III. Subscribers and Funding

Subscribers were an important feature when it came to covering the cost of publishing expensive books. John Ogilby in the mid-1700s had shown how atlases could be produced in parts with the subscribers paying a monthly fee for the next part of a work. Ogilby's career as a publisher and printer was gradual. The first editions of his Vergil and Aesop were published by John and Andrew Crook, not known for the quality of their printed works.[i] His edition of Vergil's works, printed in 1654, was already a splendid volume, of which Ogilby wrote jubilantly that it was "the most beautiful that the English art of printing can boast of to date".[ii] Ogilby had financed the printing of the elaborate edition of Vergil's works with an entirely new and innovative method: subscription. To illustrate the work, he had one hundred full-page engravings made according to designs by the renowned painter Francis Cleyn. Subscribers could then pay to have their name, rank and coat of arms at the lower edge of each engraving, thus demonstrating their love of art. In this way, Ogilby was not only able to pay the high production costs, but also to satisfy the vanity of his subscribers. The financing of publishing projects by subscription was still new and little tested at the time - alongside the London publisher Richard Blome, Ogilby was one of the pioneers of subscription in the English publishing business of the 17th century.[iii] He also utilised the lottery to fund the publication of some of his works.

Richard Blome was among the first to use the method of recruiting subscribers by offering the inclusion of their coats of arms on the relevant county map to help finance the publication of his atlas of 1673. Between 1668 and 1679 he had a shop in London, where he sold his books. To finance his publications he recruited subscribers who paid part of the amount in advance and the rest after delivery. In return, their coat of arms was placed on the maps and they also received a commendable comment in the text. [iv] For newer releases, it was possible to renew the subscription. If this has not been done, the person's coat of arms was removed. His smaller county map of Devonshire (1681 and 1685) was originally published with a dedication to Sr William Couertenay but this was erased for issues after 1685.[v]

Publishers found it difficult to fund such large works. Authors (and publishers), particularly those without a personal income or a wealthy patron, could seldom afford to publish their own illustrated books. The expense of commissioning an illustrator, in addition to an engraver, and of the printing itself - which was rarely done in the same printing shop as the letterpress printing and required different equipment and expertise - demanded money upfront. In some cases, a wealthy patron could fund the project outright, as with Linnaeus's Hortus Cliffortianus of 1738, which was financed by George Clifford, and which celebrated his garden at Hartekamp.[vi] Clifford was portrayed on the frontispiece of that book.

In the 1750s Benjamin Martin conceived of an encyclopaedia style work in several parts which would eventually stretch to five full volumes. Sold as monthly parts, subscribers would have the parts issues bound at frequent intervals as each complete Volume of the work was completed, hence there are many examples of parts of this work bound with different contents depending on when the owner/subscriber took it to be bound. Interestingly the publication of his work coincided neatly with the publication in Amsterdam of Pieter Meijer’s Algemeene Oefenschoole and it has been conjectured that there must have been a certain amount of collaboration due to the timing of the two works.

Benjamin Martin (1704-82), mathematician, instrument maker and compiler began life as a ploughboy in Surrey. He worked as a teacher in Guildford and spent his spare time studying. By 1737 he was a boarding school owner at Chichester and publisher of his Bibliotheca Technologica. He moved to London in 1740 and as inventor and maker of optical instruments opened a shop in Fleet Street. In 1782 he was made bankrupt and committed suicide.

In 1754 he announced his plans for a complete library of the arts and sciences; in January 1755 his new magazine came onto the market, issued monthly. The magazine was intended to be collected, and then separated into six individual volumes[vii]:

Volume I - The Young Gentleman’s and Lady’s Philosophy

Volume II - The Natural History of England

Volume III - A New and Comprehensive System of Philology

Volume IV - A New and Comprehensive System of Mathematical Institutions

Volume V - Bibliographica Philosophica

Volume VI - Miscellaneous Correspondence

Very few of the original bindings were kept and many volumes found have the final title of the complete work. In 1759, the first part of the atlas being complete (14 county maps), a title page was printed for those subscribers wishing to bind the collected papers together. Volume Two with a further 27 county maps was completed in 1763. The whole work was then closely copied by Pieter Meijer.[viii]

Fig. 5. Title page to Benjamin Martin's The General Magazine of Arts and Sciences (1756).

