Publications of Benjamin Tabart’s Juvenile Library

Last week, I wrote about the close relationship between Sir Richard Phillips and Benjamin Tabart in the children’s book publishing business. This week’s article will focus on some of the most popular of the children’s books published by Tabart & Company. Many of those books were still in print during the Regency, and a number of those which were not could still be found on nursery room bookshelves across Britain. Not only may Regency authors wish to provide some of those books to the younger characters in their stories, they may want to use at least a few of them as references for their own research. Fortunately, a few of those books have been digitized and are now available online.

Some of the surviving children’s books from Tabart’s Juvenile Library . . .

Between 1801 and 1818, the imprint of "Tabart & Company at The Juvenile and School Library" is known to have published at least one hundred and seventy-four books. That is an average of a little over ten books per year, a volume of production which any early nineteenth-century publisher would envy. The majority of those books were single stories which were published individually in the small, pocket editions which had become very popular with children, and their parents. Most of these stories were drawn from traditional fairy tales or the time-honored indigenous folk tales which had been published in chapbooks for several decades. But these stories were not simply reprinted. Each was edited for content, to remove those things which might be considered inappropriate for children. The grammar was polished to bring each story up to the standards of the time, and new engravings were commissioned to illustrate the text. The improved text was properly typeset and printed, along with the new illustrations, to produce high-quality editions of these stories. As noted last week, many of these Tabart editions became the standard versions of these tales, which are still enjoyed by many children, even in our own day.

Some of the stories published by Tabart & Company included Little Red Riding Hood, Jack the Giant Killer, Beauty and the Beast, Dick Whittington and His Cat, Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, Goody Two Shoes, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Blue Beard, Valentine and Orson, The White Cat, Griselda, Toads and Diamonds, Hop ‘o My Thumb, The Seven Champions of Christendom, and Jack and the Beanstalk. In fact, what has become the classic version of that last tale was published by Tabart in 1807, as The History of Jack and the Bean Stalk. A number of these stories were drawn from the fairy tales of Britain and Europe, which were already being collected and translated by scholars like Charles Perrault, William Godwin and Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Others were indigenous British folk tales and enduring traditional stories which had been published in cheap chapbook editions for decades. However, some of Aesop’s fables and the stories from Gulliver’s Travels, as well as tales from the Arabian Nights, were also edited to be suitable for children and were published by Tabart & Company.

In selecting the stories he would publish, it is known that Tabart regularly looked to the London stage for inspiration and guidance. The pantomimes and harliquinades which were often performed, even in some of London’s legitimate theatres, were usually drawn from fairy tales or traditional chapbook stories. Clowns, acrobats, live animals and clever set designs all helped to make these performances very popular with the public. Thus, the Tabart Juvenile Library regularly published editions of stories which were currently enjoying success on the London stage as a harliquinade or pantomime. These editions were inevitably illustrated with engravings which illustrated some of the principal scenes in the performance. In some instances, when the books were published, they were clearly advertised as tie-ins to those performances. For example, when he published The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, it was described as " . . . a legend for the nursery, performing at this time with great applause at the Theatre-Royal, Drury-Lane." Some scholars of children’s literature feel that Tabart’s efforts to bring these traditional stories back to children, in the face of the disapproval of many educational reformers, was a brave effort. In actual fact, folk and fairy tales were already enjoying renewed interest among the general public by the turn of the nineteenth century. It seems much more likely that Tabart, aka Sir Richard Phillips, was simply exploiting the financial opportunities available in linking his children’s books with the popular theatre offerings of the day. Fortunately for the children, these stories were much more exciting and inventive, and far less moralizing, than the Trimmerite crowd would consider acceptable.

