A double-take book

Posted on 13th February 2014 by simonbeattie

Sometimes, as a bookseller, you come across a book which makes you do a double take.  Here’s one I discovered recently: Briefe über den Verlust der Regenten und Völker Europens an, und durch Frankreichs Republik (pp. [2], 66), with the imprint ‘London 1798.  In allen Buchhandlungen Deutschlands in Englischer, Französicher und Deutscher Sprache zu haben.’  It’s a collection of open letters—to the leaders of Europe; to French legislators; to the peoples of the world; to the enemies of crime—warning of the dangers posed to the stability of the whole continent due to recent events in France.  I’ve always been keen on fictitious imprints (this book was probably printed in Hamburg), but what particularly fascinated me here was its printed wrapper:

English text, but in Fraktur, is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a German book of this period.  Usually, when eighteenth-century German printers used English words (or French, or Latin; in fact, anything which wasn’t German) they used roman letters.  It immediately caught my eye.  Another, rather wonderful aspect to the wrapper is that it refers to itself, in verse: ‘Whoever sells this Book, without this Patriotic Label, / Not only violates, our British Patent-Laws, / But favors Britains Foes, — to wrong his Countrys Cause. / Like Judas he would act, the Fox against a Civic Gabel!!!’

Was this German book ever sold in Britain?  Or is the wrapper all part of the publisher’s obfuscation?  According to ESTC, ‘the French version was entitled Deux lettres adressées au genéral Bonaparte et une aux peuples de la terre [unlocated, at least by WorldCat]; no English version has been identified.’

The final page reads ‘Ende des ersten Theils.  Der zweite wird unverzüglich erscheinen.’  In the event, a second part did not appear, although a second, expanded edition was published the following year, again with an apparently fictitious imprint: ‘London 1799. at the Continental Agency Office nearthe [sic] Royal-Exchange’, pp. [2], 137, [1].  Both versions are very rare.

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2 responses to “A double-take book”

  1. Kit Belgum says:

    Doesn’t the Fraktur used for English text therefore suggest that it was not published anywhere in Germany, since that would have gone against the norm of publishers there?

    • simonbeattie says:

      No, I think it’s definitely a German book. The rest of the book is printed in German, but using roman characters (a not uncommon practice by this time). They had the types, but for some reason decided to use Fraktur. A bit of a mystery, it’s true.

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