There’s been a general re-examination this year of the monumental events of 1914, but I thought I’d go back another century and see what was published in 1814 – at the time of the realignment of European politics, borders and allegiances which took place at the Congress of Vienna. So here is a list of the crop of 1814 (so far!):
William Bingley’s Musical Biography (2 Volume Set): vignettes of chiefly Italian, German and British composers of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, touching also on French and Spanish musicians.
A Catalogue of the Books Relating to British Topography, and Saxon and Northern Literature, published by the Bodleian Library: a catalogue of the books bequeathed by Richard Gough to the University of Oxford, showing his lifelong interest in, as well as generous support for the continuation of, antiquarian and topographical enterprises.
An Account of the Basalts of Saxony, by Jean-François d’Aubuisson de Voisins, translated by Patrick Neill: an account of basalt formations according to the Neptunian theory of creation – i.e. that all rocks had an aqueous origin – by the distinguished French geologist.
Bibliotheca Spenceriana: the first two of the four heavily illustrated volumes were published by Thomas Dibdin in 1814. The second Earl Spencer’s book collection was one of the greatest in Europe. His especial interests were in English ‘black-letter’ printing, especially the works of Caxton, and continental incunables, particularly first editions of Greek and Latin classics.
A Voyage to Terra Australis (2 Volumes), by Matthew Flinders: his journals, structured around daily geographical and astronomical observations, are remarkable for their humanity and their sense of humour, and provide a faithful account of the 1801 naval expedition that led to the first complete map outlining the Australian continent.
Traité de la chronologie chinoise, divisé en trois parties, by the Jesuit missionary Antoine Gaubil (1689–1759), famous for his studies in the fields of history, geography, astronomy and cartography, was edited by the famous French orientalist Silvestre de Sacy (17581838).
Travels through Canada and the United States of North America in the Years 1806, 1807, and 1808 (2 Volumes): the painter and author John Lambert intended this second edition of his book to ‘enable the British reader to form a just opinion of the Canadian colonies, and to appreciate the character of the neighbouring enemies who threaten their existence’. Who can he have meant?
Researches in Greece: William Martin Leake, the classical and linguistic scholar, made this survey of the languages and dialects spoken in Greece and the southern Balkans during the early nineteenth century. It broke new ground in linguistics and pioneered the critical study of modern Greek, Albanian, Wallachian and Bulgarian.
Joshua Marshman’s Elements of Chinese Grammar was one of the many works published by the Serampore Press, set up by Marshman and his missionary colleagues Carey and Ward near Kolkata (but in a Danish enclave outside British jurisdiction) in 1800. (That could be another list…)
Franz Anton Mesmer was famous (and mocked) for the hypnotic trances he could create, but his Mesmerismus described his belief in a harmonious natural philosophy that could benefit both individuals and society by harnessing invisible natural forces or ‘magnetism’ which could produce physical effects including healing.
Major James Rennell’s Observations on the Topography of the Plain of Troy was one of several works of historical geography produced by this dashing ex-soldier.
Die Symbolik des Traumes is a study of the symbolism of dreams by Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert, who proposed that dreams, unlike language, are universally comprehensible and provide prophetic insights and an experience of the divine presence. The work’s influence extended to the works of Freud and Jung nearly a century later.
Sir Walter Scott was not the sole author of The Border Antiquities of England and Scotland, but his substantial introduction sets the historical scene for the entries on various castles, churches and other historic structures on both sides of the border. Illustrative extracts of his poetry are also included, along with many detailed engravings of the evocative scenes and buildings described.
After the death of civil engineer John Smeaton (builder of the Eddystone lighthouse) on 28 October 1792, his friend Sir Joseph Banks decided to publish his papers under the auspices of the Royal Society. The edition began in 1812, and fourth and final volume of 1814 contains the papers that Smeaton published in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, as well as related correspondence.
The first two volumes of the translation by Helen Maria Williams of Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative of Travels came out in 1814: the seven-volume set was eventually completed in 1829. The work had an enormous effect on the young Charles Darwin: in April 1831 he wrote to his sister Caroline (while planning a journey to Tenerife which never took place): ‘in the morning I go and gaze at Palm trees in the hot-house and come home and read Humboldt: my enthusiasm is so great that I cannot hardly sit still on my chair’.
Also in 1814, Humboldt’s two-volume Researches, Concerning the Institutions and Monuments of the Ancient Inhabitants of America came out in English translation (again by Williams). The books describes geographical features such as volcanoes and waterfalls, and aspects of the indigenous cultures including architecture, sculpture, art, languages and writing systems, religions, costumes and artefacts, and reveal Humboldt’s boundless curiosity as well as his scientific and cultural knowledge.
Illustrations of Northern Antiquities from the Earlier Teutonic and Scandinavian Romances was compiled by three editors, Henry William Weber, Robert Jamieson and Sir Walter Scott, who brought together their work on ‘romances’ from the Old German, Danish, Swedish and Icelandic languages, claiming that these poems and tales ‘offer a new and interesting subject of speculation to the English reader’. Each editor contributes a related scholarly essay, but the bulk of the book is taken up with the translated tales, including the German Song of the Nibelungen.
Finally, three long-running series produced issues in 1814: volumes 31 and 32 of the Naval Chronicle, edited by Clarke and McArthur, volumes 9 and 10 of The Classical Journal, edited by Abraham Valpy and E.H. Barker, and volume 8 of Nichols’ Literary Anecdotes.