Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Moss, Joseph William
MOSS, JOSEPH WILLIAM (1803–1862), bibliographer, was born at Dudley, Worcestershire, in 1803. He matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, 21 March 1820, and while an undergraduate developed an ardent interest in classical bibliography. He graduated B.A. 1825, M.A. 1827, M.B. 1829, and settled in practice at Dudley.
He was elected fellow of the Royal Society on 18 Feb. 1830, but published nothing of a scientific nature. In 1847 he removed from Dudley to Longdon, near Lichfield, and in 1848 to the Manor House, Upton Bishop, near Ross, Herefordshire. In 1853 he again removed, to Hill Grove House, Wells, Somerset, where he died 23 May 1862. Towards the end of his life he was regarded as an eccentric recluse.
His claim upon posterity rests entirely upon his 'Manual of Classical Bibliography,' which, he says, was put to press early in 1823. The work was published in 1825, in two volumes, containing upwards of 1250 closely printed pages; and, considering the extreme youth of the author he was not quite one-and-twenty it is a very remarkable production. The advertisements declare that the 'Manual' combines the advantages of the 'Introduction' of Thomas Dibdin [q. v.], the 'Catalogues Raisonnés' of De Bure, and the 'Manuel' of Brunet. The author claimed to have consulted upwards of three thousand volumes, exclusive of innumerable editions and commentaries, to have produced a work fuller and more critical than the similar works by Michael Maittaire [q. v.], Dr. Edward Harwood [q. v.], and Dibdin, and to have been the first to include notices of critical publications connected with each author, together with the literary history of the translations made into the principal languages of Europe. In spite of very serious omissions, both among the editions and the translations, of some gross blunders, and of a lack of critical insight, the book remains a standard work of reference, especially with those who study the subsequent depreciation in the market value of editions of the classics.
Favourable reviews of the 'Manual' appeared in the 'Literary Chronicle' (1825), in the 'News of Literature' (1825), and in the Gentleman's Magazine' (1825, Suppl.) On the other hand, the 'Literary Gazette' (1825), in three articles, severely attacked the book. A detailed reply from Moss was subsequently issued with the publishers' advertisement, and with the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for September' 1825. In it Moss admits that he had borrowed the plan of his work from Dibdin, and claims, like Adam Clarke [q. v.], to have included the whole of Harwood's opinions. The 'Literary Magazine' published a rejoinder.
The 'Manual' was reprinted, with a new title-page, but with no corrections, in 1837, by Bohn. A 'Supplement,' compiled by the publisher, brings down the lists to 1836, and claims to supply omissions. The 'Supplement' is an indifferent catalogue, in which editions already noticed by Moss are wrongly included, and opinions of their merits wholly at variance with those pronounced by the author are quoted.
Three new works by Moss are announced in the reprint, viz., a 'Lexicon Aristotelicum,' a 'Catalogue Raisonné of the Collection of an Amateur,' and an edition of 'Lucretius ' on an elaborate scale. But, though the first two were said to be in the press, none of these books appeared.
[Moss's Manual of Classical Bibliography; Allibone's Dict. of English Lit.; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Gent. Mag. 1850, 1862; advertisements of the Literary Chronicle, 1825; the reviews above mentioned; information communicated.]