The death of Abel, an English version by Mary Collyer (d. 1763) of the work by Salomon Gessner (1730-1788). [Vet. A5 f.4209]
This unassuming eighteenth-century book is notable for the binding, half calf with marbled paper apparently made from a lawyer’s bill. The colours do not entirely obscure the handwritten items relating to deeds and trusts.
This “new edition” of The Death of Abel (the first edition of Collyer’s English version was in 1761) was printed in 1779 “for a company of booksellers”. An advertisement at the end of the book shows that a variety of entertaining and improving works – some illustrated with copper plates – could be had cheaply from Thomas Moore, Stationer, at 33 Paternoster Row. The diverse group includes educational books for children, and shows what publishers offered to a larger reading market after the 1774 House of Lords decision against perpetual copyright. The selection represents what William St Clair calls “the old canon”: editions of fiction, conduct literature and poetry — Milton, Pope, and the enormously popular and melancholic “Night Thoughts” by Edward Young — mostly in small octavo or duodecimo editions. To quote Young’s poem:
… “War, famine, pest, volcano, storm, and fire,
Intestine broils, oppression, with her heart
Wrapt up in triple brass, besiege mankind.
God’s image disinherited of day,…”
For any other “intestine broils”, the facing page offers of patent medicines including Scotch Pills and Daffy’s Elixir. Medicines were a common alternative source of income for stationers.
The bookplate of Thomas Woodward on the front paste-down of this item bears a poem, popular for use on bookplates in the nineteenth century, with good advice to all readers:
“If thou art borrowed by a Friend,
Right welcome shall he be,
To read, to study, not to lend,
But to return to me.
Not that imparted knowledge doth
Diminish learning’s store,
But Books, I find, if often lent,
Return to me no more.
Read slowly – Pause frequently –
Think Seriously – Keep cleanly –