TAYLOR AND BURTON'S NARROW ESCAPEPROVIDENCE FOR PRISONERS, FROM THE PRESS OF A PRINTING PIONEER

Narrow Escape from the Punishment of Death, or, The Case of John Taylor and John Burton, who were left for Execution at Huntingdon. London: Printed by Augustus Applegath and Edward Cowper … Sold by F. 

Collins … and Evans and Sons … [c. 1820–1826].

8vo, pp. 8; printed on light blue paper, woodcut vignette to title-page displaying gallows and eight hanged prisoners; very slightly browned at edges, a little sporadic foxing, small marginal tear to lower edge of final leaf, else a very good copy; disbound; pagination in a contemporary hand to head.

£225

Approximately:
US $292€267

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Narrow Escape from the Punishment of Death, or, The Case of John Taylor and John Burton, who were left for Execution at Huntingdon. London: Printed by Augustus Applegath and Edward Cowper … Sold by F. 

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An uncommon early chapbook from the press of Augustus Applegath (1788–1871), interpreting the real-life stay of execution for two sheep-stealers as an act of divine providence.

The chapbook relates first-hand the tale of a nameless benefactor, who makes ‘every exertion’ to intervene in the fate of two prisoners, John Taylor and John Burton, sentenced to hanging in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, for sheep-stealing. Drawing on true events from 1801 that saw Taylor and Burton granted a two-week reprieve from execution (Stamford Mercury, 13 March 1801), the narrator deploys the case as a religious parable: ‘You followed [the deliverer of these prisoners] with eagerness and admiration, every step of his journey; and if you possess much sensibility, you were almost breathless, till you found that he was successful. But does it not remind you of Jesus, that kind, powerful, and successful intercessor and deliverer? Why is it then, that you have not been as much, nay, much more, affected by the pity of your justly offended God?’. Underscoring the moral lesson, the chapbook closes with a two-page poem on ‘The Last Judgement’. 

The printers Applegath and his brother-in-law Edward Cowper (1790−1852) ‘made a name for themselves in constructing and improving printing machinery, especially for The Times from 1818. By 1826 no fewer than ten newspapers were printed on Applegath and Cowper presses’ (ODNB). In 1848, Applegath achieved renown as the inventor of the first workable vertical-drum rotary printing press. 

The BL and Bodleian catalogues suggest the unlikely printing date of c. 1815 − Applegath and Cowper moved to Duke Street, Stamford Street (as here) from Nelson Place, Southwark in 1820. In 1826, Applegath was declared bankrupt and his workshops and goods at Stamford Street were sold to William Clowes, who became a dominant figure in Victorian printing. Narrow Escape was later reprinted as No. 525 of The second series tracts of the Religious Tract Society (1825–1830). 

We find only one copy of this undated edition in the US at Rutgers University (Harry B. Weiss Chapbook Collection) and only two in the UK (Cambridge UL and The Norris Museum, St Ives). The BL and the Bodleian record a possible two further copies, though with partial imprints dated c. 1815.

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