First Issued: 6 September 2012
Revised (substantive): 6 December 2012
Part I: Editor’s Introduction to Oldenburg’s book review
ENRY Oldenburg (c.1619–1677) was a founding member of The Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, and its active secretary from 1662 until his death in 1677. As S.R.S., Oldenburg became the Society’s public voice, corresponding with a diverse group of natural philosophers at home and abroad. By so doing, Oldenburg built up a thriving social network for the Society, the proceedings of which were advertised in the periodical publication entitled Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, the initial concept of which was outlined by Robert Hooke in 1663:
And that you may understand what parts of naturall knowledge they [the Royal Society] are most inquisitive for at this present, they designe to print a Paper of advertisements once every week, or fortnight at furthest, wherein will be contained the heads or substance of the inquiries they are most solicitous about, together with the progress they have made and the information they have received from other hands, together with a short account of such other philosophicall matters as accidentally occur, and a brief discourse of what is new and considerable in their letters from all parts of the world, and what the learned and inquisitive are doing or have done in physick, mathematicks, mechanicks, opticks, astronomy, medicine, chymistry, anatomy, both abroad and at home.
(quoted in E. N. da C. Andrade, “The Birth and Early Days of the Philosophical Transactions,” 12)
The Transactions first appeared in 1665, making it the oldest continuous scientific journal. It was not the first scientific journal, but it was the first scientific journal in English, and the first to publish original (for the most part, signed) scientific papers describing some discovery or observation, rather than limiting its content to review articles and/or descriptions of the collaborative work of an anonymous collective. The
Philosophical Transactions was not the earliest scientific periodical to come forth, since the first number of the Journal des Sçavans appeared, on 5 January 1665, two months before the first number of the Transactions. The Journal, however, while much concerned with scientific matters, including scientific books, dealt with the world of learning in general, including literary, legal and theological matters. Its pronouncements often led to stormy controversy, it had a troubled history and finally ceased to appear in 1790. The Transactions, except for a short break when it was replaced by Hooke’s Philosophical Collections, and for an interruption of three years that followed the landing of William of Orange and the flight of James II, has been published continuously from the issue of the first number dated 6 March 1664/5, the present year  thus being the three hundredth anniversary of its beginning.
(E. N. da C. Andrade, 9)
Although closely associated with the Royal Society, the Transactions was always Oldenburg’s private venture — an attempt to profit from his unpaid secretarial work for the Society by purveying “Philosophical News.” Then, as now, the business model was flawed, and periodical publication proved more prestigious than lucrative. The Philosophical Transactions
brought Oldenburg fame but never much income (seldom as much as £40 a year). So great was the demand abroad that four volumes by different translators appeared in Latin (1666–9), a partial French edition was made for the use of the Académie Royale des Sciences, and an Italian edition was published in 1729.... For the last ten years of his life Oldenburg’s unremitting correspondence kept him fully occupied, except for the need to earn a decent income. Unfortunately the Philosophical Transactions never sold as well as he had hoped; he had to give away many copies, and the printers were exigent. In 1668 he began a campaign to secure a salary from the Royal Society in view of his many duties, and appealed to Boyle and others. That year the society voted him a gift only of £50, but the next year relented and voted an annual salary of £40.
(Marie Boas Hall, n. pag.)
Oldenburg set a very high standard, and subsequent editors, namely Sir Hans Sloane, who took over responsibility for publication of the Philosophical Transactions in 1695, were hard-pressed to keep up. Although some scholars argue that Sloane “played a key role in revitalizing both” the Royal Society (“at the time in a state of decline”) and its journal, at real personal cost — “these considerable responsibilities inhibited Sloane’s own opportunities for further scientific work” (MacGregor, n. pag.) — Sloane’s editorial work on the Transactions drew fire.
The appointment placed Sloane at the hub of the learned world. It is hard to conceive that a more appropriate person could have been found to occupy this position, for Sloane’s wide circle of acquaintances, his assiduousness as a correspondent, and his easy relations with foreign scholars at a period when the continent was repeatedly riven by warfare helped maintain the Royal Society in a key strategic position within the European scholarly community. His extensive correspondence with the Abbé Bignon, master of the king’s library in Paris and editor of the Journal des Sçavans, may be singled out as a particularly fruitful conduit through which the latest scientific ideas (and gossip) were transmitted across the channel. The fact that so many of the communications printed in the Philosophical Transactions at this time were in the nature of extended letters to the editor underlines the important role played by the editor as correspondent.
Sloane was not without his critics, however. One of the most vociferous was Dr John Woodward, who bore an undoubted enmity for Sloane, fuelled by more than a hint of jealousy, but his antipathy also had a genuine scholarly dimension to it. With some justification Woodward felt that the experimental and philosophical objectives of the Royal Society (as reflected in the papers published in the Transactions) were neglected or even undermined during Sloane’s secretaryship; not only did Sloane lack the intellectual capacity to forward these pursuits but, in Woodward’s opinion, he subverted the course of progress by forwarding the theories of his cronies at the expense of others (notably Woodward himself). Even more devastating in effect was an attack which came in the form of a parody on Sloane and the journal he edited, published anonymously in 1700 by William King, under the title of The Transactioneer. Although an official inquiry into its authorship was mounted by the council, King remained undiscovered.
