Quaritch, Bernard (DNB01)

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QUARITCH, BERNARD (1819–1899), bookseller, born at Worbis, a village in Prussian Saxony, on 23 April 1819, was of Wendish origin. He was apprenticed to a bookseller in Nordhausen, remained with him from 1834 to 1839, and afterwards passed three years in a publishing house in Berlin. In 1842 he came to London and was employed for a couple of years in a subordinate position in the shop of Henry George Bohn [q. v.] of York Street, Covent Garden. Between 1844 and 1845 he lived in Paris with the bookseller, Théophile Barrois, then came back to London, and in 1846 was once more with Bohn, whom he helped to compile his classified catalogue of 1847. After a false start in Great Russell Street as an agent on his own account, Quaritch entered effectually into bookselling for himself in a very small way in April 1847 at 16 Castle Street, Leicester Square, now part of Charing-cross Road. In that year he was naturalised as a British subject, and in November he produced his first catalogue, a single leaf, entitled 'Quaritch's Cheap Book Circular.' By 1848 he was issuing, with approximate regularity, a monthly 'Catalogue of Foreign and English Books,' for which, between December 1854 and May 1864, the heading 'The Museum' was used, in order to secure favourable postage conditions as a stamped newspaper. He became known as a dealer in European and oriental linguistics about the time of the Crimean war. In 1854 he published Barker's 'Turkish Grammar,' in 1856 Redhouse's 'Turkish Dictionary,' Faris's 'Arabic Grammar' in 1857, Bleeck's 'Persian Grammar' in 1858, and Catafago's 'Arabic Dictionary' in 1858. An early notable purchase was that of a copy of the Mazarine bible for 595l. at the sale of the Bishop of Cashel's library in February 1858; within a space of forty years no less than six separate copies of this rare and costly book were in his possession. His first large catalogue was published in 1858, a volume with about five thousand articles. He removed in 1860 to 15 Piccadilly, where he remained for the rest of his life, but retained the Castle Street shop as a warehouse. A complete catalogue of his stock, with an index, describing about seven thousand works, was produced in 1860. He purchased extensively at the Libri sales in 1859 and 1861, and at the Van Alstein sale ; at Ghent in 1863, and issued an enlarged catalogue in 1864.

Nearly one half of the books of the Perkins sale (1873) were acquired by Quaritch, who in the same year purchased the non-scientific portion of the Royal Society's Norfolk Library. These accretions helped to form the basis of his 'Bibliotheca Xylographica, Typographica, et Palaeographica : Catalogue of Block Books and of early Productions of the Printing Press in all Countries, and a Supplement of Manuscripts' (October 1873, 8vo, pp. 167). In this remarkable catalogue, the best of the kind that had yet been produced by a bookseller, the books are arranged under the names of towns and printers, with descriptions of nearly seventeen hundred examples from the earliest presses. It is included in a large volume published in 1874, of which another division was devoted to romances of chivalry, early fiction, and popular books, arranged on a novel system, the romances under the headings of their respective cycles, with original introductions and notes. Another highly interesting section was that of Americana, early books of travel, and editions of the Latin Ptolemy. The execution of these special catalogues is due to Mr. Michael Kerney, who since 1862 had been Quaritch's chief cataloguer and was hence-forward his trusted literary adviser. In these and subsequent catalogues all the scholarly descriptions of the chief rarities, the manuscripts, and the oriental literature were by the same hand, whose merit and usefulness Quaritch always freely acknowledged. The purchases at Sir William Tite's sale in 1874 amounted to 9,500l., and with other additions to a rapidly growing stock were described in a large 'Supplemental Catalogue' (1877). With its predecessor it included 44,324 articles, or about two hundred thousand volumes. A large number of precious books from the first and second Didot sales (1878-9) fell into his hands, and in September 1880 he published an immense catalogue, six and three-eighths inches thick, weighing nine pounds fifteen ounces, and containing 2,395 pages with an extensive index, perhaps the most bulky tome ever produced by a second-hand bookseller (Notes and Queries, 6th ser. iii. 341-3).

The achievements of the Didot sales were followed by a series of triumphs as the principal purchase of rare and important articles at the following London auctions : David Laing's library (1879) ; the Ramirez Mexican collection (1880) ; the great Sunderland-Marlborough library (1881-3) ; the Beckford-Hamilton collections (1882-4) ; Sir John Thorold's Syston Park library (1884); the Osterley Park Jersey library (1885) ; the fine stock of a retiring bookseller, F. S. Ellis, in the same year ; Mr. Wodhull's collection, and Dr. Shadford Walker's books (1886), Gibson Craig's library (1887), a part of the Seilliere collection sold in London (1887) ; the Hopetoun library as well as that of Frederick Perkins in the same year; R. S. Turner's library in 1888; Lord Crawford's 'turn-outs' in 1887-1889 ; the partial sale of the Hamilton manuscripts in 1889 ; Mr. Gaisford's fine English ollection in 1890 ; Lord Ashburnham's library of valuable printed books in 1897-8, and the partial sale of his manuscripts in 1899 ; the collections of William Morris and the Rev. J. Makellar in 1898. He also took the most prominent position as purchaser at certain French sales during the same period ; the rare Americana of A. Pinart in 1883, and of Dr. Court in 1884; the Seilliere sales in 1890-3, and the various stages of the sale of the Salva-Heredia collection in 1892-3.

