Mapping 18th-century grammar writers in the British Isles (and beyond)

Nuria Yáñez-Bouza, School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, Linguistics and English Language, The University of Manchester


The aim of this paper is two-fold: to unearth the origins and whereabouts of 18th-century grammar writers, the codifiers of the English language in the age of prescriptivism, and to show the value of the Eighteenth-Century English Grammars database as a new tool for qualitative and quantitative studies in the field of the 18th-century grammatical tradition. More precisely, I will look into two locative factors little explored hitherto, namely the place of birth of the authors and the place where they lived, taught and/or wrote, each of which is analysed by country, county and city in the fullest detail possible. It is hoped that the research presented here will shed light on the backstage of English grammar-writing practices and will lay the ground for further investigations in 18th-century English studies.

1. Introduction

The aim of this paper is to offer new insights into the history of 18th-century grammar writing in the British Isles and, to a lesser extent, America and some foreign countries. More precisely, my study focuses on 18th-century grammar writers, described by Finegan as “a disparate band of independent entrepreneurs” who took upon themselves the task of codifying the English language (1998: 536). Research in this field has been primarily focused on the product of those ‘entrepreneurs’, the grammars in which the standard of English was laid down (e.g. Michael 1970; Sundby et al. 1991; Görlach 2001). Studies about the authors of the grammars have only recently started to thrive (see Rodríguez-Gil (2002) on Ann Fisher; Hodson (2006; 2008) and Straaijer (2011) on Joseph Priestley; Navest (2011) on Ellenor Fenn and John Ash; Tieken-Boon van Ostade (2011) on Robert Lowth; Fens-de Zeeuw (2011) on Lindley Murray). [1] In order to fill the gap, this paper aims to unearth the origins and whereabouts of the grammar writers: who they were, and to what extent they were 'independent' and 'entrepreneurs'. Two locative factors are under scrutiny: the place of birth (Section 3.1) and the place of residence (Section 3.2). In addition to examining each factor separately, patterns arising between the two factors are also discussed (Section 3.3). For instance: did provincial writers tend to stay in the provinces where they were born or did they tend to move to the capital, the centre of culture and polite society? If/when there was geographical mobility, which countries were involved? In which direction? And to what extent?

The data for this study have been retrieved from the Eighteenth-Century English Grammars database (henceforth ECEG), a new electronic data source which contains detailed bibliographic information about approximately 340 grammars of the English language (1700-1800) and biographical information about over 80% of their authors. A second aim of this paper is thus to demonstrate the value of the database as a tool for qualitative and quantitative studies: how ECEG can provide more than a list of grammars and grammar writers, how it can shed new light on hitherto little explored areas of the 18th-century grammatical tradition. An outline of the design and contents of the database is presented in Section 2, while full details on the methodological principles can be found in Rodríguez-Gil & Yáńez-Bouza (2009) and on the ECEG website. [2]

The paper ends with a summary of the main findings and with suggestions for further/future research (Section 4).

2. The ECEG database

2.1. Aims and design

The primary aim of ECEG was to compile an up-to-date source bank of information about 18th-century grammars of the English language, which can be used mainly but not only for studies on the 18th-century grammatical tradition. In line with Beal’s remark that it is only recently that a number of scholars “challenged [the] monolithic view of 18th-century grammars, turning to the original texts and viewing them and their authors in their social and intellectual context of their time” (2004: 90, emphasis added), on designing the database we had two main objectives in mind: the grammars and the grammar writers. ECEG thus presents itself as a bio-bibliographic data source: more than a bibliographic directory of grammars (e.g. Alston 1965) and more than a biographical bank about grammar writers (e.g. Stammerjohann et al. 1996; Koerner 2008). In her account of normative studies in England, Tieken-Boon van Ostade had pointed out that “[a]s a result of publications such as Alston’s bibliography (1965), his reprint series (1974), Michael (1970; 1987), Vorlat (1975, 1979) and Sundby et al. (1991), it is now possible to give a more detailed description of the latter stages of the standardisation process of the [English] language” (2000a: 876, emphasis added). It was our aim, too, to provide a more detailed description of the primary sources that led to the standardisation process by compiling in a single data source full information documented in earlier bibliographies, indexes and collections. [3] ECEG thus provides the growing research community with a free online tool which will spare the time-consuming tasks of sifting and cross-checking information.

Crucially for the understanding of the 18th-century grammatical tradition and grammar-writing practices, the scope of the term 'English grammar' in ECEG goes beyond the traditional, narrow view of grammar as grammar book. The database also considers grammars prefixed to (i) dictionaries and encyclopaedias; (ii) works concerned with philosophy of the language; (iii) rhetoric and elocution treatises; (iv) letter-writing manuals; (v) polyglot grammars, if written to help readers acquire a knowledge of the English language; (vi) spelling books; and (vii) books of exercises. We thus prefer to refer to the authors of the grammars in ECEG as 'authors' or 'grammar writers', rather than 'grammarians'.

The data have been coded in the fullest detail possible according to twenty-one different fields, thematically grouped in three major categories: Grammars, Authors and References. Table 1 provides the complete list and a brief description of the sub-fields where relevant.

Each record is coded according to twenty fields, with further sub-classifications, as described in Table 1 below. One of the greatest advantages of the format of ECEG is that it is a relational (Microsoft Access) database, which enables us to carry out individual or combined searches, including data subsets. One can also rearrange queries, download and print results, and export them to Word files and/or Excel spreadsheets, where the information can be edited. A variety of reports can be designed as well.

Table 1. Description of fields in the ECEG database.

1 Title Full title including printing details.
2 Year Of the first edition or the earliest edition containing a grammar of English.
3 Edition First edition or earliest edition containing a grammar of English.
4 Editions All editions cited in the literature (including editions of copies not located).
5 Place of Printing (PoP) [4] Country, County, City/Town.
6 Printers As on the imprint.
7 Booksellers As on the imprint.
8 Price As on the imprint.
9 Physical Description format, number of pages, etc.
10 Type of Work English (‘distinct’) grammar, Dictionary, Book of exercises, Language (including Rhetoric/Elocution treatises), Letter-writing manual, Polyglot grammars, Spelling books
11 Divisions of Grammar Primary contents: Orthography, Orthoepy, Etymology, Syntax, Prosody.
12 Subsidiary Contents Punctuation, Rhetoric material, Examples of bad English, Examples of handwriting, Snatches of history/geography, Logic, etc.
13 Target Audience Categories: Age, Gender, Instruction, Specific Purpose. [5]
14 Name Surname, Forename
15 Gender Male, Female, Anonymous
16 Place of Birth (PoB) Country, County, City/Town.
17 Occupation Books, Education, Politics, Religion, Science, Writing, Other. [6]
18 Biographical details e.g. Age, Place of Residence (PoR), Acquaintances, Other writings.
19 Holding libraries At the present day. First extant edition consulted only.
20 Reference sources Literature from which the primary sources have been drawn. (See note 3.)
21 Comments Observations/Corrections

The online version of the database consists of two interfaces: browse and search, as shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2, respectively. One of the greatest advantages of ECEG's design is that it is built as a relational (Microsoft Access) database, which enables users to carry out individual or combined searches, also within data subsets. For instance, Figure 2 displays the search for authors who are male (field 'gender'), teachers (field 'occupation', subfield 'education'), and born in England (field 'place of birth', subfield 'country'). In addition, the search results can be downloaded to the user's computer in .cvs or .xls (Excel) format.

