American Literature


Black and White Shot Through with Red: Poet Claude McKay Brings the Harlem Renaissance to the Soviet Union

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At the confluence of the period of racial violence known as Red Summer (1919) and the first Red Scare (1917-1920), Jamaica-born poet and journalist Claude McKay merged black anger with radical politics in his most well-known poem, “If We Must Die.”

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McKay’s sonnet initially appeared in the July 1919 issue of The Liberator, a radical socialist magazine published in New York City from 1918-24 by Max and Crystal Eastman. The fame and impact of “If We Must Die” was such that it was soon reprinted as a rallying cry in other progressive magazines such as the September 1919 issue of The Messenger, available in African American Periodicals, 1825-1995.

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Black and White Shot Through with Red: Poet Claude McKay Brings the Harlem Renaissance to the Soviet Union

Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

This year’s Black History Month marks 200 years since the birth of Frederick Douglass, one of the most influential Americans of the 19th century. While America’s Historical Newspapers includes The North Star, the forceful anti-slavery newspaper Douglass began publishing in Rochester, New York, in 1847, America’s Historical Imprints contains a wealth of primary source material recording, remembering, and celebrating his remarkable life and work.


 

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In his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, found in Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia, Frederick writes of his parents.

My mother was named Harriet Bailey. She was the daughter of Isaac and Betsey Bailey, both colored, and quite dark. My mother was of a darker complexion than either my grandmother or grandfather.

My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means to knowing was withheld from me. My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant – before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age.

He continues, describing his relationship with his mother:

Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

‘In the wild deserts of Ohio’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

The current release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society includes several exceedingly rare imprints, including the captivity narrative and children’s poetry books highlighted below.  Each is illustrated.


The Cries of London, As They Are Daily Exhibited in the Streets. With an Epigram in Verse, Adapted To Each. Embellished with Elegant Characteristic Engravings (1805)

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Similar to other books about the street mongers of New York and Philadelphia, this imprint is beautifully illustrated by intaglio prints attributed to William Ralph. In the preface, the author admonishes the reader not to abjure the lower classes which engage in street sales who are “generally speaking, of the lowest and most illiterate order.” However, he advises respect:

…and daily experience will demonstrate, that the most amiable virtues and excellent dispositions are frequently met with in the lowest spheres of life; and therefore, although we should not act towards our inferiors with an unbecoming familiarity, we should never treat them with haughtiness, nor make them the subject of our ridicule; remembering, that while a sounding title or a weighty purse may excite the temporary admiration of an unthinking multitude, virtue, piety, and integrity, are the only things that can ensure the blessing of Heaven, and render us truly respectable.

The preface concludes with a verse about London the last few lines of which pose a question.

Chairmen, carmen, kennel-rakers,

‘In the wild deserts of Ohio’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

Fostering Understanding—and Children: Pearl S. Buck Interprets China for Americans and Chinese Alike

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Pearl S. Buck inhabited many roles over the course of her life. Following the publication of her bestselling novel The Good Earth in 1931 she was widely known as a writer who crafted a compelling narrative of life in a Chinese village. After she won a Pulitzer Prize for that book in 1932, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, she was regarded as a celebrity and a public intellectual as well.

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To many women she was a beacon of the equal rights movement; for many mixed-race children she was quite simply a savior. To the Chinese among whom she lived she was Sai Zhenzhu (賽珍珠, Chinese for “Precious Pearl”). The communists feared and hated her, but her reputation has since been reappraised and her homes in China are now tourist attractions.

Fostering Understanding—and Children: Pearl S. Buck Interprets China for Americans and Chinese Alike

‘A plodding Englishman, or a pawky Scotchman’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

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Among the extraordinarily rare works in Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society are these illustrated items: a compendium of Irish humor and songs, “a pathetic tale” for juveniles which ends happily, and a chapbook celebrating autumn in verse and prose.


The New Irish Jest and Song Book: Being a Collection of Jests, Blunders, Songs and Witty Sayings from the Latest Publications (1803)

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In his preface to this unique imprint, the author enlarges on the word “blunder.”

An Irish blunder is defined to be “a laughable confusion of ideas,” which, when delivered with all the vivacity and particular gesticulation natural to the country, and with that tone of voice, commonly called the brogue, has infinitely a more humorous effect, than the dull, vapid mistakes of a plodding Englishman, or a pawky Scotchman.

