To find out what was published today, I turned to the London Times' column 'Books Published on this Day,' and here’s what I found. But I should warn you: this is a nerdy post.
Perhaps the most influential work published on August 23, 1819 was Lord Byron’s narrative poem, Mazeppa, in which a Polish gentleman is strapped—naked—to the back of a wild horse and sent galloping into the countryside. In Byron’s work, the ride was a punishment for seducing a Count’s wife. Dozens of artists tried their hands at depicting the wild ride, including Theodore Gericault, Eugene Delacroix, Horace Vernet, John Doyle, John Martin, John Frederick Herring, Nathaniel Currier of Currier and Ives, and Theodore Chasseriau.
Perhaps the most influential work published on August 23, 1819 was Lord Byron’s narrative poem, Mazeppa, in which a Polish gentleman is strapped—naked—to the back of a wild horse and sent galloping into the countryside. In Byron’s work, the ride was a punishment for seducing a Count’s wife. Dozens of artists tried their hands at depicting the wild ride, including the following:
- Theodore Gericault in 1820 ;
- Eugene Delacroix in 1824 ; and 1838 ;
- Horace Vernet in 1826 ;
- John Doyle on August 7 August 7 and Sept 25 of 1832 ;
- John Martin ;
- John Frederick Herring in 1833 ;
- Nathaniel Currier (of Currier and Ives) in 1846;
- and Theodore Chasseriau in 1851.
Byron's work was reimagined by Victor Hugo, Alexander Pushkin, and through them to Franz Liszt and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky respectively. His Mazeppa even became a breeches role for Adah Issacs Mencken (an actress and poet) who wore a flesh-colored body suit during the horseback ride.
If you wish to read Byron's Mazeppa, I recommend Peter Cochran's very fine edition with helpful notes available here.
But Byron’s book wasn’t alone.
On this day, the Times recorded advertisements for 16 books, along with plugs for another 4 titles, explicitly identified as previously published. (Advertisements are frequently altered as the book moves from ‘this day,’ to ‘last week’ to ‘this month,’ etc.) Of course not all publishers advertised their new books in the Times , but even so, it’s an interesting snapshot of the market.
Of the 16 newly published, 5 were by women, 9 by men, and 2 by anonymous writers we know now were male. If you add in the previously published works, the representation of women rises to 8, or a near parity.
The number of books of poetry (4) equalled the number of histories. More poetry was advertised than either novels (1) or plays (1). Five were educational texts on various subjects: on music (1), history (1), and science (3).
The most expensive book—per volume—was by far George Crabbe’s Tales of the Hall , at 12s a volume. Byron’s one-volume Mazeppa , though shorter than Crabbe's volumes, only cost 5s. Crabbe is priced the same as Marcet’s copiously illustrated Conversations on Natural Philosophy (23 illustrations). This tells us that Crabbe, not Byron, was the more famous and popular of the two authors—and that his works could command higher prices.
The cheapest book (perhaps more likely a pamphlet) was Cleary’s defense of his conduct in the recent elections, at 6 pence. 5s seems to have been a price-point, with 8 books priced at around 5s or less per volume.
Illustrations raised the price of books, even tiny ones like the children’s small format A short History of France, where the illustrations added 6 pence to the cost (1 pence each).
We also get a sense of how long it took for a book to make it through the publication process. Not every play would be published, but if one turned out to be popular, it often was sped through the press. That seems to have happened with the play—Ladies at Home—which was published a bit more than two weeks following its August 7 debut. The play enjoyed a run at the Haymarket Theater in London with performances on the 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 21st.
That’s the recap of what was published today in 1819!
But if you are a nerd like me, here are the book titles —with a legend to explain the trade abbreviations for volumes, prices, and bindings. I've rearranged the books into categories, with the biggest categories at the top.
Book sizes (from small to large, roughly) : 12mo = duodecimo; 4to = quarto; 8vo =octavo
Money : s= shilling; d = pence
Binding styles : boards = plain heavy paper covers with no decoration; half-bound = hard boards with spine and corners covered with some sort of binding material
Plates : Another term for engravings
Dunrie, a Poem, by Harriet Ewing, 2 vols, 8vo, 7s
Tales of the Hall, by George Crabbe, 2 vols, 8vo, 24s
Mazeppa, by Lord Byron, 8vo [no price listed, but listed at 5s 6d in the trade publication, the Literary Gazette ]
Ionian Hours, a Poem in 2 Cantos, by J. H. Wiffen, [no size], 7s. 6d.
Politics & History
Narratives of John Pritchard, Pierre Chrysologue Pambrum and Frederick Damien Heurter, respecting the aggressions of the North-west Company against the Earl of Selkirk’s settlement upon Red-river. 8vo, 2s. 6d
A Letter to Major Cartwright, in justification of the writer’s conduct at the late elections for Westminster, and in answer to the calumnies spoken and published against the author, by Messrs. Corbett, Hunt, and Thelwall and certain members of Mr. Hobhouse’s committee, by Thomas Cleary. 6d
A short History of France, including the principal Event from the foundation of the Empire by Pharamond to the Restoration of Louis XVIII, by Mrs. Moore. 12mo, 7s in board, or 7s 6d bound with 6 engravings
The History of France for Children, intended as a Companion to Mrs. Trimmer’s Histories and embellished with 32 plates, by Mrs. Moore. 2 vols, 8s, bound neatly in red
Melincourt, by the Author of Headlong Hall and Nightmare Abbey [Thomas Love Peacock] 3 vols, 18s, in boards
Ladies at Home, or Gentlemen we can do without you; a female interlude. By the Author of Bee Hive. [J. G. Millengen, M. D.] 1s 6d.
A Critical Examination of those parts of Mr. Bentham’s Church of Englandism, which relate to the Sacraments and the Church Catechism, by the Rev. H. J. Rose. 8vo, 5s.
Advertised with Saeculomastix; or the Lash of the Age we live in, a poem in two parts, by the author of Child Harold’s Monitor. 8vo, 5s 6d
The Child’s Introduction to Thorough Bass, in a Conversations of a Fortnight, between a mother and her daughter of 10 years old, illustrated by plates and cuts of music, small 4to, 8s, neatly half-bound
Physiological fragments, or Sketches of various subjects intimately connected with the Study of Physiology, by John Bywater, 8vo, 5s 6d, boards
Conversations on Natural Philosophy,by the Author of Conversations on Chemistry [Jane Marcet], 2 vols, 12mo, 12s 6d boards, illustrated with 23 engravings by Lowry.
Note: This new book is advertised with 2 previously published books: her Conversions on Political Economy, 3rd edition improved, in 1 large volume, 12mo, 9s, boards, and her Conversations on Chemistry.Conversations on Chemistry was available in 2 versions—in 2 vols, 12mo, with plates by Lowry, and in the 6th edition, enlarged, 14s boards.
A Letter to Robert Shedden, Esq., on Particular Average, by Robert Stevens of Lloyd’s. [No price or format]
Cautions to Continental Travellers, by J. W. Cunningham. 12mo, 3s 6d boards