A blog written by Library volunteer Dawn Wilson
It is such a pleasure to volunteer in Salisbury Cathedral Library and whilst cleaning some older books, by chance three books caught my eye, at first sight, you could mistakenly think they were different books.
However, as you open the first page you realise, they are all the works of William Dodsworth - entitled; A Historical Account of the Episcopal See, and Cathedral Church of Sarum, or Salisbury: comprising biographical notices of the Bishops; The history of the establishment, from the earliest period; and a description of the monuments. Illustrated with engravings, published in 1814.
Let me take you back to the end of the 18th century when William Dodsworth was the Cathedral Verger. He has spent months researching and writing and he needed finance to print his book, so started to campaign for subscribers. In many ways, it’s like today’s crowdfunding. I suspect he convinced many of the Cathedral community to write to esteemed gentry promoting his publication of the History of Salisbury Cathedral and thus gaining enough funds to print the book.
Inside each book, there is a list of his subscribers and these include His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, various royalty including His Serene Highness the Prince Royal of Bavaria. Along with around 650 other subscribers including earls, lords, booksellers, libraries and of course many from the Cathedral Chapter.
Each subscriber was given an option of having their copy printed in a standard format Royal Quarto, or on large paper - that’s Imperial Drawing Paper with proof plates or a deluxe version on large paper with proof impressions on Indian paper. Interestingly each of these three books I’d found was a standard copy.
At the time prints were bought and then bound separately at perhaps a local book binder, the owner would then decide how they wanted it bound. Full leather, ½ or ¼ bound, stamped or gilded, marble covered, extra sheets or otherwise. No book at this time looked the same. Which explains why these books all had their personal bindings.
Opening these books, uniquely within one version bound into the pages is an extra leaf. It is a note from Dodsworth almost apologising for a price increase of the book. It appears that there were many more plates, that is engravings, than originally budgeted for and he wanted them to be of quantity too, so he felt the necessity to increase his costs by nearly one half, so the subscription prices increased to three guineas for a standard print and four guineas for the large print.
Furthermore, even though the author had experienced a degree of patronage, costs were still considerably more than he anticipated but rather than suffer any personal losses he decided to honour the subscribers and significantly increase the costs for non-subscribers.
After starting my investigation into these three books of Dodsworth’s publication, to my surprise in the library, I discovered there is another standard version of the Dodsworth’s History of Salisbury Cathedral. It was hidden at the back upon the highest shelf and this version owned by the Cathedral’s Clerk of Works including Mr Money Fisher; his son Mr Frederick Fisher and Mr Roy Spring. (Mr Money Fisher lies here at the Cathedral and his gravestone can be found in the central nave by the font).
The Clerk of Works, Roy Spring, at the very top of the Spire!
Further exploring in the library and I discover, not only do we have standard versions of this book, but also the deluxe model. A particularly splendid extra-large version very elaborately decorated with both blind and gilt stamps and lined with moire silk. This version originally owned by Mr William Dodsworth himself contains the beautiful original watercolours and drawings of Frederick Nash, Charles Stothard and F. Mackenzie. This book was part of Richard Hatchwell’s collection and auctioned in 2009 whereby Salisbury Cathedral took ownership.
The deluxe binding together with one of the original watercolours bound into the book.
And then would you believe it, to my delight I discover two more versions of Dodsworth book in the Cathedral archives. These are the large print versions and as expected since they originally cost more both have gilt trimmings and proof copy plates.
Not only have my investigations lead me to find seven copies of Dodsworth Historical account of Salisbury Cathedral, (four standard copies, 2 large print copies and the deluxe large print version), I also uncovered a fascinating story of Dodsworth’s process for publication. Intriguingly when John Britton was compiling his first book in a series of Cathedral Histories he started with Salisbury Cathedral and commissioned Frederick Nash to undertake the engravings in his book. Nash thus visited Salisbury Cathedral yet thereafter he unscrupulously transferred his services to Britton’s rival Dodsworth.
The legacy of William Dodsworth’s whose gravestone can be found outside the Chapter House lives on as this once popular book is still of use today.