The poetical works of Mark Akenside [bound with] The poetical works of J. Armstrong, M.D. Illustrations

The frontispiece of The Poetical Works of Mark Akenside

The poetical works of Mark Akenside [bound with] The poetical works of J. Armstrong, M.D. Illustrations

The frontispiece of The Poetical Works of J. Armstrong

Publishing a Pocket Library

The Poetical Works of Mark Akenside was published in 1795 and The Poetical Works of J. Armstrong was published in 1796. The title pages of the two works are identical, indicating that the two books are from the same publisher. The title pages that are placed at the beginning of both works state that the books were “Printed and Embellished Under the Direction of C. COOKE.” C. Cooke was a man named Charles Cooke who published several works of different authors in pocket size to create a “pocket library” (Cooke 1). Cooke wanted to make literature and art affordable. Cooke believed that "what Poet achieves by elaborate Detail, the Painter accomplishes by instantaneous Effect" (3). The illustrations in the book are all done by different artists, with the exception of the front portraits. Cooke gave these different artists the chance to showcase their work alongside the work of poets.

When the books were published, Akenside's was sold for a higher price point than Armstrong's. Cooke distinguishes between cheap versions and supreme versions of texts that include "Portraits of the Authors, Scene Representations, Vignette Frontispieces" (4). Akenside's work includes more engravings than Armstrongs, but both are supreme editions because of the portraits of both authors, the frontispieces, and scene representations. Cooke controlled the access to work that he thought was important. The vast majority of texts that C. Cooke published during the late 1700s were poetical works and collections of works that featured extra information about the author. By selecting works that he enjoyed, publishing them in cheap or supreme editions, and making them accessible for certain people, Cooke decided what people were going to read and who would be a part of producing that work.

C. Cooke publishing also ventured to publish in small, difficult to read text by cutting their paper into an octavo, indicating that the text was meant to be produced cheaply on a large scale and sold to be easily accessible. This strategy divided their market into the lower-class that was willing to spend more money on the "supreme edition," and the lower-class that simply wanted to purchase content for the sake of reading content. Like some of the other books in this exhibit, there was a need for accessible content for people with low income during this time.