Monday, June 26, 2006


More from Robert Bell

The folder this facsimile broadside comes in states that our bookseller and auctioneer was a bit of a card, known for his drollery, and "he was noted for cajolling his audience into paying high prices" for his books. A contemporary stated that "many, going to his auction for the merriment, would buy a book from good humor." Not all fun and games, however - Bell also was a publisher, and published Thomas Paine's Common Sense for the first time, in 1776. However, about Bell's coercion tactics. Who could argue with this:

In which he states, "Any gentleman, who believeth that the lining for the head is useful, necessary, or advantageous, may yet be supplied with abundance of Books, on terms as moderate, as what he pays for the covering of his feet." And again: "The Man, that doth not afford as much for mental Luminators, as he doth for tallow lights, condemns himself, to ignorance and darkness, which will always disable him, from perceiving the happiness of mental felicity." Ah, the dulcet sentences of the eighteenth century! Naturally, one should spend more on books than on shoes, or candles. At the bottom of the broadside (not pictured here), Bell offers bookish quotes of support, including this from the Marquis of Argyle: "Think no cost too much in purchasing Books." A man with his priorities in logical order! The broadside goes in the stack of items to frame and hang in the shop someday soon.

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