William Stearns


About Author: 

William is Senior Editor, Readex Digital Collections. He has been Editor of the Readex edition of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set since its early days. Previously, he was Editor of NewsBank Global Products and Assistant Vocabulary Editor. For the past ten years, he has also trained numerous NewsBank and Readex indexers.

Posts by this Author

“Sunshine for the youthful mind”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

Picture books for children, games and riddles for the whole family, and a poem about the Devil disturbing the good citizens of Hardwick, Massachusetts, are among the documents found in the September release of Early American Imprints, Series II, Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819. The picture book highlighted here includes ten leaves of beautiful color plates, many of which are shown below.


The Devil in Hardwick (1803)

By John Bunyan, Jun.

Reading between the lines of Mr. Bunyan’s verse, it seems possible that the citizens of Hardwick had purchased a bell for their church tower, and that some townsfolk, or at least the poet, did not fully appreciate this innovation.

From Early American Imprints: Supplements from the American Antiquarian SocietyA Hardwick bard, not long ago,

Did publicly declare,

“The Devil soon will be about,

“He cannot live in Ware!”

 

Tho’ poets oft in fiction deal,

They sometimes prophets are;

As ev’ry one must know full well,

In Hardwick, and in Ware.

 

This town so fam’d in ancient times,

As can our fathers tell;

Has rais’d its reputation much,

By purchasing a BELL.

No sooner had the bell been installed than it began to ring at unaccountable hours of the night distressing the neighborhood:

“Sunshine for the youthful mind”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

“Are the souls of your children of no Value?”: Early American Instructions for Parents and Their Children

Within the most recent release of new material from Early American Imprints, Series I, Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1800, are several books meant to be instructive to children and, in some instances, their parents.


A token for children: being an exact account of the conversion, holy and exemplary lives and joyful deaths of several young children. By James Janeway, Minister of the Gospel; To which is added, A token for the children of New-England. Or, Some examples of children, in whom fear of God was remarkably budding before they died; in several parts of New-England. Preserved and published for the encouragement of piety in other children. With new additions (1752)

The title of this work, first published in 1700, is substantial, and oddly punctuated, but the message seems clear: pious children meet happy deaths. Finding joy in a child’s death may be a formidable challenge for contemporary society, but the Reverend Janeway (1636?-1674) is insistent upon it and upon instilling in children this hard lesson.

In his preface, Janeway addresses parents, asking “Are the souls of your children of no Value? Are you willing that they should be Brands of Hell?” He instructs that children “are not too Little to die; they are not too Little to go to Hell…” and he continues with general advice for children who would be saved:

I. Take heed of what you know is naught: As Lying; O that is a grievous Fault indeed, and naughty Words, and taking the Lord’s Name in vain, and playing upon the Lord’s Day, and keeping bad Company, and playing with ungodly Children: But if you go to school with such, tell them, that God will not love them, but the devil will have them, if they continue to be so naught.

“Are the souls of your children of no Value?”: Early American Instructions for Parents and Their Children

Murder and Mayhem in 19th-Century America: Sensational Accounts in American Pamphlets

This month’s release from the New-York Historical Society’s collection of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922, includes many sensational accounts of murder and mayhem in the 19th century. In some instances these are presented in a lurid style, clearly intended to arouse and titillate the public.

Errant clergy, fallen women, filicidal mothers, wronged ladies and ardent lovers are all limned in these short documents, many with compelling illustrations that are unabashedly enthusiastic in their depictions.


The terrible hay-stack murder. Life and trial of the Rev. Ephraim K. Avery, for the murder of the young and beautiful Miss Sarah M. Cornell, a factory girl of Fall River, Mass., whose affections he won, and whose honor he betrayed. He afterwards strangled his poor victim, and hung her body to a hay-stack in order to convey the idea that she had committed suicide (1880)

The full title serves its inflammatory purpose and introduces the reader to the tragedy of seduction and betrayal allegedly committed by a prominent Methodist minister in Tiverton, Rhode Island, in 1832.

Murder and Mayhem in 19th-Century America: Sensational Accounts in American Pamphlets

Shattered Nerves and Lethargic Stomachs: Highlights from American Pamphlets

This month’s release from the New-York Historical Society’s collection of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922, includes a sales pitch from an early American auto club which encourages prospective members to explore a country “almost as undiscovered as Africa,” an enthusiastic explanation of the moral and intellectual virtues of croquet, and colorful zoological descriptions of P.T. Barnum’s menagerie, complete with elegant illustrations.


Discover America (1910)

This pamphlet, produced by the Automobile Touring Club of America, is generously illustrated with photographs, beginning with the club’s four-story headquarters in New York City. The size and location of the building and the ambitious tenor of the text are testimony to how rapidly Americans were embracing the still new horseless carriages that were ushering in the age of the automobile.

Clearly, this publication was designed to promote the club by selling annual memberships and adding car insurance into the bargain. Annual dues are five dollars, and the insurance is promised to “save from $5 to $40 per year” meaning “you save at least as much as you pay in” and “you may even make a profit” which will mean that all of the expert advice on travel routes, road conditions, and accommodations along the way will cost the member nothing.

Shattered Nerves and Lethargic Stomachs: Highlights from American Pamphlets

“Unspeakable losses of treasure, love and life”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

The current release of imprints from the American Antiquarian Society’s American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes strikingly different assessments of the war’s origins as described a half century apart by two very different men. In 1862 the governor of Virginia’s Union sympathetic rump government left no doubt as to where the responsibility for the war lay. By contrast, writing 50 years later a veteran of the Union Army is not nearly so certain as the governor.