(Arthur MacGregor, n. pag.)
Unlike the physician, natural historian, and antiquary, John Woodward (1665/1668–1728), William King (1663–1712) was not a fellow of the Royal Society, but he claimed to be
mov’d by the Respect I have for Natural Studies, and a fear least those Men who have made such great Advances in it, and thereby gain’d the Applause of all the Learned World, should lose any part of it by the trifling and shallow Management of one who wants every Qualification that is requisite for such a Post.
(William King, The Transactioneer, with Some of His Philosophical Fancies: in Two Dialogues, 1700, sig. A2v–A3r)
I am sorry to see that Excellent Society in any hazard of being Eclipsed by the wretched Gambols of these People. Learned Men abroad have ever verry justly had a vast esteem for the English Society: But I find that now like to decline; they having no other way of judging of it but by the Philosophical Transactions. The World every where looks on them as a kind of Journal of the R. Society, tho’ there’s no Ground for that Opinion; for they were begun by Mr. Oldenburg, who all along declar’d the R. Society were not concern’d in those Transactions, but that they were a Work of his own and some Friends. At that time they were carry’d on in such a manner that they met every where with Approbation, and were of real use. But since this new Secretaryship all agree a more useless Paper no where appears, and I was concern’d that such a one should pass for a Work of the R. Society.
’Tis their Vindication that has drawn me to undertake this, and if I can but disabuse the World by it I have my end. I can truely say that I have no personal Prejudice to the present Transactioneer or any of his Friends; For I am but little known to any of them: And if they now think I have no design to recommend myself to their Acquaintance, I fancy the Reader will not believe they are mistaken.
(William King, The Transactioneer, with Some of His Philosophical Fancies: in Two Dialogues, 1700, sig. A3r–A3v)
King opens Dialogue I of the satiric The Transactioneer by applauding the editorial savvy and professionalism of Henry Oldenburg and Dr. Robert Plot (bap. 1640, d. 1696, and S.R.S. from November 1682 until November 1684, during which period he edited numbers 144–178 of the Philosophical Transactions):
Truly Sir, I have scarce enquired after Philosophical News, since Dr. Plot and Mr. Oldenburg were taken from amongst us; not but that there are a great many Men of Learning and Merit still remaining, who bear not only the Titles of Virtuosi, but really deserve them.
(William King, The Transactioneer, with Some of His Philosophical Fancies: in Two Dialogues, 1700, 1)
The “learned Dr Plot,” as he was called by contemporaries, is still known for his “formidable erudition” (Turner, n. pag.), but Henry Oldenburg’s scholarship has been eclipsed by his administrative skills and modeling of sociable science.
During all the upheavals of his private life, Oldenburg continued to work for the good of the Royal Society and of natural philosophy. By now [the 1670s] he had perfected his techniques: he had learned how to encourage talent (as his support and promotion of such men as Malpighi, Flamsteed, Leeuwenhoek, Leibniz, De Graaf, Martin Lister, and others show). Equally significant was his ability to persuade men reluctant to publish to permit him to insert their papers in his Philosophical Transactions and to continue to do so even when this provoked controversy. The most important example is undoubtedly that of Newton. From 1671 to 1677 he painstakingly coaxed the at first little-known Lucasian professor to submit his papers on optics to the Royal Society, then to permit their publication in his journal, and finally to respond to criticisms by those who could not accept his conclusions or repeat his experiments. It was a triumph of diplomatic skill of the greatest benefit to the world of natural philosophy. Just as important was Oldenburg’s treatment of those few examples of his mathematical skill that Newton reluctantly released to him, culminating in the energetic exchanges with Leibniz in 1676–7. This involved Oldenburg in the tedious and difficult copying out of many pages of complex mathematical text, which indicates incidentally that he could follow advanced mathematics and perhaps even understand it.
(Marie Boas Hall, n. pag.)
When he instituted the Philosophical Transactions in the spring of 1665, Oldenburg intended it to be a sheet of news derived partly from his correspondence and partly from the activities of the Royal Society, but he soon added (with issue No. 10) a section with reviews of scientific books.
The text that follows (see Part 2 of this e-publication) is from Oldenburg’s “An Accompt of Some Books” published in issue No. 49 of the Philosophical Transactions (1669). As was customary, Oldenburg reviewed several newly-released titles (in this case, four books total), the second of which was a quarto published at Paris in 1669, entitled Description Anatomique d’un Cameleon, d’un Castor, d’un Dromedaire, d’un Ours, et d’une Gazelle [Anatomical Description of a Chameleon, a Beaver, a Camel, a Bear, and a Gazelle]. The book was issued under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris (established in 1666, several years after London’s Society for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, which was granted its first royal charter in July 1662), and documented the early anatomy sessions organized by the physician, physicist, architect and founding member of the Académie Royale des Sciences, Claude Perrault (1613–1688). For years, Perrault and colleagues at the Royal Academy of Sciences performed dissections on deceased animals from Louis XIV’s royal menagerie. This gave them unique access to a range of exotic creatures from around the world, including the chameleon, which was the first of the five case studies presented serially in Perrault’s Description Anatomique.