Thomas Moore and his publisher, Robert Jennings, as well as Henry Fisher had to fund a work encompassing 94 high quality steel engravings and the letterpress to accompany it. Both publishers would have advertised to attract members of the affluent public to become subscribers to the monthly serial work. However, Devon in the 1820s was more or less controlled by a handful of families and it was with the help and support of these that the publishers would hope to supplement the revenue they would receive from patrons who subscribed from the outset to buy their publications. Hugh Fortescue (1753-1841) was created 1st Earl Fortescue in 1789. He was an M.P. for just two years, representing Beaumaris in 1784-85, but apparently this was enough to have him awarded the various titles of Baron Fortescue from 1785, Lord Lieutenant of Devon (1788-1839), and Vice-Admiral of Devon (1831-39). He married a daughter of the later Prime Minister, George Grenville, marrying Hester Grenville in 1782 and together they had 9 children. Two of his daughters married local nobility: Lady Elizabeth Fortescue married William Courteney (of Powderham Castle) the 11th Earl of Devon; Lady Catherine Fortescue later married the Hon. Newton Fellowes of Eggesford House. The country seat was Castle Hill at Filleigh near South Molton and it was remodelled by Roger Morris in 1728/29 in the so-called “Palladium” style of architecture.

Although both of these properties, Castle Hill and Eggesford House, are depicted in both books and bear an appropriate dedication there is a major difference. Thomas Moore obviously had more than a little contact with Earl Fortescue. The family’s armorial arms on the covers of the serial parts as well as their inclusion on the title page indicated more than the usual amount of support for this large project. The cover proudly pronounces Dedicated by Permission to the Right Honourable Earl Fortescue, Lord Lieutenant of the County. Perhaps Moore had, to some extent, found his own George Clifford.

The total number of dedications to illustrated plates in both works combined amounts to 55, with Moore dedicating 26 of his plates, and Fisher 29.[ix] As we have seen Hugh Fortescue has a dedication in each work; ignoring the Guildhall bearing a dedication in both tomes, some 11 public figures have a plate dedicated to them in each book. Among these are Watermouth, Kitley House, Bicton House and Saltram House. See Appendix I for a list of the dedications found in both works.

Fig. 6. Watermouth from Moore with dedication to Davie Bassett Esq.

Located near the shore of the inlet of the same name not far from Ilfracombe, Watermouth is the residence of the Bassett family. It was designed by George Wightwick in the mid-19th century. The original Palladium style residence was seen by the Rev. John Swete (a celebrated antiquary noted for his interest in landscape gardens) when he visited in 1796 but was subsequently replaced by the “castle” like structure we see today, which is now a tourist attraction with Dungeon Labyrinth and a Gnome Land. The castle was built in 1825 by Joseph Davie Bassett (1764-1846) and at the time of publication would have been one of the newest residences portrayed. Apart from Bassett the only non-peer on the list is Edmund Pollexfen Bastard, Esq.

It sounds rather disparaging but the Bastards are a good example of “jobs for the boys”. Edmund Pollexfen Bastard (1784-1838) took over the mantle of MP for Dartmouth from his father (1812 to 1816) and handed it over to his brother John (a captain in the navy, he served in the Napoleonic wars before becoming an MP). Edmund then became MP for Devon, a post he held until 1830. This post was always held by two incumbents: his predecessor was John Pollexfen Bastard (his uncle) and when he retired he was succeeded by The Viscount Ebrington who later became Earl Fortescue. His companion in office was Sir Thomas Dyke Acland (1816 to 1818), then the same Viscount Ebrington (1818-20), before Sir Thomas Acland became MP again. He was also High Sheriff of Devon in 1834.

Kitley House, near Plymouth, is today a luxury hotel and wedding venue. Possibly built in the reign of Henry VII the largely Tudor house had major improvements made in 1820 under the guidance of George Stanley Repton and modernised in the Georgian style.

