The Dicey and Marshall Catalogue

 

The Dicey and Marshall Catalogue was a wholesale trade Catalogue, aimed at retailers rather than the general public. Many eighteenth-century publishers and printers catalogues survive; most list much more expensive products. Those few catalogues of cheap texts - more survive of cheap prints than texts - that were issued were often only a few pages long. It seems likely that Dicey and Marshall wished to incorporate into one advertising medium the large numbers of prints which they had formerly issued separately, so the Catalogue itself is an indication of strategic commercial thinking.

 

Its short "preface" testifies to Dicey’s and Marshall’s commercial ambition

 

Besides many other Sorts of MAPS and PRINTS not herein mentioned, which may be had of DICEY and MARSHALL, in Aldermary - Church - Yard, LONDON, with good Allowance for Sale or Exportation, they are continually Engraving NEW DESIGNS in the best Manner, as well as Copying New Sorts, from the various Inventions of the best French, Dutch and Italian prints. (32)

 

This blurb, with its emphasis on the variety of their stock, its modernity, its cosmopolitanism , its mention of exportation, and its use of capitals to draw the reader’s eye to the printers’ names and location as well as to their NEW DESIGNS, locates the Diceys in the new developments in salesmanship and marketing, which Eric Robinson, Neil McKendrick and others have argued were important ingredients in the consumer revolution of the period. (33)

 

Moreover, Dicey and Marshall placed their lists of maps and prints in the first eighty pages of the Catalogue, relegating the "old ballads", histories, patters and other text works its last thirty or so pages. The significance of the consumption and use of printed images by all ranks of British society is only gradually being appreciated, since the main area of interest and research of many professional historians has always been the text. The prominence given in the Dicey and Marshall Catalogue to maps and prints is a striking reminder that while mass sales of images may not have had the same importance as they did in France or Italy, they had a much larger place than many studies of printing history have acknowledged. Images also brought together the domestic and the public sphere, since they were (like some songs and ballads) displayed in taverns, coffeehouses and other public places as well as in the home.

 

The maps, of course, were represented as being up-to-date. They were not merely local, regional or even national ones, but included a "curious map of the world" in which were "rendered familiar to the meanest Capacity" "all the Constellations of the Celestial Globe, and Schemes of the most celebrated Philosophers" and which it was stated was "Approved of, and Published at the Request of several of the Royal Society of London, and the Royal Academy of Paris." The other maps include Europe, Africa, Asia and America "laid down according to the latest and best Observations." Similarly, maps and plans of England and Wales, which included guides to the "principal Cross Roads of England and Wales" and to market-towns and their markets were also advertised as new and improved, while a "Plan of London, Southwark and Westminster, with the New Bridge, etc.. " is claimed to be "to the present Year." The Catalogue also offered "A Compleat Sett of the Maps of all the Counties in England and Wales, with the Islands...". The kind of knowledge that historians have failed to see conveyed to popular audiences in the chapbook and the ballad was available from leading purveyors of cheap print and at prices much less than those prevailing in the specialised map and print shops elsewhere in the capital.

 

However, maps were still relatively expensive items. The next category in the Catalogue is that of prints, of which vast numbers in a large variety of formats were listed. Although there was duplication of subject matter with the same items being offered in different formats, these print images were eclectic and heterogeneous, new and old, representations of classical myths, biblical characters and events, illustrations of Versailles, of Rome, of Venice, of Amsterdam and other Dutch cities, portraits of the King of Prussia and Prince Ferdinand, a "plan of the Harbour, Town, and Forts of Carthagena in the West Indies", the captures of Porto Bello, Quebec, Havannah and Cape Breton, and a curious map of North America. They also included portraits of Elizabeth Canning, of John Wesley, of various Admirals including Admiral Vernon and of James Wolfe and Edward Boscawen and of the taking of Louisbourg. Numerous depictions of the royal family, of English cathedrals, of noblemen’s seats, including Chatsworth and Blenheim, and of important public buildings such as the Royal Exchange and Greenwich Hospital occur in all the print formats. Representations of contemporary street life, illustrations of domestic scenes, sporting prints, and town and country entertainments, were also included. It seems clear that Dicey and Marshall made a great effort to publish modern as well as classical, Biblical and familiar images. The many "Chinese views", including Peking and Canton, a "summer palace" and "the summer house of a Mandarin" reflected the vogue for chinoiserie among the aristocracy and gentry.