The findings reported in this paper result from a pilot study based on an early version of the database as in July 2008; the data in the final version of ECEG (2010) may thus vary slightly. At the time of writing this paper, the ECEG database consisted of 348 English grammars written by 292 different authors. We had been able to identify 234 authors (ca. 80%, ‘named authors’). Of some of the anonymous authors we know their initials, e.g. J.G., J.J., W.R. We believe our inventory is fairly complete, especially as far as authorship is concerned (cf. Michael 1970: 4; Sundby et al. 1991: 14-15), but one must be aware that this project is open-ended and that gaps are unfortunately inevitable. As Stoker (1995: 11) rightly pointed out, “[h]ow many other publications there were during the century, which have failed to survive”, or which might still be in private hands, “is anyone’s guess” (see also Michael 1970: 2-3; Tieken-Boon van Ostade 2008a: 112). [7]

2.2. Locative factors in the ECEG database

ECEG contains information on three locative factors: the grammars’ place of printing (PoP), the grammar writers’ place of birth (PoB) and the grammar writers’ place of residence/teaching/writing (PoR) (see no. 5, no. 16 and no. 18 in Table 1 above, respectively). This paper will concentrate on the latter two.

Previous studies on the 18th-century grammatical tradition have occasionally commented on the PoP of the grammars (Sundby et al. 1991: 14-15; Alston 1965: Appendix I) but only briefly on the PoB of the grammar writers (Leonard 1929: 179, fn. 51; Michael 1970: Appendix VI). None, to the best of my knowledge, has provided an account of the authors’ PoR, nor have I come across attempts to correlate any two or even the three of these locative factors. When mentioned, comments have been mostly restricted to the analysis by country; for instance, Leonard (1929: 179, fn. 51) gives the approximate figures of 25 English grammar writers, 14 as “either probably Scotchmen or Irishmen”, and 12 Americans; while Görlach (2001: 31-32, fn. 20) makes the point that “[n]o statistics are available for the ratio of Irish and Scottish authors” but believes that “the Scottish contribution is certainly more substantial”. [8] ECEG fills the lacunae, firstly, by covering data in and beyond the British Isles and, secondly, by offering a three-fold classification in terms of country, county and city/town, thereby providing a more comprehensive, fine-grained picture of the grammar writing tradition. The database documents 6 different country categories, 75 different counties, and over 225 different cities/towns, though not all of them occur in the three categories. The country category is divided into two main groups: (a) within the British Isles and (b) beyond the British Isles. The former includes England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland [9]. The latter is subdivided in two groups: (i) America, including a mysterious grammar printed in 1750(?) in St. John’s, in Antigua & Barbuda; and (ii) some foreign (mainly European) countries. It must be emphasised that the information regarding grammars/grammar writers beyond the British Isles is relatively rarer; as Stoker (1995:12-13) argued in his study of the English Short-Title Catalogue, “[t]his is a reflection of both what has survived and what has been collected by the major academic and research libraries which have so far been the major [sources in] the project”.

A note on historical counties

In order to make the best use of the data in ECEG, the geographical classification was based on the division of historic counties as laid out in the Gazetteer of British Place Names and the Association of British Counties, a society which promotes "awareness of the continuing importance of the eighty-six historic (or traditional) Counties of Great Britain" (ABC website). As explained in the Gazetteer, these historic counties are "geographical entities" which have "a separate existence" from the administrative and registration counties established by the Local Government Act 1888, later reformed by the Local Government Act 1972; in fact, neither of these acts abolished or altered their geographical distribution (Gazetteer, §§4.3.1-4.3.3). Most of the English historic counties pre-date the Norman conquest, while the Welsh and Scottish counties date back to the sixteenth century; unlike the administrative distribution, the historic counties seem to have undergone "little change over the centuries" (Gazetteer, §4.2.1). The list of counties for England (39), Scotland (34) and Wales (13) is presented in alphabetic order in the Appendix below. For the sake of consistency, the map displayed in this paper is the one provided on the ABC website. Given that Ireland is not included in the Gazetteer, the geographical distribution of counties (32) and the illustrative map have been drawn from Raymond Hickey’s project Discover Irish. The 6 historic counties of present-day Northern Ireland and the 26 traditional counties of today’s Republic of Ireland were shired by 1607; only 2 counties of the latter have changed name under the Government of Ireland Act in 1920, namely Queen’s county, now Laois, and King’s county, now Offaly. In addition, we have also relied extensively on earlier work by book historians, such as Alston (1984), Mitchell (1987) and Stoker (1995).

3. Mapping 18th-century grammar writers

The discussion of the findings is two-fold. Firstly, I will attempt to examine the overall trends and identify the most popular geographical pockets for each of the factors. Key questions to be answered are: where did 18th-century grammar writers (tend to) come from? (Section 3.1) and where did they (tend to) write their grammars, live and teach? (Section 3.2). After discussing the trends, in the second part of this study I aim to unearth hitherto little explored patterns, and in some cases unexplored, between the origins and whereabouts of the codifiers (Section 3.3). Questions arise such as: did 18th-century grammar writers (tend to) live/teach/write in the place where they were born? Was there geographic mobility? If so, in which direction, e.g. England to Scotland or Scotland to England? And to what extent? It is hoped that the insights obtained from the answers to these questions will open the path for further investigation into (potential) differences in the nature of the grammars; for instance, those written by English-born grammar writers as compared to e.g. Scots (see Yáñez-Bouza 2011b). Another crucial issue this paper aims to shed light on is the extent to which 18th-century grammar writers were ‘independent’, as Finegan (1998: 536) had suggested, or whether we can identify common trends as to suggest they constituted a ‘discourse community’, in Watts’s (2008) terms. Although geographical proximity is not necessary for the establishment of such communities (Wenger 1998: 74; quoted in Watts 2008: 43), this study will help identify geographical pockets around Britain, and to some extent America, where communities of grammar writers might have developed, perhaps while having a coffee or reading a magazine in the same fashionable coffee-house.

3.1. 18th-century grammar writers’ place of birth

Little attention has been paid in the literature to the place of birth of the ‘entrepreneurs’. As mentioned earlier, in ECEG we have identified 234 grammar writers, ca. 80%, and we have been able to locate the PoB of 84 of them (ca. 30% of the grand total). One may be tempted to assume that most authors were of British origin, but unless there was conclusive evidence to state so we have opted for leaving this field empty. Note, for instance, that we may conjecture that a particular author was British but we cannot be precise as to whether he/she was English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish; in fact, they may well have been of American origin but had their grammar printed in England (e.g. Lindley Murray).

Table 2 below displays the distribution of the authors’ PoB by country and Table 3 shows the data by county and city/town. Map 1 and Map 2 plot the findings accordingly, within and beyond the British Isles, by countries and counties. The trends are discussed in turn in the paragraphs that follow.

Table 2. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of Birth by country.

  Authors % PoB (84) % Grand Total (292)
England 49 58% 17%
Scotland 18 22% 6%
Ireland 4 5% 1%
Wales 1 1% 0.3%
America 10 12% 3%
Foreign 2 2% 1%
Total PoB 84 100 % 29 %
Unknown 208 -- 71%
Total Named 234 36% 80 %


Table 3. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of Birth by county and city/town.

  PoB_County PoB_City
  Authors Counties % Authors Cities %
England 49 24 62% 39 34 68%
Scotland 9 6 15% 16 7 14%
Ireland 4 4 10% 4 4 8%
Wales 1 1 3% 1 1 2%
America 3 2 5% 3 3 6%
Foreign 2 2 5% 1 1 2%
Total 68 39 100% 64 50 100%

18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of Birth in the British Isles.

