‘The first unwritten book’

Posted on 26th March 2014 by simonbeattie

Something else for the New York Book Fair, I think.  It may not look all that special, but this is an extraordinary production: a book composed by the author straight into type.  The writing method is alluded to in a printed inscription on the leaf preceding the title-page:

The explanation is provided in full in a long dedication to John Wilson (a.k.a. ‘Christopher North’), the Scottish critic who edited Blackwood’s Magazine: ‘Of the little volume before you, one individual has been the composer, and compositor and imprinter throughout …  The pen has been a stranger to the prose part of its composition, and the scribe’s office subverted: — with the exception of acknowledged quotations, I have been unaided by a line of manuscript or other copy.  There is a rhythmical extravaganza in the sixth chapter, which I very reluctantly signalize in this place, because the skeleton of twenty lines of it, or thereabouts, was pen-traced; the composing-stick has otherwise been my sole mechanical “help to composition”’.

Included are ‘colloquies’ about Wordsworth and Shakespeare, and ‘twenty minutes talk about Milton’.  The text was published in a trade edition the following year, where it was described as ‘the first unwritten book’.  The identity of the printer, J. Lordan of Romsey in Hampshire, has not been specifically determined; the typography looks fairly normal throughout, save for the first leaf and the colophon, which are printed in a rather primitive typeface.  The name of the author, C. L. Lordan, appears in the imprint of a number of later books of Romsey interest, but as a publisher rather than a printer.

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3 responses to “‘The first unwritten book’”

  1. Brynn Petty says:

    Thank you for posting these , have been searching for some actual images of the book , Christopher Legge Lordan was my 3x Great Grandfather and Jeremiah Lordan was my 4x .

    • Simon Beattie says:

      Not at all!

    • Paul G Orlandi-Fantini says:

      Dear Brynn,
      I have a family bible that was purchased by the Petty family of Wellow for my 3x grandfather in Lordans, Printer, Binder, and Bookseller at Market Place Romsey in 1884. My 3x grandfathers name was William Newman Petty. I was wondering if you are any relation to the Petty family at Wellow, near Romsey and what connection to the Lordans the Pettys have.
      Many Thanks, Paul

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