Category Archives: Printing

Item of the Day: Proceedings on the Trial against John Stockdale (1790)

Full Title: The Whole Proceedings on the Trial of an Information Exhibited Ex Officio, by the King’s Attorney General, against John Stockdale; for a Libel on the House of Commons, Tried in the Court of King’s-Bench Westminster, on Wednesday, the Ninth of December, 1789, before the Right Hon. Lloyed Lord Kenyon, Chief Justice of England. Tanken in Short Hand by Joseph Gurney. To which is subjoined, An Argument in Support of the Rights of Juries. London: Printed for John Stockdale, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, M,DCC,XC.



The Pamphlet which gave rise to the following Trial, was written by the Reverend Mr. Logan, some time one of the ministers of Leith, near Edinburgh; — “A gentleman formed to be the ornament and instructor of the age in which he lived: All his writings are distinguished by the segacity of their reasonings, the brilliancy of their imaginations, and the depth of their philosophical principles. Though cut off in the flower of his age, while the prosecution against his publisher was depending, he left behind himseveral respectable productions, and particularly Elements of Lectures upon the Philosophy of Ancient History; which, though imperfect, and unfinished, will afford to the discerning, sufficient reason to regret that his talents did not remain to be matured by age, and expanded by the fostering breath of public applause.”

Such is the character, given of Mr. Logan in the last New Annual Register; but as his Review of the Charges against Mr. Hastings has made so much noise in the world, it may not be uninteresting to state by what means, he became so intimately acquainted, with the politics of India.

For some time previous to his decease, Mr. Logan was the principal author of that part of the English Review, which gives the general state of foreign and domestic politics. The enquiries in the House of Commons, which led to the impeachment of Mr. Hastings, formed very naturally the most material part of that Review for a considerable time; and his Strictures upon the arguments, and the decision on the Benares and the Begum charges, are written with great force and elegance; and contain reflections infinitely more pointed, than any of those which Mr. Fox objected to in his pamphlet.

Having qualified himself by the information that he had acquired, from intense application, to give the world what he conceived to be a fair and impartial account of the administration of Mr. Hastings, he sat down voluntarily, without a wish or prospect of personal advantage, to examine those articles which had been presented to the House of Commons by the Managers, then a Committee of Secresy, and which now form the articles before the Lords. When he had compleated his pamphlet, he submitted it in manuscript to the perusal of a gentleman, who is intimately connected with Mr. Hastings. That gentleman was certainly very ill qualified to advise him, as a lawyer; it never having entered into his imagination, that after the torrent of abuse that had been poured out upon Mr. Hastings, for years, any thing said in reply could be deemed libellous, and therefore he merely examined whether Mr. Logan was correct in his statement of facts, and communicated to him every particular relative to the last thirteen articles. Not satisfied with this communication, Mr. Logan examined the votes and the speeches, as printed and circulated throughout Great Britain. After an accurate investigation, he thought himself justified in inserting in his pamphlet, what a member had said in the House, that the Commons had voted thirteen out of twenty articles, without reading them.

The booksellar to whom Mr. Logan originally presented him pahmphet, offered a sum for it, which he conceived so inadequate to its importance, that he carried it to Mr. Stockdale, to whom he gave it; taking for himself a few copies only, which were sent in his name to men of the first eminence in letters, both in London and Edinburgh.

After it had been some time in circulation, and read with great avidity, it was publicly complained of by Mr. Fox. That gentleman quoted what he conceived to be the libellous passages. The following day he moved an address to his Majesty, to direct his Attorney General to prosecute the authors and publishers, and the motion was carried nemine contradicente; but owing to the sickness of the principal witness, the trial was deferred for nearly two years. This prosecution which has been attended with a very heavy expence to Mr. Stockdale, and has been nearly two years depending, hath excited universal attention.