Map 1. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of Birth in the British Isles.

18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of Birth beyond the British Isles.

Map 2. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of Birth beyond the British Isles.

Let us start with the geographical distribution by countries (Table 2). Of the 84 authors whose PoB has been identified, 49 were born in England (58%), 18 in Scotland (22%), 4 in Ireland (5%), and only 1, to our knowledge, was born in Wales (1%). This adds up to 72 authors of British origin (85%). Beyond the British Isles, we find 10 grammar writers born in North America (12%). In addition to these native English-speaking authors, we have identified 2 of foreign origin (2%), namely the French Michael Maittaire and Anthony Benezet. These particular authors have been included in ECEG in line with the criteria of our core reference studies (e.g. Alston 1965; Michael 1970, 1987). As Sundby et al. (1991: 15) put it, the reason is that they are “naturalized English speakers”; in other words, they spent most of their lives in Britain/America, they taught and/or wrote their works in Britain/America and they published their grammar of English, written in English, in Britain/America. It remains to be said that there are 208 grammar writers whose PoB is (as yet) unknown to us (71%); of these, 149 are named (51%) and 59 are anonymous authors (20%).

If we take a closer look at the data by counties, Table 3 reveals similar trends in frequency – so it happens too as far as cities/towns are concerned. To begin with England (illustrated with black dots on Map 1), according to the ABC there are 39 historical counties and ECEG has records of authors born in 24. Two counties stand out: Middlesex, county of London, with 6 authors from various boroughs, such as Nathan Bailey from Whitechapel and Daniel Bellamy from Holborn; and Yorkshire, with 5 authors (mainly from the West Riding), like Joseph Priestley from Birstall and John Clarke from York.

Five scattered counties were home to 2 grammar writers each, namely Suffolk (e.g. Ellenor Fenn of Westhorpe), Worcestershire (e.g. John Baskerville of Wolverley), the neighbouring Gloucestershire (e.g. John Collet Ryland of Bourton-on-the-Water), the south-west county of Dorset (e.g. John Ash of Stockland), and the northern county of Cumberland (e.g. Ann Fisher of Lorton). Anecdotally, the clergyman and grammarian John Kirkby (c.1705–1754), tutor to Edward Gibbon, claimed to have been born in the county of Cumberland but the register of the University of Cambridge notes Londesborough, in East Yorkshire (ODNB).

A total of 17 counties are represented by a single author only; for instance, John Newbery of Berkshire (Waltham St Lawrence), Ralph Harrison of Derbyshire (Buxton), Robert Lowth of Hampshire (Winchester) and John Wesley of Lincolnshire (Epworth).

The remaining 15 counties are those for which no PoB has been documented (marked by a red square on Map 1), namely Devon and Cornwall in the south-west; Sussex and Kent in the south-east; Northamptonshire, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Rutland, Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshire in East Midlands; the neighbouring Buckinghamshire; Herefordshire in West Midlands; the north-east county Durham; and the north-west counties of Lancashire and Cheshire, despite being popular in terms of population (PoR) and provincial printing (PoP).

As far as Scotland is concerned (illustrated with yellow dots on Map 1), ECEG identifies 18 authors of Scottish origin but we only know with certainty the PoB of 9 of them, from 6 different counties. To give some examples: James Elphinston was born in Edinburghshire-Midlothian; James Douglas in Linlithgowshire (Baads), the nearby county of West Lothian; James Murray comes from the eastern county of Berwickshire (Fans); and Alexander Adam from the northern county of Morayshire (Rafford). It is worth noting the absence of Aberdeen (Aberdeenshire) and Glasgow (Lanarkshire), although it must be borne in mind that there are some other Scottish authors of whom the county of birth is not known, e.g. William Angus, John Burn, James Corbet.

Few data have been gathered from Irish grammar writers (green dots in Map 1): 3 were born in 3 different counties of southern Ireland, including the polymath schoolmaster Patrick Lynch from Clare (Quin) and the female writer and poet Dorothea Du Bois, from the capital Dublin; from northern Ireland we only know of the schoolmaster David Manson, of Antrim (Cairncastle).

Last within the British Isles is Wales, about which little can be said, for only one author has been identified to date as Welsh-born: Rowland Jones (bap. 1722, d. 1774), philologist, baptized at Llannor, county of Caernarvonshire in north-west Wales.

Beyond the British Isles, the ECEG database contains a number of English grammars written by 10 American authors. We only know the PoB of 3, namely the popular grammarian and lawyer Lindley Murray, born at Swatara, in the state of Pennsylvania; the lexicographer and grammarian Noah Webster, from West Hartford, state of Connecticut; and the Church of England clergyman and teacher Samuel Johnson, born in Guilford, Connecticut. Other authors of whom American origin has been suggested in the literature include Caleb Alexander, Caleb Bingham, Jonathan Burr, Benjamin Dearborn, J. Mennye and Daniel Staniford.

As mentioned above, 2 foreign authors were born in France, yet in different places: Maittaire in Rouen, the historical capital of Normandy situated in the north-west of France, and Benezet in the northern Picardy, a French historical province.

As far as the analysis of cities/towns is concerned, we have been able to identify approximately 50 different locations, most of them, as expected, in England (68%), a few in Scotland (14%), and the rest from Irish, Welsh, American and foreigner authors’. Note that despite the rich variety, it is only London and Edinburgh that are recorded more than once in ECEG.

3.2. 18th-century grammar writers’ place of residence

The detective work to locate 18th-century grammar writers is not limited to their PoB; ECEG takes a step further and records as well the authors’ PoR. [10] One might wonder: why is the PoB factor not enough? There are three main reasons.

To begin with, of the grand total of 292 authors, ECEG contains information about the PoB of 84 authors but we have records of PoR of over half of the authors (ca.155) and, crucially, we have been able to identify the PoR of approximately 90 grammar writers whose PoB is unknown (42%), including the authors of 3 anonymous grammars. To give some examples: of A. Lane (fl. 1695–1700) we know little more than the fact that he taught at a free school in Leominster (Herefordshire) and later at a private school at Mile-end-Green, London; William Angus was a teacher of English and geography in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, where his grammar was published; and of the grammar Right spelling very much improved, printed in London in 1704, we do not know who the author was or where the author was born, but the title page tells us that it was written “by a schoolmaster, of above thirty years standing, in London”, more precisely in Grays-Inn-Lane (title page).

It is not only a matter of quantity of information but also, and most importantly, of quality. We believe that the place where they lived, taught and, crucially, where they wrote their grammar is likely to have an influence on the attitudes to language expressed in the grammar. Let us take James Elphinston (1721–1809) as illustrative example. A Scottish educationist and advocate of spelling reform, Elphiston was born in Edinburgh, then moved to London in the mid-century, where he set up a school first in Brompton and later in Kensington. As master of an academy, the teaching of English became “clearly a priority”, and as a Scot living in the English capital he “took it upon himself to correct the ‘Scotticisms’ of his countrymen”, as in the appendix attached to his Animadversions upon [Lord Kames’s] Elements of Criticism (1771) (ODNB). As suggested by Frank (1996: 78) with regard to the attitudes of the Scot philosopher James Beattie, members of the social network in the grammarians’ PoR might have ‘moulded’ their thoughts as to lead them to write their grammar of the English language. This is the case, for instance, of Robert Lowth’s grammar. Rather than a project of his own, it is believed to have been “to an important extent a publishers' project” (Tieken-Boon van Ostade 2008a: 104), the publisher being Robert Dodsley from London, where Lowth had moved from his native Winchester, Hampshire.

