby. 2 November 1943. Box 4, folder 12. Edwin E. Willoughby papers. Archives and Special Collections, Waidner-Spahr Library, Carlisle, PA.

Willoughby, Edwin E. A Printer of Shakespeare: The Books and Times of William Jaggard. London: Philip Allan & Co., 1934.

—. Handwritten draft of A Printer of Shakespeare. Box 1, folder 3. Edwin E. Willoughby papers. Archives and Special Collections, Waidner-Spahr Library, Carlisle, PA.

—. The Printing of the First Folio of Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1932.

Ralph Brooke’s Catalogue: Origins and Afterlife

For those readers just joining me now, this is the second in a series of three blog posts about Dickinson College’s 1619 copy of the Catalogue and Succession of the Kings, Princes, Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, and Viscounts of England. (I’ve had to abridge the rather unwieldy title, which can be found in part one.) My first post was a general overview of the material book, and here I turn to the origins and the afterlife of this deceptively straightforward text. 

The existence of the Catalogue is inextricably linked to one man: Ralph Brooke. Brooke rose from the son of a shoemaker to York Herald in the College of Arms, where his combined desire to fight corruption in the College and his short temper regularly put him at odds with other heralds—and made him no stranger to fines and suspensions. The story of Brooke’s personality and career shines through best in the following anecdote: in 1602, he formally challenged (among 22 others) the heraldry that Garter King of Arms William Dethick had granted to John Shakespeare, the father of William Shakespeare, on the basis both of low social rank and of similarity to those of another lord (fig. 1). Brooke soon found his challenge defeated, though, by a group which included his arch-nemesis (and coworker) William Camden. Brooke’s general discontent with the College’s output, particularly Camden’s survey of the British Isles, Britannia, led him to author his own Catalogue and Succession to correct the perceived errors made by his colleagues. 

Fig. 1: The arms challenged by Ralph Brooke. Shakespeare’s arms can be seen in the top row, second to the right.

He chose William Jaggard to print it. A former apprentice of the great Henry Denham, Jaggard had by 1619 become a leading London printer and bookseller with a Crown commission for copies of the Ten Commandments. But he was hardly a paragon of honest business, and coincidentally, his own dealings with Shakespeare best establish his complicated personality. In 1599 Jaggard printed a collection of poems called The Passionate Pilgrim. The second edition, published the same year, is attributed to “W. Shakespeare”—who had written only five short poems in the entire twenty-poem volume. Jaggard also credited the 1612 expanded edition solely to Shakespeare though the only new additions were poems by Thomas Heywood; it took Heywood’s publication of his (and Shakespeare’s) disapproval to get Jaggard to remove “By W. Shakespeare” from the title page (fig. 2 depicts the title page of Heywood’s “Apology for actors”). In 1619, Jaggard falsified the dates of several Shakespeare plays so it appeared he had the rights to them; the resultant compilation has become known as the False Folio. But even after a long career spent wading in the muck of unethical business, Jaggard also printed the legitimate First Folio. William Jaggard’s dealings with Shakespeare thus reveal something of a Janus with a print shop: a man simultaneously reputable and prone to unethical action in order to make money. 

Fig. 2: The title page of Heywood’s Apology for Actors.

A conflict between the personalities of Brooke and Jaggard seems almost inevitable. Dickinson’s copy, which is a mess, bears the scars of the two men’s conflict. In order to determine this book’s physical origins, particularly its fraught printing process, one must consider its afterlife. We must look to the published words of Brooke and Jaggard. 

Two editions of this book exist: the 1619 edition and a corrected 1622 edition in which Ralph Brooke appears more incensed than before. The title page, while it does contain much the same text as in 1619, also features this addition: “Collected by RALPH BROOKE, Eſquire, Yorke Herauld, and by him inlarged, with amendment of diuers faults, committed by the Printer, in the time of the Authors ſickneſſe” (Brooke). No printer’s name appears, but according to the catalogue entry from Duke University, Brooke has jettisoned Jaggard and enlisted the services of William Stansby, printer of Ben Jonson’s 1616 Workes. 

Brooke explains the “faults committed by the Printer” in a letter addressed directly to the reader. While most of the letter accuses other heralds of enviously trying to defame him, Brooke states in the opening paragraph that he has fixed “many eſcapes, and miſtakings, committed by the Printer, whilſt my ſickneſſe abſented me from the Preſſe, at the first publication” (Brooke). He styles himself as someone who intended to regularly check in on his book during its printing, seeking a significant level of control over Jaggard’s press, and whose illness is what let the printer freely make errors. Our York Herald is not content to air his grievances in prose alone: he also includes a poem in heroic couplets. (Below this extended diatribe William Stansby chooses to include his own errata list.) 

It must be noted: the comic potential of Ralph Brooke’s characteristic irritability did not escape his contemporaries. In 1622, Brooke’s coworker Augustine Vincent published A discouerie of errours in the first edition of the Catalogue of nobility, published by Raphe Brooke, Yorke Herald, 1619. This book satirizes Ralph Brooke’s Catalogue and includes testimony from numerous individuals with connections to the York Herald. One of these individuals, it happens, is the printer of Vincent’s book: William Jaggard. 

