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Teachers of John Baskerville: John Dougharty the Elder (1677-1755) and John Doharty the Younger (c. 1707-a. 1763).

IN his study of John Baskerville, William Bennett asserted that the great printer |created mystery in regard to his early life', a period over which he was |so reticent of information ... that it almost amounted to secretiveness'.(1) Baskerville's biographers have not found any concrete evidence concerning his formative years: between the time of his baptism at Wolverley, near Kidderminster, in 1706 and the appearance of his name in a mortgate indenture of 1728 (by which time he had moved to Birmingham) the record is blank. Like Bennett, F. E. Pardoe thought it a strong possibility that he attended Wolverley Grammar School (subsequently more widely known as Sebright School), simply on the grounds of its proximity to his birthplace, but the absence of documentary proof forced him to lament the

impossibility of settling the question of

Baskerville's school -- and not merely for the

sake of the completeness of the record: some

schoolmaster or writing-master who was

teaching in North Worcestershire in the

second decade of the eighteenth century must

have given Baskerville his |great fondness for

print characters' and it would have been

pleasant to be able to give him a very belated


Two pieces of evidence in connection with Baskerville's education have recently been discovered among the family papers of Christopher Powell Cotton of Quex Park, Kent.(3) The first is a somewhat clumsily penned but heartfelt encomium on the polymath and worthy John Dougharty (1677-1755), mapmaker, surveyor, scientific instrument maker, Clerk of the Works at Worcester Cathedral, and mathematics teacher.(4) Under the heading |A Glorious Man -- Descended from an Irish King'(5) Dougharty's eulogist, probably writing soon after his decease, provides the lengthiest contemporary account of him known, panegyrizing him as |the Indulgent Father, ye best husband, ye Advantagious Friend ye cheerful Master': |O he was all excellence As his many Labours show beyond dispute.'(6) The writer is at pains to stress his subject's wide-ranging intellectual accomplishments, |Wonderfull Advances' apparently self-taught: for his Superior Ingenuity and Sagacity [he] would have equal'd the immortal Newton had he been Educated with ye same advantages'.

A key section of the encomium for supplementing modem scholarship on Dougharty is a list of some of his |Schollars'. (In addition to these, the eulogist mentions several out of a |vast [Num.sup.r]', including most notably Newton and Halley, for whom he claims Dougharty answered |questions'.) Over eighty individuals and family names are featured, though the eulogist would have us believe that these represent only a small proportion of |many great and useful Men not hundreds but some thousands' with whom Dougharty |furnished England' in over sixty years of teaching. Much of the list reads like a roll call of prominent Worcestershire families, such as the Cookeseys, Lygons, Dineleys, and Lyttletons, and there is also a sprinkling of titled names; others are drawn from clergy connected with Worcester Cathedral. Prominent figures mentioned include Bishops Edward Chandler (1659-1730) and William Talbot (1668-1750); the latter's son Charles Talbot (1685-1737), Lord Chancellor; another Lord Chancellor, John Somers (1651-1716); the politician Thomas Winnington (1696-1746); and the physician John Wall (1708-76). Though most of the names in the list are from the provincial landed and professional classes, for whom science was growing as a fashionable leisure pursuit, Dougharty's services as tutor were aimed also at skilled workmen and tradesmen; an early advertisement for subjects he offered made clear that trigonometry had |Applications in Measuring Boards, Glass, Land, Timber, Stone etc.'(7)

The name of Baskerville |of Birmingham' is noticed at the end of the encomium, where we are informed that he |recv'd at first all ye useful hints' from Dougharty. That this Baskerville can be taken to be the printer is proved by an annotation in a second item among the papers at Quex Park: a copy of Aulay Macaulay's shorthand textbook Polygraphy (1747) belonging to Dougharty's second son John (b. c. 1707, living in 1763).(8) John the younger -- who spelled his surname |Doharty' -- was an accomplished draughtsman like his father and elder brother Joseph (d. 1737), and produced the family's best work. A note in his hand on the verso of the final leaf of the book reads

Mr BASKERVILE'S elegant Edition of the

Book of Common Prayer in Ocatvo. (NB this

injenuous Printer was oblig'd for his knowledge

to me & my Family.) -- sold by Dod in

Avemary Lane London. -- Also his Elegant

Edition of a Folio Bible.(9)