The French academicians’ early findings in comparative anatomy were of great interest to Oldenburg’s international audience, and his book review provided a useful digest of scientific research that was difficult for many readers of the Transactions to access otherwise. Scientific books were much harder to come by then, even for those who lived in European and colonial cultural centers and were well-connected, such as the bookseller John Martyn (1617/18–1680), official “Printer [i.e., publisher] to the Royal Society” from 1663. Martyn had well-established ties to the continental book trade, but even so, in 1675 he needed twice to publish in the Transactions
A list of some philosophical and other curious books, desired by the printer of these tracts (by whom they are vendible) to be mentioned here.
(Philosophical Transactions, 1675, vol. 10, nos. 116 and 121)
Given the way we handle this sort of thing now, it is even more surprising to find Francis Willughby’s posthumously-published Ornithologiae Libri Tres [Ornithology in Three Books] listed among the works of natural philosophy, engineering, mathematics, and medicine requested by Martyn in No. 121 of the Transactions. I find this remarkable because:
1. The book’s author, Francis Willughby (1635–1672; elected F.R.S. in December 1661), and editor, John Ray (1627–1705; elected F.R.S. in November 1667), were both Fellows of the Royal Society.
2. Martyn himself published Ornithologiae Libri Tres in 1676 (“new-style” calendar dating).
3. The Ornithology had already been favorably reviewed by Henry Oldenburg in the issue of the Philosophical Transactions for 1675/6 directly prior to this (No. 120, pp. 481–490).
As to be expected, Oldenburg gave Willughby’s Ornithology a positive review in No. 120 of the Transactions. He began his review with an encomium on Willughby’s widow, Emma (1644–1725; née Barnard; 2nd married name, Child), for her support of the book’s publication, the long Latin title of which took explicit note of this (“Sumptus in chalcographos fecit illustriss. D. Emma Willughby, vidua”). Emma Willughby had paid for the book’s illustrations, which were mostly copied from other books and were of questionable verisimilitude, as far as the book’s editor, John Ray, was concerned. But Oldenburg had no such quibbles, choosing to focus instead on Emma’s backing of a work which, since the 19th century, has been regarded as “the foundation of scientific Ornithology”:
As the person, that hath review’d, methodized and supplied this Work, Mr. John Ray, hath given to the worthy and learned Author thereof his just Elogy in the Preface; so we cannot but very thankfully acknowledge not only the Industry, Care and Accuracy of the said person in digesting and perfecting it, but also the Bounty of that Excellent Lady, the Authors Relict Widow, enriching the same with so vast a Number of Elegant and Costly Figures; whereby She hath indeed immortalised Herself as well as her Deserving Consort, and manifested to the World, that in a time when many stain their lives by unworthy pleasure, she knew how to adorn hers by the exercise of Ingenuity and Vertue: In the doing of which, as she hath put a lustre upon herself, that makes her outshine many of her Sex; so she hath raised in Us very great hopes, that she will continue the same nobleness in the publication of the rest of the History of Animals, mention’d in the Preface.
Having paid this small Tribute to the merit of this Generous Lady, I shall now proceed to take notice of the Work it self; and First, of the design thereof, which is not to give Pandects of Birds, or to collect indiscriminately what hath been already publish’d, whether true or false, on this subject; but to illustrate and put into good order the History of Birds, partly by describing the Birds themselves upon Ocular inspection, partly by borrowing the description of those, of which the Author and Publisher themselves could not get a sight, from the best Writers upon this Argument: Endeavouring principally, to describe and difference all the known species of Birds, and to reduce them to their several classes, and thereby to take away that confusion and obscurity, which this History hath hitherto laboured under.
(Oldenburg, Philosophical Transactions, 1675, vol. 10, no. 120, 481–482)
Despite so public an appeal for her continued patronage, Emma Willughby would disappoint the scientific community. She soon re-married (the baronet, Sir Josiah Child), and with her children whom Ray had been tutoring, moved from Middleton Hall, where Ray had lived with the Willughby family and relied on the library for his work. Lady Child later quarrelled with Ray over the administration of her dead husband’s trust (Ray was one of five executors of Willughby’s will), and then declined to finance Ray’s forthcoming edition of Francis Willughby’s work on fishes, De Historia Piscium Libri Quatuor (1686), the engravings for which were financed (with disastrous consequences) by the Royal Society.
In his book review of Willoughby’s Ornithology, Oldenburg articulated the modernist’s dismissal of works that “collect indiscriminately what hath been already publish’d, whether true or false, on this subject,” and the modern preference for “describing the Birds themselves upon Ocular inspection.” It was rightly assumed that from such methodical observation and inspection, new and better taxonomies could be devised.
The dissections performed by Claude Perrault and his colleagues at the Académie Royale des Sciences were conducted in this same modern spirit — gathering the data necessary for more rigorous scientific classification of the world around us — and Oldenburg paid close attention to the findings described in Description Anatomique d’un Cameleon, d’un Castor, d’un Dromedaire, d’un Ours, et d’une Gazelle, as these related to the 17th century’s new project of comparative anatomy.