The acknowledged accuraacy of Mr. Gurney, is too well known to require any particular praise on this occasion; but it never was more remarkable than in the present instance; yet the eloquent and excellent speech of Mr. Erskine, will appear to great disadvantage to those who had the good fortune to hear it, so much, even the best speeches depend upon the power of delivery. It was spoke in as croweded a Court, as ever appeared in the King’s-Bench. The exertions of that gentleman in support of his clients are too well known, to acquire new force from any thing that can be said of him here; but on no occasion, and at no period, did he display those wonderful abilities that he possesses in a higher degree, and Mr. Erskine will be quoted as the steady friend, and supporter of the Constitutional Rights of the people of Great-Britain, as long as the sacred flame of Liberty shall animate the breast of an Englishman.

The result of this Trial proves how dangerous to public liberty it would be, were any body of men, parties and judges in their own cause. No good subject will call into question unnecessarily, any of the privileges claimed by the House of Commons; but if in the instance before us, the House, consulting former prededents, had taken upon itself to state the crime, and to pronounce judgment, a British subject might have been seized and imprisoned some months, probably to the ruin of himself and his family, without the possibility of reparation. It may therefore with the greatest truth be observed, that the exertions of Mr. Erskine, and by the decision of this prosecution, the Freedom of the Press, and the Liberty of the Subject, are fully secured.

January 13th, 1790.




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Filed under 1790's, England, Legal, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Press, Printing, Trials

Item of the Day: Miller’s Recapitulation of A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (1803)

Full Title: A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century. Part First; In Two Volumes: Containing A Sketch of the Revolutions and Improvements in Acience, Arts, and Literature, during that Period. By Samuel Miller. Vol. II. Published According to Act of Congress. New-York: Printed by T. and J. Swords, no. 160 Pearl-Street, 1803.


 [The following passages are excerpted from the final chapter in Miller’s A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century]




WE have now made a hasty tour through one of the departments of the subject which we undertook to examine. From the foregoing survey, which, however tedious it may have appeared to the reader, is, in reality, a very rapid one, the eighteenth century appears to bear a singularly distinct and interesting character. In almost every department of knowledge, we find monuments of enterprize, discovery, and improvement; and, in some, these monuments are so numerous, valuable, and splendid, as to stand without parallel in the history of the human mind. There have been periods in which particular studies were more cultivated; but it may be asserted, with confidence, that in no period of the same extent, since the creation, has a mass of improvement so large, diversified and rich been presented to view. In no period have the various branches of science, art and letters, received, at the same time, such liberal accessions of light and refinement, and been made so remarkably to illustrate and enlarge each other. Never did the inquirer stand at the confluence of so many streams of knowledge as at the close of the eighteenth century.

But, in order to bring more immediately and distinctly into view the leading characteristics of the last age, as deducible from the statements which have been given, an attempt will be made to sum them up in the few following particulars:

1. The last century was pre-eminently an AGE OF FREE INQUIRY. No period in the history of man is so well entitled to this character. Two centuries have not rolled away, since the belief that the earth is globular in its form was punished as a damnable heresy; since men were afraid to avow the plainest and most fundamental principles of philosophy, government, and religion; and since the sporit of liberal inquiry was almost unkown. In the seventeenth century, this spirit began to show itself; but it was reserved for the eighteenth to witness an indulgence and extension of it truly wonderful. Never, probably, was the human mind, all things considered, so much unshackled in its inquiries. Men have learned, in a greater degree than ever before, to make light of precedent, and to throw off the authority of distinguished names. They have learned, with a readiness altogether new, to discard old opinions, to overturn systems which were supposed to rest on everlasting foundations, and to push their inquiries to the utmost extent, awed by no sanctions, restrained by no prescriptions.

This revolution in the human mind has been attended with many advantages, and with many evils. It has led to the developement [sic] of much truth, and has contributed greatly to enlarge the bounds of literature, science, and general improvement. It has opened the way to a free communication of all discoveries, real or supposed, and removed various obstacles which long retarded the progress of knowledge. But this spirit of inquiry, like every thing else in the hands of man, has been perverted and abused. It has been carried to the extreme of licentiousness. In too many instances, the love of novelty, and the impatience of all restraint founded on prescription or antiquity, have triumphed over truth and wisdom; and, in the midst of zeal for demolishing old errors, the most sacred principles of virtue and happiness have been rejected and forgotten. . . .