 

A rigorous percentage analysis of these images would be difficult but the broad categories into which they can be divided are: prospects, plans and perspectives of places; religious and moral; noble and royal personages; domestic and familiar scenes; sporting scenes; classical myths and personages; reproductions of paintings; decorative, instructional and homiletic material; modern military events and heroes. Although published in the cheapest kind of formats they do, in their subject matter, include much of the same content as that offered in more expensive works to the wealthier clientele of the print and book shops. What, however, was lacking was satire and critical social, religious or political comment. The Labouring Man’s Happiness, or the Misery in this and the next World of the slothful and idle Man, with suitable Verses on each was a characteristic homily. Other unfavourable images were of drunkards, gamesters, grasping lawyers, scolding wives, and extravagant sons etc, conventional but ultimately comfortably familiar targets. It is also apparent if we look closely at the descriptions of the prints that depict characters in English history that there was very little lively or radical political imagery. Charles I is often and sympathetically represented, Cromwell and the English revolution not at all, except that there is a depiction of the battle of Naseby and of Charles’s trial. Dissent, nonconformity and the House of Commons and its members hardly feature and there are few if any representations - if we except Robin Hood - of peasant rebels, protests against enclosure or the game laws, Jacobite images or even high Tory ones, while the Duke of Cumberland is depicted in at least five prints and other Hanoverians very frequently. One exception to this was "The Bloody Sentence of the Jews" published as a Copper Royal. The connection of this to the bill naturalising the Jews is made more explicit in the Wood Royal "The New King of the Jews with a Naturalized Jew in his Robes, &c. on one Sheet."

 

The Diceys like many manufacturers were staunch Whigs and their allegiance to the Hanoverian dynasty was no doubt reinforced by their commercial success. The Catalogue was printed before John Wilkes became prominent - he was certainly to be widely depicted in both English and Scottish cheap print - but it is hard to imagine that the Diceys would have printed material in support of him. And while satire aimed at individual politicians and others is certainly found in the output of the more expensive London print shops, eighteenth-century English print culture as a whole until the era of the French Revolution, and not merely cheap print, generally reflected commercial optimism and provided images of general social stability and a widely diffused patriotism rather than a critical view of the political or social system. The cheap images offered for sale by Dicey and Marshall were not very different from those offered more expensively to the better-off. (34)

 

The Catalogue intersperses a section of three pages of text "Copy-books, etc." between its lists of various kinds of prints. These copy books and drawing-books are in fact more expensive engraved items by members of the Bickham family, aimed at teaching London youth - both male and female - the art of writing and drawing with some arithmetic thrown in. More easily overlooked are the "three hundred different sorts of Lotteries, Pictures for Children, as Men, Women, Kings, Queens, Birds, Beasts, Horses, Flowers, Butterflies etc." and the "Four Hundred different Kinds of Prints , Each on a Quarter of a Sheet of Royal paper; as Scriptures Pieces, Views, Horses, Heads, and other merry Designs." While most of these small and anonymous ephemera are now difficult to locate and to ascribe to individual printers, some "catchpenny " prints of the period produced by Bowles and Carver are extant. (35) These were generally produced on quarto sheets with each sheet containing many small depictions of scenes and objects. Their geographical spread -even to some extent their modernity - is also worth attention. For example they included numerous depictions of the world beyond England and Europe and numerous contemporary images. These included "Peter Terrible a Virginia Planter" smoking a pipe, a "Dutch Indian governor", an Indian wearing a headdress of leaves, a Negro with a bare torso and a bow and arrow and a second one with a hoe or other kind of agricultural implement, a Hudson’s Bay Duck, a Virginia Nightingale, sugar loafs, tobacco rolls, and a "busy black" with an implement tending a tobacco plant. There is a depiction of a hawker selling "The Kings Speech" and a woman selling "a song book" as well as several patriotic emblems including the Union flag and "the Roast Beef of England" contrasted with French "Soup Meagre, Frogs and Sallad." Dicey and Marshall’s lotteries may well have included similar material.