The possibility arises that Baskerville attended the mathematical school that had been established at Worcester by John Dougharty senior at his house around the beginning of the century. By March 1720, according to a letter to the Worcester Post-Man, this had moved premises from Worcester High Street

to a very convenient Place, both for Room

and Air, near the Colledge [i.e. near or in the

Cathedral precinct], where Youth may be

commendably Boarded and carefully Taught,

Writing, Arithmetick, Book-keeping (in the

most exact and Merchant-like Manner now

us'd), Geometry, Trigonometry, Surveying,

Gauging, &c.'(10) (An earlier notice of the practical subjects for which he offered tuition mentioned in addition |Navigation, i.e. Plain, Mercator and Great-Circle Sailing, Dialling and Astronomy'.(11)) Dougharty was not sole tutor at his school by this time, lessons being conducted |by my Self and Son, from 6 in the Morning to 10, and thence to 12 at Noon by my Son; also by us both, from 1 in the Afternoon, to 4, or longer if requir'd'. Whether the son in question, who had |had the Benefit, not only of my own Instructions, but also of the best Masters in London' was Joseph or John is not clear, though the shorthand book annotation gives grounds for inclining to the latter.

Neither the annotation nor the encomium furnish proof that Baskerville gained |knowledge' and |useful hints' from the Dougharty family by actually boarding at their school or being formally enrolled there, nor do they rule out the possibility of attendance at Wolverley School. He might just as well have paid visits to the Doughartys for a short course of lessons or received the benefit of their wisdom more informally, not necessarily when he was of school age. This is the most likely way in which the majority of |Schollars' listed in the encomium would have come into contact with Dougharty senior, who would have acted on occasion as private tutor or consultant; the circumstances of men such as Bishop Talbot and Lord Somers, who were in any case older than him, were obviously very different from those of the |Youth' who lodged at the Worcester school. Tantalizingly, the nature of the |useful hints' and |knowledge' Baskerville gained from the Doughartys is not specified. Maybe it was little more than a basic grounding in some of the practical subjects mentioned above. Still, given the manifold skills and interests of John senior in particular, the family's influence on Baskerville may well have been even more significant than a simple bestowal of a |great fondness for print characters'. As yet we can only wonder whether behind the near secretiveness about his early life, as detected by Bennett, there lurked deliberate suppression of an unacknowledged but crucial debt. (1) John Baskerville the Birmingham Printer (Birmingham, 1937-9), i.9. (2) John Baskerville of Birmingham (London, 1975), 2. (For the context of the quoted phrase see p. 131.) (3) We are grateful to Mr Powell Cotton for his co-operation in the preparation of this note, and to Mr Brian Smith for helpful comments. (4) See DNB; Brian S. Smith, |The Dougharty family of Worcester, estate surveyors and mapmakers, 1700-60, Worcestershire Historical Society Miscellany, ii (1967),138-77; R.V. and P.J. Wallis, Biobibliography of British Mathematics and its Applications Part II: 1701-1760 (New-castle upon Tyne [1986]), 30. For Dougharty as instrument maker see Worcester Post-Man, no. 536 (25 Sep.-2 Oct. 1719), 6. (5) A copy of a genealogical chart among the Powell Cotton papers accords Dougharty (cited there as |J. O Doharty') an august ancestry stretching back to the mythical |Milesius King of Spain', i.e. Miledh, Mil, or Mil Easpain. Less fanciful would appear to be its information about the ancestry of his wife Priscilla Ferrers (d. 1741), revealing her connections with the Somers and Cocks families, who were among Doharty's Worcestershire patrons. (6) It is stressed that we quote from a typed transcription of this account made in 1923. Letters at Quex Park mention that the original was contained in |an old book of maps' known to be in possession of Dougharty's great grandson John Powell Powell (formerly Roberts) in 1835. The map book, possibly the work of Dougharty or his sons, is not in the library at Quex Park, and we have so far been unsuccessful in tracing it. (7) Quoted Smith, |Dougharty family', 141. (8) An annotation on the recto of the first leaf shows that Doharty the younger paid a subscription for it of 10s. 6d to the bookseller and publisher William Sandby (d. 1792) |whose life I once Saved'. The book displays Doharty's use of Macaulay shorthand. It was later presented to his nephew John Powell (1721-83), Cashier in the Pay Office. (9) |Injenuous' was commonly confused with |ingenious' in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (see OED Ingenuous 6); a similar misusage crops up in the encomium which refers to Dougharty senior's |Injenuous ... Mind', and this might be taken as one of several pieces of evidence to suggest that John junior was the encomiast (who, moreover, employs the spelling |Doharty' throughout). (10) Worcester Post-Man, no. 562 (25 March-1 April 1720), 6. Some insight into Dougharty's methods is provided by his Mathematical Digests (London [? 1747]). (11) Quoted Smith, |Dougharty family', 141.
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Author:Underhill, Timothy; Basford, Hazel
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Jun 1, 1994
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