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Bookshopping

On yesterday's date in 1663, Samuel Pepys went bookshopping:
Thence to St. Paul’s Church Yard, to my bookseller’s, and having gained this day in the office by my stationer’s bill to the King about 40s. or 3l., I did here sit two or three hours calling for twenty books to lay this money out upon, and found myself at a great losse where to choose, and do see how my nature would gladly return to laying out money in this trade. I could not tell whether to lay out my money for books of pleasure, as plays, which my nature was most earnest in; but at last, after seeing Chaucer, Dugdale’s History of Paul’s, Stows London, Gesner, History of Trent, besides Shakespeare, Jonson, and Beaumont’s plays, I at last chose Dr. Fuller’s Worthys, the Cabbala or Collections of Letters of State, and a little book, Delices de Hollande, with another little book or two, all of good use or serious pleasure: and Hudibras, both parts, the book now in greatest fashion for drollery, though I cannot, I confess, see enough where the wit lies.
At today's prices:
  • History of the Worthies of England by Thomas Fuller: There are a couple of abridged editions from the 20th century available, but to get the full text the most recent printing was in 1840. If you're lucky, you can pick one up for £25, but more likely to pay twice that.
  • Cabala, Sive Scrinia Sacra, Mysteries of State and Government: In Letters of Illustrious Persons and Great Ministers of State as well Forreign as Domestick, in the Reigns of King Henry the Eighth, Q: Elizabeth, K: James, and K: Charles: Wherein such Secrets of Empire, and Publick Affairs, as were then in Agitation, are clearly Represented; And many remarkable Passages faithfully Collected. … To which is added several Choice Letters and Negotiations, no where else Published: the 1663 edition, which Pepys bought, starts at around £200; the 1691 reprint rather more.
  • Les delices de la Hollande. Avec un traité du gouvernement, et un abregé de ce qui s’est passé de plus memorable jusques à l’an de grace 1660, by Jean Nicolas de Parival: Also at least £200 - this was the third edition, and Parival updated it twice again before the end of the century.
  • Hudibras, by Samuel Butler: still in print, available in paperback for £ 11.99.
So, the cost to Samuel Pepys of these four books (plus "another little book or two") was within his budget of £2 or £3. Buying them today you would be lucky to get much change out of £500!

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
bellinghman
Dec. 11th, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC)
How much was his £3 worth in today's money, though? Most of the cost of those books is in their rarity value, after all.
nwhyte
Dec. 11th, 2006 03:02 pm (UTC)
How much was his £3 worth in today's money, though?

Fiddling with the tables at measuringworth.com suggests a multiplier of about 100 is appropriate; so the books cost twice as much now, relatively, as they did then. It would be interesting to know exactly how much he paid for the 1663 editions and compare with their worth now.
shsilver
Dec. 11th, 2006 02:53 pm (UTC)
Now that is cool and an excellent use of your time.
inulro
Dec. 11th, 2006 04:22 pm (UTC)
I'm kind of impressed that all of Pepys' choices are still on the market. I know from experience that a lot of 18th century stuff is a lot harder to come by.
nickbarnes
Dec. 11th, 2006 07:49 pm (UTC)
I went to my children's school fair on Saturday, and picked up 14 paperbacks for 70p. What would they have cost Samuel Pepys?
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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