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Stores & Shops

During the Georgian era plate glass windows a foot square replaced the bottle bottoms of old, allowing shop
owners to show off their wares to entice the public into their stores. In 1786 Sophie von Roche a marveled
about Oxford Street that "behind the great glass windows absolutely everything one can think of is neatly,
attractively displayed, and in such abundance of choice as almost to make one greedy". With larger windows
interiors also became better lit. No longer must the customer of a fashionable shop take the product offered
into the street to view it properly. Window-shopping became the new pastime of both mistress and servant.

Jewellers and Goldsmiths

Somewhere between apparel and home decoration we find the jeweller that spans both. From being one goldsmiths and his workshop, which was the practice under the old Guild system, now emerged the type of jewellery shop we are familiar with, offering not just the work of one designer but that of many. One of the most influential of this new breed in the Regency era was Rundell and Bridge, b jewellers to the crown. c Their store was at 32 Ludgate Hill, a continuation of Fleet Street. Right is the only picture of the interior of this shop that can be found, a cartoon depicting Phillip Rundell to the left. The interior is simple but the wares were sumptious.

Interior of Rundell & Bridge shop in 1822 1

Storefront of Rundell and Bridge at 32 Ludgate Hill 2

Interior of the shop of Wm. Neate, goldsmith and jeweller 3

Booksellers and Publishers

First floor interior of Temple of the Muses (Lackington Allen) as it looked in 1809 4

Before television, reading was a common evening entertainment among the middle and upper classes. Books were read either silently or aloud for the whole company. Booksellers and libraries flourished in the Regency era as more and more people became literate. Often booksellers would both lend and sell books. The circulating libraries would lend books for a small subscription fee. Printed music scores could also be had at these "book" stores together with graphic arts and magazines.

One of the big book sellers of the time were Lackington Allen & Co, d at Finsbury Square. This store, The Temple of the Muses, was several stories tall and offered a wide variety of books in all sorts of bindings and to humane prices.

Mr. Lackington's business idea was to keep low prices, his slogan "Cheapest Bookseller In The World, e which would keep his customers happy and keep them coming back. And it did! In 1791 he estimated he sold 100,000 volumes annually. f Not bad for a man who started his career as an illiterate pieman!

Through the whole Eighteenth century about 150,000 titles were published in the English language. During the last two decades of the century book publishing increased around 400% and continued to grow in the Regency era. Some of this effect is attributed to the introduction of works of fiction into school curriculums. g

Lending Libraries

It would be impossible to discuss books without mentioning the lending libraries. There were two main types of lending libraries in the Regency era: The Circulating Libraries and the Subscription Libraries. The difference between the two types was in the selection; the subscription library often started as a reaction against the "trash" offered by the circulating library. Why do works of fiction written for the readers amusement always engender disdain from those who never read them?

The Circulating Library 5 in Scarborough around 1818

In Regency times books were still quite expensive, the average price for a novel in three volumes would be as much as 31s. 6d. (today close on £90!), so only the upper classes bought their own copies. Here the lending libraries filled a function, much as in our day, for readers that could ill afford to purchase their own.

Minerva advertizement of 1807 6

Circulating libraries were often run by booksellers. The first circulating library in England was established about 1730 by Mr. Wright who has a shop in the Strand. A. K. Newman, publisher of the Minerva Press also ran such a circulating library, unsurprisingly well stocked with romance novels of the company's own production. The number of libraries grew and at the turn of the century 1800 their number had swelled to twenty-six. h

The average fee schedule was one guinea for the initial subscription and a small fee per book. In 1807, Minerva Library (see advertisement to the left), charged their annual subscribers £ 4 d. 4 for eighteen books in town or twenty-four in the country, shipping not included!

Naturally every self-respecting lending library had The most popular book of the era, Tales of Fashionable Life i by Maria Edgeworth, j published in six volumes between 1809 and 1812, in their catalog. What other delightful works of fact and fiction available to the Regency era reader we will discuss another time.