 

What is clear is that some of their other images were linked to their text productions. The History of Joseph and his brethren. With Jacob's journey into Egypt. And his death and funeral. Illustrated with twelve pictures, describing the whole history was a chapbook; the prints included Joseph sold by his Brethren to the Ishmaelites and other depictions of Joseph and Jacob. Similarly there were numerous images of King Charles II and Queen Anne both of whom featured in the Dicey chapbooks in The History of the royal martyr, King Charles the First, with the effigies of those worthy persons that suffered; and the time and places where they lost their lives in His Majesty's cause, during the usurpation of Oliver Cromwell and in The History of the most material transactions of the reign of Queen Ann, of glorious memory. Incidentally the fact that these chapbook titles, probably printed between 1730 and 1756, do not appear in the Dicey and Marshall Catalogue may indicate an editorial pruning of chapbook titles by the publishers.

 

Following the listing of cheap maps and prints the Catalogue contains 150 "histories", 286 "old ballads," and 105 or so "patters". It is noticeable that some items are listed as both histories and patters or as both histories and ballads, a process that had begun some years earlier when the "ballad partners" had issued prose versions of ballad sheets, another example of a marketing decision. (36) No matter what their subject matter "old ballads" were always sold as single-sheet items and "histories" as twenty-four page items; patters in this Catalogue were small books which were eight, twelve or sixteen pages long. Dicey and Marshall’s use of the word patters is also a reminder of the link between cheap print and the pedlars and hawkers who distributed much of it. The dictionary definition of "patter" emphasises it as meaning both the cant or secret language of thieves and beggars and the oratory of the hawker or seller of cheap goods. If all patters were meant to be sung or recited to attract a crowd, some seem ill-adapted to this task. Would Brief instructions for the pious Christian; or, a sure guide to Heaven. By the late Bishop Beveridge or The history of that holy disciple Joseph of Arimathea, wherein is contained, the true account of his birth, his parents, his country, his education, his piety; ... or The life of the Blessed Mary, mother of our Saviour Jesus Christ or many other godly pieces included among the patters have served such a function? Perhaps the eighteenth-century street audience was more pious than its depiction by Hogarth and Rowlandson suggests. Whitefield and Wesley attracted vast crowds and the evidence of the Catalogue is that there was still a considerable market for cheap pious images and texts in the eighteenth as in previous centuries. (37)

 

Hawkers, pedlars and ballad singers were, of course, viewed by the authorities as marginal members of society, often as beggars and vagrants. They were also disliked for their competition by some established shopkeepers, who supported regulatory legislation. Itinerant sellers were certainly a vital part of the distribution network for all kinds of goods even in the later eighteenth and in the nineteenth centuries but, thanks to the work of Margaret Spufford, rather more is known about them in the previous century. (38) Their social history and their place in the credit nexus in the eighteenth-century still awaits detailed historical study. Manufacturers and wholesalers made considerable use of them. While Matthew Boulton sought royal and aristocratic patronage, he later wrote that it was "of far more consequence to supply the People than the Nobility only" and criticised those who spoke "contemptuously of Hawkers, Pedlars and those who supply Petty Shops... yet we must own that we think they will do more towards supporting a Great Manufactory, than all the Lords of the Nation ...". Although Josiah Wedgwood aimed predominantly to sell highly priced goods to a wealthy and aristocratic clientele and had an aversion to hawkers and pedlars, he did sell tableware and other items to the "servants’ hall" and from 1777 he also used travelling salesman. (39) James Lackington, a successful London bookseller, whose father was an itinerant drunken shoemaker, began work as a hawker, selling almanacs and apple pies. His later success did not depend on a distribution network but on cheap cash sales. Otherwise, his views were similar to Boulton’s. He advocated "Small profits, bound by industry and clasped by economy" and had emblazoned on the side of his coach "small profits do great things." (40)

 

The Diceys' cheap texts included many traditional titles and a comparison with the extensive collection of street literature formed by Samuel Pepys indicates that many are the same as those collected by him. This stated, the Diceys did not merely offer the old and the traditional, without any editorial interventions or attention to the market. As Dianne Dugaw has shown William Dicey took a deliberate decision to produce and market "old ballads" almost as soon as he arrived in Northampton. (41) His source for some of these was a work published in three volumes in 1723, A Collection of Old Ballads, in which the anonymous editor had described the "Ballad-Makers" as "a more ancient, more numerous, and more noble Society than the boasted Free-Masons; and Duke upon Duke will witness, that People of considerable Fashion have thought it no Disgrace to enroll themselves in this Worshipful Society". This appeal to fashion and aristocratic patronage was again characteristic of the marketing strategies of eighteenth-century businessmen. (42) It was accompanied with an appeal to patriotism and education.

