Monday, March 7, 2016

Want your name in print? "Vanity" Biographies in Hertfordshire and Nationwide.

Hertfordshire Leaders
[1907? edition]

Nearly every County in England, and some parts of Wales and Scotland, had a book like this published between 1907 and 1910 with the editor named as either Ernest Gaskell or Allan North. In fact the editor was actually Carrie Amy Campion, the partner of Truman Press, who had deserted his wife in about 1897.
So who was Truman Press?

Truman Press had become editor of the Hertfordshire Standard by 1886 and a "Pen Political Portraits" column which lead to the book Hertfordshire Men of Mark in 1887, Hertfordshire Country Homes in 1892 and Hertfordshire: Some Ancestral Estates and Interesting Careers in 1896. 
In 1891 Truman's brother Charles Albert Manning Press, who was living in the same house in St Albans as Truman, published Devon & Cornwall Social & Political, followed quickly by what appear to be similar works on Yorkshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. In 1894 he was responsible for Hertfordshire Leaders, and I have identified a total of 20 county titles by him up to 1908. Meanwhile in 1895/7 Truman Press was responsible for Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire & Rutland: some of their leaders, social and political, The County of Surrey: with illustrated biographies and The County of Kent and many of its family records.
There was a pause after Truman left St Albans and then more started to appear between 1906 to 1911 (few, if any, include a publication date). So far I have traced 28 titles, including a new version of Hertfordshire Leaders, edited by Ernest Gaskill and another 11 titles by Allan North. These stopped appearing following the death of Carrie, by drowning, in 1910. Three more, by Truman Press, appeared around 1930, but these may well have been produced by his son, Truman Victor Press.
The method of production involved mailing people with titles, or some other distinction (presumably using a trade directory for the address). The letters invited them to subscribe to the exciting new title being produced - which will, of course, include their biography. Each biography was printed, in many cases with a photograph, and when about 200 had been received they were bound together as a volume and distributed to the subscribers. In a number of cases the pages were only edge-glued and now tend to come loose very easily, so possibly few copies have survived intact.. It is even possible that different copies actually contain different selections of biographies although I have not checked this.
Further research is needed but in the meantime my draft notes into Truman Press and his family are available - see:
Hertfordshire Leaders (with list of related publications by Gaskell & North)
Few copies were printed of these subscription only books, which were never supplied to the Copyright Libraries, and some surviving titles may only exist as copies in private hands. If you know of any other publications (and possibly other "authors") please let me have details so I can draw up a definitive list. Any relevant supporting documentation relating to the publication process would also be of interest.

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