April 30

The title page of a 12mo (pp. iv, 156) London, 1797 reads:

“Typographical antiquities. History, Origin, and Progress of the Art of Printing, from its first invention in Germany to the end of the 17th century, and from its introduction into England, by Caxton, to the present time; including, among a variety of curious and interesting matter, its progress in the Provinces, with chronological lists of eminent printers in England, Scotland, and Ireland: together with anecdotes of several eminent and literary characters who have honoured the art by their attention to its improvement: also a particular and complete history of the Walpolean Press, established at Strawberry Hill; with an accurate list of every publication issued therefrom, and the exact number printed thereof. At the conclusion is given a curious dissertation on the origin of the use of paper; also a complete history of the art of woodcutting and engraving on copper, from its first invention in Italy to its latest improvement in Great Britain, concluding with the adjudication of literary property; or the laws and terms to which authors, designers, and publishers are separately subject. With a catalogue of remarkable Bibles and Common Prayer-books, from the infancy of printing to the present time. Extracted from the best authorities.”

The compiler of this encyclopedic volume was Henry Lemoine, who died on April 30, 18 12. A modern book with such a wonderfully descriptive title page would certainly make life simpler for the copywriter who was entrusted with preparing the blurb for the jacket, or even for the critic trying to fit the book into an already crowded reading schedule. On the other hand, the designer might find it exceedingly difficult to attempt an asymmetric treatment which would be looked upon kindly by the jury for the Fifty Books of the Year.

But such a title was quite typical of the period, and Bookseller Lemoine was no doubt delighted with the finished result.

No doubt the view of Lemoine as an eccentric sprang from his pro-American prognostication upon the future of printing in the United States, contained in an article which he wrote upon that subject for Gentleman’s Magazine in 1796. In it he stated, in part, “Such is the literary portrait of a country which threatens to surpass all others in the great and useful science of politics, as well as the liberal arts. This is but the glowing that evinces a kindling flame; which, from what we have seen, we have a reason to expect may some future day enlighten and instruct the Old World, whence they have withdrawn themselves.”

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