In his own scathing letter, Jaggard pushes back against Brooke’s assertion that he is to blame for the errors in the 1619 edition of the Catalogue. Drawing on the original errata list, Jaggard argues that the errors are self-evidently the result of Brooke’s own mistakes in scholarship. Even the workmen at his shop “will at no hand yeelde themſelues to be fathers of those ſyllabical faults”; they too believe Brooke to be to blame (Jaggard). Here Jaggard turns Brooke’s watchfulness on its head: if he was watching the printing process so carefully, then the errors must be his, especially given that during his much-mentioned illness, “though hee came not in perſon to ouer-looke the Preſſe, yet the Proofe and Reviews duly attended him, and he peruſed them… in the maner he did before” (Jaggard). Jaggard finishes his letter pointedly with the word FAREWELL in capitals. 

What emerges from the discourse between the 1619 Catalogue, the 1622 Catalogue, and Augustine Vincent’s Discoverie is a decidedly combative printing process. One wonders whether Brooke’s meddling is why most of the engravings are missing in the 1619 edition, why the page numbers are messy, and why the title page has been glued in. It must be said, of course: the biographies of Brooke and Jaggard alike give legitimate reason to distrust both their accounts, for one was prone to bad-faith criticism, the other repeatedly conducted dishonest business, and both were openly keen to preserve their reputations. Their conflict, though, is self-evident, and the book seems to have been the main casualty. 

The afterlife of Ralph Brooke’s Catalogue is a quiet one after 1622. Brooke and Jaggard were both dead by the middle of the decade. From the 1640s to 1660, the Civil War and Interregnum resulted in the death or exile of countless nobles and lasting changes to the English governmental structure, rapidly making Brooke’s text—either edition—obsolete. It is telling, I think, that Dickinson’s 1619 edition bears the marks of a single early modern reader, one Sir Samuell Thomas Newman, who annotates it according to the errata list in 1640. (More on him in my upcoming “Audience” post.) The only later marks establish the book as the property of Edwin E. Willoughby and then Dickinson College (fig. 3). When Dickinson acquired the book from his sister Col. Frances Willoughby, the provenance did not come with it, so the text attests only to the ownership of Newman, Willoughby, and Dickinson College. 

Fig. 3: The bookplate in Dickinson’s copy of the Catalogue.

What seems abundantly clear, regardless of how it got from Newman to Willoughby, is that this book was rarely used. Because Brooke failed to acknowledge that his work was collaborative, its quality suffered, and his book gradually faded from memory as anything more than the ranting of an irritable herald whose printer happened to also print the First Folio. Ralph Brooke, were he alive today, would likely hate to hear that William Camden’s Britannia is considered a milestone in English literature, while the Catalogue has become obscure. 

Works Cited 

“Book Descriptions: Glossary of Terms.” Book Addiction UK, 2023, 

Brooke, Ralph. A CATALOGVE and Succeſsion of the Kings, Princes, Dukes, Marqueſſes, Earles, and Viſcounts of this Realme of England, ſince the Norman Conqueſt, to this preſent yeare, 1619. London, William Jaggard, 1619. 

—. A catalogve and succession of the kings, princes, dukes, marquesses, earles, and viscounts of this realme of England, since the Norman conquest, to this present yeere 1622. London, William Stansby, 1622. <> 

—. The Armes presented vnto her Maiestie with the first [..] par Garter Dethecke. 1602, . 

Bland, Mark. “Stansby, William (bap. 1572, d. 1638), printer and bookseller.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. <> 

Herendeen, Wyman H. “Brooke [Brookesmouth], Ralph (c. 1553–1625), herald.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. <> 

Heywood, Thomas. An apology for actors. 1612, 

Vincent, Augustine. A discouerie of errours in the first edition of the Catalogue of nobility, published by Raphe Brooke, Yorke Herald, 1619, and printed heerewith word for word, according to that edition. London, William Jaggard, 1622. <> 

Wells, Stanley. “Jaggard, William (c. 1568–1623), printer and bookseller.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. <> 

The Afterlife of The American Frugal Housewife

The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Maria Child was originally published in 1829 and within the span of a decade had thirty-five editions (“The Frugal Housewife,” 1). My focus is on the twentieth edition, but I examined the fourth edition too, which will be referenced to compare the two editions. The fourth and twentieth editions did not have many noticeable variations within the text itself. There was the addition of a copyright (Figure 1) to differentiate the work from a similarly named text in England. This addition of copyright occurred sometime between the twelfth edition and the twentieth edition.  

Figure 1

Through comparing arbitrary pages between both editions, no differences in the existing shared texts were discovered aside from slight formatting differences. However, the later editions included extra sections of chapters (Figure 2), noted at the beginning of the fourth edition.  

