Resource: The Harleian Miscellany

Once again, a post on the disorganized digitized, this time the Harleian Miscellany (Wikipedia entry), a selection of pamphlets and texts from the archive of the first two Earls of Oxford. First published in the mid eighteenth century, two new editions were simultaneously published in the early nineteenth century, one augmented and one reorganized.

It truly is a miscellany, comprising many and various “small tracts and fugitive pieces” as Samuel Johnson describes them, covering a wide range of subjects over two centuries. Johnson defends these apparently ephemeral texts as central to English freedom:

There is, perhaps, no Nation, in which it is so necessary, as in our own, to assemble, from Time to Time, the small Tracts and fugitive Pieces, which are occasionally published: For, besides the general Subjects of Enquiry, which are cultivated by us, in common with every other learned Nation, our Constitution in Church and State naturally gives Birth to a Multitude of Performances, which would either not have been written, or could not have been made publick in any other Place.

and goes on to make a case for their intellectual and literary values as well. He also offers a novel explanation for the lack of organization in the compilation:

Of the different Methods which present themselves, upon the first View of the great Heaps of Pamphlets, which the Harleian Library exhibits, the two which merit most Attention, are to distribute the Treatises according to their Subjects or their Dates …. By ranging our Collection in Order of Time, we must necessarily publish those Pieces first, which least engage the Curiosity of the Bulk of Mankind …. By confining ourselves for any long Time to any Single Subject, we shall reduce our Readers to one Class, and, as we shall lose all the Grace of Variety, shall disgust all those who read chiefly to be diverted.

The original series comes in 8 volumes published between 1744 and 1746 and was ‘printed for T. Osborne in Gray’s Inn’. The second set, re-typeset with the same texts but in (nearly) chronological order, was issued in 12 volumes between 1808 and 1811, by Robert Dutton of  Gracechurch Street. The third edition was issued between 1808 and 1813 in 10 volumes, the texts printed in the same order as the original, two supplementary volumes providing some new material, and was published by Messrs White, Cochrane and Murray of Fleet Street, and Harding of St. James’s Street.

For the original and reissue, I’ve given links to both Google and Archive.org copies, for each interface has its own advantages. With Google books, search works far better, but for reading and for downloading I prefer the archive.org interface. The third, revised  edition is, as far as I can tell, only on archive.org, as it was digitized by them from the copies held by Brigham Young University.

The Original Series, 1744-1746

The Second Edition, 1808-1811

Contents and index to the second edition digitized at archive.org and transcribed with linkage.

The Third, Revised Edition, 1808-1813

All digitized by, and hosted at, Archive.org, from copies at Brigham Young University. The last volume has an index to the entire series.

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