Elfinspell’s Online Introduction to

Charles the Great, by Thomas Hodgkin

Charles the Great was one of the most powerful rulers to sprout as the Roman Empire withered. That era was considered as part of the Dark Ages, by some, and so our knowledge of this famous man is extremely spotty. Hodgkin has culled the scanty literary record for as complete a biography as possible for a discriminating popular audience. In other words this is a lively, entertaining account of the man, with plenty of direct quotes from the early annals and memoirs written around the time of Charlemagne’s life and reign.

This excellent biography was reprinted by Macmillan a couple of times, over a couple of decades, showing its appeal as well as its utility. It is good reading, and Fair Thomas describes the life of Charles, and the era before his rise, and his legacy after his death: thus putting this ruler and his accomplishments in historical perspective.

It turns out that this book was popular and admirable enough that an American book company, The Perkins Book Company, decided to print it themselves — without any mention of permission to do so. Copyright infringement is the ultimate compliment, I guess. The text by Hodgkin is reproduced so exactly (though with different pagination and typography,) that even the few typos in the original have been preserved. To muddy the waters of the theft, the book was re-titled “Charlemagne.” The binding of the book says the author is Hodgkins, not Hodgkin — whether purposefully done as a disguise, or out of carelessness, I don’t know. The correct name of our author is noted on the title page inside the book, though. Besides renaming it, someone called Henry Ketcham added notes to it, and a lithograph of the portrait of Charlemagne painted by Albrecht Dürer, was included as a frontispiece. Then the remodeled version was copyrighted by E. A. Brainerd! The whole kit and kaboodle was published in 1902. Other than the title change, notes, and frontispiece, it is the same text exactly as the first edition published in England in 1897. without the Macmillan logo and the mention of it as being one of the volumes in their “Foreign Statesman” Series.

The American version, larcenous though it may be, does have some interesting notes, making their edition of the book many pages longer than the original. At some point I may incorporate those notes into the online book here, if they appear to be accurate.

The copy of the text I have has the signature of one of the previous owners with the presumed date of its acquisition: “Ewen MacPherson, June 21st, 1899.” Here is a copy of his inscription:

Signature of one of the previous owner’s of the book: 'Ewen MacPherson, June 21st, 1899.'

In the online version here, of the original text, any typos have been corrected and the changes are preserved in the source code of that webpage. I have also given a separate webpage to the last Note, instead of incorporating it into the last chapter as in the original, and then added its title (with a link,) in the Table of Contents. I incorporated this addition in brackets, which is my usual means of indicating content that is not in the original: a scarce event (usually only applied to page numbers and non-textual content that are not noted in the text: as in the noting blank pages, end-papers, front-papers etc.). All other text is an exact copy of the original — barring any typos inserted of my own! (Do let me know if you catch them!)

The book is excellently written and the material is fascinating. Click to see the Title Pages and Preface here, or on NEXT below, to get started.