Oldenburg’s English-language reviews of scientific books printed in foreign languages — which mathematical practitioners and others who worked in the trades often could not read (Wallis, 1685, 374) — were sufficiently detailed and informative that they were cited by contemporary and subsequent researchers, with extracts printed in the Athenian Society’s Young-Students-Library (1692), as well as by the 18th-century encyclopaedists. For example, Nehemiah Grew considered Oldenburg’s 1669 book review, with its summary discussion of the latest findings pertaining to the chameleon’s anatomy, authoritative, citing it in his Catalogue (1681, 1685) of the contents in the Royal Society’s museum, as did George Lewis Scott’s A Supplement to Mr. Chambers’s Cyclopaedia, almost a century later (1753).
Andrade, E. N. da C. “The birth and early days of the Philosophical transactions.” Notes and records of the Royal Society 20.1 (1965): 9–27.
The Athenian Society. The young-students-library. Containing, extracts and abridgments of the most valuable books printed in England, and in the forreign journals, from the year sixty five, to this time. To which is added, a new essay upon all sorts of learning; wherein the use of the sciences is distinctly treated on. By the Athenian Society. Also, a large alphabetical table, comprehending the contents of this volume. And of all the Athenian Mercuries and supplements, &c. printed in the year 1691. Ed. by John Dunton. London: Printed for John Dunton, at the Raven in the Poultry. Where is to be had the intire sett of Athenian Gazettes, and the supplements to 'em for the year, 1691. bound up all together, (with the alphabetical table to the whole year) or else in separate volumes, (or single Mercuries to this time), 1692.
The Athenian Society had earlier discussed the question of “Chamelion, its properties, and living on Air, whether true?” in vol. 2, no. 14, q. 7 of their popular science journal, the Athenian Gazette.
Chambers, Ephraim, rev. by George Lewis Scott, et al. A supplement to Mr. Chambers’s Cyclopaedia: or, universal dictionary of arts and sciences. In two volumes. London: Printed for W. Innys and J. Richardson, R. Ware, J. and P. Knapton, T. Osborne, S. Birt, T. and T. Longman, D. Browne, C. Hitch and L. Hawes, J. Hodges, J. Shuckburgh, A. Millar, J. and J. Rivington, J. Ward, M. Senex, and the Executors of J. Darby, MDCCLIII .
This edn. of the Supplement was co-published by a woman: Mary Senex. Ephraim Chambers apprenticed with her husband, the well-known map and globe maker John Senex, and Mary took over her husband’s technically-demanding publishing business after his death in 1740. Of note, Mary Senex wrote a business letter to the Royal Society in 1749, published in the Philosophical Transactions that same year, in which she described “the great Advantages of my Globes over others” and sought to retain Royal Society patronage and related markets for her terrestrial and celestial globes (the Royal Society having recently been encouraged to import their globes from Nuremberg).
The Cyclopaedia Supplement’s illustrated article on the chameleon is available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition.
Clapp, Sarah. “Subscription publishers prior to Jacob Tonson.” The library 13.2 (1932): 158–83.
Clapp argues here that, for savvy entrepreneurs, the subscription method of publication — “the device of securing, prior to the publication of books, promises to take them” (158) — was “a mode of support more reliable than that of individual patronage” (168). In addition, “the safeguard of subscription” could be “thrown around” (169) books of dubious authorship or an unpopular message, which helped democratize the print trade and give public voice to dissident opinions. Moreover, subscription publishing proved an effective way to fund production of expensive specialty items, such as maps and globes. During the 17th century, the model was used effectively (to begin with, mostly by authors) to sell literature and music, as well as works of divinity, law, and science.
The title of Clapp’s article refers to the bookseller Jacob Tonson the Elder (1655/6–1736), who “brought to the subscription method of publication a conspicuous success, measured in terms both of his own consequently increased fortunes and of the access of popularity to the object of his undertaking, the fourth edition of Paradise Lost ... a poem, moreover, that had hitherto enjoyed only slow sales. To him does seem due the distinction of first giving an impetus to pure literature, native in origin, by bringing admirers directly to its support.” (168)
In addition to promoting such modern literary giants as Milton and Dryden, Tonson was able to profit from publishing the ancients, including the works of Julius Caesar (in Latin, with numerous maps, and 87 engravings done in superb detail by Dutch artists) — a magnificent folio edn. which was in production for 9 years — plus editions of Lucretius, Terence, Justin, Salust, Pompey, Aesop, the Greek New Testament, and a sumptuous English translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In contrast, others before Tonson had difficulty marketing scholarly work (e.g., the 8-volume Chrysostom edition of the mathematician and foremost Greek scholar in Elizabethan England, Sir Henry Savile, printed between 1610 and 1612 all in Greek on a press specially set up by Melchisidec Bradwood at Eton, for which its author never came close to recouping expenses, let alone any profit-making; see separate entry for Savile in this References section).
There is much to be learned from the varied experiences of early-modern authors and dealers in the London book trade. Once again, the culture business is in flux, as Internet-related technologies pose new challenges for those of us who do what the market now calls “creative work.” A subscription publishing model, which ensures a built-in audience for creative professionals willing to take a risk on producing cultural goods for niche markets, may be one solution to the impending crisis.
Corbett, Margery, and Ronald W. Lightbown. The comely frontispiece: the emblematic title-page in England, 1550–1660. London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979.
