Two Simultaneously Published Illustrated Works on Devonshire
Jennings vs Fisher
The History of Devonshire
Devonshire & Cornwall Illustrated
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Devon has never suffered from lack of interest in its natural beauty and its architectural heritage. Somers Cocks, in his Catalogue and Guide, lists some 229 illustrated books and over 3500 individual prints published in works before 1870. However, on exactly the same day in 1829 two works illustrating the history and topography of the county of Devon were published. Thomas Moore’s History of Devonshire published by Robert Jennings appeared at booksellers and publisher’s distributors at precisely the same moment that Henry Fisher’s publication Devon and Cornwall Illustrated was made available to the public. Considering the development of the availability of cheaper prints offered by newer printing technologies it would not be unusual to see two vaguely similar works appear in the same year; Somers Cocks lists no less than six illustrated works on the county for 1829. Not only were the middle and academic classes now able to buy more books for their shillings but the wider range of affordable books meant that there were more potential customers as a whole. And there was a public eager to receive the latest books from London through their local distributor.
However, illustrated works, especially when stretching to nearly 100 illustrations as these two books would, were still expensive. The other illustrated books listed for that year had only between 2 and 14 views. To produce a work with 94 engravings that would cost two guineas when finished was an impressive undertaking but these publications, both sold in monthly parts or Numbers at just 1s. a monthly instalment suddenly became very affordable.
Besides being published in parts and being copiously illustrated with exactly the same number of engravings, the two publishers chose steel plates as their medium for engraving. Whereas woodcuts were only for incidental illustrations, copper plates were expensive for large print runs and lithography had only just been developed (and in 2-3 years would be immensely popular), both of these publishers had invested in steel plates, a technology that had only just appeared but which would soon be superseded by lithography.
Funding would nevertheless be a problem and patronage of some sort would be necessary and the number of possible subscribers, if we count the dedications on the various plates, was obviously important to both. Was there any collaboration? Did the publishers share information? How successful were the two works? The following is an attempt to compare and contrast the publishing histories of these two, on the face of it very similar, publications.