Figure 2

There is no evidence that the twentieth edition was dismembered in any way for the purpose of sharing or selling pieces individually. Certain sections or recipes may have been cut out of other copies, as this book was popular throughout the 1830s, it is likely some readers could have shared the book or sections of it with others (Edwards, 243). If anything, there are additions to this book from previous owners. There are marginalia throughout the fourth edition I examined. I think the notes are related to a recipe’s cost or conversion of measurements, and there is also a lengthy note at the beginning of the book. The notation is about the reader’s preferences for specific recipes, such as one note expanding on preparing sausages. With the letter being at the beginning of the book, it is likely the reader has read the book at least once before and referred to it periodically for recipe ideas. Based on the marginalia, the previous owner of the book preferred easy recipes and side dishes, like sausage. There are also drawings on the back inside cover of the book in both pen and pencil.  


Figures 3 and 4

The twentieth edition is complete with a homemade cover and stitching, an attempt to personalize the book, which suggests its common use in everyday life. The patterned fabric is glued onto the boards of the book and there is loose, guitar string-like, stitching holding the cloth together at its endsThe handmade cover alludes to the sentimental value of this book; its previous owner carefully stitched and designed a handmade cover to decorate and elevate the cookbook, which implies that it was coveted.  

Figure 5

While I could not find the original cost of The American Frugal Housewife, I assume copies of the book were sold at a reasonable price, affordable to those wanting to think more economically. A low cost could also be assumed from the popularity of the book and its thirty-five editions. The editions I examined are not particularly rare or priceless as this book was reprinted a considerable amountThere are many copies of both books circulating, therefore the book is not comparatively valuable, especially the latter editions. When I looked online for copies for sale, I found that most listings of the book are inexpensive and for recently published editions. Reprintings from 1989 can be purchased on Amazon for about fifteen dollars. There is also a paperback edition published in 2017 available for under five dollars. It is interesting to note that the version being sold is the twelfth edition. (“The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy,” 1). I wonder why that one has modern popularity. However, two websites list twentieth (CHILD, 1) and twenty-seventh editions (CHILD, Mrs. [Lydia Maria], 1) being sold for $116 and $275, respectively.  

Figures 6 and 7

Dickinson College received this book as a donation from Charles Coleman Sellers, former Librarian of the College (“Charles Coleman Sellers,” 1). The date and year Sellers donated the twentieth edition are unknown, as he gifted the college numerous books over the years. After his death, he left several books to the College but the accounts from his estate do not list specific titles. Due to this uncertainty, there is not much known about how Sellers acquired the book; if it was passed down within his family or as an arbitrary acquisition. There are notes in the front matter of the book which look like dates. This might suggest the book was passed down and the dates are representative of when someone owned it, however, the dates are in the same handwriting so they could also be from a bookseller.  

Figure 8

As this is a recipe and home economics book, meant to be utilized by its reader in the home, it could have been passed down through the family or shared with other friends and relatives. The fourth edition contains significant marginalia and an insert in the front matter with notes on the book’s contents, which could also suggest that it was passed down from generation to generation. However, I cannot confirm this as the records of Sellers’ donations do not contain exact dates and relevant information about each text.  

Prior to research, while I considered if this book were banned, I thought of Lydia Maria Child’s other published works, notably those commenting on gender and race, and wondered if their reception would influence this book. I had originally thought that because of the progressive nature of her previously published works, there could be a target on this book, leading to it being scrutinized and potentially, in an extreme case, banned.  It was interesting, but also not surprising, to find that The American Frugal Housewife was never banned as it was received well and rose to popularity among women. Lydia Maria Child published this book as her husband had accumulated a lot of financial debt, which led Child to consider economic solutions for a household. While she was outspoken about abolition and Women’s Rights, publishing works such as “An Appeal in Favor of Americans Called Africans” and “The History of the Condition of Women, in Various Nations and Ages,” the popularity of her guidebook did not seem to wane. It became a staple in American households, securing a spot in an unexplored market of American books geared towards women (Rushing, 1). 

 To evolve with the modern age of technology, this book has been digitalized a few times, most notably by the Library of Congress, which has a first edition available to view digitally (“The Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy,” 1). In the context of today, some of the information in the book is obsolete, especially some of the phrasing used in the book. However, most of the book is an instructional guide for preparing economical dishes, and many sections focus on preparing and harvesting various foods. While some of the recipes are not as common today, like bird’s nest pudding, the book does provide instructions and tips on creating various dishes with straightforward language that someone could easily follow today. 

Figures 9 and 10


Works Cited 

 “Charles Coleman Sellers (1903-1980).” Charles Coleman Sellers (1903-1980) | Dickinson College, Dickinson Colege , 2005, 

 CHILD, Mrs. “Abebooks.” By CHILD, Mrs. | Librera Antonio Castro, London: Thomas Tegg, 1839., 

 CHILD, Mrs. [Lydia Maria]. “Abebooks.” By CHILD, Mrs. [Lydia Maria]: Good Hardcover (1844) | Between the Covers-Rare Books, Inc. ABAA, Samuel S. & William Wood, New York, 1 Jan. 1970, 

Edwards, Herbert. “Lydia M. Child’s the Frugal Housewife.” The New England Quarterly, Inc. , vol. 26, no. 2, June 1935, pp. 243–249., 

“The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy.” Amazon, Samuel S. & William Wood, 

“The Frugal Housewife : Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy.” The Library of Congress, Library of Congress, 

“The Frugal Housewife.” Book by Lydia Maria Child | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster, Simon & Schuster,,and%20economy%20in%20the%20kitchen. 

