Blog Archives

Copies in private collections

I’m trying to trace as many copies of Robert Lowth’s grammar that might still be around. Alston’s inventoy of 1965 is understandably incomplete after forty years, and I discovered that libraries possess copies of the grammar that are not in Alston. Many copies must be in people’s private possession; I myself, for instance, own copies of Lowth, Murray, Fisher, Fenning, Ward, and Fenn. So if you would let me know whether you possess copies of Lowth’s grammar, I could compile a list of addenda much like the one Maria Rodriguez-Gil published for Ann Fisher in HSL/SHL.

Everyday English after 1700?

This term I made use of Bridget Cusack’s reader called Everyday English 1500-1700 (1998). It is a very interesting collection of different text types, that seem of great interest to historical sociolinguistic studies. I wonder if there is anything like that for the Late Modern period?

Influence of normative grammars

Frans Wilhelm, in his PhD dissertation English in the Netherlands (2005), distinguishes three aspects that might help in determining a grammar’s influence: frequency of publication, circulation time, availability (p. 315). This seems a worthwhile approach, and for English grammars published before 1800 I can see that Alston’s bibliography would give information on the first two of these, but how would you find out about a book’s availability?

Codifiers in Wikipedia

Great news!

My colleague Anita Auer came across the entry for John Ash in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, and …

They mention us!

If you look under references you will find a link to our LUCL (Leiden University Centre for Linguistics) website, and the description of our project.


Priestley and the Low Countries

According to Pieter Loonen, in his book For to learne to buye and sell: Learning English in the Low Dutch area between 1500 and 1800. A critical survey (1990), George Ensell’s Grammar of the English language (1797) was partly based on the first edition of Priestley’s grammar (1761) (Loonen 1990:112).

First workshop

Our first workshop, called Grammars, Grammarians and Grammar Writing, will take place in two weeks time. Guest speakers are Richard Watts and Jane Hodson. Papers are already coming in for prior distribution, and the people here are busy  rounding off theirs. Do let us know if you wish to be kept informed of the results of the workshop.

Daniel Fenning

I came across THIS interesting article on Daniel Fenning by Frances Austin. Apparently, the authorship of his New Grammar of the English Language, of which I happened to possess a copy of a later edition, is disputed, since he died in 1767, four years before the grammar came out.


I’m collecting titles of published correspondences for the collection in HSL/SHL. Additions are welcome, and will be always be acknowledged!

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octavo/duodecimo problems

Could anyone help me unravel the problem of how books are decided to be labelled octavo, duodecimo and so on? I know how the system works: folio, quarto, octavo, duodecimo and so on, but I found copies of the same book labelled octavo and sedecimo when they were also said to measure 17 cms. I got completely confused as a result. So help will be greatly appreciated.

print runs of 18thc grammar books

Could anyone help me find out how large print runs of books were in the eighteenth century?