Poetry and polemics: the Polish book trade in London, 1836-67 - British Library Research Repository
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Poetry and polemics: the Polish book trade in London, 1836-67

2002

Abstract

When invited to participate in the seminar on foreign printing in London, I had no idea of the wealth of Polish material to be studied and the many fascinating themes which would emerge. Initially, I experienced some disappointment at how little material in Polish had been printed in London before the nineteenth century, especially given the well-documented cultural links between Poland and Great Britain from the sixteenth century onwards. To date, I have found only two examples of Polish texts in London imprints prior to 1836, the date of the first Polish book printed in London, a London Oratio dominica (a polyglot collection of texts of the Lord's Prayer) printed by D. Brown and W. Keblewhite in 1700 and a few examples in John Bowring's Specimens of the Polish Poets printed in London in 1827 by Richard Taylor. However, it soon became clear that the history of Polish printing in London in the nineteenth century would provide ample material, the emerging picture of Polish society in London at that time becoming ever more intriguing. Who were these Poles? Why were they here? Why did they feel driven to commit their words and those of their community to print, often at the expense not only of everyday comforts but also their health and all their meagre funds? My interest in these questions has led me to embark upon a long-term research project on Polish printing, publishing and bookselling in nineteenth-century England - this article should be viewed as a brief overview of my research so far. Rather than attempting a general survey of the output of Polish printers in nineteenth-century London, which for the non-specialist might appear as a frustrating list of unfamiliar names, incomprehensible titles and obscure political parties, I have chosen to limit myself to a brief introduction to the lives and work of three individuals: Jan Marcin Bansemer (1802-40), Aleksander Radwan Rypinski (1811/12-86) and Bartlomiej Beniowski (c. 1800-67).

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