Rushing, Erin. “Lydia Maria Child: Home Economy and Human Rights.” Smithsonian Libraries and Archives / Unbound, Smithsonian , 21 Dec. 2020, 


The Rosebud: A Final Vestige of a Dying Practice


         The Rosebud is a fascinating aspect of a practice that has been rendered  obsolete and lost to time. This book is an example of a “gift book” or “annual”, which were typically illustrated collections of poetry, fables and prose, popular in the 19th century (A 19th-Century Fad). As a point of clarification, though the terms “gift book” and “annual” are often used interchangeably, a small difference exists in that “annuals” refers to editions of any such anthology of different works or magazines with extra aspects or illustrations printed for purchase at the end of the year (Gift Books and Annuals | Encyclopedia.Com). The main draw of these gift books was that the covers were lavishly decorated, with gilt edges and ornately decorated binding. The Rosebud’s bright colors and intricately embossed cover and spine designs make it a shining example of such a book. These annuals often served as gifts for women and children, with The Rosebud likely intended as a romantic gesture, due to its name representing a flower. Flower language was a popular method of courtship in this era (The American Gift Book). Gift books also served to further political causes, with a number of abolitionist gift books being circulated between 1839-1857 (Gift Books and Annuals | Encyclopedia.Com)

Gift books hit the peak of their popularity in 1848 to 1851, with thousands of copies of certain popular annuals such as The Atlantic Souvenir being circulated throughout England, the United States, and later to Canada and South America (The American Gift Book). In the 1850’s however, the popularity of gift books began to decline. Because The Rosebud was published sometime in the 1850’s, it was one of the later gift books to be circulated. This possibly explains why there is so little information on The Rosebud itself online, as it was likely not particularly popular due to the gift book’s waning relevance as a genre. The downfall of annuals and gift books was likely caused by a number of factors. Importantly, publishers had begun to employ marketing strategies such as publishing their gift books just before the Christmas season, thus creating intense competition between publishers. Additionally, those authors that gained notoriety from their writing contributions to gift books began to publish their writing independently, both exceeding the popularity of gift books and  effectively rendering the content within them redundant and unnecessary (The American Gift Book). Ultimately, they simply grew out of fashion in the late 1850’s, with little to none still being published by the time of the Civil War. 

In terms of the fate of this edition of The Rosebud, there is some information that can be gleaned from its appearance. Firstly, the interior appears to be almost completely free of damage. This is not uncommon in gift books, as their purpose was not necessarily to be read as you would a typical book. Instead, they were similar in concept to today’s coffee table books, intended to be displayed on tables and shelves, and to be flipped through at random. The Rosebud falls in line with this purpose, as the writing and poetry segments are not in any particular order. 

 Another aspect that was common with gift books is that the engravings contained within them were often removed and displayed, due to their beauty and detail. An interesting detail to note is that  this particular edition of The Rosebud has all of its illustrations intact, perhaps lending credence to the fact that The Rosebud was not a popular or well known gift book. 

It is not readily known how many editions of The Rosebud were printed, but according to The Arsenical Books Database, at least two editions were bound with a green onlay containing a small amount of arsenic. This was a somewhat common practice in the 19th century, as the bindings and onlays containing this arsenic were a brilliant, beautiful green color, making books that utilized it stand out from others (ARSENICAL BOOKS DATABASE – Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library). According to the database, the method in which the arsenic was applied was an ornamental onlay similar to that of this edition of The Rosebud, so it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that this edition contains arsenic. It is not likely that The Rosebud was ever reprinted any later than the short time it was in circulation, as it was published at the tail end of the lifespan of the gift book. It has not been scanned online, and there are few sporadic editions available for online purchase on sites such as Etsy. 

In short, the specific details of the afterlife of this edition of The Rosebud remain mysterious. It emerged towards the downfall of the gift book’s cultural relevance, and faded quickly into obscurity. Its contents and illustrations have been seen by relatively few, and information is sparse. Ultimately, it serves as a marker of a unique cultural practice of the 19th century, and an ancestor to modern coffee table books, meant to be looked at rather than read. 


Works Cited

A 19th-Century Fad: The Illustrated Gift Annual | New-York Historical Society. Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

ARSENICAL BOOKS DATABASE – Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. Accessed 5 Mar. 2023.

Gift Books and Annuals | Encyclopedia.Com. Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

The American Gift Book. Accessed 5 Mar. 2023.

Foundations for Connection in The New Edinburgh Dispensatory

At first, the New Edinburgh Dispensatory appears dislocated from modern scientific relevancy. My email to a Dickinson science history professor before the bulk of my research started yielded no title recognition from her (Pawley). However, though the Dispensatory was not placed within a relevant book list, I was told that Edinburgh was a scientifically significant location at the time of its release, giving the first hint to this book’s place in a larger historical continuum after further research (Pawley). This theme does not stop there, though, as the people and knowledge behind the production and transport of the book have significance, even if the content does not. The most immediate link to this theme lies in the way the book was donated to Dickinson in the first place.