The PoR factor might also bring to light the existence of consortia between grammar writers and printers/publishers/booksellers, as it is often the case that grammars were printed in the place where the author lived/taught at the time of writing their work (Yáńez-Bouza 2011a). An outstanding example involves the printer William Eyres and schoolmasters at the dissenting Academy of Warrington, in the county of Lancashire, described as “the most distinguished of all the nonconformist academies” in the late 18th century (see e.g. Feather 1985: 116). Eyres printed at least one book by tutors such as Joseph Priestley, John Aikin and John Enfield, even after the academy moved to Manchester in 1783 (Feather 1985: 117). According to ECEG, Eyres printed three English grammars written by schoolmasters outside this academy yet within the county of Lancashire: A short system of English grammar, 1777, by Edward Owen, master of a grammar school in Warrington; An easy introduction to general knowledge and liberal education, 1791, by the schoolmistress Mrs Taylor at an Academy of Manchester; and A comprehensive grammar of the English language, 1787, by James Rothwell, master of the free-school of Blackrod, in Bolton. It is therefore by these pieces of information on the PoR, rather than the PoB field, that we can shed more and new light on the dissemination of 18th-century grammars. [11]

In line with the previous section, Table 4 below displays the distribution of the authors’ PoR by country, while Table 5 shows the data by county and city. Accordingly, Map 3 and Map 4 plot the findings within and beyond the British Isles, by countries and counties. The trends are discussed in turn in the paragraphs that follow. Notice, as might be expected, that the same author might have lived/taught in more than one place; the number of locations in this section is therefore higher than the numbers of PoB. An outstanding case is John Trusler (1735–1820), author of An English accidence [1790?]. According to the ODNB, Trusler lived in at least 6 different English counties, namely Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Somerset – where he wrote his grammar – Wiltshire and Middlesex, including 4 different boroughs in London, the city where he was born. Another example worth mentioning is James Douglas (1675–1742). A Scot born in West Lothian, Douglas lived in Edinburgh and also in London, where he is thought to have written his Grammatical manuscripts ca. 1720; besides, he travelled abroad to The Netherlands (Utrecht) and France (Rheims).

Table 4. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of residence by country.

  Authors % PoR (155) % Grand Total (292)
England 136 88% 47%
Scotland 15 10% 5%
Ireland 8 5% 3%
Wales 3 2% 1%
America 5 3% 2%
Foreign 7 4% 2%
Total PoR 155 -- 53 %


Table 5. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of residence by county and city/town.

  PoR_Counties PoR_Cities/Towns
England 35 55% 122 75%
Scotland 9 14% 10 6%
Ireland 8 12% 13 8%
Wales 3 5% 4 2%
America 5 8% 7 4%
Foreign 4 6% 7 4%
Total PoR 64 100% 163 100%

18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of residence in the British Isles.

Map 3. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of residence in the British Isles.

18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of residence beyond the British Isles.

Map 4. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Place of residence beyond the British Isles.

Approximately 136 grammar writers lived in England (47%), whether their entire life or temporarily, whether exclusively or before moving to/from another country (approximately 15 of the latter). The number of English amounts to 35 of the 39 historical counties, over 120 different cities/towns.

At one end is London, county of Middlesex, where nearly half of the authors lived, taught or wrote (ca. 60, 45% of the English PoR), including the 6 authors who were born in the capital (see Section 3.1). Little needs to be added: then, as nowadays, the capital attracted people from everywhere, it being the centre of power, business and culture (see, for instance, Görlach 2001: 2). Not surprisingly, thus, London is the city where most English grammars were printed during the 18th century (ca. 65% of the grammars printed in England; Yáñez-Bouza 2011a). In and around London, grammar writers lived in boroughs such as Hackney, Holborn, Hoxton, Islington, Kensington, Marylebone, Mile-End, Stepney, Tottenham, Tower Hamlets (including Wapping and Whitechapel), Westminster (including Soho and the Strand), etc. Further away from the inner city, ECEG records places such as Brentford and Isleworth in Hounslow, Enfield, Hammersmith and Camberwell too. It is interesting to note that, elsewhere, geographical concentration in inner London has been identified with regard to booksellers – in Little Britain, St. Paul’s Churchyard, or around Temple Bar – and printers – in and around Aldersgate Street, Bartholomew Close, Whitefriars, or St. John’s Lane (see, in particular, Treadwell 1982: 112-113). In an attempt to identify areas likely to have developed social networking amongst grammar writers, Map 5 below plots the known places where some of our authors lived/taught. Westminster, Holborn, Tower Hamlets and the north-east borough of Hackney seem to have been the most popular locations of the time.

London Boroughs ca. 1600-1800 (adapted from Darby 1973: 386, Fig.82, with permission of CUP).

Map 5. London Boroughs ca. 1600–1800 (adapted from Darby 1973: 386, Fig.82, with permission of CUP).

At the other end are those counties of which there is no record in ECEG, namely Devon in the south west; Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire in East Midlands; and Westmorland in the north west. The reader must bear in mind, though, the possibility of this being negative data.

The concentration points on Map 3 above reveal that the north was home to a large number of grammar writers. One of the reasons may well be the growth of population during the so-called ‘urban renaissance’ (Görlach 2001: 8-9, from Borsay 1977) in industrial towns such as Newcastle in the north east, Manchester and Liverpool in the north west. The popularity of the West Riding of Yorkshire in particular, e.g. Leeds, resulted in the increase in population to more than double during the 18th century (Swaim 1977: 69). If we recall Darby’s list of the eleven biggest English towns in 1801, after London we find the northern Manchester (2nd), Liverpool (3rd), Leeds (5th), Sheffield (11th) and Hull (12th) (Darby 1973: 459; quoted from Görlach 2001: 9). In ECEG we have tracked down 9 grammar writers in Yorkshire, like Isaac Barker in Whitby and John Hornsey in Scarborough, in the North Riding; John Binns in Leeds and Bretton in the West Riding; and Jane Gardiner in Beverley and Hull in East Yorkshire. Lancashire was home to 8 grammar writers in locations such as Manchester (e.g. Ralph Harrison and Mrs Taylor), Rochdale and Bolton, Warrington (e.g. Joseph Priestley), and Lancaster city. Very popular as well was Northumberland, in the north east, with 6 grammar writers in towns like Newcastle, where Anne Fisher lived, Tynemouth, Alnwick, Ovingham or Morpeth. Cheshire was home to 4 grammar writers (e.g. Peter W. Fogg in Stockport); Cumberland to 3 (e.g. William Ward in Whitehaven); and county Durham to 2 authors, one being G[eorge] Wright in Sunderland. In the light of these findings, it is not at all surprising that amongst the English provinces the north is the region where most grammars were printed, especially in the north east (ca. 30%). Noteworthy is as well the fact that all the authors who lived in the county of Northumberland had at least one of their works printed locally (see Yáñez-Bouza 2011a).

Like the northern counties, the area of East Anglia developed into a prosperous region, especially in farming (Feather 1985: 32-33). Thus we find 4 counties with as high a number of grammar writers as 9 in Cambridgeshire, mainly because of the university; 8 in Essex, like William Turner in Colchester; 7 in Norfolk in towns such as Dereham (home of Ellenor Fenn), Great Yarmouth, and especially Norwich, one of the twelve biggest English towns in 1801. A further 6 authors lived/taught/wrote in Suffolk, in towns like Needham and Bures, home of Daniel Fenning.

