1770-1771 Sensational Printed Imitation Manuscript Book of Sermons by Christian Thought Leaders Compiled and Annotated by Rev Dr. John Trusler

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On offer is a beautiful, hard-bound collection of sermons written by many prominent religious scholars of the time, dating from late 18th century England, and curated by the Reverend Dr. John Trusler (1735-1820).  

The book is a collection of sermons and homilies. They include homilies with such titles as On domestic Happiness, The notice of the World, a motive to virtue, The Advantage of Public or Private Calamities, On partaking of other men's Sins and more. The collection belonged to William Armstrong, whose name appears on the front flyleaf. However, our informal research has not found any additional information about him. From some notes made in the book, this volume was used in 1770-1771. 

Curated by Rev John Trusler, the sermons are printed with beautiful early typography intended to mimic manuscript font. This was a part of Trusler’s lucrative scheme, in which he proposed printing sermons in script type to imitate handwriting and then sell them to clergymen who did not want to write their own sermons. Each sermon is credited to their original author at the end. Included sermons are credited to Baptist minister James Foster (1697-1753), British Unitarian minister William Enfield (1741-1797), Anglican clergyman Laurence Sterne, Archbisop of Canterbury William Wake (1657-1737), and Bishop of Chichester Thomas Manningham (1651?-1722). A few sermons are listed as “compiled” and some are not credited but include additional notes and annotations from the collection’s curator, Rev John Trusler. Trusler has signed his name in ink at the end of many of the sermons.

This book is an example of Dr. Trusler’s early attempts at establishing a printing and bookselling business. In 1769, Trusler sent circulars to every parish in England and Ireland proposing to print in script type, in imitation of handwriting, about a hundred and fifty sermons at the price of one shilling each, to save the clergy both study and the trouble of transcribing (Wikipedia). This collection of sermons, therefore, seems to be an example of Trusler’s sermon curation, peppered with his own additions and notes, some in the form of small attached pages, others in the form of full pages of manuscript notes. 

Before becoming a printer and bookseller, Trusler took his holy orders and became a priest in 1759, rising through the ranks of British clergy work. He also worked as a lecturer, eventually establishing an academic academy only to give it up when it was not lucrative, and move on to medical school at Leyden University. While his name does not appear in their catalogue of graduates, he did assume the title of doctor. In the end, his most lucrative undertaking was his sermon sales and publishing business, in which he published many books including his own memoir. 

This absolutely remarkable, unique relic of 18th century British Christian history and early typography would be a sensational asset to any library, and the sermons contained within provide an excellent window into the religious/moral thinking of the day as preached in Christian congregations in England Interesting to note, one single annotated page of a sermon contained in this book in the same typescript sold for 1500 British pounds through Forum Auctions in September of 2021. 

The volume measures approximately 8.5 inches by 5.5 inches and contains 100 pages. The hard covers, although stained, are in good condition. The pages are all in excellent condition save for one page with some rips and tears. Both the typography and handwriting is not only clear but beautifully done. The title “Sermons M.S’ is stamped on the spine.

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