Figure 1- Donation Inscription and Date of Sale

Despite being noted as originally owned by Joseph van der Schot, the donation inscription also states that the donor was one Frank R. Keefer (Figure 1). However, all that is known about van der Schot from Dickinson records appears on the inscription within the book, describing his career as a military surgeon who died in service at Pittsburgh in 1805 (Figure 1). Interestingly, though morbidly, the above seller’s inscription cites 1805 as the sale year, meaning that we can infer that van der Schot must have possessed this book for only a brief time. The manner of his death is unknown, but probably unrelated to his service in the military, since early 1800s Pittsburgh was in an industrialization stage, not a combat one (“Pittsburgh”). Still, van der Schot is not the only relevant personal figure associated with this book.

Figure 2- Dedication from Andrew Duncan to his father.

Keefer’s life expands the story. Joseph van der Schot was Frank Keefer’s maternal great-grandfather, so this specific Dispensatory must have been an inherited family keepsake (Figure 1). My February interview with Dickinson archivist Malinda Triller Doran helped fill in the gaps in Keefer’s life. In addition to graduating as part of Dickinson class of 1885, Keefer was an “M.D.” at time of donation. Just like the author Andrew Duncan’s dedication to his doctor father, a family legacy of medicine was something also perhaps implicitly passed down (Figure 2). We also know the book was officially donated and processed on February 17th, 1950, based on archival records, meaning the book was in his family line for almost 150 years before donation (Figure 3). Keefer also donated books from his personal collection such as Military Hygiene and Alcoholic Drinks and Narcotics in 1952 (Malcolm). A November 1925 Dickinson Alumnus profile shows Keefer reflecting on his comparatively storied military career to what we know of van der Schot (“Ranks” 8-9). Still, Keefer and his great-grandfather’s military service implies a legacy in this family line, especially considering both served in medical capacities. However, a caveat must be made that the finer details relating to the emotional dynamics of this book are likely lost forever. For example, even though van der Schot only had this book a short time before death, there is no record as to whether this book was a treasured family keepsake lovingly passed down throughout the decades, or merely something left to grow dusty in an attic until the Keefers did some spring cleaning and decided to donate. We cannot know that, but the familial line alone tells us about how this book has traveled throughout the ages based upon a continuing familial line and legacy.

Figure 3-(Donations aside from Dispensatory crossed out for privacy)

Scientific legacies of mutable terminology and practice also represent another throughline of history within the Dispensatory. Page 5 in the “Epitome of Chemistry” section, for instance, discusses how radiation is a method to “repel” certain “particles of caloric” (Duncan 5). In other words, the Dispensatory states that heat can be transmitted through waves. Though we may associate the term “caloric” with calories today, the quote context signals the 18th century connotation of heat (“Caloric”). Similarly, the first modern use of X-ray radiation in 1895 was not discovered until almost a century after the Dispensatory’s publication (Fröman). The usage of radiation in the Dispensatory instead points to an older (and more obvious) definition describing “emissions of rays” or heat (“Radiation”). Thus, while technically correct even today, the terminology marks the content squarely as part of the past. On a similar note, there are many elements within the text, but their true significance and usage would not be realized until much later. For example, uranium’s short description calls it an “incoherent mass” and then briefly mentions its hardness and basic combinative potential (Duncan 27). Once again, the content is technically correct, but not in the same context we would describe how to handle uranium today.

However, the Dispensatory’s most important representation of its continued scientific relevancy is its handling of the demonstration of science itself. From a commercial standpoint, a bookstore today selling a medical textbook that gives advice on deadly poisons and remedial balms would be unlikely. (Duncan 491-503). Still, the principles behind these actual recipes are still used practically today, even if some of the ingredients themselves are different. In the “Preparations and Compositions Section” concerning lead, the book gives instruction to “entirely…[reject]” ingestion (Duncan 476). Yet, it still advertises lead’s usefulness in treating external skin ailments (Duncan 476). While the lead in everyday life has declined significantly, using harmful materials for a greater destructive purpose remains a part of modern medicine like with chemotherapy (Pedersen, “Lead”). Despite chemotherapy’s proven negative effects, the continued usage reflects a similar principle to that found in the Dispensatory in which medicine does the best with the knowledge available at that moment in time (“Chemotherapy”).

While some of the Dispensatory’s content may be obsolete, the scientific and personal history found within still has relevancy. We now understand that lead should not be applied to the skin, but similar philosophies of taking the lesser evil are still present in modern medicine. At the same time, the Dispensatory’s personal history with the Keefers and van der Schots further shows how real people also continue and pass down legacies of knowledge, occupation, and blood to newer generations. In short, taking all the Dispensatory’s information to heart may not be productive because of the outdated content. Instead, appreciating the mindsets and continued legacies, whether personal or scientific, provides the key to understanding the Dispensatory’s rich nature.





Works Cited: 

“caloric, n.” OED Online, March 2023, Accessed 30 March2023. 

Dickinson College Library. Accessions ledger 70001-80000, January 12, 1949 to October 19,1953. Record Group 4/51 Library, Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA. 

Duncan, Andrew. The New Edinburgh Dispensatory. Worcester, 1805. 