In the heart of East Midlands, 3 counties stand out: Nottinghamshire, with 6 grammar writers, 5 of whom lived in Nottingham, e.g. John Collyer; Northamptonshire with 4 grammar writers each, in places like Northampton and Moulton, where William Chown wrote his grammar; and Lincolnshire with another 4 authors in, for instance, Lincoln and Grantham, from which John Clarke of Grantham received his name.

The West Midland counties are no less popular, with 4 grammar writers recorded in each we can point to Worcestershire, like John Ash in Pershore and Robert Gentleman in Kidderminster; Warwickshire, with Mrs Eves in Birmingham and John Ryland in Warwick; and the neighbouring Staffordshire, with towns like Burton-on-Trent and Walsall. Shropshire was home to 3 authors and all lived in Shrewsbury/Salop, one of them being John Corbett.

Other pockets of concentration elsewhere include Kent, in the south east, which hosted no less than 9 grammar writers, e.g. John Kirkby in Canterbury, Richard Turner in Margate, and others in Tunbridge Wells, Romney Wye, and Eastwell. The neighbouring county of Surrey hosted 6 grammar writers, in a large number of different locations such as Stockwell, home of James Buchanan, Kew and Brixton. In the south west, Gloucestershire was home to 7 authors, including towns like Cheltenham, home of Samuel Wells, and Bristol, home of Daniel Farroe and the first provincial town to establish a printing business after the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1695, in 1695. Eight grammar writers lived in Oxfordshire, most of them in Oxford, like Anselm Bayly. Curiously enough, ECEG has no records of English grammars printed either in Oxford or Cambridge, possibly because the universities in these cities “cater[ed] for a highly educated layer of society”, they had a strong classical curricula based on the teaching of Latin and Greek and therefore they “possibly did not see the need to purchase basic grammars of English” (Auer 2008: 73; Yáñez-Bouza 2011a).

Moving down the scale of frequency, with 5 authors each it is also worth mentioning the counties of Somerset, including towns like Ilminster and Bath, where Benjamin Martin lived for a while; Hampshire, as in Gosport or Winchester, where Robert Lowth lived; and Hertfordshire, as in Little Gaddesden or Elstree, home of James Elphinston.

Finally, there are 6 counties represented by only a single town and a single author, like Cornwall (Benjamin Rhodes), Derbyshire (Thomas Dyche in Ashbourne), Herefordshire (Lane in Leominster), or Leicestershire (Richard Johnson in Market Harborough).

Other than England but still within the British Isles, we have evidence of 15 authors (5%) living in Scotland. In terms of geographical distribution by counties and cities, Map 3 above (yellow dots) shows a clear concentration in the Lowlands, though the eastern coast comes into play too, especially Aberdeen. As might be expected, most authors, like William Scott, lived in the capital Edinburgh (10/15), which makes this city the second highest in the overall ranking, second only to London. Edinburgh is likewise the Scottish city where most grammars were printed (22/30). Next in frequency is Aberdeenshire, one of the main centres of the Scottish Enlightenment with, for instance, James Anderson. Two grammar writers lived in Glasgow, in the county of Lanarkshire, for instance William Angus; and another 2 in Fife (Cupar, St Andrews), one of them being James Hall. Amongst the remaining counties with one single instance are Morayshire (Rafford), home and PoB of Alexander Adam, and Stirlingshire (Balquhatston), where James Waddell lived.

We know of 8 grammar writers who lived/taught/wrote in Ireland, mainly in Southern Ireland. The capital Dublin was home to 6 authors, including Dorothea Du Bois; and county Cork to another 2, in the towns of Cork and Kinsale, like William Markham. Other southern counties of which we have evidence include Cavan, Meath, Laois, Offaly and Tipperary, where Patrick Lynch lived. As regards Northern Ireland, we only have evidence of one county, Antrim (Lisburn, Larne, Ballycastle, Belfast), where David Manson and the Gough brothers lived for some time.

Moving on to Wales, we are aware of only 3 authors who lived and/or taught in Wales at some point, in three different places. The philologist Rowland Jones lived in the north-west county of Caernarfonshire; the Presbyterian minister and master of Academy Robert Gentleman lived and taught in the south-west county of Carmarthenshire; and R. Stubbs apparently lived in Monmouth, where he ran a boarding-school, in the south-east county of Monmouthshire on the border with the English county of Gloucestershire. Interestingly, none of their 4 grammars was printed in Wales and, as mentioned earlier, only one author (Jones) was Welsh-born (see further in Section 3.3).

Beyond the British Isles, there is little telling us who lived/taught in America: we only know of 4 counties. Philadelphia, state of Pennsylvania, was the home of 2 grammarians, namely the French Anthony Benezet and Lindley Murray; 2 authors lived in New York, including Noah Webster, who also lived in various places in the state of Connecticut, such as Yale, Hartford, Glastonbury and New Haven; and the schoolmaster Hugh Jones lived in the state of Virginia, in Williamsburgh. In addition, to this group belongs as well the English-born Warren Hastings, who lived at some point in the Caribbean island of Barbados.

Finally, ECEG records places in 4 foreign countries: in France Gildon lived in Douay/Doway and Douglas in Rheims, in the Netherlands Benezet lived in Rotterdam, George Stapleton and Lewis Brittain were in Belgium, and Warren Hastings in India for quite some time.

As far as cities/towns are concerned, we have been able to track down over 160 located in over 60 different counties/states, displayed in Table 5 above. As we can see, 75% belong to England (122/163); 13 are located in Ireland (8%); 10 in Scotland (6%); 4 in Wales (2%); 7 in America (4%), including the Caribbean island Barbados; and other 7 in various foreign countries (4%). In terms of frequency (as plotted in Map 6 below), London tops the list, hosting over 60 grammar writers (ca. 40% of the authors of whom we know their PoR). Edinburgh is, again, second, but to a great distance, as it hosts 10 authors only (6%). The Scottish capital is closely followed by the university cities Cambridge (9) and Oxford (7). The Irish capital lags behind with 6 authors, the same as the English cities of Manchester and Bristol.

18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: most popular cities/towns as place of residence.

Map 6. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: most popular cities/towns as place of residence.

3.3. Co-relation between the place of birth and the place of residence

Having examined the 18th-century authors’ place of birth in Section 3.1 and their place of residence in Section 3.2, this section examines the co-relation between the two factors. In other words, it explores whether 18th-century grammar writers tend to make a living/career in the place where they were born or rather away from home. The data are summarised in the tables below so that Table 6 shows the geographical distribution of authors across countries and Table 7 lists those counties for which a one-to-one correspondence has been identified. (Notice that the same author might have lived in more than one place.)

Table 6. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Co-relation between PoB and PoR by countries.

Co-relation between PoB and PoR: countries
PoB England Scotland Ireland Wales America Foreign Unknown Total
England 46 5   1 1 1 79 136
Scotland   13         2 15
Ireland 1   4       3 8
Wales 1     1     1 3
America 1       2 1 1 5
Foreign 2 2       1 2 7
Unknown 4 4     9   120 136
Total 49 18 4 1 10 2 208 292


Table 7. 18th-century grammar writers in ECEG: Co-relation between PoB and PoR by countries and counties.

Co-relation between PoB and PoR: counties
Country Authors Counties
England 23 14 Berkshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Middlesex, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Suffolk, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Yorkshire
Scotland 6 4 Dumfriesshire, Edinburghshire, Kincardineshire, Morayshire
Ireland 3 3 Antrim, Cavan, Dublin
Wales 1 1 Caernarfonshire
America 2 2 Connecticut, Pennsylvania
Total 35 26  

As might be expected, Table 6 points to a strong co-relation between the grammar writers' birthplace and the places where they lived. Nevertheless, the data also reveal different trends depending on the country of origin.

