Abbreviated title
A proposal for an act of Parliament, to pay off the debt of the nation
JSA Identification Number
Teerink/Scouten Number
ESTC Number
Copy and its Location
CUL, Williams 300 (6)
Publisher and Printer
Considerations upon Two Bills . . . To which is added a Proposal for an Act of Parliament, to pay off the debt of the nation, without taxing the subjsct. . . . By A------ P-------, Esq., Vol. , pp .
London, Roberts, James Bowyer, William Purser, John, 1732.


This is a London printing of Swift’s Proposal in a pamphlet with Considerations upon Two Bills, published 25 March 1732. The printing closely follows that in Faulkner’s individual pamphlet of 1732. The attribution to A------ P------- may be a joke at Pope’s expense; he and Bowyer were quarreling about rights to Swift’s works in 1732. A straightforward and apparently accurate printing.

This Roberts edition was printed by John Purser for William Bowyer, Bowyer providing Purser with three reams of paper (see The Bowyer Ledgers, item 1785, 6 March [1732]). Maslen and Lancaster think the edition printed by Purser was the Moore edition (ESTC T73914), Teerink/Scouten 716 (for ‘A. Moore’), but the evidence shows that the Roberts edition is the one to have come from Purser’s shop. The factotum on p. 3 and the factotum on p. 23 are to be found in J. Lyons, Fancy-logy ‘Printed, and Sold by J. Purser’, on p. 95 and p. 1 respectively. The p. 3 factotum, this time with its accompanying p. 3 headpiece, is also to be found on p. 3 of Advantages Propos’d by Repealing the Sacramental Test (T145105), which the Bowyer ledgers suggest was similarly printed by Purser; in the case of The Advantages there is no rival London edition. The Advantages also has a Roberts imprint. John Purser was a printer of newspapers, who started printing Fog’s Weekly Journal on 1 May 1731.

This edition was printed through Bowyer’s agency and plays a part in the complex arrangements between Faulkner and Bowyer in this period, when Faulkner was supplying items for London publication. As he was a printer, Bowyer would have needed a distributor, and James Roberts was an eminent trade publisher.

William Bowyer, Sr. (1663-1737) and Jr. (1699-1777) were the major literary printers of the eighteenth century. They are the focus of John Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, 9 vols. (1812) and their records have been studied by Keith Maslen. They developed a special relationship with George Faulkner, who had once worked at their shop, in the late 1720s and early 1730s.

James Roberts (?1672-1754) was a master printer and also the outstanding trade publisher of the first half of the eighteenth century (though he seems to have been favoured by Whigs rather than by Tories). He took over the printing business from his widowed mother when he came of age, and in 1713 inherited the trade publishing business of his mother-in-law, Abigail Baldwin. A very large number of pamphlets and books were distributed through his shop in Warwick Lane. He was Master of the Stationers’ Company from 1729 to 1733. All my information on Roberts comes from the research of Michael Treadwell.

References: The Prose Writings of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis and others, 16 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1939-74), vol. xii, pp. 205-12, 343; Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age, 3 vols. (London: Methuen, 1962-83), vol. iii, pp. 720-4; The Bowyer Ledgers, ed. Keith Maslen and John Lancaster (London: Bibliographical Society; New York: Bibliographical Society of America); Keith Maslen, ‘George Faulkner and William Bowyer: The London Connection’, in his An Early London printing House at Work: Studies in the Bowyer Ledgers (New York: Bibliographical Society of America, 1993), pp. 223-33; Michael Treadwell, ‘James Roberts’, , in The D ictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 154, The British Literary Book Trade, 1700-1820, ed. James E. Bracken and Joel Silver (Detroit, MI: Gale, 1995); A Dictionary of the Printer s and Booksellers . . . 1726 to 1775, ed. H. R. Plomer, G. H. Bushell, E. R. McC. Dix (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the Bibliographical Society, 1932).