“Unspeakable losses of treasure, love and life”: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

“Free from Care”: Resort and Hotel Brochures from the American Pamphlets collection

From American PamphletsThe first days of summer are a fine time to highlight pamphlets advertising the glories of two resort hotels and one city establishment. These three documents are from this month’s release of American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society. They are among many other pamphlets celebrating country rambles, local histories, and recreational pastimes.


Echoes from the Sea: Coleman House [by] Frank B. Conover (1901)

We begin our holiday tour at the ocean, specifically at Asbury Park, New Jersey, where “stands the Coleman House, the centre of coast life and gaiety.” Mr. Conover, the author, has the highest praise for this grand hotel and for “Mr. Frank B. Conover, whose management of the hotel has been most successful for the past three seasons.” His fulsome description of Asbury Park is a striking contrast to the contemporary condition of the resort. It has been undergoing significant revival but only after having fallen on hard times.

In 1901 Conover was able to write that “it is a refined resort, abounding in great natural beauty and numerous forms of enjoyment. It is not merely a seashore resort, but it is a city of the sea, comprising a beautiful blending of country, seashore and city life.”

From American Pamphlets

“Free from Care”: Resort and Hotel Brochures from the American Pamphlets collection

“Dead Rebel” and Nearly 900 Other Newly Digitized Stereographs in The American Civil War Collection

From The American Civil War CollectionThe June release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society features an extensive accumulation of images created throughout the conflict and into its aftermath. They are presented as a single work of 1,756 pages entitled "Civil War Stereographs, 1865-1900."  Its citation reads, in part,

The American Antiquarian Society's collection of Civil War stereographs includes more than 800 examples, some that were published during the war years, 1861-1865, and others that were published as memorials towards the end of the nineteenth century. Includes cards published by many publishers from the works of many photographers. Included are works by Matthew Brady and W.H. Tipton…  

The collection includes many views from the major battlefields during the war, including Antietam, Battle of the Wilderness, and the Battle of Gettysburg, shown after the destruction, some with the dead on the fields. There are images of the Boston Light Infantry, soldier camps, families, and the cities of Charleston, S.C., Nashville, Tenn., Richmond, Fredericksburg and Petersburg, Va. Also includes images of the monuments erected and dedicated to those lost at the Battle of Gettysburg. Includes views of the Washington Navy Yard, Libby Prison, Fort Marion in Florida, Lookout Mountain and cemeteries of dead soldiers.  

“Dead Rebel” and Nearly 900 Other Newly Digitized Stereographs in The American Civil War Collection

Bernhardt, Burghers, and Bears: New Items in American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

Below are three new works found in the May release of the digital edition of New-York Historical Society’s American Pamphlets collection.


The Palace Theater presents Madame Sarah Bernhardt in Vaudeville (1912)

“There are five kinds of actresses, said Mark Twain; “bad actresses, fair actresses, good actresses, great actresses, and Sarah Bernhardt.”

Thus begins this handsome promotional brochure announcing that The Palace, Broadway’s newest theatre at the time, had booked Sarah Bernhardt, an international star like no other. This work is generously illustrated with photographs of some of her triumphs, including “Lucrece Borgia” by Victor Hugo, Sardou’s “Theodora,” and “La Dame aux Camelias” by Alexandre Dumas. Near each photograph is a two-page “Outline of the Play.”

Bernhardt, Burghers, and Bears: New Items in American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

Buboes, Gleets, and Chordee: New Selections from Early American Imprints, Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819

Highlighted below are a few of the items added in May to the major new enrichment to the Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker collections of early American printed materials. These rare works, now available for the first time in Readex digital editions of Early American Imprints, are from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society.


The porcupine, alias the hedge-hog: or, The fox turned preacher: Written after the manner of Ignatius Irony, Bartholomew Burlesque, and Samuel Satire (1795)

By L.S. living in Fox Island

Indeed, this imprint employs irony, burlesque, and satire:

“A Certain Fox (not the cunningest of his species) having frequent occasion to pass by a country church, and contrasting his own leanness with the Parson’s fatness, he concluded it more safe, as well as more honorable, to preach than to kill poultry…”

Hence, the fox attends evening lectures at the church, observing that the preacher…

…would repeatedly inform his audience, that such and such passages were wrongly translated, he determined to avail himself of this, and take the same liberty, by which means [the fox] might be enabled to construe every text to his own liking, and impose upon his hearers at pleasure.

Stealing a Bible from the church, the fox is particularly taken by a passage from Acts: “Rise Peter, kill and eat.” He determines that he shall call himself Peter and issue an address:

Buboes, Gleets, and Chordee: New Selections from Early American Imprints, Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819

“My soul has drifted down the stream”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

This month we focus on three heavily illustrated works found in the April release of American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society.


The New York and Brooklyn Bridge Illustrated (1883)

Interspersed with many illustrations, this pamphlet describes the Brooklyn Bridge from its first conception, to its construction, to its opening in May of 1883. There is no doubt that its creation was an astonishing achievement, and the writer, using superlatives generously, returns to this fact often as he recounts the history. He writes, “The details of constructing the towers have been performed under the eyes of all Brooklyn people. Since the tower of Babel and the great pyramid of Egypt, there have been no more massive structures.”

The construction took its toll, especially on the workers. Caissons—large, bottomless wooden boxes into which compressed air was pumped to keep out water—were dangerous places for the laborers who dug out mud and bedrock until they had a solid footing into which concrete was poured:

In the New York caisson the pressure of air at the last was equal to 35 pounds to the square inch. Breathing was a labor, and labor extremely exhausting. Yet brave men subjected themselves to physical suffering of this sort day after day, that the great work might go on, until in many cases nervous disease and paralysis would follow.

The writer refers to the illustrations as “photographs [that] were redrawn by careful, trained artists, and their drawings reproduced and reduced to the present size by photo engraving.” Here are several examples:

“My soul has drifted down the stream”: Highlights from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922

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