Initially, Tabart & Company published these tales as compendiums or anthologies of several stories, issued as a multi-volume set. In 1804, the first volume of Tabart’s Collection of Popular Stories for the Nursery: newly translated and revised, from the French, Italian and old English writers., was published. It was advertized to be the first in a three-volume set. Nevertheless, within the year, the Tabart imprint had issued all of those stories individually, as stand-alone books. When available individually, each book typically ran to about thirty-five pages and included three copperplate engravings, at the price of a sixpence. On the other hand, the first volume of the collected Popular Stories, which included seven stories and six engravings, cost a half-crown. It may be that the separate volumes were more attractive to the customers of The Juvenile and School Library, perhaps because they could purchase only the stories they wanted. What is certain is that there is no evidence that either Part II or Part III of Tabart’s Collection of Popular Stories for the Nursery was ever published. Though they were advertized in the first volume and on the back pages of other publications, not a single copy of either of those later volumes has ever been found. It seems that Tabart may have decided that it was more lucrative to publish the stories individually, as separate volumes, while marketing them as part of a Popular Stories series, to encourage customers to buy all of them. This series was published between 1804 and 1809. In 1809, advertizing suggests that a fourth volume of collected Popular Stories was issued, though there are no known copies. The individual copies of the Popular Stories series sold well and went to multiple editions through the Regency. Curiously, Part I of Tabart’s Collection of Popular Stories for the Nursery was re-issued, in 1812. But no subsequent volumes to that edition have ever been found, either. By 1810, other children’s book publishers, such as John Harris, aware of the success of Tabart & Company’s children’s books, were also publishing their own quality editions of fairy and folk tales.

A copy of the first volume of the 1804 edition of Tabart’s Collection of Popular Stories for the Nursery is in the collection of the University of California Library system. That copy has been digitized and is available for download in multiple formats at the Internet Archive site. Fortunately, this copy was digitized using the Microsoft process, so it is a clean copy of the original, with no distortions or missing pages. This copy also includes six original engraved illustrations. The story of Robin Hood is not accompanied by an engraving, but since it is the last story in this volume, it may have been left out when the book was bound, or it was lost at a later date. If you would like to add Tabart’s Collection of Popular Stories for the Nursery, Part I, to your digital library, you can find it here.

In 1805, Tabart & Company published Songs for the Nursery. Unlike the Popular Stories books, this was a collection of rhymes for young children in a single volume. It includes early versions of many of the nursery rhymes with which we are familiar, such as Old Mother Hubbard, Little Miss Muffet, The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Three Little Piggies, Rock-a-Bye Baby, Pat a Cake, Jack and Jill, Hickory Dickory Dock, Mary Quite Contrary, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Little Jack Horner, Hey Diddle Diddle, Little Boy Blue, Jack Sprat, and The Man in the Moon, among others. In fact, this book of nursery rhymes is believed to have been the first time that two of the most popular British nursery rhymes, Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, and One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, ever appeared in print. Though the rhymes in this book were edited to make them appropriate for young children, Mrs. Trimmer and her followers found several of them "too indecorous for the nursery." Despite the criticism, Songs for the Nursery enjoyed brisk sales. The book runs to fifty-nine pages, in addition to several pages at the back which advertise other books available from The Juvenile and School Library. There were a number of engraved illustrations, which were optional. A copy without plates was just sixpence, a copy with black and white plates was one shilling and sixpence, while a copy with "the Plates Beautifully Coloured" was two shillings and sixpence.

Though this charming little nursery rhyme book is now very rare, the University of California Library system also owns a copy of this early Tabart publication. It has been digitized and is now available at the Internet Archive for download in multiple formats. Sadly, though it was digitized using the superior Microsoft process, the book itself is not in the best condition. Therefore, the digital version shows the age and hard life of the original. However, it does include the illustrations, in black and white. Despite its hard usage, the text and the images are all legible, so it would make a worthwhile addition to a Regency author’s research library. The digital version of Tabart’s Songs for the Nursery can be downloaded here.