 

It was the Custom of the Song Enditers [sic] thus to transmit to their Children the glorious Actions which happen’d in their Days... I have known Children who never would have learn’d to read, had they not took a Delight in poring over Jane Shore or Fair Rosamond; and several fine Historians are indebted to Historical Ballads for all their Learning. For had not Curiosity, and a Desire of comparing these Poetical Works with ancient Records, first incited them to it, they never would have given themselves the Trouble of diving into History... (43)

 

The compiler printed quasi-scholarly, sometimes facetious head notes to these traditional ballads.

 

This work had become something of a best-seller and Dicey, already aware of the selling potential of cheap texts, selected about half of the 159 items included in the Collections for separate publication. He omitted, for example, most Scottish songs. He both pirated and subtly altered head notes, but he too suggested that he sought to preserve a valued English cultural tradition of interest to a wide public and also to provide attractive texts for children to use in learning to read. It has been suggested that the woodcuts that Dicey used for some ballads were also meant to suggest an attempt at a careful and appropriate use of antique illustrations. A more cynical view is that he used a supply of old and cheap woodcuts, probably acquired from Thomas Norris. (44)

 

The relationship between the Northampton-printed head-noted ballads and the other "old ballads" printed by the Diceys still needs some fuller analysis. It is clear that by the 1760s many or perhaps all Dicey ballads were printed more cheaply, without this apparatus, presumably another marketing decision. William Dicey also seems to have printed, on the verso of some ballads, current material likely to attract buyers. In the Percy collection at Harvard there are at least two examples of this. The intire lovers. To an excellent new tune [Northampton?, 1740?] has The behaviour, confession, &c. of William Welford on its verso and on the verso of The crafty farmer of Norfolk: or, the subtle doctor. Being a new pleasant way, invented for the cure of a great belly. To the tune of, The plowman's health [Northampton, 1750?] is an extensively illustrated elegy on Frederick, Prince of Wales. It was arguably also an editorial-marketing function for the printers to have selected 286 old ballads out of the great mass of ballads that had been printed up to their own day. Their corpus generally excluded the more eccentric and scatological, and those referring to old and forgotten sensational happenings, going some way to making cheap print respectable. It was a corpus which other printers were to reproduce in London and provincial towns. In his annotated, interleaved copy of the Diceys’ Catalogue of 1754 Thomas Percy, whom Cluer Dicey supplied with ballads, listed in his own hand ballads not included in the Catalogue. (45) These seem to have been ballads that were given to him by Dicey or which he had acquired elsewhere. Some of these no longer survive in contemporary broadside copies. Others do and were obviously excluded from their Catalogue by the Diceys. The brick-makers lamentation from New-gate: or, A true report of the indicting, arraingment, tryal, and convicting of four of the brick-makers Court of Injustice: for the notorious riot committed on the body of one Richard Lambert, brick-maker of Fallum, who they arraigned, indicted, and had almost executed, for some pretended idle words... had been printed for Brooksby in about 1685 and was no doubt by the 1750s considered of little contemporary interest. The same may have been true of The jolly gentleman's frolick: or, The city ramble. Being an account of a young gallant, who wager'd to pass by any of the watches without giving them an answer... a title printed by John Cluer earlier in the century or The Cowardly Clown of Flanders cuckolded, a ballad that was printed in the second volume of the Collection of Old Ballads. Some others listed by Percy, which they probably did print, may have been considered by the Diceys as "slips" rather than "old ballads" and therefore were not listed by title in their catalogues. They included in their prints "Lord Lovat, Bright, the Tall Man, and Hannah Snell, on one Sheet." A slip, A new song. Sung by Hannah Snell alias James Gray, at the New-Wells, Goodman's Fields. Tune - Come and listen to my ditty, &c. appeared in London in the 1750s.