‘A plodding Englishman, or a pawky Scotchman’: Highlights from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

‘Pray cock your eye’: Introducing Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

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The first release of Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society to the Shaw-Shoemaker digital collection includes:

  • an admonitory story for children who are inclined to “a meddling disposition”
  • an articulate argument against introducing the British factory system in the United States
  • a heavily illustrated book of the “history of birds in the air” in rhyme.

 

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The Story of Charles Maitland; or, The Dangers of a Meddling Disposition (1806)

This rare work tells the story of Charles Maitland, a naughty boy unable to refrain from meddling in other peoples’ affairs. Through this behavior Charles “might (by his meddling disposition) have made a breach between two families who were very much united, and lived on the most friendly terms, if he had had to deal with people of less discernment and good sense.”

‘Pray cock your eye’: Introducing Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society

Readex Announces Major New Digital Collections for Fall 2017

Readex is pleased to announce five new digital collections for students and scholars in American studies, history, literature, politics, popular culture and many related areas.


Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900

Drama2.jpgIn the nineteenth century drama became the most popular form of entertainment in America while taking on myriad forms: historical plays, melodramas, political satires, black minstrel shows, comic operas, musical extravaganzas, parlor entertainments, adaptations of novels and more. All of these—more than 4,700 works in total—can be found in Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment. This unique and comprehensive collection sheds new light on an enormous range of heavily studied topics, including daily life in the United States; politics, both local and national; culture in all of its forms; and the shifting and evolving tastes of Americans from across the country. Learn more.


African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883

Readex Announces Major New Digital Collections for Fall 2017

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Lafcadio Hearn: Tracking the Author, Journalist and 19th-Century World Traveler through Historical Newspapers

Lafcadio_hearn.jpgAn American author and literary figure in the last quarter of the 19th century, Lafcadio Hearn was known for his fiction and his reportage from the Caribbean and Japan. His own life, however, was as fascinating as fiction itself, and his biography reads like a Charles Dickens novel that morphs into a Hemingway memoir.

Born to a Greek mother and an Irish father, Hearn was brought up in Greece, Ireland, England and France. After moving to Dublin when he was five, his parents divorced. His mother remarried and returned to Greece, while his soldier father was sent to India with his new wife. Hearn was left in Ireland with his aunt, Sarah Brenane, who sent him to a Catholic school in France on the advice of her financial advisor, Henry Molyneux.

495px-Lafcadio_Hearn.jpgFrom there, Hearn went to yet another school in England, but was forced to leave when Molyneux suffers some financial setbacks. His aunt died and Molyneux became her heir. When Hearn turned nineteen, Molyneux gave him a ticket to New York City. From there, he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, where a relative of Molyneux’s was supposed to help him, but didn’t. Hearn lived in abject poverty. But thanks to his multinational upbringing, he was literate and knew several languages.

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Lafcadio Hearn: Tracking the Author, Journalist and 19th-Century World Traveler through Historical Newspapers

‘To kill a man for rumple groans’: Highlights from an American Antiquarian Supplement to Early American Imprints, 1801-1819

The May release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 2 from the American Antiquarian Society includes many exceptionally rare imprints. Among them are an illustrated early reader presenting the “inhabitants of the world,” a novella about virtue rewarded, and a comic account of a clever Scotsman who entertained and defied King James VI.


 

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Inhabitants of the World, Alphabetically Arranged (1818)

 

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This imprint was donated to the American Antiquarian Society by James d’Alté Aldridge Welch (1907-1970) who was a noted collector of early American children’s books and who published bibliographies of this genre. One of the extremely rare works he donated to the society, “Inhabitants of the World” has an entry for each letter of the alphabet. Every entry has a handsome illustration and a brief description. Naturally, we begin with A.

African

Though much oppressed, and slaves to many nations, yet they are laborious, forbearing, and ingenious.

‘To kill a man for rumple groans’: Highlights from an American Antiquarian Supplement to Early American Imprints, 1801-1819

Four New Bookmarks and Posters Available for Readex Collections

For libraries looking to create awareness and increase usage of their Readex collections, we have created four new sets of posters and bookmarks to support those goals. 

The artwork for each of these items may now be individually downloaded for local printing.  To download artwork for one or more of the four posters seen immediately below, please contact the Readex marketing department. To download bookmark artwork, please click on the links below the posters.

For African American Newspapers

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For Caribbean Newspapers

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For Early American Imprints

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And for Early American Newspapers

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Four New Bookmarks and Posters Available for Readex Collections

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