Two hundred years ago, this year, Popular Fairy Tales; or a Liliputian [sic] Library; Containing Twenty-six Choice Pieces of Fancy and Fiction, by those Renowned Personages King Oberon, Queen Mab, Mother Goose, Mother Bunch, Master Puck, and other Distinguished Personages at the Court of the Fairies, was "Published by Sir Richard Phillips and Co." of London. It was published as a single volume and the title page stated that this anthology of fairy and folk tales was "Now first collected and revised by Benjamin Tabart." However, most scholars of children’s literature believe that the stories had been collected, translated and edited by William and Mary Jane Godwin. The Preface to this edition was also signed "B. Tabart." This appears to have been the last time Benjamin Tabart’s name appeared in print in association with any children’s book. In fact, it was after the publication of this book that he seems to have completely vanished from the London publishing scene.

Popular Fairy Tales; or a Liliputian Library, despite the suggestion on the title page, was not a new collection of fairy tales. Rather, it was a reprint of the fairy tales which had proved to be most popular for Tabart & Company. It would appear that the shorter stories were selected, probably in order to get the greatest number of stories into a single volume at the lowest cost. An illustration was provided for each story, and they were all hand-colored. However, unlike those illustrations which appeared in the Popular Stories collection, each of which was printed on a full page, in Popular Fairy Tales, the illustrations were half the size and were printed two up on a page. But it does seem that all of the engraved illustrations in every copy were colored. The book ran to 353 pages, and included twenty-six colored plates. Bound copies were sold for six shillings.

The University of California Libraries have an extensive collection of children’s books and their collection includes the 1818 edition of Popular Fairy Tales; or a Liliputian Library. Their copy has been digitized and is now available for free download, in multiple file formats, from the Internet Archive. Like the other books noted here, it has also been digitized using the Microsoft process, so the copy is clean and legible, with no distorted pages. However, based on the list of illustrations provided in the front matter, two of the illustrations in this copy are missing. They may never have been bound into the book, or they may have been lost at a later date. With that exception, this digital copy is in very good condition. If you would like to add Popular Fairy Tales; or a Liliputian Library to your digital library, you can find it here.

The last of the Tabart & Company books to be discussed here was published for children, but it contained no folk or fairy tales. The first edition of The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts was published in three volumes, between 1804 and 1805. Books of trades were not new in England, they had been published since the mid-eighteenth century. Typically, they included descriptions of most of the trades, crafts and other types of employment available at the time. Essentially, they were a form of guidance manual to help children, and their parents, determine which trade or career might best suit them. As had been the case with other Tabart publications, this book was not a cheap reprint of earlier editions. Instead, though those books may have served as a guide for Tabart & Company, it was a much higher quality publication. This new edition included descriptions of a great many trades of that time, along with details of the work each tradesman did, the qualifications required for the job, as well as the usual pay and hours, along with the social status enjoyed by the various trades. In order to provide an even more in-depth education for the children reading this book, many of the entries also included expanded information on the materials, tools and implements used by these craftsmen. For example, the entry for a jeweller provided information on the nature of pearls and diamonds, as well as where and how they were acquired. In addition, the Tabart Book of Trades also included an illustration for each entry, a fairly new feature for these types of books.

Remarkably, though she had criticized several of his children’s publications, Sarah Trimmer praised The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts. She called it "a very amusing and instructive work" and noted that "The Plates are uncommonly good." She freely recommended it to parents as a book that could give children a good idea of the options for employment which might be open to them as adults. It must be noted that Mrs. Trimmer was a social conservative, so there are many scholars of children’s literature who believe that she approved of The Book of Trades because it made clear which trades were suitable for which members of various economic and social classes. During that period, as had been the case for centuries before, people were expected to stay within their station in life and the social class into which they were born. Upward mobility was not encouraged, even by most educational reformers.