Almost all of the English-born grammar writers lived in England (46/49) and approximately half of them lived – at least for some time – in the county where they were born (23/49). Table 7 lists the 14 counties with a one-to-one correspondence, such as Berkshire (John Newbery), Suffolk (Daniel Fenning) and Yorkshire (William Ward). It is worth noting that in addition to the 6 London-born authors over 21 English authors moved to the capital at some point in their lives, such as Martin Benjamin, born in Surrey, and Anselm Bayly, of Gloucestershire.

A few English authors made their living abroad. Amongst them are the Gough brothers, James (1712–1780) and John (1720–1791). Born in Kendal, in the northern English county of Westmorland, these “excellent teachers and genuine promoters of education in Ireland” lived and worked most of their lives in (at least) 6 different Irish counties, mostly in Southern Ireland, where they ran the Mountmellick school (ODNB). It was in the capital Dublin that their English grammar was printed, as was the case for most grammars printed in Ireland in the 18th century. Their grammar was first compiled by James Gough, then revised by John Gough (title page, 1754). The one English author who lived in Wales is the Shropshire-born Robert Gentleman, who taught in a school in Carmarthenshire (see below). Those who lived in foreign countries are Charles Gildon of Dorset and Warren Hastings of Oxford. Interestingly enough, there is no evidence in ECEG of English authors living/teaching in Scotland but the reverse does happen.

Five Scots lived in England: James Anderson, James Buchanan, James Douglas, James Elphinston, and James Murray. The grammarian and lexicographer Buchanan (fl. 1753–1773) was Master of the Boarding-School at Loughbury-House, opposite Stockwell, in Surrey, and in 1757 he ran another school near Camberwell, London. His three works in ECEG (1753, 1762, 1767) were printed in the English capital. James Murray (1732–1782), independent minister, was born at Fans near Earlston Berwickshire, lived in Edinburgh for a while and then left Scotland to live in Northumberland, first in Alnwick and since 1764 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he died. It was in the latter location where he had several works printed on religious subjects, as well as his grammar book The rudiments of the English tongue […] adapted to the use of schools, ca. 1771. The case of Murray brings to light another interesting issue which will receive more attention elsewhere: the close bound between Scotland and the north of England not only in terms of PoB and PoR but also in relation to PoP. In a similar way, in terms of PoR and PoP we find in the case of William Perry, born in Edinburgh, and Robert Green of Durham, that the consortia involved more booksellers trading in nearby provinces of the north, like Alnwick, Durham or York in north England, and Kelso in the Scottish county of Roxburghshire (see Yáñez-Bouza 2011a).

Most authors, however, seem to have stayed in their native Scotland (13/18; Table 6), and approximately half of them lived in the county where they were born, as Table 7 above shows; for instance, Thomas Blacklock (1721–1791) in the county of Dumfriesshire and Alexander Adam (1741–1809) in Morayshire – both worked later as schoolmasters in Edinburgh. Curiously, the information in ECEG does not reveal any instance of Scottish authors living in Ireland, Wales or America; nor does it contain evidence of Irish, Welsh or American authors living in Scotland. It must be noted, however, that 2 authors of unknown origin lived in Scotland, both schoolmasters in the county of Fife: James Hall, teacher of English language, in Cupar and Roger Kitson, writing-master of an Academy, in St Andrew’s.

The patterns for Ireland are crystal clear: the authors of whom the PoB is known lived, taught and wrote their works in Ireland, and 3 of them stayed in or around the county where they were born. David Manson (1726–1792) was born in the parish of Cairncastle in the northern county of Antrim, where he worked as schoolmaster and tutor. His New pocket dictionary (1762) was printed in Belfast (Antrim), the city where he opened an evening school in his house in Clugston’s Entry, at which he taught English grammar, reading and spelling. He had previously run other schools in Larne and Ballycastle, in the same county of Antrim. The female writer Lady Dorothea Du Bois (1728–1774), née Annesley, made her living in Dublin – although it is worth noting that most of her works were printed in London, including her English grammar prefixed to The lady’s polite secretary ([1771]).

It should be recalled that ECEG has record of 3 more authors who lived in Ireland at some point but whose PoB is unknown. That is the case of Samuel Edwards, schoolmaster in Golden-Lane, Dublin, where An abstract of English grammar was printed ‘for the Author’ in 1765; and William Markham (d. 1771), another schoolmaster who seems to have lived in Kinsale, county of Cork, and whose work containing “the principles of grammar explain’d” was printed in London in 1738 (title page).

As pointed out earlier, the only Welsh author that we know of is Rowland Jones, of Caernarfonshire/Sir Gaernarfon. According to the ODNB, Jones was baptized at Llannor in 1722 and educated at Llannor School and Botwnnog grammar school. He also lived in the parish of Aber-erch, in the same county, after marrying a Welsh heiress and inheriting an estate. He moved to London by the age of twenty, around 1741. In 1751 he enrolled as a member of the Inner Temple and became “a highly accomplished linguist with a sound knowledge of several modern and ancient languages” (ODNB). The works that gave him most recognition are Hieroglyfic, 1768, and The circles of Gomer, 1771, both printed in the English capital.

The two other grammar writers who lived in Wales (cf. Table 6 above) are Robert Gentleman and R. Stubbs. Gentleman (1745–1795), of Whitchurch, in the West Midlands county of Shropshire, was a “popular and practical preacher” who had a reputation for learning (ODNB). He first opened a school for boys in Shrewsbury, in his home county, in 1775, but soon he moved to south-west Wales, to Carmarthen, to head the academy maintained by the Presbyterian Fund. Because of theological disputes, five years later, in 1784, Gentleman moved back to England, this time to live in Kidderminster, in south West Midlands county of Worcestershire. It is in this latter place that he had his grammar printed in 1788, The young English scholar’s complete pocket companion. R. Stubbs wrote Rules and exercises on English-grammar, printed in 1777 in the English town of Hereford, in the West Midlands county of Herefordshire. Where this author was born or where he lived/taught is little known beyond the remark on the title page pointing out that the grammar was written "for the use of Monmouth Boarding School", in the nearby Welsh county of Monmouthshire. Map 7 below zooms in the neighbouring counties of Wales and West Midlands and traces geographical mobility of the 3 authors who lived in Wales. By the side of Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford, other towns in these and nearby counties, like Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, might have been home to Welsh authors as well.

Geographical mobility in/around Wales.

Map 7. Geographical mobility in/around Wales.

Beyond the British Isles, Table 6 and Table 7 indicate that in America there is a one-to-one correspondence on two occasions only, namely Lindley Murray (1745–1826), who lived in his native Philadelphia, state of Pennsylvania, before moving to York, England; and Noah Webster (1758–1843), born in Hartford, Connecticut, the state where he lived and wrote his grammars and dictionaries. The tables also indicate that America was home to Hugh Jones (1669–1760), of unknown origin. Little is known about this schoolmaster, other than by the imprint of his grammar: ‘M.A., lately Mathematical Professor at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, and Chaplain to the Honourable Assembly of that Colony’ (title page). Alston (1965: 16) remarks that Jones’s (1724) grammar, An accidence to the English tongue, chiefly for the use of such boys and men, is “[p]resumably the first recorded English grammar written in America”.