Next: Gentlemen's Shopping

1. 1822 cartoon of Lady and Lord Conyngham at Rundell and Bridge's shop.
2. Exterior Rundell and Bridge
3. Trade card: 'Wm. Neate, GOLDSMITH & JEWELLER, 3 Sweetings Alley, Cornhill. Curiosities bought & sold. Diamonds Pearls &c. Paintings Enamels &c.'
4. The imprint has been cropped, but this print was also published for R. Ackermannís Repository of Arts, Literature Fashions, Manufactures &c.
5. Poetical Sketches of Scarborough: Twenty-one engravings on humorous subjects, coloured from original designs, made upon the spot by J. Green and etched by T Rowlandson. Published by R. Ackermann, 1818.
6. Advertizment February 1807: "Terms of subscription to the Minerva Library, Leadensfall Street. Yearly subscribers
At £ 4 4 0 are entitled to 18 books town or 24 country
       3 3 0 .................... 12 .................... 18
       2 2 0 ..................... 6 ..................... 12
     1 11 6 ..................... 4 ....................... 8
Each Folio, Quarto and Octavo to be considered as Two Volumes.
Subscribers at One Guinea and a Half per Year, Eighteen Shillings the Half Year, or Half a Guinea per Quarter, will be entitled to the new and most expensive Works as soon as published.
Subscribers at One Guinea per Year, Twelve Shillings the Half Year, or Seven Shillings and Sixpence per Quarter, will be allowed two Books at a time, but not entitled to the new and valuable Works.
And subscribers at Sisteen Shillings per Year, Nine shillings the Half Year or Five shillings per Quarter will, as usual, be allowed two Novels at a time, but excluded from every other publication.
Subscribers residing in London may exchange their Books once a day, but not oftener.
One Book will be considered an Exchange.
The Money to be paid at the time of subscribing.
Catalogue Two Shillings
The Proprietor, for the better accommondation of persons residing in the Country, engage to provide Boxes, with Locks and Keys, which, with Carriage from and to the Library, are to be paid for by the subscribers.
Non Subscribers to deposit the Value, and pay per Week for each Volume as under: for Folios 1s.- Quartos 6d. - Octavos 4d. -Duoidecimos 3d. -Single Plays 2d. per day - Modern Publications extra.
The Supplement for the Year 1807, will shortly be ready for delivery GRATIS to the Subscribers, and which will contain every modern Work to the present period.

Notes on the text:
a: 'Sophie in London, 1786; being the diary of Sophie v. la Roche', published by J. Cape, London, 1933. Sophie von La Roche, AKA Anna Sophie Gutermann, (1731-1807) was a well known German authoress and her book, 'Die Geschichte des Fraueleins von Sternheim' (The History of Lady Sophia Sternheim), was the first published novel written by a woman in the German language.
b: 1804-1834 known as Rundell, Bridge and Rundell.
c: March 15, 1797, Rundell and Bridge were appointed royal goldsmiths and in 1804 given the royal warrant. More information regarding Rundell and Bridge can be found in 'Royal goldsmiths: the art of Rundell and Bridge and its successors' by Christopher Hartop, published in Magazine Antiques, June 2005.
d: After 1793 known as Messrs. Lackington Allen & Co, when James Lackington sold 1/4 of his business to Robert Allen.
e: Legend on a Ĺ Penny Token (D & H 353 - Middlesex, Lackington's)
f: James Lackington (1746-1815), 'Memoirs of the Forty-Five First Years of the Life of James Lackington, Bookseller' published 1791. North American edition published 1808 by John Wilson and Daniel Hitt, New York, as 'The Confessions of J. Lackington, Late Bookseller, at the Temple of the Muses, in a Series of Letters to a Friend.'
g: Ditto excerpt: "the sale of books in general has increased prodigiously within the last twenty years. According to the best estimation I have been able to make. I suppose that more than four times the number of books are sold now than were sold twenty years since."
h: Unless otherwise stated all information regarding circulating libraries are from 'The Library', published 1946.
i: These "tales" where written in a reforming spirit with the intent of shaming the upper classes by holding up their pettiness to ridicule. Tales of Fashionable Life was printed in six volumes comprising the novels: Ennui, Madame de Fleury, Almeria, The Dun, Manoeuvring, Vivian, Emilie de Coulanges and The Absentee.
j: Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) was one of Georgian Britains most proficient writers, her published works spanning the period 1800-1834. Most of her works can be downloaded here: Tales and Novels by Maria Edgeworth


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