The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts went to multiple editions during the first decades of the nineteenth century. And, it appears that each edition was revised with any new trades, or new information on existing trades, which had been communicated to the publisher. In fact there was a notice included in the front matter of most editions which read:

The Author of this little work will thankfully receive any hint for its improvement, from persons engaged in any of the trades or professions described. Such communications to be addressed to the Publisher, New Bond-street.

Thus, the editor of the book was spared the effort of doing in-depth research on the trades they included in their book. They could simply gather the information which was sent to them when it came time to update later editions. Of course, the knowledge that each edition might contain new information probably helped to spur sales, since most parents would want their children to have the most recent information when they were planning their future, rather than relying on an older edition. That philosophy seems to have worked, since The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts was a great success for Tabart & Company. Within a few decades, other publishers copied the concept and began to publish their own Books of Trades. It appears that at least a few of those publishers blatantly plagiarized Tabart’s Book of Trades. Such books continued to be published right though the end of the nineteenth century.

It is not clear how the order for each trade description was determined in the early editions, as they do not appear to be in any particular order. It is entirely possible that they were typeset as they became available. It is more than likely that Sir Richard Phillips had his stable of hack writers produced the descriptions of each trade. They were probably sent off to the printer as soon as they were completed and a fair copy made. However, in 1818, Richard Phillips published a new edition, in a single volume, entitled, The Book of English Trades or Library of the Useful Arts. According to the Preface, this was the seventh edition of the popular book, and it was listed as "A New Edition Enlarged" on the title page. One of the best features of this new edition was that not only was it published in one volume, all of the trade descriptions were provided in alphabetical order, making it much easier for readers to find the trades in which they were interested.

Each volume of the The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts ran to over one hundred and fifty pages, and there was a copperplate illustration included for each trade. Like the Songs for the Nursery, these volumes could be had at different prices, depending upon whether or not they contained illustrations. Each part, "plain," that is, without illustrations, sold for three shillings, while each part which included "Plates beautifully coloured," sold for four shillings and sixpence. Since each volume was priced separately, it appears that the customer was not required to buy all three volumes as a set, but could purchase only those volumes they wanted. The 1818 edition, published in one volume, with seventy engraved illustrations, was available in bound copies at the cost of nine shillings.

Regency authors may be especially interested in The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts, because it does provide nearly contemporary descriptions of a great many trades, crafts and professions which were followed in the early years of the nineteenth century. The first volume includes twenty-three trade descriptions, the second volume includes twenty-four trade descriptions and the third volume includes twenty trade descriptions, which provides a wide array of careers which a fictional Regency character might pursue. The descriptions of each trade, craft or profession includes information on the correct title by which the worker is known, the actual names of the tools and materials they use, and in may cases, the cost of items needed to enter that career. The illustrations provide a window into how a workspace might look and how each tradesman might dress while at work. With that information, an author can craft an historically accurate picture of nearly any trade followed during our favorite period.

Regrettably, there are no copies of early editions of Tabart’s The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts available at the Internet Archive. However, copies of Parts I, II and III are available at Google Books, though the quality of the scans is not to the standards of the superior Microsoft process. Nevertheless, they are reasonably legible and are available for download, though in a limited variety of formats. These digital copies are also not of the first edition, but they are very early editions. The title pages of Parts I and II state that they are the "Third Edition," while the title page of Part III states that it is "A New Edition, corrected." Parts I and II were published in 1806, while Part III was published in 1807. It is entirely possible that these three volumes were all from the same edition, but were published over the course of several months, which may have led to the change in the title page of the third volume. Each volume of The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts can be found at the respective link, below:

The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts   Part I

The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts   Part II

The Book of Trades or Library of the Useful Arts   Part III

A copy of The Book of English Trades or Library of the Useful Arts, published by Sir Richard Phillips, in a single volume, is in the collection of the Bodleian Library. It has been digitized and is available for download from Google Books. The scan is reasonably good, there are a few pages with distorted text, but all of the images, in black and white, appear to be present. Not to mention, this appears to be the only copy of this edition available on the Internet. This digital copy can be found here.

