Monday, 17 April 2017

New Addition: Earliest Book in the Collection: The Tatler--18th Century Coffee-House newsletter!

I'm very behind in cataloguing and annotating recent additions to the archive; I've got about 15 on deck. This is partly due to my chronic constraint on time, and partly because some are particularly exciting and require in-depth research and explication to reveal. But
HERE is a recent addition which is now the earliest item in the Revenant archive, printed in 1728:

Isaac Bickerstaff [Richard Steele, Joseph Addison & Jonathan Swift], The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq., Revised and Corrected by the Author.  1728. E. & R. Nutt, J. Knapton, J. & B. Sprint, D. Midwinter, J. Tonson, R. Gosling, W. & J. Innys, J. Osborn & T. Longman, R. Robinson, and B. Motte: London. Full Leather Sextodecimo, 352 pp. (Bound Collection of The Tatler, Vol. III, No. 115–189, Tues. Jan. 3, 1709–Sat. June 24, 1710.) Inscribed in Pencil in 18th/ early19th Century hand: Mr. Thos. Kil?????? / Ho??????? / Y????? & six illegible lines plus a title on following recto page. Some light dog-earring by previous reader/s.

The most vibrant intellectual life of Eighteenth-Century Britain was played out less in the academies than in the dozens of small periodical journals and occasional pamphlets that established the forms that were later taken up by micropress and zine publishers. It was supported by the readership and participation of the patrons of a dense network of coffeehouses that served as public forums of the emerging political, cultural, and scientific ideas of their day.

The satirical little magazine The Tatler, edited and primarily written by Richard Steele, offered a weekly run-down of the London coffeehouse scene, via an eclectic mix of poetic parodies, gossip columns, transcriptions of debates and orations, reports of current topics of scientific, cultural, or political interest, and many hybrid forms. Articles were written from the perspective of the fictional editor "Isaac Bickerstaff" (the distant ancestor of later satirical "journalists" including Punch (of the British magazine) and Alfred E. Neuman (Mad Magazine). Each week, the magazine was written at a different Coffeehouse, whose name was noted on the masthead; it was rumoured that the Tatler's secret correspondents included Jonathan Swift and Joseph Addison. Its combination of social chronicle, intellectual stimulation, and gossip provided a framework later taken up by other small-run journals such as Gustave Karr's Les Guêpes (collected in this archive), Le Chat Noir (also collected here), Maintenant, Littérature, Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, and eventually Zine culture.
The importance of The Tatler was quickly recognised, and edited collections reprinted. This is an early reprint, produced in 1728. The magazine's low-budget, small-press roots are reflected by the consortium of eleven publishers or patrons contributing to print this volume. This copy was well-used by its first owner/s, but unfortunately the very light, fading pencil and indecipherable (to me) hand of the inscriptions make it difficult to learn more. The fly-leaf contains an inscription of several lines, topped by what seems to be a title, but I am unable to guess at more than one or two words. (I welcome readings or hypotheses concerning the inscriptions shown.)


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