Fröman, Nanny. “Marie and Pierre Curie and the discovery of polonium and radium.” NobelPrize Outreach AB 2023,                   -polonium-and-radium/. Accessed 30 March 2023. 

“How Chemotherapy Drugs Work.” American Cancer Society, 2023,                                             Accessed 30 March 2023.  

Malcom, Gilbert. Letter to F.R. Keefer. Received by Frank Keefer. 25 June 1952. 

Pawley, Emily. “Re: Book Relevancy.” Received by Anna Robison, 27 March 2023.  

“Pittsburgh Becomes the City of Steel.” PBS, 2023,                                                                                  Accessed 30 March 2023. 

Pedersen, Traci. “Facts about Lead.” LiveScience¸ 6 October 2016, Accessed 30 March 2023. 

“radiation, n.” OED Online, December 2022, Accessed 29 March 2023. 

“Ranks High in Army Medical Service.” The Dickinson Alumnus. November 1925, pp. 8-10.

Triller Doran, Malinda. Personal Interview. 10 February 2023. 


Moby-Dick; or, the Whale: Audience

According to the Reception theory of literature, audiences actively construct texts they read by bringing their unique interpretations, experiences, and judgements to their examination — Moby-Dick; or, the Whale is a fitting example of how perceptions of a book may skew its meaning and cultural value (Jauss). Specifically, the life of Moby Dick demonstrates how intended audiences shift based on certain aspects of the physical book and the cultural moments in which it was distributed. In this blog post, I will explore the intended versus actual demographics of readership of Moby Dick as it was published in its time, then hone in on the Arion Press editions of the book before examining the specific copy in the Dickinson Archives.

Moby Dick is filled with an unyielding level of detail in terms of whaling and intense moments from adventures at sea. When Melville set out to create this novel, his intended audience would be mentally worthy of handling scenes that detail the gory battles of whale hunting, or the complete madness and obsession of Ahab. Prior to the publication of his book, Melville warned his friend Sarah Morewood, “It is not a piece of fine feminine Spitalfields silk – but it is of the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships’ cables and hausers … Warn all gentle fastidious people from so much as peeping into the book – on risk of a lumbago & sciatics.” (“Moby-Dick.”). Although this comment is inferred to be made in a joking manner, ( Melville was not explicitly a feminist, but themes of femininity in a positive light were tied into nature and the presentation of several characters), his perceived audience was not composed of females — or “gentle fastidious people” — whose tastes were “too sensitive” for this book. Rather, more broadly, Melville’s intended audience would be progressive-minded people who could mentally handle depictions of gay marriage and subversions of gender norms. This may be why Moby Dick experienced a revival in the 1920s — more people were becoming comfortable with breaking conventions with the explosion of the “New Era” (Routledge).  Therefore, the cultural value of this book has shifted and increased as societal mindsets evolved, hence Moby Dick’s new status as a masterwork of literature. 

Moreover, the front matter of the book details the findings of a “sub-sub librarian,” serving as a comedic fragment Melville included to indirectly engage in conversation with the audience (as seen in the front matter pictured here). This librarian is a thinly disguised representation of himself, considering he compiled the thorough references to whales (touching on their symbolic meaning that will be expanded upon) in past literature. However, at the time of publication, the public was widely unaccepting of Moby Dick. In a way, Melville may have undermined his credibility with his readers by introducing the self-deprecating sub-sub librarian. This epic work was a strict departure from the light-hearted adventures of his previous publications, and the playful introduction may have reinforced readers’ expectations that they were heading into an easy read about an adventure at sea. The harsh criticism and limited profitability negate Melville’s assumption of widespread admiration for his tragic work. Unfortunately, the failure of what he considered his magnum opus eventually led to the downfall of his career as a writer (Lagasse). 

Furthermore, the Printer’s (also referred to as the AP) and California Deluxe editions of Moby Dick were not produced for high school students to fulfill their mandatory reading. Rather, the high-quality Printer’s edition was created for someone who enjoys revisiting the tale of Captain Ahab and his obsession with the white whale. The hefty price suggests that the reader must also appreciate the minute elements that establish the character of a physical book. The intended audience could range from passionate book collectors to university archives; currently on sale for $10,000 – $15,000, this book has become a valuable cultural product (“Arion Press Moby Dick, Printer’s Copy.”). On resale sites, the price increases to $25,000 (“Moby Dick or, the Whale.”). Therefore, this edition is not used for constant rereading, bookmarking, and dog-earing. Rather, the book is representative of the appreciation of the storytelling and act of creation of the physical book — it could serve as a centerpiece or a lavish adornment to a coffee table. The thought put into this book is representative of the significance this book holds in our culture, widely considered one of the greatest American novels. Components including the size, quality of paper, condition of the binding, and presence of thoughtful, handcrafted details all signify that this edition is worthy of that prestige, a tribute to Melville’s success that was deserved when he was alive. 

