Monday, July 23, 2012

Anglo-French Perspectives on the Commerce of Literature and the Literature of Commerce in the Long 18th Century.

The library recently created an exhibition in conjunction with a conference held July 2nd-3rd  2012 at Newnham College:

A selection from the exhibition
'Anglo-French Perspectives on the Commerce of Literature and the Literature of Commerce in the Long 18th Century.’

The conference explored the growing and vital role of literature within an increasingly commercialised eighteenth century society. Rises in trade inevitably led to a greater exchange of information between countries, and equally therefore of pamphlets, books and literature across European boundaries. Consequently, throughout the eighteenth century the notion of the 'professional author' grew alongside a rapidly expanding book trade.  

At Newnham Library we have delved within our rare books collection to find some intriguing and characterful works which we hope reflect these central themes and ideas.

Our exhibition is structured around the instances of the word ‘commerce’ as used in James Thomson’s The Seasons. This is his long, chef d’oeuvre poem first published 1726-30 of which the library owns a number of different eighteenth and nineteenth century versions. 

Thomson's line:   ‘Where wealth and commerce lift their golden head’  (Spring. Line 843)

brings to our attention the theme of the literature of commerce. Within this idea we have displayed works including a first edition (1707) of William Fleetwood’s Chronicon Preciosum: or, an account of English money, the price of corn and other commodities for the last 600 years. This fascinating work is an eighteenth century price index. Furthermore, John Law’s Money and Trade Considered: with a proposal for supplying the nation with money (1750) introduces the idea of fresh money, curiously topical in today’s economic climate.  

Commerce of course provided new interactions and exchanges of ideas between nations, as captured in Thomson’s Summer, line 138:

                          ‘and generous commerce binds/The round of nations in a golden chain.’
Thomson's The Seasons and Marmontel's Moral Tales

Our 1747 copy of The Spectator Volume 6, no 403, depicts the discussions of international affairs in the coffee-houses of London : 'about three months ago, when we had a current report of the King of France's death...I foresaw this would produce a new face of things in Europe, and many curious speculations in our British coffeehouses.'[1] Furthermore,  Marmontel’s Moral Tales, (Contes Moraux (1755-65)), of which we have a copy of the 3rd edition in English translation, (1781) mirrors works by English writers such as Samuel Richardson in our 1816 edition of Pamela, Or, Virtue Rewarded (first published 1740), a tale of a young woman whose virtue is daily challenged.

With new and growing trade grew a deep sense of voyage and discovery:

                         'For then from ancient gloom emerged
                         The rising world of trade...and 
                         in unbounded commerce mixed the world.' (Summer, line 1012)

Carr's advertisement for globes
The library owns many delightful works on the subject of travel and voyage.  Examples featured in the exhibition include William Dampier's A Collection of Voyages, 1729, revealing a map of trade winds and  John Carr's Traveller's Companion, (London,1806) which interestingly contains an advertisement for globes, further suggesting the significance of trade as a catalyst for world exploration and knowledge.  Particularly appropriate for a Cambridge college is James Beeverell's Les Delices de la Grand Bretagne & de l'Irlande (1707) which in volumes 1 and 2 depicts the various styles of academical dress in Cambridge and Oxford, certainly catering for the curiosity of a french audience!

Fictional travelling adventures were no doubt inspired by trading expansion and mirror the increase in travel writing as a whole. We have tried to capture this  through works such as our 1790 edition of Robinson Crusoe, Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1760) and Daniel Gabriel's A Voyage to the World of Cartesius, (1694, translator: T. Taylor) written originally in French :Voyage du Monde de Descartes.

Notions of personal voyage also emerge. As featured in our previous blog post, we have included Frances Burney's Evelina, or, A Young Lady's entrance into the world' (1778, First edition) exploring a woman's attempt to carve her pathway in to eighteenth century society.

This is really only a taster of what the exhibition has to offer and the works that are included.  Please  email for any further information.

Polly Harper, Graduate Library Trainee

[1] The Spectator, Vol.6, no.403 p.44, 1757 (Gift of Henry Yates Thompson).

No comments:

Post a Comment