America's Historical Imprints


Lucretia, Tommy Playlove and the Good Boy: Rare Early American Juvenile Literature

One of the delights of the Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society is the large number of rare, illustrated children’s books. The current release has many lovely examples.


Lucretia; or The Triumph of Virtue (1808)

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Clarissa and Lucretia Bellegrove were the daughters of a gentleman of large property. Nature had lavished on Clarissa a person so lovely, that the most refined judges of beauty could not discover any fault in her form or face; while Lucretia was very deformed and ugly, having a great hump upon her back, and a very disagreeable face. When the sisters were first introduced to strangers, Clarissa was surveyed with admiration, while poor Lucretia’s person excited nothing but disgust.

However, Clarissa “was so proud and haughty, that no one, when she was known to them, could love or admire her.”

Lucretia, on the contrary, had such a mild and amiable disposition, was so sweet-tempered, gentle, modest, and sensible, that her friends forgot the deformities of her person in contemplation of her mind.

As our tale begins, Mr. Bellegrove is anticipating a visit from his wealthy relative and “he resolved to leave no means untried to prevail on her [Clarissa] to disguise her temper before her uncle, whom he well knew had a great aversion to pride and petulance.” Clarissa laughed at his advice convinced her beauty would always win the day. As for Lucretia her father had other plans.

Lucretia, Tommy Playlove and the Good Boy: Rare Early American Juvenile Literature

Why de dickens?: The Lampooning of African Americans as an American Form of Entertainment

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Included in the second release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900, are several minstrel plays. Developed in the United States beginning in the 1830s, minstrel shows mocked the appearances and language of black characters, reinforcing white views on race for more than a century.  This first example, An Elephant on Ice, is subtitled "An Ethiopian Interlude, in One Scene":

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Costumes

Sam Johnson.—Well worn grey pants and vest, a black patch covering entire seat of pants, with patches on knees; dark back, with huge red patch between the shoulders on vest; fancy striped shirt; large shoes; and battered white hat, high crowned.

Sol Squash.—Dandy dress, wig parted in the middle, silk hat, cane; kid gloves and eye glass.

An example of the dialogue as the play opens:

Scene.—A street in second or third grooves.

Enter Sam Johnson R., carrying a buck and saw on his shoulder.

Why de dickens?: The Lampooning of African Americans as an American Form of Entertainment

A Video Preview of the Digital Edition of the Territorial Papers of the United States

Since the early 1940s, Readex has been the leading innovator in the publication of historical American resources. We started our work with massive projects, including Early American Imprints, based on the Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker bibliographies, and Early American Newspapers.

Back then, the medium was microprint and then microform, and it often took ten…or twenty…or thirty years to complete a single product. Many source institutions had to be visited; many documents had to be filmed; and many license agreements had to be drawn up. New technologies had to be developed, too, to ensure that the original images were captured as effectively as possible. These early major collections later became online digital offerings, of course. The ones mentioned above proved to be absolutely foundational back in the early days of digitization.

Today, Readex is extremely proud to be the developer of one more foundational product: Territorial Papers of the United States. This new collection—which we are releasing in four series beginning in June 2018—captures the essential history of more than half of the states of the United States when they were still territories. From Florida to California to Alaska and just about everywhere else in between, Territorial Papers is the crucial—and until now, undigitized—record of a growing, expanding America.

A Video Preview of the Digital Edition of the Territorial Papers of the United States

‘A Complication of Evils’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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The March release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an essay by English abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, a multi-volume work on the physical history of mankind by British physician and ethnologist James Cowles Pritchard, and the 20th-anniversary proceedings of the American Anti-Slavery Society with remarks by its president, William Lloyd Garrison.


An Essay on the Comparative Efficiency of Regulation or Abolition, as Applied to the Slave Trade (1789)

By Thomas Clarkson

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Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) was a British founder of The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Additionally he worked to pass the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which ended the British slave trade. In this 1789 essay, Clarkson writes:

That the Slave-trade contains unavoidably in its own nature, (and still more so according to the present mode of conducting it,) a complication of evils, is a position, which, I trust, that none but slave-merchants will deny.

Clarkson goes on to describe the most often held perspectives on the slave-trade by “persons, according as they are better or less informed.”

‘A Complication of Evils’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Illustrated Comic or Satirical Publications in Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The current release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several illustrated comic or satirical works published in the 19th century.


Life and Adventures of Jeff. Davis (1865)

By McArone

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This satirical account of Jefferson Davis includes illustrations which are derisive in their treatment of the only president of the Confederate States of America.

On the 18th of February, ’61, Jeff. Was formally inaugurated to his new position, with Aleck Stephens as his Vice-President. It was said at the time that a president, with so few virtues, could hardly need a vice.

Both of these gentlemen are reported to have been very much tickled.

On the 4th of March ensuing, Mr. Lincoln was inaugurated, and took the place of the poor, paltry, pattering, puny old public functionary, Buchanan, who had earned some reputation by being caricatured in the funny papers, but had no other claims to be considered otherwise than in the light of a poor shoat.

