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somely furnished mansion where he dispensed “a chearful hospitality." But at fifty-six he was poor again, and we find him lamenting that he had ever meddled with the press.
The books that Baskerville printed astonished the good folk who were sufficiently interested to examine them, and they delighted the smaller number that purchased the works. But praise alone could not uphold the Birmingham establishment. When one went heartily, as Baskerville did, into the manufacture of paper, type, “and all the apparatus of printing," it was not enough that he should be called "one of the best printers in the world." Appreciation which lacks a cash basis is a sorry supporter of trade. The fact was that Baskerville's countrymen did not concern themselves with his venture. They knew little, and they cared less, about fine printing. So, after ten years at his new calling, the pioneer wrote to Horace Walpole: "I have engaged in this hazard on the strong presumption that if I could fairly excel in this divine art, it would make my affairs easy, or at least give me bread. But, alas, in both I was mistaken.' The booksellers did not choose to encourage him; and, he adds, “although the University of Cambridge have given me a Grant to print their 8vo and 12mo CommonPrayer Books, it is under such terms as greatly hurt me. All this Summer I have had nothing
to print at Home. My folio Bible is pretty far advanced at Cambridge, which will cost me £2,000 all hired at 5 per cent. It was surely grievous that Baskerville could not, as he said, get bread in his own country, "after having acquired the reputation of excelling in the most useful art known to mankind, while everyone who excels as a Player, Fiddler, Dancer &c. not only lives in affluence but has it in their power to save a fortune." Baskerville abandoned his "divine art," and returned to the lucrative trade of japanning, at which he made himself rich again; and he died in 1775 with a small opinion of the English taste, and a "hearty contempt of the Christian religion." But if the Englishry suffered his art to languish, there were aliens of finer perception. Benjamin Franklin was his singular good friend; and a celebrated French society purchased his outfit of type, and with it printed Beaumarchais' superb edition of Voltaire.
Now the young Whittingham, who was diligently learning his trade at Coventry, must have heard of the strange hazard at Birmingham, only a few miles away, and he may have encountered a copy or two of Baskerville's admirable volumes, and by such chance have conceived an ambition to excel on his own account. A tradition of this sort survives. At any rate, Charles Whittingham was a likely fellow enough. It is known that
there was nothing astir in the printing world with which he did not speedily acquaint himself. It was characteristic of him through life that inventions attracted him by their novelty. He had not the proverbial English horror of innovation. He was always looking for an opportunity, and when he discovered one he seized it. In certain lists of the time his name appears among the subscribers for books that were printed at London while he was still in 'prentice bonds. So it may be taken that he used his earnings with discretion, cultivating a taste for good work according to his lights. As soon as he was free of the indentures he made his way to London to try for fortune there.
There was a native shrewdness in the youngster. When he left Coventry with all his possessions on his back he was determined to become not only a famous printer, but a successful one. John Baskerville had won repute at the cost of his peace and his wealth. But Charles Whittingham was not deterred by the slights which had been put upon the first English printer of his century. It was enough for him that he would have to risk no competition in excellence. The field was clear.
For this is to be remembered: that so far as there has been any movement in the art of printing, it has been, even to our own day, a vacillating one. The art of printing from movable types was nearly perfect at its birth. Wonder-working
Time has wrought upon it but few added charms. Music and painting, architecture and sculpture, developed slowly, and with infinite labor, their harmonies of tone and color and form; but the latest achievements in typography barely excel in beauty the work produced four hundred years ago to the astonishment of man. Inventions have multiplied beyond the power of human wit to number them, and the press has known its share in these aids to facility. Yet, though we print quicker, and cheaper, and with greater variety, and though we print more and more as the days drop from the calendar, there falls from the vast, complex mechanism of the nineteenth century nothing lovelier than the sheets printed by the primitive and laborious implements of the times of Gutenberg. This art has in all countries known its periods of inspiration and its periods of depression, its eras of revival and decay. In England, despite the sacrifices of John Baskerville, the eighteenth century was a time of falling off. But there came a young provincial, fresh from his apprenticeship at Coventry, and to him our modern psalmodists of progress owe the revival which lures their lusty song.
Some say that Whittingham went from Coventry to Birmingham, that he might study at the famous press which a patriotic mob had not yet wrecked; others contend that he came straight to London and engaged with Hughes, the predeces
sor of the Hansards. Both tales lack confirmation, but each is probable enough. In any case, Whittingham was free of Coventry at the close of March in 1786, and at the age of nineteen. Three years later we find him in London setting up a press in a garret in Dean Street, Fetter Lane. To make this venture he must first have had some
acquaintance with the trade in town. He was keen enough to know at twenty-two where opportunities arose, and to have saved, or borrowed, capital enough to equip a modest office and put out a sign. The apparatus and the processes of printing were then, and for a dozen years thereafter remained, identical with the means employed by printers a hundred years before. The presses, the pelt balls for inking the type, and the type itself, in use when the first Whittingham set up for himself, were faithful reproductions of the implements described in "Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy-works Applied to the Art of Printing," published in 1683; and the first press, a wooden one, that the Uncle used in Dean Street was employed within recent years for pulling proofs.
There is no record of the young man's work during his first three years as a master printer. He had, no doubt, to confine himself to "job orders" of a minor sort. The slender plant he commanded would have made this necessary. He