There is one copy of The Book of English Trades and Library of the Useful Arts available at the Internet Archive. This book, published in 1827, in a single volume, by C. & J. Rivington, is probably a revised copy of Phillips’ book, with eighty-six woodcuts. It lists the trade descriptions in alphabetical order, but in the Appendix, it also includes "Representations and Descriptions of the Principal Machinery Used in the Manufactories of Great Britain." The "Representations" are engraved illustrations of each machine, all of which are accompanied by a written description of the machine and how it is used. Though this book was published several years after the Regency came to an end, trades and the machinery used at that time did not change rapidly. Therefore, Regency authors may also wish to add a copy of this book to their research library. It can be found here.

Dear Regency Authors, if you would like some detail on the actual practice of trades such as cabinet-maker, gold beater, apothecary, bleacher, gun maker, optician, trunk maker, or any of nearly a hundred trades which were followed during our favorite decade, you may find any of the copies of the Books of Trades a useful addition to your digital research library. If you intend to include children in any of your upcoming romances, you may wish to give them at least on or two of the books published by "Tabart & Company at The Juvenile and School Library." Then again, since Mrs. Trimmer, and many of her cohorts, disapproved of the many folk and fairy tales issued by that publisher, perhaps one or more of your characters will also disapprove of the children reading books with interesting characters and inventive stories? Will you include other characters who will support the children’s right to read at least a few stories which are light on the moralizing but will stimulate their imaginations? Are there other ways in which your knowledge, or your tales of romance, might benefit from these publications?

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About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
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3 Responses to Publications of Benjamin Tabart’s Juvenile Library

  1. Pingback: Regency Bicentennial:   The Demise of Benjamin Tabart? | The Regency Redingote

  2. I am amazed that the anticipated output of a publisher should be so low; indeed I would expect, as an author, to be writing that number of books, and full length novels at that, per year to make a living. And as the publisher has to pay out royalties normally [even if only ghost writers in Mr Tabart’s case] it is even more surprising.
    I have a reprint of a book of trades and it is useful, and I will certainly go looking at the online version of Tabart’s book.
    I shall certainly be using the children’s books in my Charity School series, which has benefited greatly already by the books you have suggested for the young readers.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      It is important to remember that books were an expensive commodity during the Regency. They were printed and bound completely by hand. Literacy rates were much lower and people did not buy books, even cheap chapbooks, at the same scale we do today. Only people of means could afford to buy books outright during the Regency. The majority of people who could read got their books from a circulating library, which means that one copy of a book could accommodate dozens of readers. Most publishers made a large percentage of their money on sales to those circulating libraries, at high costs, or they sold their books by pre-paid subscriptions. Therefore, they did not need to publish lots of books or large print runs. The first print run for Jane Austen’s first book, Sense and Sensibility, was 750 copies, which was considered quite large for a new author.

      In addition, there were practically no royalty payments made to authors until the twentieth century. Before that time, most authors had to pay the costs of publishing their own books, then wait to collect profits after the books were sold, with a large cut to the publisher. Most authors during the Regency did not support themselves solely on their writing. Many had another source of income, or wrote for periodicals and journals as well as publishing books from time to time. A few also made some money by speaking engagements or publicly reading excerpts from their books. Hack writers, like those who worked for Richard Phillips, were paid by the piece and got no ongoing royalty payments, no matter how often he republished their work. A few of them were able to eke out a very modest living, but the majority teetered on the edge of poverty most of their lives. The publishing business during the Regency was much different than the business of publishing which we know today.

      I am glad to know you will allow some of your characters to enjoy some of the books from Tabart’s Juvenile Library. I think they are quite lovely and would be a real treat for children, particularly as a counterpoint to the heavily moralizing tales which were deemed appropriate for children by the likes of Sarah Trimmer.

      Regards,

      Kat

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