After the Battle of Bull Run—"the first battle of the war that could be considered much more than a skirmish"—Davis “was on the ground in person and modified Peter Beauregard’s plans just enough to spoil them entirely.” Davis arrived in Richmond and “accepted the entire credit of the victory, in a most gracious manner.”

Illustrated Comic or Satirical Publications in Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“Dip not thy meat in the sauce”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

February’s release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society includes rare books for children which are intended to inform and instruct them. They include behavioral and etiquette instruction and, in one case, graphic as well as moral illustrations.


Jacky Dandy’s Delight: Or, The History of Birds and Beasts; in Verse and Prose. Adorned with Cuts (1805)

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No author of this imprint is identified, but the publisher, Ashbel Stoddard, proves to be an interesting person. The citation provides this “Publication Information: Hudson (N.Y.): Printed by Ashbel Stoddard at the White House, corner of Warren and Third Streets, 1805.” Stoddard was one of the first printers in the early days of white settlements in the Hudson Valley. He owned a bookstore and published a newspaper. The relief prints are charmingly primitive and the book is intended to instruct children about natural history and good behavior.

Jack Dandy was an active fellow,

Merry as any Punchinello,

And did the Part of Harlequin;

Here do but look, he’s just come in.

 

Good Mr. Har. Instruct me pray,

How I may be a pretty boy.

Says Harlequin, I’ll grant your suit,

Learn to be good, and that will do’t.

The author weaves moral lessons with illustrations and descriptions of the birds and beasts. As an instance, we meet Billy Froward who “went a bird catching with Tommy Telltruth, and they agreed at their first setting out, to be partners in their success.” But Billy is a treacherous lad who attempts to hide the linnet he has bagged from Tommy.

“Dip not thy meat in the sauce”: Highlights from the American Antiquarian Society’s Supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

Now available for trial! Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900

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The inaugural release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama includes plays that range over the most popular genres of its 80-year time span. There are comedies and melodramas, Revolutionary and Civil War dramas, plays with all-women and all-black casts, temperance plays, and plays for children for school and home entertainment, as well as many plays written by women. Here are some examples of the diversity of genres and titles now available:

Histories:

  • ‘Pocahontas. A Historical Drama, in Five Acts’ by Robert Dale Owen (1837)
  • ‘The Ku Klux Klan, or, The Carpet-Bagger in New Orleans’ by Elizabeth Avery Meriwether (1877)

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Tragedies:

  • ‘Mohammed, The Arabian Prophet. A Tragedy in Five Acts’ by George Henry Miles (1850)

Comedies:

Now available for trial! Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900

‘The Hard Pillow of the Dying Hero’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

This month’s release of imprints from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes the personal account of a formidable nurse and her care of wounded and dying Union Army soldiers, an address to a reunion of Confederate veterans in 1895, and a first-person description of a southern woman’s travails in a Union prison in the post-war era.


In Hospital and Camp: A Woman’s Record of Thrilling Incidents among the Wounded in the Late War (1869)

By Sophronia E. Bucklin

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Sophronia Bucklin (1828-1902) was an unmarried seamstress born in 1828 and living in upstate New York when the war began. She was determined to serve, as her opening paragraph of this account makes clear.

When, in the complexity of national affairs, it became necessary for armed men to assemble in multitudes, to become exposed to the hardships and privations of camps and deadly peril of battle fields, there arose the same necessity for woman to lend her helping hand to bind up the wounds of the shattered soldier, and smooth the hard pillow of the dying hero.

She met her mission, and her tireless work did not go unnoticed although she may not be as well remembered as Dorothea Dix or Clara Barton. Someone using the initials S.L.C. has written an introduction to this imprint in which she cites Bucklin as the embodiment of countless women of courage and forbearance.

‘The Hard Pillow of the Dying Hero’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection

‘The Village of Innocence’: Rare Early 19th-Century Children’s Books from the American Antiquarian Society

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Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society makes available more than 1,700 rare and unique publications printed between 1801 and 1819. Included in the newest release, and highlighted below, are several illustrated works of juvenile literature intended to instruct and uplift.


A Premium (1803)

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It can be striking to observe how many stories for children used to refer to death occasionally to attribute it as a naughty youngster’s fate . A verse of the poem which opens this tale:

Do whate’er thy hand shall find,

With all thy might with all thy mind,

Now in works of love abound,

None can in the grave be found.

This somber poem is followed by another titled “On the Death of a Favorite Cat.” The ensuing illustration depicts three children pointing to a dead cat which had been hanged from a branch. This cat had been enticed by a trap set to catch a fox.

The text includes a sprinkling of aphorisms, including:

He that is his own appraiser, will be disappointed in the value.

‘The Village of Innocence’: Rare Early 19th-Century Children’s Books from the American Antiquarian Society

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

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