6. The last century is pre-eminently entitled to the character of THE AGE OF PRINTING. It is generally known, that this art is but little more than three centuries old. Among the ancients, the difficulty and expense of multiplying copies of works of reputation were so great, that few made the attempt; and the author who wished to submit his compositions to the public, was under the necessity of reciting them at some favourable meeting of the people. The disadvantages attending this state of things were many and great. It repressed and discouraged talents, and rendered the number of readers extremely small. The invention of printing gave a new aspect to literature, and formed one of the most important eras in the history of human affairs. It not only increased the number, and reduced the price of books, but it also furnished the authors with the means of laying the fruits of their labours before the public, in the most prompt and extensive manner. considering this art, moreover, as a great moral and political engine, by which an impression may be made on a large portion of a community at the same time, it assumes a degree of importance highly interesting to the philanthropist, as well as to the scholar. . . .

7.  The last century is entitled to distinction above all others, as THE AGE OF BOOKS; an age in which the spirit of writing, as well as of publication, exceeded all former precedent. Though this is closeley connected with the foregoing particular, it deserves a more distinct and pointed notice. Never, assuredly, did the world abound with such a profusion of vaious works, or produce such an immense harvest of literary  fruits. The publication of books, in all former periods of the history of learning, laboured under many difficulties. Readers were comparatively few; of course writers met with small encouragement of a pecuniary kind to labour for the instruction of the public. Hence, none in preceding centuries became authors, but such as were prompted by benevolence, by literary ambition, or by an enthusiastic love of literature. But the eighteenth century exhibited the business of publication under an aspect entirely new. It presented an increase in the number, both of writers and readers, almost incredible. In this century, for the first time AUTHORSHIP BECAME A TRADE. Multitudes of writers toiled, not for the promotion of science, nor even with a governing view to advance their own reputaiton, but for the market. Swarms of book-makers by profession arose, who inquired, not whether the subjects which they undertook to discuss stood in need of further investigation; or whether they were able to do them more ample justice than their predecessors; but whether more books might not be palmed upon the public, and made a source of emolument to the authors. Hence, there were probably more books published in the eighteenth century, than in the whole time that had before elapsed since the art of printing was discovered; perhaps more than were ever presented to the public, either in manuscript, or from the press, since the creation.

This unprecedented and wonderful multiplication of books, while it has rendered the means of information more easy of access, and more popular, has also served to perplex the mind of the student, to divide his attention, and to distract his powers. Where there are so many books, there will be less deep, original, and patient thinking; and each work will be studied with less attention and care. It may further be observed, that the abridgement, compilations, epitomes, synopses, and selections which are daily pouring from the press in countless numbers, and which make so large a part of modern publicaitons, have a tendency to divert the mind from the treasures of ancient knowledge, and from the volumes of original authors. Thus, the multiplicity of new publications, while they would seem at first view, highly favourable to the acquisition of learning, are found, as will be afterwards more fully shown, hostile to deep and sound erudition. . . .


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Filed under 1700's, Culture, Eighteenth century, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Printing

Item of the Day: Milton’s Areopagitica (1753)

Full Title: The Works of John Milton, Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous. Now more correctly printed from the ORIGINALS, than in any former Edition, and many Passages restored, which have been hitherto omitted. To which is prefixed, An Account of his Life and Writings. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand, MDCCLIII.


A SPEECH for the Liberty of Unlicens’d PRINTING,


This is true liberty, when free born men,

Having to advise the public, may speak fre,

Which he who can, and will, deserves high praise;

Who neither can nor will may hold his peace;

What can be juster in a state than this? (Euripid. Hicetid.)