Finally, the co-relation between PoB and PoR in the group Foreign is unusual. The 2 foreigners lived mostly away from their country, while other non-foreigners lived in foreign countries. On the one hand, the French Michael Maittaire (1668–1747), classical scholar and typographer, moved to England around the age of ten and was educated first at Westminster School, then at Oxford and afterwards at Cambridge (ODNB). Back in London, he became under-master of Westminster School, before running a private boarding-school at Mile End. It is thus in London that he spent most of his life. The French Anthony Benezet (1713–1784), of Picardy, was an educational reformer and abolitionist who first fled to Rotterdam (Netherlands), because of religious difficulties, then to London, and then to Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), recommended by his London Quaker friends (ODNB). On the other hand, ECEG records English-born authors living abroad (e.g. James Hastings) as well as Scots (e.g. James Douglas) and two other authors of whom the PoB is not known (e.g. Lewis Brittain). The case of James Douglas draws our attention in particular: a Scot, born in Baads, county of Linlithgowshire/West Lothian, Douglas lived in the nearby capital Edinburgh, then moved to England (London), The Netherlands (Utrecht) and France too (Rheims). It is believed that his grammatical papers, which have survived only in manuscript, were written during his stay in London around 1720.

4. Conclusions and future research

This paper has shed light on the origins and whereabouts of 18th-century grammar writers responsible for the codification of the English language during the age of prescriptivism. By means of a two-fold approach based on the comprehensive analysis of the data compiled in the Eighteenth-Century English Grammars (ECEG) database, this investigation aimed to improve on earlier work by providing a detailed account of the authors’ place of birth, only occasionally mentioned in the literature, and of the authors’ place of residence, little explored hitherto. Moreover, the three-fold analysis carried out for each locative factor (country – county – city/town) has brought to light instances not only of geographical mobility (e.g. Scotland to England, provinces to London) but also of geographical pockets where a notable number of authors made their living (e.g. London, north east of England, East Anglia, Edinburgh). In addition, the data pointed to established bounds between neighbouring counties with, potentially, an important effect on the dissemination of grammars, such as the north of England and the south of Scotland (e.g. James Murray) and the neighbouring counties in Wales and the West Midlands (e.g. Robert Gentleman). In the light of these findings, the study of the place of printing of grammars (PoP) and its co-relation with the authors’ PoR and PoB factors calls for further investigation elsewhere (see Yáñez-Bouza 2011a).

The results drawn from ECEG (Section 2) reveal similar trends in frequency terms for PoB and PoR. As might be expected, most grammar writers were born in England and most wrote/lived/taught in England, whether exclusively or temporarily. At a great distance is Scotland, followed by Ireland and Wales, for which strikingly little data have been documented/identified. A look at the distribution by counties revealed the popularity of the north of England and East Anglia as the place to live/teach. Although there seem to be no strong patterns as far as the authors’ PoB is concerned, Yorkshire in the north east stands out as the second most popular region, second only to Middlesex, county of London. The data reveal as well that some counties are noticeably under-represented in both locative factors, e.g. Devon, Rutland, Huntingdonshire and Westmorland. Outside England, the prevalence of Edinburgh in Scotland and of Dublin in Ireland comes as no surprise. Beyond the British Isles, it was noticed that grammar-writing activities in America were concentrated on states located on the east coast; likewise the data regarding foreign countries concern France mainly.

Besides the geographical identification, it is hoped that these findings may be further investigated with a view to identifying differences in the nature of the English grammar, for instance descriptive vs. prescriptive, depending on the author’s PoB and on the author’s PoR. This is in the belief that the society of the place where authors lived, taught or moved to might have had a strong influence on the authors’ attitude to ‘correct’ language, especially London as the capital of polite society, Edinburgh and Aberdeen as the centre(s) of the Scottish Enlightenment, and the north west of England as centre of important dissenting academies, for instance the Warrington Academy, where a number of influential grammarians taught in the mid-century decades [12]; this may thus provide fruitful insights for further social network analyses along the lines of Tieken-Boon van Ostade (1996, 2000b, 2005), Fitzmaurice (2000a, 2007) and Sairio (2009).

In the light of the observations drawn throughout the paper, it seems that 18th-century grammar writers were not entirely ‘a band of independent entrepreneurs’, as Finegan (1998: 536) described them, but rather constituted a discourse community who not only shared the ideology to codify the language and displayed a mutual engagement in a joint enterprise (Watts 2008), but also shared geographical location. [13]

Since the study of grammar writers cannot be entirely divorced from the study of production and dissemination of their grammars, as a follow-up to the analysis of the authors’ PoB and PoR presented in this paper, Yáñez-Bouza (2011a) carries out a thorough analysis of the grammars’ place of printing. Questions to be answered are, for instance: did grammar writers tend to have their grammars printed in the place where they lived/taught or in the places where they were born? Also, which were the most popular cities/towns for printing grammars of English in the 18th century? Where and to what extent did provincial printing take place? Thus, this piece of research will contribute not only to the field of 18th-century grammatical tradition but also to the history of book printing in Britain, especially of provincial printing.

Last, but not least, this paper has illustrated the value of ECEG as a tool for the study of 18th-century grammatical tradition, not only as a bibliographic resource of English grammars but also as a rich bank of biographical information about their authors. It is hoped that the findings here presented and the rich variety of domains covered in the database will spark off scholarly interest for further investigations in relation to any of its fields.


[1] As far as elocutionists are concerned, see, in particular, Beal (1999, 2003) on Thomas Spence and John Walker; and Sturiale (2006, 2008) on William Perry. See also Tieken-Boon van Ostade (2008b: 145-243).

[2] The ECEG database is a joint project with colleague María E. Rodríguez-Gil (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). It has been financially supported by the British Academy during the period July 2008 – December 2010 (Ref. SG-50585), which is hereby duly acknowledged. This paper is partly based on research presented in a joint paper at the 15th ICEHL (Rodríguez-Gil & Yáñez-Bouza 2008). I am ever grateful to María E. for her insightful observations and discussions throughout.

[3] The core reference sources include (i) scholarly works: Leonard (1929), Poldauf (1948), Michael (1970; 1987), Vorlat (1975), Sundby et al. (1991) and Mitchell (2001); (ii) bibliographies: Kennedy (1927), Alston (1965; 2008, vols. I-VIII, Supplement, Addenda), and Evans’s (1903–1959) American Bibliography, along with the supplement volume by Bristol (1970); (iii) collections, facsimiles and reprints: Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, Evans Digital Collection of American Imprints, and Alston’s (1967–1973) facsimile reprint series English Linguistics 1500–1800. The selection criteria are explained in Rodríguez-Gil & Yáñez-Bouza (2009). (Note that some of these sources had not been fully consulted at the time of writing this paper.)

[4] We prefer using the terms ‘Place of Printing’ and ‘Printers’, rather than ‘Place of Publication’ and ‘Publishers’, in line with the terminology found in the literature on book trade in 18th-century Britain (see, in particular, Belanger 1982: 7-10; Treadwell 1982: 100; Feather 1986).

[5] Each of these categories comprises a range of jobs; for example, printers and editors are classified under Books, schoolmasters and lexicographers under Education, ministers and reverends under Religion, mathematicians and surgeons under Science, and musicians and ‘accomptants’ under Other.

[6] Each of these categories comprises a range of different values; for example, Age distinguishes between children and adults, Gender between ladies and gentlemen, Instruction between schools and private use, and Specific Purpose records grammars for foreigners, business etc.

[7] To give one example: to date, we have identified around ten English grammars available in ECCO which had not been previously recorded in the core reference studies listed in endnote [3]. Elsewhere, Auer (2008: 62) “stumbled across” a grammar book in Bent’s sale catalogue to which the bookseller refers as Farmborough’s Grammar and Farnborough’s English Grammar. According to Auer, no copies of this book have survived, no mention of it is made in Alston (1965), Michael (1970), the ODNB, or ECCO.

