Hope over Experience? Cataloging the Publications of Edmund Curll

Thursday, November 19, 2015
4:00 pm PST – 5:15 pm PST

Charles E. Young Research Library, Room 11360
280 Charles E. Young Drive, North

Please note that the Clark Library is closed for renovations.
In 2015–16 all events are being held on UCLA’s main campus.

Eleventh Annual Kenneth Karmiole Lecture on the History of the Book Trade

—Pat Rogers, University of South Florida

Edmund Curll remains one of the most notorious figures in book history, despite attempts in late years to salvage his reputation by casting him as a loveable rogue unfairly maligned by establishment figures such as Alexander Pope. His prosecution for obscene publications, imprisonment, and spell in the pillory have even led some to view him as brave champion of press freedom, rather than a discreditable pirate bookseller. The subterfuges, however, that he adopted in producing his large output of works, many of them clandestine, pose considerable problems to bibliographers. They involve concealed facts such as misattributions of authorship, misleading advertising, fake editions, and false dates. Moreover, Curll recycled much of his material, so that many surviving volumes exhibit widely different contents from copy to copy. An effort over five decades to catalog works with which he was connected has produced a description of more than 1,000 items, but many questions concerning their publication history are still tantalizingly difficult to answer. The greatest master of devious machinations in the book trade continues to pull the wool over our bibliographic eyes.

Pat Rogers is Distinguished University Professor and DeBartolo Chair in the Liberal Arts at the University of South Florida. In addition to numerous works and editions on Defoe, Pope, Fielding, Johnson, Boswell, Reynolds, Austen, and others, Rogers wrote with Paul Baines Edmund Curll, Bookseller in 2007. Rogers is currently editing Jonathan Swift in Context (Cambridge University Press) and completing, with Paul Baines, A Catalogue of the Publications of Edmund Curll, 1706–1747.

Grub-Street Journal, no. 147 (26 October 1732)
Curll is shown with a two-faced head.

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