Being an inquiry into extant instances of prolix and lapidary prefatory remarks upon a narrative.
November 16, 2009 6:03 AM   Subscribe

What are some good long-winded title pages from old books and novels?

I am looking for examples of the kinds of long-winded (and ornately lettered) title pages that used to appear in novels and other books before the 20th century.

You know the kind I mean: "Being the story of a young woman who sojourns into the depths of her soul, receiving kindness from many divers and unexpected personages".

In my mind I associate this with "loose baggy monster" novels from Dickens and Thackeray, although I can't think of any novels that actually do this at the beginning. Tristram Shandy, maybe?

I am looking for suggestions, and also places where I might view scans of these original pages online. I want to see the lettering and the layout, so Project Gutenberg won't quite give me what I need.

I saw a previous MeFi post about Victorian chapter headings, but I'm looking more specifically for title pages.
posted by meadowlark lime to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Seventeenth-century sermons are a good resource:

Fitch, John. An Holy Connexion; Or a True Agreement Between Jehovahs
Being a Wall of Fire to His People, and the Glory in the Midst
Thereof, Or a Word in Season to Stir up to a Solemn Acknowledgement of
the Gracious Protection of God over his People, and Especially to a
Holy Care that the Presence of God May Yet Be Continued with Us. As it
was Delivered in a Sermon Preached at Hartford on Conecticut in NE May
14, 1674, Being the Day of Election There
. Cambridge, Mass., 1674.

Hooker, Samuel. Righteousness Rained from Heaven, or a Serious and
Seasonable Discourse Exciting All to an Earnest Enquiry after, and
Continued Waiting for the Effusions of the Spirit, unto a
Communication and Increase of Righteousness: That Faith, Holiness and
Obedience May Yet Abound among Us, and the Wilderness Become a
Fruitful Field, As it Was Delivered in a Sermon Preached at Hartford
on Connecticut in New-England, May 10, 1677, Being the Day of Election
. Cambridge, Mass.: Samuel Green, 1677.
posted by languagehat at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2009

I'm partial to The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Etc. Who Was Born In Newgate, and During a Life of Continu'd Variety For Threescore Years, Besides Her Childhood, Was Twelve Year a Whore, Five Times a Wife [Whereof Once To Her Own Brother], Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon In Virginia, At Last Grew Rich, Liv'd Honest, and Died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums.

A copy of the original title page is found at page 35 in the Penguin Classics edition and can be seen at Google Books.

Wikipedia has a good sized image of the title page to The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years,
all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the coast of America,
near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque;
Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck,
where-in all the Men perished but himself.
With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates.
Written by Himself

posted by Phlogiston at 6:46 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

"The History of the Wars of New-England with the Eastern Indians, or a Narrative of Their Continued Perfidy and Cruelty, From the 10th of August, 1703, To the Peace renewed 13th of July, 1713, And from the 25th of July, 1722, To their Submission 15th December, 1725, Which was ratified August 5th, 1726m" By Samuel Penhallow. Source. Image of title page. (Click through the first few pages to get there.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:57 AM on November 16, 2009

Best answer: "Origins of Modernity" has a good collection of title page images, including one for the ever-popular "The pilgrim's progress : from this world to that which is to come delivered under the similitude of a dream wherein is discovered, the manner of his setting out, his dangerous journey, and safe arrival at the desired country."
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:09 AM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Good suggestions so far, everyone.

MonkeyToes, wow! The Origins of Modernity site is a gold mine. EXACTLY what I'm looking for.

Bonus question, can anyone suggest some typefaces to use if one wanted to create a replica of these title pages? I'm thinking mainly of the kind of lettering used for the largest words used in, for example, this one.
posted by meadowlark lime at 7:21 AM on November 16, 2009

Baskerville would be a good choice for a typeface. BTW, the initial S in "SIAM" on that page was set upside-down, which explains why it looks a little off.

Through the 18th century, and in many places even later, books were generally sold unbound, or at best lightly sewn together; the purchaser would have them bound. The title page served to advertise the book, much the way the cover or dustjacket does today. That explains the lengthy titles that include an overview of the contents.
posted by brianogilvie at 10:30 AM on November 16, 2009

I always liked Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson:

Memoirs of the Adventures of
David Balfour
in the Year 1751:
How He Was Kidnapped and Cast Away; His
Sufferings in a Desert Isle; His Journey
in the Wild Highlands; His Acquaintance
with Alan Breck Stewart and Other Notorious
Highland Jacobites; With All that He Suffered
at the Hands of His Uncle, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws,
Falsely So-Called;
Written by Himself and Now Set Forth by
Robert Louis Stevenson.

posted by Jelly at 10:49 AM on November 16, 2009

Caslon Antique always looks good for old-book pastiches.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:07 PM on November 16, 2009

I based my dissertation (in part) on the full title of Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews:
I think the full title is crucial to understanding the Adams character.
posted by MrMoonPie at 3:01 PM on November 16, 2009

This isn't quite that old, but it's a delightful parody of just what you're talking about. Plus, the book is just fantastic.
posted by dizziest at 7:39 PM on November 16, 2009

Many examples can be found in the Long Title entry on TV Tropes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:19 AM on November 17, 2009

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