[8] Sundby et al. (1991: 15) provide a more complete account of their “geographically representative” primary sources, yet one must carefully make the distinction between PoB and PoP and not assume that the author’s PoB necessarily coincides with the grammar’s PoP (notice Görlach 2001: 2, 10).

[9] As Suarez (2009: 42) argued in his study of 18th-century imprints, although Ireland did not become part of Britain until the Act of Union in 1801, it is vital to take it into consideration in a database of this kind given that the Irish trade “constituted an important market that had a significant impact on the 18th-century Scottish and English book trades”.

[10] The main sources of information are Michael (1970, 1987), Stammerjohann et al. (1996), ODNB and Koerner (2008). We have also benefited from occasional historiographic surveys by scholars, and we have carefully checked the title page of the copies available in ECCO, which in many cases turned out to be insightful sources.

[11] For instance, school texts as opposed to grammars written by “protolinguists”, for an advanced audience or for private use (Rodríguez-Gil p.c.; see also Chapman 2008).

[12] On the role of booksellers and publishers see, in particular, Auer (2008) and Tieken-Boon van Ostade (2008a), respectively.

[13] This suggestion is further supported by Rodríguez-Gil’s study of the grammar writers’ occupation in Rodríguez-Gil and Yáńez-Bouza (2008).


Full bibliographical details of the 18th-century primary sources can be found in the online version of ECEG. With a few exceptions, the items can be consulted in ECCO.

ECCO = The Eighteenth-Century Collections Online. Based on information from the English Short Title Catalogue. Gale Group.

ECEG = Eighteenth-Century English Grammars database, 2010. Compiled by María E. Rodríguez-Gil (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain) and Nuria Yáñez-Bouza (The University of Manchester, UK).

The Evans Early American Imprint Collection.

Gazetteer of British Place Names,

ODNB = Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. Oxford University Press.


Association of British Counties. 27 March 2008.

Hickey, Raymond. "Provinces and counties of Ireland".

I am grateful to the Chair of the Association of the British Counties and to Raymond Hickey for permission to reproduce materials from their websites (e-mail correspondence, 25 and 31 May 2008, respectively).


Alston, R. C. 1965. A Bibliography of the English Language from the Invention of Printing to the Year 1800, vol. I: English Grammars Written in English and English Grammars Written in Latin. Leeds: Arnold & Son. [Subsequent volumes II-VIII were published between 1966 and 1970. A supplement volume with additions and corrections was published in 1973, further revised in 1974.]

Alston, R. C., ed. 1967–1973. English Linguistics 1500-1800. Facsimile reprints. Menston: The Scolar Press.

Alston, R. C. 1984. “The British book trade, 1701-1800”. Publishing History 16: 43-86.

Alston, R. C. 2008. A Bibliography of the English Language from the Invention of Printing to the Year 1800: Addenda and Corrigenda (volumes I-X). Vol. XXI, part 1. London: Smith Settle Yeadon.

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Beal, Joan C. 2003. “John Walker: Prescriptivist or linguistic innovator?”. Insights into Late Modern English, ed. by Marina Dossena & Charles Jones, 83-105. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Beal, Joan C. 2004. English in Modern Times 1700-1945. London: Arnold.

Belanger, Terry. 1982. “Publishers and writers in eighteenth-century England”. Books and their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England, ed. by Isabel Rivers, 5-25. Leicester: Leicester University Press.

Borsay, Peter. 1977. “The English Urban Renaissance: The Development of Provincial Urban Culture c.1680-c.1760”. Social History 5: 581–603.

Bristol, Roger P. 1970. Supplement to Charles Evans’ American Bibliography. A Chronological List, 1646–1800, of “Not-in-Evans” Items. Charlottesville: Published for the Bibliographical Society of America and the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia [by] University Press of Virginia.

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Index of Historical and Traditional Counties (adapted from the ABC website and Raymond Hickey’s Discover Irish project):

1. Bedfordshire [SE] 21. Lincolnshire [EM]
2. Berkshire [SE] 22. Middlesex [EM]
3. Buckinghamshire [SE] 23. Norfolk [Anglia]
4. Cambridgeshire [Anglia] 24. Northamptonshire [EM]
5. Cheshire [NW] 25. Northumberland [NE]
6. Cornwall [SW] 26. Nottinghamshire [EM]
7. Cumberland [NW] 27. Oxfordshire [SE]
8. Derbyshire [EM] 28. Rutland [EM]
9. Devon [SW] 29. Shropshire [WM]
10. Dorset [SW] 30. Somerset [SW]
11. Durham [NE] 31. Staffordshire [WM]
12. Essex [Anglia] 32. Suffolk [Anglia]
13. Gloucestershire [SW] 33. Surrey [SE]
14. Hampshire [SE] 34. Sussex [SE]
15. Herefordshire [WM] 35. Warwickshire [WM]
16. Hertfordshire [Anglia] 36. Westmorland [NW]
17. Huntingdonshire [Anglia] 37. Wiltshire [SW]
18. Kent [SE] 38. Worcestershire [WM]
19. Lancashire [NW] 39. Yorkshire [NE]
20. Leicestershire [EM]    

NW = North West; NE = North East; SW = South West; SE = South East; EM = East Midlands; WM = West Midlands; Anglia = East Anglia.


1. Aberdeenshire 18. Kinross-shire
2. Angus/Forfarshire 19. Kirkcudbrightshire
3. Argyllshire 20. Lanarkshire
4. Ayrshire 21. Linlithgowshire/West Lothian
5. Banffshire 22. Morayshire
6. Berwickshire 23. Nairnshire
7. Buteshire 24. Orkney
8. Cromartyshire 25. Peeblesshire
9. Caithness 26. Perthshire
10. Clackmannanshire 27. Renfrewshire
11. Dumbartonshire/Dunbartonshire 28. Ross-shire
12. Dumfriesshire 29. Roxburghshire
13. Edinburghshire/Midlothian 30. Selkirkshire
14. Fife 31. Shetland
15. Haddingtonshire/East Lothian 32. Stirlingshire
16. Inverness-shire 33. Sutherland
17. Kincardineshire 34. Wigtownshire


1. Anglesey/Sir Fon 8. Glamorgan/Morgannwg
2. Brecknockshire/Sir Frycheiniog 9. Merioneth/Meirionnydd
3. Caernarfonshire/Sir Gaernarfon 10. Monmouthshire/Sir Fynwy
4. Carmarthenshire/Sir Gaerfyrddin 11. Montgomeryshire/Sir Drefaldwyn
5. Cardiganshire/Ceredigion 12. Pembrokeshire/Sir Benfro
6. Denbighshire/Sir Ddinbych 13. Radnorshire/Sir Faesyfed
7. Flintshire/Sir Fflint  


Northern Ireland
1. Armagh 4. Fermanagh
2. Down 5. Londonderry/Derry
3. Armagh 6. Tyrone
Republic of Ireland
1. Carlow 14. Longford
2. Cavan 15. Louth
3. Clare 16. Mayo
4. Cork 17. Meath
5. Donegal 18. Monaghan
6. Dublin 19. King’s (now Offaly)
7. Galway 20. Roscommon
8. Kerry 21. Sligo
9. Kildare 22. Tipperary
10. Kilkenny 23. Waterford
11. Queen’s (now Laois) 24. Westmeath
12. Leitrim 25. Wexford
13. Limerick 26. Wicklow