The original publication of the book indicates the intended success of Moby Dick. Released in the UK and America, the first edition

First Edition of Moby Dick

First edition of Moby Dick, Published by Harper & Brothers, New York, 1851

was a work of art in itself with golden gilt binding, however, the book was sold for $1.50 when published in 1851 (Kuhl). Although the book was not published cheaply, only 915 copies were printed in Melville’s lifetime. A helpful comparison is made to the print run of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published a year after Moby Dick, which “ sold 10,000 copies in 2 weeks” (Kuhl). The failure to sell copies reflects the notion that the audience of the time completely shapes the value of the book. However, as literary tastes developed, the book gained popularity and appreciation, as seen in Arion Press’s homage to Melville’s accomplishment. 

The California Deluxe edition has an intended audience similar to the Printer’s edition. The most prominent difference between the two is that the California Deluxe edition possesses photographic representations of the original. Moreover, this edition is slightly smaller with a cloth cover rather than goat skin. The size of the book still denotes an elevated status, one that deserves a spot in a prized collection or on display despite being less expensive than the Printer’s edition. Currently, copies of this edition are being sold on online marketplaces like Abebooks, on which prices range from $250 to $1,726, depending on the condition, denoting a dedicated audience that holds a deep admiration for bookmaking (“Moby Dick or, the Whale.”). The copies available for purchase are being sold by independent bookstores instead of individuals. This suggests that private owners may be reluctant to sell their books or are utilizing alternative sales methods.

Trade Edition

California Deluxe Edition

Arion Press also released a trade edition that was produced to transfer these finely crafted books into the hands of the public. With this, the audience has shifted to individuals who enjoy reading, but who are unwilling to spend more extreme sums on a single book. This edition was more economically reasonable due to its decreased size, all black rather than blue ink, and thinner paper. This edition aligns with Melville’s intended audience, which was likely a large portion of the population with progressive minds who will thoroughly enjoy the book for its thrill and thoughtfulness.

In terms of the California edition that Dickinson currently owns, the book’s journey to our archives has been touched on in my previous posts. In 2001, Friends of Dickinson College Library invited Barry Moser to deliver an engaging talk detailing his experiences as an artist in the printing industry. The 2002 Fall edition of the Dickinsonian newspaper reports on Moser’s experience at the college and the purchasing of books prior to his visit. Moby Dick was simply one out of seventy-five works acquired by the library to showcase Moser’s wide variety of works that spanned from classic literature to children’s books.

The California Deluxe edition of Moby Dick currently resides in the archives, which explains the near pristine condition of the book. Since this edition is less than 50 years old, this copy has not required any sort of retouching or rebinding. Most importantly, with the repossession of the book from a seller to our school, the audience has been transformed once again – now, readers include students with an interest in historical books, or members of the public who visit the archive for research or personal enjoyment. Throughout this book’s lifetime, its audience is likely to shift again.


Works Cited

“Arion Press Moby Dick, Printer’s Copy.” Moby-Dick; or, the Whale – Price Estimate: $10000 – $15000,

Davis, J. “Moby Dick; Published by University of California Press & Arion Press.” The Whole Book Experience, 14 Sept. 2014,

Jauss, Hans Robert, and Timothy Bahti. Toward an Aesthetic of Reception. University of Minnesota Press, 1982. 

Kuhl, Nancy. “Moby Dick: Context and Resources.” Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, 16 Sept. 2020, 

Marcus, Greil. “1851: ‘Give It up, Sub-Subs!”: A New Literary History of America.” Credo Reference, Harvard University Press, 2009,

“Melville, Herman.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Paul Lagasse, and Columbia University, Columbia University Press, 8th edition, 2018. Credo Reference, Accessed 12 May 2023. 

“Moby-Dick.” Brewer’s Curious Titles, edited by Ian Crofton, Chambers Harrap, 1st edition,

  1. CredoReference, Accessed 20 Apr.


“Moby Dick or, the Whale.” AbeBooks, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London,

“R. Michelson Galleries.” R MICHELSON Accessed 11 May 2023.  

Routledge, Christopher. “Moby Dick; or, the Whale 1851.” Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, 1760-1850, edited by Christopher John Murray,  1st edition, 2003. Credo Reference, Accessed 12 May 2023.

The Frugal American Housewife—Origins

Lydia Maria Child was a known author and editor, a Native American Rights and Women’s Rights activist, and abolitionist, with published works about slavery and race; she also authored The Frugal American Housewife. Many of her published works are on topics of race, slavery, and rights, including her work An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans. She received backlash for publishing the piece, leading her to step down as editor to her children’s magazine The Juvenile Miscellany, though she continued to publish works for and about marginalized societal groups (“Lydia Maria Child,” 1). Some of Child’s other works include The Freedmen’s Book and The Mother’s Book (Poetry Foundation, 1). She married David L. Child, an abolitionist and editor, who was also an abolitionist (“Lydia Maria Child,” 1). Some of her other projects are highlighted on the title page of The American Frugal Housewife (See Figure 1). 