Two other names in the list stand out because they both have two plates dedicated to them; Baron Rolle and Earl Morley. John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (1750-1842) was a colourful character by all accounts. The family had a long history of childless marriages and he himself would die without issue. Rolle was elected MP for Devon in 1780 unopposed (the last contested election had been in 1712). He would remain MP until 1796 alongside John Parker (1780-84) and John Pollexfen Bastard (1784-1816). He campaigned, not surprisingly, against electoral reform but supported the abolition of slavery, bestowing significant amounts of land in Exuma (Cays in the Bahamas) to the slaves. He is notably caught stumbling before Victoria’s coronation throne in a painting but is notable for his business projects in Devon and the forming of the Devon Yeomanry.

Bicton House, now an agricultural college, was built around the turn of the 19th century and is presented by both publishers. Rolle Canal, which features in one of Fisher’s plates, was built to bring limestone from Wales to Rolle’s lands near Great Torrington where it would be burnt with coal to produce fertiliser while a local resource, Marland Clay, could be exported out of Bideford. The parliamentary approval for this was not passed until 1835. A second family residence, Stevenstone, was nearby. The original 16th century residence here was reputed to be the first brick building in the county. The house no longer survives.

John Parker (1772-1840) became 2nd Baron Boringdon (of North Molton) in 1788 and took his seat in the House of Lords in 1793, on the occasion of his 21st birthday. Educated locally, he supported local works and charities although not all of his industrial and engineering projects for the area were as successful as the Laira Bridge. He became Early Morley in 1840 (a newly created title). He was a supporter of parliamentary reform. His main residence, Saltram House, a Georgian house designed by Robert Adam, is very much today as it would have been when it was renovated around 1768. Modifications were carried out in 1819 and a new entrance porch (and a library) were introduced by the regency architect, John Foulston. It is this entrance which is the centre of attention in Campion’s drawing for Moore but is even more impressive seen at a slight angle as in Allom’s portrayal for Fisher.

Fig. 7. Lary Bridge from Fisher with dedication to the Earl of Morley.

The Duchess of Clarence, later Queen Adelaide, opened the Laira Bridge on July 14th 1827. It had taken just over two years to build the foundation stone being laid by Earl Morley on March 16th 1825. His father had originally shelved plans for a bridge (c.1807) but in 1822 James Rendel’s proposals were accepted by Earl Morley and he pushed for the necessary parliamentary approval.[x]

The inclusion of the country residences of persons of note would obviously help to sell a publication and to this aim Henry Fisher was keen to include buildings that had been modernised. As M’Kenzie-Hall points out Fisher had actively encouraged his artists to draw “more modern Public Buildings etc. That is our chief aim – in fact Improvements”.[xi] Only Plymouth and Exeter offered enough scope for Public Buildings, but the recently renovated country seats and the industrial improvements such as canals and bridges offered Improvements on a large scale. It may have been chance but one of the first views in Devon Illustrated is that of the Town-Hall, Column & Library of Devonport. The choice would have delighted Henry Fisher. The town hall was completed in 1822 and styled on the Parthenon at Athens by John Foulston who had already designed the Athenaeum (completed 1819) in Plymouth. The column takes pride of place in the centre, signifying the newly won independence and change of name from Plymouth-Dock to Devonport. On the right is the new library in the Egyptian style of architecture. Originally planned to be a School for Mathematics and the combined work of Foulston and the engineer, Mr Rickard, it was converted to Devonport Library. Wedged between Library and column is the Mount Zion Chapel, “after the Hindoo style” as Rowe reported. The whole plaza had been designed to mark Devonport’s independence.[xii]

While it is possible that Thomas Moore found a patron to subsidise some of the cost of production both he and Henry Fisher did utilise the subscription system and both found supporters to whom they dedicated illustrations. From correspondence between Henry Fisher and the Irish engraver George Petrie in 1828[xiii] (i.e. about the time that Devon and Cornwall Illustrated would have been in the planning stage) it would take approximately 5000 impressions of each number to pay the current expenses of each number. Presumably it would be issued along the same lines as the Devon project. Be that as it may, both enterprises (Moore and Fisher) would have to find a minimum of 5000 regular buyers of the parts issue, or supplement this sales revenue with other sources of income. Briggs recorded that the Longman company calculated the cost of paper before that of the printing and the illustrating when projecting the costs of a project.[xiv]

From the correspondence between Robert Fisher and George Petrie it is clear that Fisher’s artists were also urged to include retail premises in street views with the names of the proprietors and in the plate depicting Truro in Devon and Cornwall Illustrated four such premises are shown.

