Nov. 23, 2016
Dr. Susan Mitchell Sommers
, professor of history
at Saint Vincent College, has signed a contract with Oxford University Press for publication of her next book, Ebenezer Sibly and his Circle: On the Fringe in Georgian London
The manuscript is a biographical study of Ebenezer Sibly and his family, from 1750 to 1840. Born into a family of nonconformist shoemakers, Sibly became a leading freemason involved in the development of the Royal Ark Mariner and Knights Templar degrees. He was also a quack purveyor of Dr. Sibly’s Re-Animating Solar Tincture, a serial bigamist, political agent, collector of alchemical manuscripts, author of books on astrology and magic and a bookseller with a side interest in forged lottery tickets. His brother Manoah was a politically radical short-hand taker for the courts, who eventually found his calling working for the Bank of England and pastoring London’s most theologically orthodox Swedenborgian congregation. Both men make frequent appearances in recent histories of 18th-century medicine, astrology, magic, freemasonry, alleged Jacobinism and Swedenborgianism.
This is the first work to gather up the fragmentary accounts of their lives and careers, correct the manifest errors that have crept into the record, especially with regard to Ebenezer, and produce a coherent history of this fascinating London family, which was working-class and yet aspirational.
Organized around family members’ varied relationships to books – as booksellers, authors, short-hand takers, collectors and plagiarists, the narrative also sheds light on the many fringes of late 18-century London the brothers inhabit and help shape.
Publication is expected in early 2018.
Photo: Dr. Susan Mitchell Sommers
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