Posts Tagged biographical dictionary

Book of the Week: Betham, A Biographical Dictionary of Celebrated Women, 1804

Matilda Betham: A Biographical Dictionary of the Celebrated Women of Every Age and Country, printed for E. Crosby, 1804..

‘I was induced to believe that a General Dictionary of Women, who had been distinguished by their actions or talents, i various nations, or at different periods of teh world, digested under an alphabetical arrangement, which had never been done in our language, might meet with a favourable reception.’

Matilda Betham (1776-18520, poet, artist and biographer, was a friend of Coleridge, Southey and the Lambs. Celebrated Women begins with an entry on ‘Abassa, an Arabian Princess of the Eighth Century’ and ends with ‘Zoe, fourth of Emperor Leo VI’ taking in on the way a hundred stars, their light now a little dimmed, only waiting the discerning eye to burst into life. ‘Authenticity, and impartiality have been my aim throughout, conceiving thsoe principles to be of most consequence in a work of this kind, than ornamental writing.’ A fascinating compilation – not only for itself, but for the thought of a young woman at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries taking the trouble to amass so much information.

First edition – 852pp – bound in half leather and marbled boards – very good – scarce – £200.

To buy contact e.crawford@aphere.20.freeserve.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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Book of the Week: Frances Hays: Women of the Day

Frances Hays (ed), Women of the Day: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Women Contemporaries, published by J.B. Lippincott & Co (Philadelphia), 1885. This is a copy of the American edition, published in the same year as the London, Chatto & Windus, edition.

This is a superb biographical source on interesting 19th-century women. The first entry is on Lea Lundgren Ahlborn, a Swedish artist, and the last is on Helen Zimmern, a German-born British journalist and writer. The hundreds of  entries in between give biographical details of women who were ‘notable’ – for their work rather than their position in society – in the latter half of the 19th century but who have now rather faded from view.

This books is, therefore, a very useful vademecum for those researching the period. The general reader, too, will find plenty to interest her in this biographical bran tub.

Frances Hays clearly did much of her research in the Reading Room of the British Museum, thanking both ‘Mr John P. Anderson, Assistant in the British Museum, for much valuable aid’ and noting her indebtedness to Dr Garnett (who was assistant keeper of printed books at the Museum).

This is a copy of the American edition, first published by J.B. Lippincott & Co (Philadelphia), in the same year, 1885, as the London, Chatto & Windus, edition. In fact, apart from the title page, the editions are likely to have been identical. Although the title page of this copy dates it to 1885, bound in at the back is a 32-page section listing Chatto & Windus books dated June 1891. I doubt that the book actually ever saw Philadelphia: it was presented to The City of York Public Library by C.J. [Cuthbert Joseph] Kleiser (1855-1929), a Yorkshire-born watchmaker. What an excellent choice; it makes one want to know more about Mr Kleiser.

The copy is in good conditon, in its original binding, with the City of York Public Library bookplate on the front pastedown and relatively discreet shelf mark on the spine. £75 plus postage.

To buy: email e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk

 

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