August 2

“Bibliotheca Moresiana: A Catalogue of the Large and Valuable Library of Printed Books, Rare old Tracts, Manuscripts, Prints and Drawings, Copper Plates, sundry Antiquities, Philosophical Instruments, and other Curiosities, of that eminent British Antiquary the late Rev. and learned Edward Rowe Mores, F.A.S., deceased.”

Thus began the title page of Catalogue No. 17 of Auctioneer Paterson, describing the sale to be held at his Great Room, No. 6, King Street, Covent-Garden, London on this day in 1779. There were some 3,000 items catalogued, with a strong emphasis upon antiquities. The surprising thing about Mores’ library was that it contained relatively few books about printing, although he was the owner of a typefoundry and had done a considerable amount of research into that art. Auctioned with the library was the entire edition (eighty copies) of the unpublished A Dissertation upon English Typographical Founders and Founderies, written by Mores and completed just before his death in 1779.

Talbot Baines Reed in his work on English typefounding called Mores “a learned and eccentric antiquary and scholar,” a viewpoint which has been echoed by Daniel B. Updiie in his Notes to the first reprint of the Dissertation, published in 1924 for the Grolier Club. Both of these opinions have been further substantiated in the excellent and scholarly introduction to the edition edited in 1961 by Harry Carter and Christopher Ricks for the Oxford University Press.

The important contribution to our knowledge of early English types made by Mores came through his purchase of the typefoundry of John James at the latter’s death in 1772. The punches and matrices of the James Foundry, some of them dating back to the days of Wynkyn de Worde and John Day in the 16th century, were completely unorganized. It may be that this factor alone excited the interest of Mores who had been investigating, with a true antiquarian’s ardor, the history of English printing for some years. The fulfillment of these desires came about with the opportunity to catalogue the materials of the James Foundry. Mores threw himself into the task, producing a work which has been criticized for its many imperfections but which must be recognized as an important contribution in its field.

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