Fig. 8. Truro from Cornwall Illustrated. Note retail merchants mentioned.

F J Havill has engraved T Allom’s view and expressly included various retail premises: John Cock, plumber, brazier and ironmonger &c., on the left; and the right hand, besides showing the bank, has Waterloo House, Mercer and Draper; a shop simply named Courtnay; and the Red Lion Hotel run by J Stevens.[xv] Presumably an agent for Fisher would later approach these proprietors to purchase plates on better quality paper, adding to the total revenues. Only two plates in the Devon section offered any scope for further revenue in this way: in the illustration of the entrance to the Dock Yard (Devonport) Elliot’s Royal Hotel is prominently displayed; the York Hotel in Sidmouth and of course Cockram’s Hotel are mentioned in the title to a view of Sidmouth and one Teignmouth view respectively.

It is difficult to determine how useful the inclusion of dedications was to supplementing the sales revenues for Fisher and Moore. We know from correspondence between Fisher’s representative in Plymouth, John Gibson, and Sir Trayton Elliott Drake of Buckland Abbey dated August 23 1830 that even wealthy landowners were expected to pay for extra copies of the plates.[xvi] In the exchange of letters it is clear Drake is a subscriber to the parts issue and he writes that he has just received Issue 12 and he is surprised that Buckland Abbey is not included. Gibson replies that the artist (i.e. Thomas Allom) will use a sketch he had previously made. Gibson, after some comments about Nutwell Court (which never appeared) goes on to offer Drake 4to ‘India proofs … may be obtained at 2/- each plate by application to Mr Gibson’. The owners of recently built, or recently improved, residences would presumably be pleased to purchase multiple copies and have some framed for personal use, or even to present to family and friends.

Part IV: The Authors

Return to Introduction

[i] Van Eerde, John Ogilby, p. 29. Privately translated by Kit Batten with the author’s permission. Surprisingly, the German Wikipedia page on Ogilby is much more informative than the English page.

[ii] Literally “the fairest that till then the English Press ever boasted“, from the Foreword to Africa, quoted by Clapp, Subscription Enterprises of John Ogilby and Richard Blome, p. 366.

[iii] SLC Clapp, ‘The subscription enterprises of John Ogilby and Richard Blome’, Modern Philology, 30 (1932–3) BL cat.


[v] Bennett & Batten (1996/2008) entry 17.[vi] See the very good overview of Subscriptions, Dedications, and Patrons at the website of Dumbarton Oaks Research Institute, Washington DC; doaks.org/resources 

[vii] Again care must be taken with the words part and volume. The magazine was a parts issue of 6 half sheets per month. Each year´s sheets were considered to be a volume. At the beginning of each year a sheet was included for the Natural History, e.g. for 1756 – Part II. The Natural History of England. Continued from Vol. I. Bennett & Batten (1996/2008) entry 38.

[viii] Bennett & Batten (1996/2008) entry 39.

[ix] This includes the dedications to the Mayor etc. of Exeter (Guildhall, dedications from each author), Devonport Commissioners or House of Correction and these might well have pulled in multiple subscribers.

[x] Brian Moseley’s website at www.oldplymouth.uk/Laira%20Bridge.

[xi] James M‘Kenzie-Hall (1) who I thank for pointing out the significance of the Devonport print here described.

[xii] See Devon Illustrated pp. 30-32. I am grateful to Mr M’Kenzie-Hall for drawing attention to the significance as far as Henry Fisher was concerned.

[xiii] James M‘Kenzie-Hall (1).

[xiv] Asa Briggs quoted in James M‘Kenzie-Hall (1).

[xv] James M‘Kenzie-Hall (1). I am indebted to Mr M’Kenzie-Hall for pointing this out in private correspondence.

[xvi] Mr M’Kenzie-Hall kindly forwarded a copy of the letter in question in private correspondence.


Popular posts from this blog