Grew, Nehemiah. Musaeum Regalis Societatis. Or a catalogue & description of the natural and artificial rarities belonging to the Royal Society and preserved at Gresham Colledge. Made by Nehemiah Grew M.D. Fellow of the Royal Society, and of the Colledge of Physitians. Whereunto is subjoyned, the Comparative anatomy of stomachs and guts. By the same author. London: Printed by W. Rawlins, for the author, 1681.
1st edn. of a publication successfully financed by subscription. Grew’s catalog entry for the three chameleons (of unknown provenance) in the Royal Society’s museum collection is available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition.
Gunther, R. T. Early science in Oxford. Vol. VII. The life and work of Robert Hooke (part II). Oxford, 1930; rpt. London: Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1968.
Hall, Marie Boas. “Oldenburg, Henry [Heinrich] (c.1619–1677), scientific correspondent and secretary of the Royal Society.” Oxford dictionary of national biography. Online edition, Oxford University Press, Jan. 2008. Accessed 19 April 2012, from < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/20676 >.
King, William. The transactioneer with some of his philosophical fancies: in two dialogues. London: Printed for the booksellers of London and Westminster, 1700.
King revived the quarrel with Sloane, begun in The Transactioneer, with his publication (again, anonymously) of the parodic journal, Useful Transactions in Philosophy (January–September 1709).
MacGregor, Arthur. “Sloane, Sir Hans, baronet (1660–1753), physician and collector.” Oxford dictionary of national biography. Online edition, Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 19 April 2012, from < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/25730 >.
Martyn, John. “A list of some philosophical and other curious books, desired by the printer of these tracts, (by whom they are to be had,) to be mentioned here.” Edited by Henry Oldenburg. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London 10.116 (1675): 375–376.
The notice in No. 116 of the Transactions lists 37 works of natural philosophy, engineering, mathematics, and medicine, among them: “Francisci Redi Experimenta circa res naturales, praesertim eas quae huc ex Indiis adferuntu, cum figuris aeneis, in 12º.”; “Athanasii Kircheri Arca Noe in tres Libros Digesta, in Fol.”; “Martini Forbisseri Historia Navigationis ex Anglia in Septentrionis & Occidentis tractum susceptae, in Latinum translata, in 4º.”; and “Theod. Turqueti D. de Mayerne tractatus de Arthritide, in 12º.”
Martyn, John. “A list of some philosophical and other curious books, desired by the printer of these tracts (by whom they are vendible) to be mentioned here.” Edited by Henry Oldenburg. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London 10.121 (24 Jan. 1675/6): n. pag.
The notice in No. 121 of the Transactions lists 24 works of natural philosophy, engineering, mathematics, and medicine, including: “Joh. Christopheri Sturmii Collegium Experimentale, sive Curiosum, in quo Primaria hujus seculi Inventa & Experimenta Physico-Mathematica, explicantur, in quarto.”; “Conringii dissertatio de Studiis Liberalibus Urbis Romae & Constantinopolis.”; “Marcelli Malpighii Anatome Plantarum; cui subjungitur Appendix Iteratas & Auctas ejusdem Authoris de Ovo Incubato observationes continens. fol.”; “Francisci Willughbeii Ornithologiae Libri Tres, in quibus Aves omnes Hactenus cognitae in Methodum Naturis Suis convenientem redactae accurate describuntur: Descriptiones Iconibus elegantissimis, & vivarum Avium simillimis AEri incisis Illustrantur: Totus opus Recognovit, Digessit, Supplevit Joh. Rayus. in fol.”; “Armeni Historia Orientalis quae eadem & de Tartaris inscribitur. quarto.”; “Joh. Costeri Affectuum totius Corporis Humani praecipuorum Theoria & Praxis. Tab. exhibitae. in quarto.”
Oldenburg, Henry. “An accompt of some books. ... II. Description anatomique d’un cameleon, d’un castor, d’un dromedaire, d’un ours, et d’une Gazelle. A Paris 1669. in 4º.” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London 4.49 (1669): 991–996.
Oldenburg, Henry. “An account of some books: I. Francisci Willughbeii de Middleton armigeri, è Reg. Societate, Ornithologiae libri tres; in quibus aves omnes hactenus cognitae, in methodum naturis suis convenientem redactae, accuraté describuntur; descriptiones iconibus elegantissimis & vivarum avium simillimis, aeri incisis, illustrantur: totum opus recognovit, digessit, supplevit Joh. Rajus, pariter é Soc. R. Sumptus in chalcographos fecit Illustriss. D. Emma Willughby, vidua. Londini, impensis Joh. Martyn, Typographi Soc. Regiae, ad insigne Campanae in Coemeterio D. Pauli, 1676. in fol....” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London 10.120 (1675): 481–490.
Oldenburg, Henry, ed. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. 12 vols. London, 1665–1678.
Oldenburg was responsible for the tracts numbered 1 through 136.