THEY, who to states and governors of the commonwealth direct their speech, high court of parliament! or wanting such access in a private condition, write that which they foresee may advance the public good; I suppose them, as at the beginning of no mean endeavor, not a little altered and mov’d inwardly in their minds: Some with doubt of what will be success, others with fear of what will be the cinsure; some with hope, others with confidence of what they have to speak. And me perhaps each of these dispositions, as the subject was whereon I entered, may have at other times variously affected; and likely might these foremost expressions, now also disclose which of them sway’d most, but that the very attempt of this address thus made, and the thought of whom it hath recourse to, hath got the power within me to a passion, far more welcome than incidental to a preface. Which though I stay not to confess ere any ask, I shall be blameless, if it be not other, than the joy and gratulation which it brings to all who wish and promote their country’s liberty; whereof this whole discourse proposed will be a certain testimony, if not a trophy. For this is not the liberty which we can hope, that no grievance ever should arise in the commonwealth, that let no man in this world expect; but when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reform’d, then is the utmost bound of civl liberty attain’d that wise men look for. To which I now manifest, by the very sound of this which I shall utter, that we are already in good part arrived, and yet from such a steep disadvantage of tyranny and superstition grounded into our principles, as was beyond the manhood of Roman recovery, it will be attributed first, as is most due, to the strong assistance of God, our deliverer; next, to your faithful guidance and undaunted widsom, lords and commons of England! Neither is it in God’s esteem, the diminution of his glory, when honourable things are spoken of good men, and worthy magistrates; which if I now first should begin to do, after so fair a progress of your laudable deeds, and such a long obligement upon the whole realm to your indefatigable virtues, I might be justly reckon’d among the tardiest, and the unwillingest that praise ye.

Nevertheless there being three principal things, without which all praising is but courtship and flattery, first, when that only is praised which is solidly worth praise; next, when greatest liklihoods are brought, that such things, are truly and really in those persons, to whom they ascribed; the other, when he who praises, by shewing that such his actual persuasion is of whom he writes, can demonstrate that he flatters not: the fomer two of these I have heretofore endeavorured, rescuing the employment from him who went about to impair your merits, with a trivial and malignant encomium; the latter as belonging chiefly to mine own acquittal, that whom I so extolled I did not flatter, hath been reserv’d opportunely to this occasion. For he who freely magnifies what hath been nobly done, and fears not to declare as freely what might be done better, gives ye the best covenant of his fidelity; and that his loyalest affection and his hope waits on your proceedings. His highest praising is not flattery, and his plainest advice is a kind of praising: for though I should affirm and hold argument, that it would fare better with truth, with learning, and the commonwealth, if one of your publish’d orders which I should name, were called in; yet at the same time it could not but much redound to the lustre of your mild and equal government, whenas private persons are hereby animated to think ye better pleased with publick advice, than other statists have been delighted therefore with public flattery. And men will then see what difference there is between the magnanimityof a triennial parliament, and that jealous haughtiness of prelates and cabin counsellors that usurp’d of late, whenas they shall observe ye in the midst of your victories and successes more gently brooking written exceptions against a voted order, than other courts, which had produced nothing worth memory but the weak ostentation of wealth, would have endured the least signified dislike at any sudden proclamation. If I should thus far presume upon the meek demanour of your civil and gentle greatness, lords and commons! as what your publish’d order hath directly said, that to gainsay, I might defend myself with ease, if any should accuse me of being new or insolent, did they but know how much better I find ye esteem it to imitate the old and elegant humanity of Greece, than the barbaric pride of a Hunnish and Norwegian stateliness. And out of those ages, to whose polite wisdom and letters we owe that we are not yet Goths and Jutlanders, I could name him who from his private house wrote that discourse to the parliament of Athens, that persuades them to change the form of Democraty which was then established. Such honour was done in those days to men who professed the study of wisdom and eloquence, not only in their own country, but in other lands, that cities and signiories heard them gladly, and with great respect, if they had aught in public to admonish the state. Thus did Dion Prusaeus, a stranger, and a private orator, counsel the Rhodians against a former edict: and I abound with other like examples, which to set here would be superfluous. But if from the industry of a life wholly dedicated to studious labours, and those natural endowments haply not the worst for two and fifty degrees of northern latitude, so much must be derogated, as to count me not equal to any of those who had this privilege, I would obtain to be thought not so inferior, as yourselves are superior to the most of them who receiv’d their counsel; and how far you excel them, be assured, lords and commons! there can no greater testimony appear, than when your prudent spirit acknowledges and obeys the voice of reason, from what quarter soever it be heard speaking; and render ye as willing to repeal any act of your own setting forth, as any set forth by your predecessors. . . .



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Filed under 1750's, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Printing