 

The Diceys marketed ballads and chapbooks which were meant to appeal to a popular taste running parallel or perhaps slightly behind that of "literary antiquarianism at the polite level", perhaps an illustration of Neil McKendrick’s argument about the importance of emulation in a society where social distances between different levels of the population were relatively narrow. Yet their products were not only based on the widespread eighteenth-century fashion for the "recovery and preservation of the primitive" or of a disappearing cultural heritage.(46) Whoever supervised the Dicey and Marshall printing strategies included newer items as well as excluding older ones. The inclusion of abridged or abbreviated versions of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, and of Songs from the Beggar's Opera and, in their song collections, All the songs in Love in a Village, Isaac Bickerstaffe’s popular opera of 1762, testify to an attempt to keep their lists up-to-date. While the libretti of The Beggar's Opera (1728) cost from a shilling to one shilling and six pence, perhaps half a day's wages for a skilled worker, the Diceys offered it at as a "history" probably selling for about two pence. New World themes also entered their lists, including The cruel massacre of the protestants, in North America; shewing how the French and Indians join together to scalp the English, and the manner of their scalping, &c. &c., A description of the four parts of the world, viz. Europe, Africa. Asia, America. With the several kingdoms, &c. which are contained therein. ... and The poor unhappy transported felon's sorrowful account of his fourteen years transportation at Virginia, in America. In six parts. Being a ... history of the life of James Revel, the unhappy sufferer. The Catalogue also included Woodward’s Disswasive from Drunkenness, first published at the beginning of the eighteenth century, which was a contemporary steady-seller, or at least had a wide circulation, as it was probably given away by charitable bodies and persons, and Doctor Whitefield's Pious Instructions, of which no copy survives. In the 1754 catalogue there is an entry Select Hymns of George Whitefield, of which also there is no surviving copy. Such titles show an appreciation of the selling power of works linked to contemporary celebrities. There is also some indication that some fortune-telling texts such as Nixon’s Cheshire Prophecy and works like The present state of England , which was printed by the Diceys but was not in the Catalogue, were edited over time to include more or less current events.

 

Some of the patters were certainly based on contemporary or near contemporary and often sensational real or alleged happenings with such titles as The surprising life and dying-speech of Tobias Donkin, (the [sic] Quaker, and famous Yorkshire highwayman, who was executed at Tyburn, near York, October 6, 1754, The Gloucestershire tragedy. Being an account of Miss Mary Smith in Thornbury, who poison'd her father Sir John Smith, for love of a young man, with an account of her tryal and dying speech at the place of execution, wich [sic] was in Gloucester Maket-Place [sic], and The history of Sawney Beane and his family; robbers and murderers: who took up their abode in a cave, near the sea-side, where they lived twenty-five years, ... Computation, they robbed and murdered about one thousand persons, whom they eat; but at last, were happily discovered .... (47) A close analysis of the titles in the Catalogue would probably reveal other more or less contemporary works and the existence of other editorial interventions. The Diceys did not merely continually reprint standard ballad and chapbook texts, so feeding the lower orders an unremitting diet of material that reinforced the demarcation between the "popular" culture of the lower ranks and the culture of the middling sorts and the elite.

 