“The first number of the Philosophical Transactions is dated at the top of the first page March 6, 1664/5 ... and consists of 16 pages in 4to.... The first page of the dedication to the Royal Society, to which Oldenburg’s name is appended ... stressed that the contents are the work of Oldenburg alone ... The publication of the Philosophical Transactions was a speculation on Oldenburg’s part, from which he, very naturally, hoped to derive a profit. Although in the resolution of Council for 1 March 1664/5 it is stated that the publication is to be licensed and approved by the Society, it is not there made perfectly clear that the financial and editorial responsibility was entirely Oldenburg’s, and at the time it was believed in many quarters that the Transactions were published by the Society.” (Andrade, 13)
This misunderstanding caused Oldenburg to issue a notice, inserted at the end of the 12th number or tract, dated 7 May 1666, explicitly stating that the journal is published upon Oldenburg’s “Private account (as a Well-wisher to the advancement of usefull knowledge, and a Furtherer thereof by such Communications, as he is capable to furnish by that Philosophical Correspondency, which he entertains, and hopes to enlarge)” and that he alone “hath begun and continues both the composure and publication thereof....” (Andrade, 14)
Pitfield, Alexander, and Richard Waller. Memoir’s for a natural history of animals. Containing the anatomical descriptions of several creatures dissected by the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris. Englished by Alexander Pitfeild, Fellow of the Royal Society. To which is added an Account of the measure of a degree of a great circle of the earth, published by the same academy, and Englished by Richard Waller, S.R.S. By Claude Perrault, Jean-Felix Picard, and the Académie royale des sciences. London: Printed by Joseph Streater, and are to be sold by T. Basset, at the George in Fleet-Street. J. Robinson, at the Golden Lyon in St. Paul’s Church-Yard. B. Aylmer, at the Three Pigeons over against the Royal-Exchange. Joh. Southby, at the Harrow in Cornhil. And by W. Canning, in the Temple. MDCLXXXVIII .
1st edn. Perrault et al.’s illustrated anatomy of the chameleon, as published in Mémoires pour Servir à l’Histoire Naturelle des Animaux (Paris, 1670?), and Englished by Pitfield and Waller in 1688, is available as a She-philosopher.com digital edition.
Ray, John. Historia plantarum species hactenus editas aliasque insuper multas noviter inventas & descriptas complectens. In qua agitur primò de plantis in genere, earúmque partibus, accidentibus & differentiis; deinde genera omnia tum summa tum subalterna ad species usque infimas, notis suis certis & characteristicis definita, methodo naturae vestigiis insistente disponuntur; species singulae accurate describuntur, obscura illustrantur, omissa supplentur, superflua resecantur, synonyma necessaria adjiciuntur; vires denique & usus recepti compendiò traduntur. Auctore Joanne Raio, e Societate Regiâ, & SS. individuae Trinitatis Collegii apud Cantabrigienses quondam socio. Tomus primus. Londini: Typis Mariae Clark, prostant apud Henricum Faithorne & Joannem Kersey ad insigne Rosae in Coemeterio D. Pauli, & è regione aedium Bedfordiensium in vico the Strand dicto, [MD]CLXXXVI .
Vol. 1 of Ray’s 3-volume herbal, Historiae Plantarum (1686–1704).
Two folio volumes, describing approximately 6100 species of plant, were printed in 1686 (Vol. 1) and 1688 (Vol. 2) by a woman, Mary Clark (fl. 1678–1704), who specialized in printing difficult scientific and technical works such as this. A third supplementary volume, describing a further 10,000 species (mostly compiled from printed sources) was delayed by failed attempts to raise subscriptions, and didn’t appear in print until 1704. Ray’s herbal is entirely in Latin, and despite being a comprehensive and methodical natural history, there is not a single illustration in it, partly because of Ray’s doubts about the information value of contemporary botanical illustration, and partly because of the costs involved. A book review appearing in the Athenian Society’s The Young-Students-Library explained the predicament: “What is chiefly wanting, is the Figure of Plants, which ’tis not always easie to remember by a bare description of ’em. Figures in Wood are commonly too gross, altho’ there are some pretty good in the Ancient Botanists, as Mathiolus of Venice; and these in Copper Cuts cost too much; this is the cause that there were no Figures in this Edition. But the Booksellers, who are at the Expences of what is done, promise to add ’em very quickly, and to publish every Classis of Plants in their Order, provided they can do it by way of Subscription.” (The Young-Students-Library, 1692, 479)
In the meantime, the market for so scholarly an herbal was quite limited. Even so, Clapp believes the subscription publication model employed by the publisher, Henry Faithorne, “succeeded reasonably well” for volumes 1 and 2 of Historiae Plantarum (Clapp, 179). But Ray had mixed feelings about the whole business, probably speaking for many of the most sought-after subscribers for scientific books when he wrote to Tancred Robinson: “I did not intend the work should have been printed by subscription. I do not love to draw in men to subscribe as I like not myself to do so, but that everyone should have his free liberty whether he would purchase the book or no: and if no Booksellers dare venture upon it without subscriptions, I am well content it should rest and be so suppressed. When they desired such an account of the work I thought they intended no more than to show it to particular friends and acquaintances, not to make public Propositions for subscriptions.” (qtd. in Clapp, 178–9)
Ray here expresses the typical discomfort of gentleman intellectuals with the business of proactive marketing (e.g., see the separate entry for Wallis in this References section). Authors and readers alike often complained that the booksellers were venal and corrupt — impeding the national progress by selling out the “publick interest” for private gain — but as Ray acknowledged in his letter to Robinson, the stationers had a better feel for the book trade than most natural philosophers, and fewer scruples about letting economic decisions dictate the content and marketing of books.
