An Introduction to: Letter to the Shopkeepers, Tradesmen, Farmers, and Common People of Ireland, Concerning the Brass Half-Pence Coined by Mr. Woods [Drapier’s Letters, I]
- Abbreviated title
- Drapier's Letters I, To the shop-keepers
- JSA Identification Number
- Teerink/Scouten Number
- 635 (III)
- ESTC Number
- Copy and its Location
- CUL , Hib.8.724.7
- Publisher and Printer
- A letter to the shop-keepers, tradesmen, farmers, and common people of Ireland, concerning the brass half-pence coined by Mr. Woods, with a design to have them pass in this kingdom. By M.B. drapier., Vol. , pp .
- Dublin, Harding, John, 1723/4.
The first edition of the first Drapier’s letter was published in March 1724. The edition was of 2,000 copies. On 11 May it was advertised at 2s. for 36 copies, the author ‘having undertaken to pay the Printer the Charge of publishing them’ (Mary Pollard, A Dictionary of Members of the Dublin Book Trade 1550-1800 (London: The Bibliographical Society, 2000), p. 275).
The typography of this fiercely polemical work is appropriately violent. Harding was not an elegant printer, and his types are worn, but he uses a great variety of them. The title-page, like many others of Swift’s, is very lively, with ‘Brass Half-Pence’ in a kind of bold upper- and lower-case (they’re probably not worthy of capitals), while Wood’s own name (here ‘Woods’) is in black letter, marking him out as something strange and dangerous. The text is very varied (perhaps too varied for comfortable reading) with heavy use of italic and also of words in full capitals. Capitals are used for Wood, his coinage, and his majesty, but also for evaluative terms, both ironically positive (‘A FAIR STORY’) and negative (‘A WICKED CHEAT’, ‘BLOOD-SUCKERS’). Harding is almost certainly following copy and this pamphlet is one of Swift’s most interesting exercises in typographical self-expression.
In some small respects the first edition is more colloquial and less precise than the revised edition published by Faulkner as part of the Works in 1735: ‘Six Pound Butter Weight’, for example, get corrected to ‘Pounds’ in later texts, and ‘FOUR-SCORE AND TEN THOUSAND POUNDS’ gets changed to a more precise ‘108000 l.’ But Swift makes no radical changes in this original text.
John Harding had worked as a press corrector for Edward Waters, and was a printer on his own account from 1718 until his death in 1725. He was the printer of two journals, the Post Boy and the Dublin (or Weekly) Impartial, and there were rumours he was in trouble for printing news of the Pretender. He seems to have first been employed by Swift in the protests over the Bank of Ireland in November 1721. He was prosecuted for printing false information about the gold coin on 17 May 1723, and was imprisoned for it. He became Swift’s printer for the Drapier’s Letters in the controversy over Wood’s brass coinage between February and December 1724. After the fourth letter, £300 was offered for discovery of the author, and Harding was taken into custody. Mary Pollard has found no evidence of a prosecution. He died on 19 April 1725. It has been said he died in prison, but the evidence is unclear.