Slip songs are covered in the Catalogue in a few lines which can easily be overlooked: "There are near Three Thousand different Sort of Slips; of which the new Sorts coming out almost daily render it impossible to make a Complete Catalogue." The Catalogue of 1754 had stated that there were only two thousand. Similarly a short note to the thirty-five titles of "Collections; Containing Eight Pages each", which were little song books, many containing songs from the London theatres or pleasure gardens, stated that "Each Time of Re-printing the above Song-Books, the songs therein are always changed for New." Like the introduction of hundreds of cheap images this marked a major change, a commercial revolution, in popular print, one that had begun after the Restoration and which accelerated phenomenally in the eighteenth century, aided by the opening of the London pleasure gardens, notably Vauxhall and Ranelagh. These were accessible to all who could pay and it is recorded that 12,000 persons attended a performance of Handel's Water Music at the Vauxhall Gardens. Since the Gardens were also decorated with paintings by Hogarth, Hayman and others and no doubt song sheets and song books were also sold there, we can see a coming together of image, text and performance. In London, tickets were sold cheaply at Covent Garden at certain times to attract the lower-paid and theatrical booths at Southwark and other places catered for popular audiences. Musical performances also enjoyed an enormous vogue in the increasing numbers of provincial theatres. (48) If, outside of London, a very broad audience perhaps still had no easy access to these, either because of the price of tickets or because they lived in rural areas, printed songs from the theatres were now widely available. Dicey and Raikes in fact had advertised "the best and newest Plays" in the earliest numbers of the Northampton Mercury as well as the "Songs most in request" which were available both from their newsmen and at their printing office. At the beginning of the eighteenth century J. Blare had issued The golden garland, or mirth and merriment. Set forth and furnished with variety of excellent new songs. ... All very pleasant and delightful both for city and country (London, 1701?) and one hundred years later, Anthony Soulby of Penrith, remote from any area of dense population, published in eight pages Four excellent new songs, viz. The bashfu' wooer. No that will never do. The true English tar. Joe and Ned, (Penrith, c. 1790s?). Over the century, thousands of slip songs and of little cheap books with such titles as "Four [or Five] excellent new songs, containing etc " were printed in all areas of the British Isles. They still await a systematic listing.

 

Many were pastoral or romantic pieces reflecting changing sensibilities over the period. But like the nineteenth-century music hall, eighteenth-century theatre and pleasure garden entertainments generally promoted loyalty to the royal family and an often militant patriotism and responded rapidly to contemporary crises. (49) From the beginning of the century, songs that celebrated British military victories were reprinted in cheap form in large numbers. Marlborough's victory at Blenheim had resulted in the printing (among other songs) of The commander's garland: containing three heroick new songs. I. The vanquish'd French: ... II. The compleat victory: ... III. News from the camp to the French court: ... by the old established purveyors of cheap print, Deacon and Brooksby, in an eight-page chapbook in 1704, while a naval encounter of the following year was memorialised in Sir John Leake's fight with Admiral Ponty. Being a bloody fight between the confederate fleet, & the French fleet, in the Bay of Gibraltar on the 20th of March last. ... Tune of, Oh rare popery, &c.

 

Special songs and special prologues or epilogues at concerts or plays were also cheaply reprinted as slip songs. God save the King was first performed at Drury Lane in September 1745 during the Jacobite rebellion and quickly became a feature of street literature, either published separately as a slip or in numerous cheap song collections. The contents of The Pope's garland, containing five war songs. 1. The Pope's bull baited, II. Britons call to war. III. God save the King. ..., printed and sold in Bristol in 1755, are indicative of such collections. Naval heroism, and what Samuel Pepys had called "Sea vizt Love and Gallantry of ye Sailor", featured prominently. By the 1760s hundreds, probably thousands, of slip songs and garlands had been issued which included not only popular love and comic songs and pastorals but songs on current happenings. Other slip songs were printed for wounded soldiers and sailors, presumably to sell as they begged on city streets and blind sellers (as in Spain) were another category of salesman. (50) Many election contests were accompanied by specially printed songs, often with little political comment but rather extolling the virtues of one or another candidate.(51) Another genre of slips, though probably one not printed by the Diceys, was the bellman's, newsman's and hawker' s annual verses given to their customers, of which many survive and which often contained references to contemporary events as well as conventional greetings.(52) Various issues of the Cries of London provide a small commentary on these matters. In 1650 the cry of "Buy a Bresh or a table Booke (i.e. memorandum book) was included; in 1711 " Buy a new almanack"; in later issues "A merry new song," "Fun upon Fun, or the first and second part of Miss Kitty Fisher’s merry thoughts; No joke like a true joke; come who’ll fish my fishpond" and in 1804 "Images, very pretty, very fine". (53)

 