Savile, Henry. S. Joannis Chrysostomi Opera Graece, octo voluminibus. Etonae: in Collegio Regali, excudebat Joannes Norton, in Graecis &c. regius typographus, 1613 [i.e. 1610–1613].
Latin title from the emblematic title-page, engraved by Léonard Gaultier (the rest of Savile’s 8-volume work, including the letterpress title-page, is in Greek characters).
This magnificent edition of the works of Saint John Chrysostom (d. 407), by Sir Henry Savile (1549–1622), was not a financial success. Partly, this was a matter of bad timing: in 1614, a 6-volume collection of Chrysostom’s works, accompanied by Latin translations, was published, and other similar bilingual editions appeared within a few years. But there were other factors at play, too. Savile’s edition was of the highest scholarly quality, executed in splendid typography, and continues to be “a text that is still admired to this day.” But it contained only the Greek text, lacked a thesaurus, and was difficult of access. “Though there is a detailed commentary and an index to the first lines of sermons and tractates, a subject index — as we would call it today — is painfully lacking. Only in the final volume an ‘index vocabulorum, qua in notis explicantur’ is added, but this, consisting of a mere 5½ pages, is altogether unsatisfactory for any use. It is not surprising, then, that sales did not go too smoothly. After nearly a year of exertions, Sladus reports on his [marketing] efforts to Carleton: ‘I have spoken to divers ... but found your L. saing [Latin saying] true, they who have Greeke are moniles [moneyless], and they who have mony [money] are Greekles [Greekless].’” (S. van der Woude, 447).
“As is well known, Sir Henry Savile invested much money in this edition and took great pains over it. An admirer of Chrysostomus, for years he investigated, corresponded, sought, and received help from many parts of Europe and even the Near East in order to produce as complete and accurate a version of Chrysostom’s works as possible.” (S. van der Woude, 437)
Such scholarship came at a price. The work cost a staggering £8,000 for 1,000 copies printed, and £2,000 for paper. Savile received a £50 loan from Merton College as early as 1602, which was to be repaid out of the proceeds of sale, and reputedly financed the rest himself. (Corbett and Lightbown, 123) The Chrysostom set originally sold for £9, but was soon dropped to £8, and after Savile’s death, Eton College was selling copies for £3 per set. Even at this price, the 8-volume sets were difficult to unload. In his will, Savile left unsold copies of the work to two colleges, to the printer, and to his son-in-law Dudley Carleton, who had assisted Savile in the preparation of the edition during his stays in Paris in 1602 and 1610, and who, after the publication, was tasked by Savile with selling copies of the work in Venice, where Carleton was resident ambassador. Despite Carleton’s best efforts and many valuable contacts, he had to report back that “the work sells but poorly” (qtd. in S. van der Woude, 442n3).
Taylor, Eva G. R. The mathematical practicioners of Tudor and Stuart England. 1954; rpt. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1968.
Turner, A. J. “Plot, Robert (bap. 1640, d. 1696), naturalist and antiquary.” Oxford dictionary of national biography. Online edition, Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 14 March 2007, from <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22385>.
Van der Woude, S. “Sir Henry Savile’s Chrysostomus edition in the Netherlands.” In Studia bibliographica in honorem Herman de la Fontaine Verwey. Edited. by S. van der Woude. Amsterdam: Menno Hertzberger, 1966 [i.e., 1968]. 437–447.
Wallis, John. A treatise of algebra, both historical and practical. Shewing, the original, progress, and advancement thereof, from time to time; and by what steps it hath attained to the heighth at which it now is. With some additional treatises, I. Of the cono-cuneus; being a body representing in part a conus, in part a cuneus. II. Of angular sections; and other things relating thereunto, and to trigonometry. III. Of the angle of contact; with other things appertaining to the composition of magnitudes, the inceptives of magnitudes, and the composition of motions, with the results thereof. IV. Of combinations, alternations, and aliquot parts. By John Wallis, D.D. professor of geometry in the University of Oxford; and a member of the Royal Society, London. London: Printed by John Playford, for Richard Davis, bookseller, in the University of Oxford, M.DC.LXXXV .
Wallis’s Algebra, ushered through publication at London by John Collins (who saw through the press several important mathematical and scientific works by Thomas Salusbury, Isaac Barrow, Jeremiah Horrocks, Wallis, and others), was “sent up to London, in order to be then Printed, in the Year 1676. though many pieces of it, here inserted, were written many Years before.” (Wallis, Treatise of Algebra, sig. a2r) One sheet of it was printed in 1676 and used to attract subscribers before the book finally went to the press in August 1683, “and is now [20 Nov. 1684] finishing, according to the Design then published” for subscribers (Wallis, sig. a2v).
Wallis’s book, steeped in nationalist sentiments (e.g., the historical account favored English achievements in mathematics, arguing that Descartes was influenced by Thomas Hariot, and that Newton’s inventions took priority over all foreigners, including Leibniz), was geared to a non-scholarly audience, and printed in English, “thus done ... to gratify those of our own Nation; many of whom I find very capable of these Studies, without being expert Masters of the Latine Tongue” (Wallis, 374).