The various catalogues previously mentioned were issued from time to time in sections as they were ready, and these separate publications with many occasional rough lists of recent purchases extended to nearly five hundred in number. The last complete record of his stock was a 'General Catalogue of Old Books and Manuscripts' (1887-8, index 1892, 7 vols. 8vo, also in large paper with portrait), increased by special supplements between 1894 and 1897 to about twelve volumes, a monument of bookselling enterprise, and of considerable bibliographical value, alike as a criterion of price and for the extraordinary quantity of choice specimens described therein.

Quaritch's activity gradually diminished during the last few years of his life, but never to any striking degree. In the course of a successful career extending over more than fifty years he developed the most extensive trade in old books in the world. The classes to which he gave special attention were natural history, fine arts, archæology, travels, periodicals, and oriental learning, but he was chiefly known as a dealer in incunabula, fine manuscripts, bibles, liturgies, Shakespeareana, early English literature, Americana and cartography, and historic bindings. As a general rule he was attracted rather by the qualities of price and rarity than by that of fine condition. Some of his accumulations were dispersed by public auctions in London and Paris in his later years. The methods of his first English employer, Henry Bohn, always greatly influenced him, and like Bohn, but to a less degree, he bought remainders of expensive books, such as Owen Jones's 'Grammar of Ornament' and Westwood's 'Facsimiles of Anglo-Saxon and Irish Manuscripts.' He published many works, among them being the first four editions of Fitzgerald's ' Omar Khayyam,' and was the agent for the publications of the British Museum and the Society of Antiquaries. Either personally or by deputy he attended every important book auction in Europe and America, and the high prices fetched at sales during the last thirty years were largely the result of his spirited biddings. He determined that, unless amateur buyers entrusted their commissions to him, they should be unsuccessful bidders.

From the commencement to the end of a commercial career which only ceased. with life, Quaritch's thoughts were centred in his shop; he had no relaxations and took few holidays. He was a man of strong character, shrewd, unyielding, irascible, energetic, industrious. He had read and thoroughly digested a few books, chiefly on history and ethnology, but did not belong to the race of studious booksellers, for he had no wide acquaintance with books, except through the titles of those in current demand, and cared nothing for learning and literature in themselves.

He was fond of airing his views on politics and sociology in catalogue notes. He was not without social qualities, but he never allowed them to interfere with the due allotment of time to affairs. He was one of the chief founders of the dining-club known as 'The Sette of Odd Volumes,' of which he was the first president (1878), occupying the same office in 1879 and 1882. A somewhat squat and awkward figure, occasionally rough manners, irrepressible egotism, pithy sayings, half humorous, half sardonic, delivered in a grating voice, combined to form an interesting if not a very attractive personality.

He died at Belsize Grove, Hampstead, on 17 Dec. 1899, in his eighty-first year. After his death his business was carried on by Mr. Bernard Quaritch, his son.

His original publications were confined to a couple of pamphlets one addressed to Gladstone suggesting that the franchise should be extended to all persons willing to bear arms (1866), and a letter to General Starring on allegations of fraud in his dealings with the United States customs house (1880). Some lectures delivered before 'The Sette of Odd Volumes' on learned societies and printing clubs (1883, 1886), and liturgical history (1887), and a 'Catalogue of an Exhibition of Manuscripts and Early Printed Books' (1885), also printed for the 'Sette,' which appeared under his name, were probably due to friendly assistance. The same may be said of the text which accompanied the 'Collection of Facsimiles of Bookbinding' (1889), 'Notes on the History of Historic Bookbinding' (1891), the 'Collection of Facsimiles from Illuminated MSS.' (1889), the 'Catalogue of Mediæval Literature' (1890), and 'Palæography: Notes on the History of Writing' (1894).

[Biographical notice in Bigmore and Wyman's Bibliography of Printing, 1884, iii. 230-234, with engraved portrait, the letterpress printed as B. Q.; A Fragment, by C. W. H. Wyman, 1880 (Odd Volumes), extended in article in the Royal Album of Arts and Industries, 1887, 4to; see also Atlantic Monthly, June 1900, pp. 843-8; Times, 19 Dec. 1899, p. 6; Athenæum, 23 Dec. 1899, p. 865; Academy, 23 Dec. 1899, p. 748; Bookseller, 12 Jan. 1900, p. 9; Publishers' Circular, 23 Dec. 1899, p. 673 (portrait); Illustrated London News, 30 Dec. 1899 (portrait).]

H. R. T.