Your most obedient humble Servant,
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No. 529. Thursday, November 6, 1712. Addison.
‘Singula quaeque locum teneant sortita decenter.’
Upon the hearing of several late Disputes concerning Rank and Precedence, I could not forbear amusing my self with some Observations, which I have made upon the Learned World, as to this great Particular. By the Learned World I here mean at large, all those who are any way concerned in Works of Literature, whether in the Writing, Printing or Repeating Part. To begin with the Writers; I have observed that the Author of a Folio, in all Companies and Conversations, sets himself above the Author of a Quarto; the Author of a Quarto above the Author of an Octavo; and so on, by a gradual Descent and Subordination, to an Author in Twenty Fours. This Distinction is so well observed, that in an Assembly of the Learned, I have seen a Folio Writer place himself in an Elbow-Chair, when the Author of a Duo-decimo has, out of a just Deference to his superior Quality, seated himself upon a Squabb. In a word, Authors are usually ranged in Company after the same manner as their Works are upon a Shelf.
The most minute Pocket-Author hath beneath him the Writers of all Pamphlets, or Works that are only stitched. As for the Pamphleteer, he takes place of none but of the Authors of single Sheets, and of that Fraternity who publish their Labours on certain Days, or on every Day of the Week. I do not find that the Precedency among the Individuals, in this latter Class of Writers, is yet settled.
For my own part, I have had so strict a regard to the Ceremonial which prevails in the Learned World, that I never presumed to take place of a Pamphleteer till my daily Papers were gathered into those two first Volumes, which have already appeared. After which, I naturally jumped over the Heads not only of all Pamphleteers, but of every Octavo Writer in Great Britain, that had written but one Book. I am also informed by my Bookseller, that six Octavo’s have at all times been look’d upon as an Equivalent to a Folio, which I take notice of the rather, because I would not have the Learned World surprized, if after the Publication of half a dozen Volumes I take my Place accordingly. When my scattered Forces are thus rallied, and reduced into regular Bodies, I flatter my self that I shall make no despicable Figure at the Head of them.
Whether these Rules, which have been received time out of Mind in the Common-Wealth of Letters, were not originally established with an Eye to our Paper Manufacture, I shall leave to the Discussion of others, and shall only remark further in this place, that all Printers and Booksellers take the Wall of one another, according to the abovementioned Merits of the Authors to whom they respectively belong.