Compared with the vast and minute treatment given to traditional chapbooks and ballads and to "folk-song", these slips and song collections, representing a fundamental innovation in cheap print and in popular culture, have been curiously neglected, even curiously rejected, a process that began with educated collectors and publishers of old ballads, in the eighteenth century, who despised many actual street ballads, certainly the slip-songs of the time, as "refuse", a threat to an ancient English culture which they believed had sprung directly from the "people" or from anonymous minstrel-poets rooted in the countryside. This view was encouraged by Thomas Percy, who both edited and altered printed ballads and also excluded others from his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry on the grounds of lack of merit or indecency. He did not include the street ballads or slips of his own day. (54) Other reasons for the later neglect of slip songs and small song-books are that most have survived only in one or two copies and have been buried in library collections. Most too include no imprint information and it is not necessarily easy either to date them or assign them to printers. In fact, although they printed thousands, there seem to be no slip songs - although there are songsters - which are identifiable from imprint information as printed by the Diceys . While it might be possible to identify them from their ornaments (where included) or their typefaces, this would be a difficult and time-consuming process. Yet their numbers obviously vastly exceeded those of traditional ballads and chapbooks and their importance for eighteenth-century political as well as social and cultural history still has to be fully explored and assessed.

 

The final substantial sections of the Catalogue included a number of children’s books. The fact that old ballads and penny history books were distinguished from "small histories or books of amusement for children " is a reminder that the Diceys probably did not regard their histories, ballads and patters as children’s items and that they probably had their most appreciative audience among adolescents and young adults. However there was a growing tendency to list these as children’s books as the century progressed and some later bibliographers have perhaps misleadingly characterised them as such for the whole century. Nor does the Catalogue neglect certain market segments and opportunities. There was obviously a popular market for Christmas carols and larger books were designed as birthday or Christmas presents. The Dutch fortune teller was a book of fifty pages selling at wholesale for 13s 6d per dozen, a price that meant each book cost the shopkeeper or pedlar about 1s. 4d. This was a relatively large amount and the supposition is that this was designed as a book to be purchased on special occasions as a gift. The same is true of five of the works listed as small histories which were printed in two or three volumes.

 

On the other hand, although Robin Hood was listed as a separate commodity at the end of the Catalogue, its price of one hundred for 16 shillings or 192 pence gave it a wholesale unit price of less than two pence which seems cheap for a work of about 90 pages with cuts. So too does the price of the last book in the Catalogue, The Militia-Man; containing necessary Rules for both Officer and Soldier. With an Explanation of the Manual Exercise of the Foot, according to the Present Practice of the Army. Illustrated with 47 Cuts, representing the different Positions of a Soldier under Arms. To Which is prefixed, A Proposal for making the Love of Arms universal; and some Proofs, That many of the greatest Military Acts have been performed by Militia. This quarto book of 96 pages sold wholesale at four shillings per dozen, a unit price of four pence. Presumably many were printed. Yet only one copy now survives, which helpfully includes the price on the cover, which was six pence, a mark up of a third. This book was also an advertisement to government and to the public of its printers' civic responsibility and loyalty. The preface addresses "All the Governors of the several Charity Schools in England" advocating in somewhat chilling terms that their male pupils should be taught military drills:

 

Gentlemen, You are all men of property, and have each of you something to lose, consequently are fit persons to consider of the means of preserving it. One method I would beg leave to propose to you, as full of justice and sound policy: That those who have been reared by the Publick, should defend their Benefactors.

 

Boys would quickly make these drills "as common play as cricket or foot-ball." (55)

 

The other wholesale prices in the Catalogue reinforce the fact that by the mid-eighteenth century cheap texts were cheap. Slip songs were sold by the quire at 960 for 48 pence, a unit price of ten for one half pence. If sold at a halfpenny, the profit for the seller was therefore 4.5 pence for every ten sold, a considerable mark up and, if sold at one pence, double this. Old ballads sold wholesale at 960 for 96 pence, that is at one pence for ten, or twice the wholesale price of slips. Their retail price was presumably adjusted accordingly. Song collections sold at the same price and so did eight page patters. The price list give no information on the costs of twelve page and sixteen page patters. The Catalogue refers to the histories as "penny" history books. However, they may have sold at two pence, the price at which two histories were advertised in the Northampton Mercury in 1745. This was a useful mark up for the retailer, as their wholesale price was 0.288 pence each. Small histories or books of amusement for children wholesaled at 100 for 72 pence or .72 pence per unit . That the same stitched in embossed paper are listed at thirteen for nine pence is mysterious since this would have made their price lower than that of the former. Either the price is misprinted or the books had fewer pages.

