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Papers of the Board of Longitude : Printers' and publishers' accounts

Papers of the Board of Longitude

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Accounts, receipts, correspondence and official appointments from between 1766 and 1829 related to the publications put out by the Board of Longitude. It is a continuation of the contents in <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00015'> (RGO 14/15)</a> and forms a partial financial record of the body in conjunction with volumes <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00002'> (RGO 14/2)</a> and <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00015'> (RGO 14/15)</a> through <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00021'> (RGO 14/21)</a>. There is some overlap between these volumes with, for example, receipts and accounts related to publishing also appearing in volume <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00015'> (RGO 14/15)</a>. As the Board institutionalised and became more active from the 1760s on, the preparation and publication of tables, texts and sometimes accompanying diagrams became one of its central pursuits. This often fell under the auspices of the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] until his death in 1811 and then (with more mixed results) under his successor John Pond. Derek Howse has estimated that out of about £157,000 spent over the body's 114-year existence, £45,000 were applied to publications, with a return profit of £26,000. [Derek House, 'Britain's Board of Longitude: The Finances, 1714-1828', <i>The Mariner's Mirror</i> 84(4), 1998, pp. 400-417.]</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The publications were generally intended to describe or facilitate the use of new and improved approaches to finding the longitude at sea and to general navigation, or to provide accounts of other work rewarded by the Board and of Board-assisted activities. They included the annual <i>Nautical Almanac</i> (much represented in this volume) and other astronomical works and associated tables, accounts of the work done and trials undergone by chronometer makers like John Harrison [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] and instrument makers like John Bird [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>], accounts of voyages of 'science' and exploration to which the Board contributed such as those of James Cook [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] and those to observe Transits of Venus, and accounts of other 'scientific' and technological efforts to which the Board contributed such as pendulum experiments. The Commissioners also occasionally published accounts of communal and individual activity which were intended as evidence or arguments in conflicts including those which took place between the Commissioners and various chronometer makers (including Harrison and Thomas Mudge) and the decades-long effort in collaboration with the Royal Society to obtain and publish the observations of the late Astronomer Royal James Bradley.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The records in this volume shed light on the print runs of such publications, but also on the relevant internal workings of the Board and on its dealings with actors including tradesmen, computers, comparers, authors, editors, revisors and warehouse operators - and sometimes with the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> executors (RGO 14/16:426)</a> of deceased actors. They reveal the types of negotiations and socio-economic networking which often underpinned the preparation, publication and sale, for example in the discussion of the details and numbers for each print run. In addition, some of these papers reveal broader socio-economic networks and a multitude of gestures of patronage, flattery and collaboration, such as in the lists of the individuals and institutions across Europe who were to receive presentation copies of texts <i>gratis</i> and in back-and-forth with foreign institutions such as the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> Royal Danish Sea Chart Office (RGO 14/16:461)</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>There is also some information on the advertising and posting of publications, and about the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> Board's warehouse (RGO 14/16:287)</a> from 1782 to 1826. For much of its institutional history, the Board shared warehouse space for publications and instruments with the Royal Society, although the two groups' contents were kept separate. This reflects how interrelated the institutions were, both in the sense of their collaborating on many 'scientific' and technological activities including voyages and in the sense of their having overlapping members including the President of the Society. Interestingly, in 1819 the Clerk and Librarian of the Royal Society Stephen Lee<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> asked for a reimbursement (RGO 14/16:301)</a> of ₤80 because he had been paying the warehouse keeper ₤10 per annum for upwards of eight years to keep up the Board's side (as had the late George Gilpin before him) but had never been paid by the Board. In 1826, just two years before the abolition of the Board, a <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> offered (RGO 14/16:303)</a> to partition out a room just for the use of the group at his premises near Regent's Park - an offer which the Commissioners accepted.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>There are also a number of records here of the cost of transporting books and other goods, often on to or off of ships. See for example the receipt of payment made by <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> Gilpin to (RGO 14/16:320)</a> for carriage of Board property off of ships in 1795, the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> letter (RGO 14/16:320)</a> from Charles Fenwick to Board Secretary Thomas Young (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>portrait</a> at the National Portrait Gallery) regarding a bill of 'lading' in 1824 for carriage of 100 printed books, and the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> invoice (RGO 14/16:327)</a> from Messrs Smith, Lundin and Company in 1821 for transporting a box of books. The volume includes a number of documents related to the Board activities described in some of the publications as well. This is partially a result of the later Astronomer Royal George Airy having tried in 1858 to sort the extant Board archives into thematic volumes, likely extracting many of these records from others related to the different expeditions and projects.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>For example, there is a <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> letter (RGO 14/16:316)</a> from Nevil Maskelyne in 1782 regarding the observations made by the astronomer William Bayly during the voyage of the Discovery, which says that Bayly should be paid for his work on the last voyage of discovery since the results have now gone to print. There are also <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> expense sheets (RGO 14/16:330)</a> of costs incurred by Captain Kates during the trigonometrical survey between London and Paris in 1822, and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> accounts (RGO 14/16:335)</a> related to Lieutenant Foster's pendulum experiments of 1824 to 1828. The latter include <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> records (RGO 14/16:340)</a> of the well-known optician George Dollond charging for instruments, instrument repairs and alterations, and stationing and carriage - as well as those regarding the printing of 1500 of Fosters's pendulum forms in 1828. (There are records here related to a number of individuals' pendulum experiments, since it was a popular pursuit especially during the later years of the Board's existence.)</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Notes from the marine timekeeper or chronometer maker John Arnold<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> seek payment (RGO 14/16:307)</a> in 1785 for his repairs to the large timekeeper for the Royal Observatory, and later <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> provide a receipt (RGO 14/16:309)</a> in 1797 for the cost of repairing a watch to be lent to Captain Knight. There are even <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> receipts (RGO 14/16:385)</a> for a portable expedition observatory ordered from Nathan Smith for the use of William Gooch in 1791, and <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> receipts (RGO 14/16:474)</a> for tools and chemical agents and the like ordered by the Glass Committee between 1827 and 1829. Sometimes, these records can be linked to papers elsewhere in the archives. A <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> receipt (RGO 14/16:438)</a> here from the London instrument makers W. & S. Jones and <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00004-00149/83'> letters (RGO 4/149:39)</a> in RGO 4/149 both commemorate Maskelyne giving four computers of the <i>Nautical Almanac</i>, including the long-serving Mary Edwards and Henry Andrews, relatively fancy globes with accoutrements in 1810. In addition to the many such receipts and used cheques which appear in this volume, there are also <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> unused cheques (RGO 14/16:575)</a> from Messrs Coutts and Co., followed by many cheque stubs.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Since Airy <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00015/'> sorted (RGO 14/15:1)</a> many of the papers in this volume according to the individual printer or Commissioner primarily involved, or by the specific publication or event being covered such as a specific voyage or set of experiments, it must be remembered that these and the other financial documents in the RGO volumes are partial and heavily weighted towards the final decades of the Board's existence. This is due to a combination of the body's having become much more active from the 1760s on and of some earlier documents have been lost or archived elsewhere, or having been judged irrelevant to the official history because they predate the beginning of known communal meetings in 1737. Therefore, there are no records here from about a half century of relevant events, including almost three decades of collaboration with John Harrison.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Alexi Baker<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /></p>

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