But it was chock-full of mathematical equations and diagrams, making it a most challenging text for the printer. As Wallis himself was well aware, “it is not every Printing-house, that is provided with such variety of Characters as would be necessary to suit such an occasion as this. And, to have all such cast a-new for this purpose; would be a matter of great charge.” (Wallis, sig. b1v) And the printing itself was very demanding, since errors “such as in another Book would not have been worth the noting: being but literal faults, which in a common discourse the Eye would (either not see, or) easily Correct” are of great consequence in his Algebra, where “the mistake or misplacing of a Point or Letter, be more than (in another discourse) the omission or mistake of a Word.” (Wallis, sig. b1v)
With such exacting books, cost over-runs were par for the course, but not well-received by subscribers. Wallis blamed the booksellers for this, and tried to deflect complaints about schedule and pricing from the printer to the publisher, whom Wallis describes as acting keenly in his own self-interest from the beginning. “As to the Proposals that were made for Subscriptions; I have no more to say, but that those were Proposals (not of mine, but) of the Bookseller who was concerned in the Printing of them (and for his advantage and incouragement:) Who, if he be thought to have put a greater price on it, than on other Books of a like bulk; hath this to say for it, That the Printing of such things; is a business of more Trouble and Charge, (than of other Books;) and the Impressions (as to the number of Books Printed) not so large, (because the Buyers are not so numerous;) both which conduce to make Books the dearer.” (Wallis, sig. b2r)
Willughby, Francis. Francisci Willughbeii de Midleton in agro Warwicensi, armigeri, e Regia Societate, Ornothologiae libri tres: in quibus aves omnes hactenus cognitae in methodum naturis suis convenientem redactae accuratè describuntur, descriptiones iconibus elegantissimis & vivarum avium simillimis, aeri incisis illustrantur. Totum opus recognovit, digessit, supplevit Joannes Raius. Sumptus in chalcographos fecit illustriss. D. Emma Willughby, vidua. Edited by John Ray. Londini: Impensis Joannis Martyn, Regiae Societatis Typographi, ad insigne Capanae in Coemeterio D. Pauli, MDCLXXVI .
1st edn. of Willughby’s posthumously-published Ornithology.
Willughby, Francis. Francisci Willughbeii armig. De historia piscium libri quatuor, jussu & sumptibus Societatis Regiae Londiniensis editi. In quibus non tantum De piscibus in genere agitur, sed & species omnes, tum ab aliis traditae, tum novae & nondum editae bene multae, naturae ductum servante methodo dispositae, accurate describuntur. Earumque effigies, quotquot haberi potuere, vel ad vivum delineatae, vel ad optima exemplaria impressae; artifici manu elegantissime in aes incisae, ad descriptiones illustrandas exhibentur. Cum appendice historias & observationes in supplementum operis collatas complectente. Totum opus recognovit, coaptavit, supplevit, librum etiam primum & secundum integros adjecit Johannes Raius e Societate Regia. Edited by John Ray. Oxonii: E Theatro Sheldoniano, 1686.
1st edn. of Willughby’s posthumously-published Natural History of Fishes, which was printed by subscription, with plates paid for by the Royal Society. This was the only publication so financed, and it was done at the instigation and insistence of Samuel Pepys, while he was President of the Royal Society (members were solicited at the price of 1 guinea per plate, with Pepys himself paying for 80 plates).
In an institutional context such as this (Fellows were often in arrears even as to their membership fees), the subscription business model failed miserably. “Despite contributions of a guinea a plate by members, and of other benefactions, the edition of five hundred copies depleted the treasury; officers of the Society had to take books in lieu of salary.” (Clapp, 178)
In June 1686, the Council of the Royal Society tried to finance Edmund Halley’s research expedition to measure a degree of the earth by paying “Mr Halley £50 or fifty copies of the History of Fishes, when he shall have measured a degree to the satisfaction of Sir Christopher Wren, the President [Pepys] and Sir J. Hoskyns.” (qtd. in Taylor, 125) In February 1687, Hooke was directed by the Council “to write to Amsterdam to a bookseller of his acquaintance there about the disposal of the History of Fishes; and that he agree for 400 books at 25s. a book, whereof two-fifths to be paid in money, the rest in exchange of such other books, as shall be thought requisite for the society’s library.” (Gunther, vii. 701) And in July 1687, Hooke was made a similar offer: “The question being put, whether Mr. Hooke should have the arrears, due to him by a former order of June 16, 1686, paid him in like manner in copies of the History of Fishes, it was balloted and allowed: only Mr. Hooke desired six months’ time to consider of the acceptance of such payment.” (Gunther, vii. 707)
Despite this fiasco, authors and booksellers affiliated with the Royal Society would continue to experiment with a subscription model to finance publication of serious scientific and technical works, with varying degrees of success (e.g., see the separate entries for Ray and Wallis in this References section).
NOTE: This original She-philosopher.com e-publication is
one of several digital editions relating to our ongoing
Study: The Natural and Cultural History of the Chameleon.
go up a level: Table of Contents page for the She-philosopher.com LIBRARY