Figure 1


The book was printed at the American Stationers’ Company in 1836. This company opened the same year and closed two years later in 1838 (Firms Out of Business, 2). An interesting observation to note is the fourth edition copy I was able to look at was also published in Boston in 1831 but by a different company, Carter, Hendee & Babcock, which underscores how popular this book was, with multiple publishers needed to meet demand. The American Stationers’ Company published other known authors including Nathanial Hawthorne (Christie’s, 1) and informational texts like Atlases (Digital Public Library of America, 1). The Frugal American Housewife was a popular guidebook; therefore, when looking at other texts the American Stationers’ Company had published, it is not unique that they would take interest in Child’s book. Not much is known about the company and why it closed two years after its opening. Further research using the Gale Literature Dictionary of Literary Biography failed to find a reason for the company’s closure, but it confirmed the publishing of some previously mentioned titles. It is interesting that this publishing company went out of business, even with selling a popular book in circulation at the time during their first year of business. My guess is the company may have simply lost business and had plummeting profits, as there is no mention of a merger with another publishing company. In general, I could not find much information about the company other than their published titles. 

After speaking with Dickinson College Archivist Malinda Triller-Doran, I concluded the book is printed on rag-based paper. Pulp-based paper became popular after the publication of this book in the mid-1800s. There is no evident pulp in the paper, and it has not grown brittle with age. Pulp-based paper is more likely to be worn with age as it is cheaper than cloth-based. The publisher made the binding for early copies of the book published in Boston. The binding was made up of boards (compressed cardboard) with blue paper over them (“The Frugal Housewife : Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy,” 1). The eighth and twentieth editions I examined do not have blue paper covers but do have trace elements of paper left on their boards. The twentieth edition has what appears to be an added homemade cover; a patterned cloth sewn on with loose string and glued to the cover (See Figure 2). This decorative element was likely added on after the purchase of the book by a former owner of it.  


Figure 2


The Frugal American Housewife’s publisher Carter, Hendee, & Co. published a variety of books in the 1830s, including other guidebooks and children’s books, like The Child’s Book of American Geography (“The Child’s Book of American Geography,” 1). They also printed works by notable people like John Quincy Adams (Adams, 1). I can assume that Lydia Maria Child did not have an agent as there is no one credited as such, and the first literary agency opened in the late 19th century in the United States, decades after this edition was published (Cottenet, 1). The only reference within the book to editing or corrections is on the title page, which says, “ENLARGED AND CORRECTED BY THE AUTHOR” (Figure 1), however this was likely a marketing tactic to sell newer editions. Child’s husband, David L. Child, was an editor and it is likely he also looked over his wife’s works (David Ruggles Center for History and Education, 1). No other editor is credited on the title page or anywhere else in the book.  

The book has over thirty editions (accounts vary but there are between thirty-two and thirty-five) (“The Frugal Housewife,” 1). I was fortunate enough to look at both the twentieth and the eighth edition. One difference between the editions is that the former includes front matter that reads “It has become necessary to change the tit of this work to the ‘American Frugal Housewife,’ because there is an English work of the same name, not adapted to the wants of this country.” There was an English text titled The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook by Susannah Carter published in the 18th century and focused primarily on cooking (Sotheby’s, 1). The American Frugal Housewife has cooking tips and recipes but also includes materials on etiquette, herbs, and remedies. The changes are significant in emphasizing different activities women participated in depending on the country; what American housewives were interested as opposed to what English housewives were interested in.  

On the title page of this guidebook there are two Benjamin Franklin quotes: “A fat kitchen maketh a lean will” and “Economy is a poor man’s revenue; extravagance, a rich man’s ruin.” These two quotes set the tone of the book as it is filled with recipes, cooking tricks, and remedies. The book is meant for the working class and households without staff and serves as a guide to economically conscious household management. Using Benjamin Franklin, a United States Founding Father, quotes set the tone about how this book is tailored to Americans. This is also shown through the copyright distinction I mentioned previously. It emphasizes the importance of economy in daily life during the 1830s and how it influences the household. 



Works Cited 

Adams. “Dermot MacMorrogh, or the Conquest of Ireland; an Historical Tale of the Twelfth Century. in Four Cantos.” The Online Books Page, 

Christie’s. “HAWTHORNE, Nathaniel (1804-1864). Twice-Told Tales. Boston: American Stationers Co., 1837.”  

Cottenet, Cécile. “Literary Agents.” Transatlantic Cultures, 1 Jan. 1970, 

Digital Public Library of America. “Georgia. (to Accompany) A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial. By T.G. Bradford. Boston: American Stationers’ Company. Entered … 1835, by Thos. G. Bradford … Massachusetts., A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial. By T.G. Bradford. Boston: American Stationers’ Company. Entered … 1835, by Thos. G. Bradford … Massachusetts. (Title Page) Drawn by E. Tisdale, Landscapes by W. Croome. Eng. by J. Andrews., Georgia.”  

Firms Out of Business, 4 Mar. 2023, FOBFirmName=C&locSTARTROW=11  

FOBFirmName=C&amp;locSTARTROW=11 .  


“Lydia Maria Child.” David Ruggles Center for History and Education, 10 Feb. 2021,,family%20breadwinner%20throughout%20their%20marriage. 

“Lydia Maria Child.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 

Sotheby’s. “Carter, Susannah. The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook…[Boston]: [1772].”  

“The Child’s Book of American Geography.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1 Jan. 1970, 

“The Frugal Housewife.” Andrews McMeel Publishing, 4 Mar. 2023, 

“The Frugal Housewife : Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy.” The Library of Congress, 

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