 

Although maps and prints were more highly priced than text items, their prices too were far lower than those found in the London print shops. Prints were sold wholesale by the quire of 26 items. The cheapest were plain potts, wholesaling at just under one half-pence each; the most expensive black and white were copper royals at just under one pence each. Even with a substantial retail mark up, it would have been possible for the purchaser to acquire of a great variety of subjects for prices varying from about two pence to four pence each. The adage "a penny plain and two pence coloured" is well known and the Catalogue prices for prints testify to its pertinence with the exception of wood royals where the price of a quire of plain prints is listed as 1s/2d and that of coloured ones at 1s/4d. Did the compositor forget to change the one shilling into a two? It seems likely. Large maps and on "elephant" paper were among the most expensive offerings in the Catalogue. Sold wholesale by the "baker’s dozen" the cost wholesale of two sheet items was just over 5.5 pence each and 3.69 pence for single sheets. Again this was far less than maps sold in the London print and maps shops. The Dicey’s map of America was advertised at six pence in the Northampton Mercury.

 

These prices can be considered from several angles. London ballad singers, pedlars and hawkers, and small stall holders (who also sold other items) could replenish their stocks by personal visits to the Dicey and Marshall warehouses. The range of prices in the Catalogue allowed them to make a small outlay and the poorest sellers could perhaps divide between themselves reams of slip songs or ballads selling at four shillings to obtain material that could still be sold cheaply after a considerable mark up. Hannah More later claimed that this markup was often 300%. (56) Country pedlars and hawkers with horses and carts or hand carts could also fetch supplies from the warehouses in London and Northampton, while provincial and country shopkeepers could be supplied over the well-established routes on which scores of carters took goods from London to the rest of the kingdom. In addition, the Diceys seem to have used their "newsmen" in Northampton to distribute other commodities besides newspapers and Dicey and Marshall had a distribution network based on London. While they claimed to allow sellers of their patent medicines to operate on a sale-or-return basis this form of marketing might not have been permitted to hawkers and other small retailers and it is probable that it was in fact not available at all for their print wares.

 

The profits of the Dicey’s trade in cheap print and medicines can only be surmised. There is general agreement that wage rates and family incomes were increasing, especially in the period c.1750-1780 and that the ability (and propensity) to spend was growing among a wide section of the population. At this time of economic buoyancy, the ability to read was widespread with a literacy rate that was increasing among young people and women. The population was also growing and population densities were becoming greater, a development that led to an increase in retail shopkeeping. (57) This was the period when the Diceys were most active and all these trends must have helped their business. The population of London in 1760 was about 675,000 and the number of persons under the age of twenty, about one third of the total, say 220,000. If the amount spent by or for that third on print and medicinal products, similar those sold by the Diceys, was 24 pence per annum, this would have amounted to an expenditure of £22,000. The population of London was about ten percent of the national population so we might tentatively add three times the London expenditure to the former figure, giving total sales of £88,000. If the Diceys received 33.3 per cent of this as wholesalers, their annual takings before costs could have been in the region of £30,000. In addition, they also had an income from the Northampton Mercury, which had a wide circulation in the Midlands and was even read in Yorkshire (58) and in connection with which William Dicey exploited the market for crime and sensation. He included only brief reports of such matters in the newspaper but printed special weekend supplements, which were presumably separately priced. "The true account of this quarrel will be published next Saturday, and sold by the Men that carry the News." (59) The Diceys also operated as general and as jobbing printers.

 

Taken together with the evidence of their wills and property deals and other sources, there seems to be no reason to believe that their profits were not substantial. A recent study of Benjamin Collins, a Salisbury newspaper owner and printer who died in 1785, reveals that from very small beginnings he built up a thriving business, leaving money and property worth from £85,000 to £100,000. While this was nowhere near the £500,000 estate of Josiah Wedgwood, it was certainly a very respectable amount for a businessman whose activities were regional rather than national or international. The Diceys might also be compared with Benjamin Abree, proprietor of the Kentish Post of Canterbury, who was also a bookseller and a printer of books and ballads, but whose finances have not been explored. (60)

 
RCS   Continued...