Wouldn’t you think that Tyrwhitt’s second edition of 1798 would be rather ubiquitous? I certainly did. After all, I often see a copy for sale on AbeBooks.com. WorldCat even lists 232 copies of the book, but when trying to access those 232 copies, it turns out that most of those 232 “books” are actually ebooks. I could only find four actual copies listed. Of course I was not able to access the holdings of all the libraries so it is possible that there are more real, actual copies in libraries, but I am still amazed at how few actual-printed-in-1798 copies of this book there are given the fact that I have three copies in my library as I speak.
The reason I checked WorldCat was not to see if the Tyrwhitt second edition was rare but to see if I could determine how many copies contained the John Mortimer etchings since I have just purchased a fourth copy that does contain Mortimer’s nine prints. Unfortunately, if the prints were present, information about the prints is not included with the bibliographic information.
Google does have information on two copies which contain the prints, but I can’t tell if the information deals with two separate copies or the same copy at two different times. It is even possible that this old information refers to the book I just purchased. I just don’t know. I do know that my book is not the one that was in the possession of Furnivall, yes the Furnivall of the OED and the Chaucer Society, because he seems to have thought so little of this edition that he cut the prints out of his copy. (Check Notes and Quotes of Oct. 23, 1880.) Can you imagine? Furnivall was a butcher, a destroyer of books, a troglodyte. Who would have thought? So, does anyone know how many copies the second edition of 1798 contained the Mortimer prints?