AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

The publishing and literary activities of the predecessors of Ticknor and Fields, 1829-1849

by Florence Wilson Newsome

Institution: Boston University
Year: 1942
Record ID: 1540996
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2144/7541


The aim of this study is to trace briefly the history of the predecessors of the Boston publishers and booksellers, Ticknor and Fields, from 1829 through 1849 and to record the development of American literature as revealed in the publications of Carter and Hendee, Allen and Ticknor, and William D. Ticknor [and Company]. In 1830 New York was the literary center of America. Such American authors as Cooper, Irving and Bryant were living and writing within the confines of that city. New England could only boast of such minor literary lights as Webster, Dana, Channing, Ticknor, and Everett, and all of these names are better known in other fields of endeavor than pure literature. The American people were still too much occupied with the exigencies of daily life to spend much time in reading, and it was only natural that they should turn to the English reprints of such acknowledged masters as Byron, Wordsworth, Keats, Scott, and Jane Austen, all of whom were at their height during this period; and that they should also turn to the periodical miscellanies, of which the United States and particularly Philadelphia had a great number. But, by 1833 the Knickerbocker School in New York had ceased to grow, and New England, by right of inheritance, again became our literary leader. The lyceum movement, started in Massachusetts in 1826, and the expansion and improvement of the school system in 1827 increased the demand for text and general informational books from adults and children alike. Once the inquiring mind of our Puritan descendants was started on the right track, such far-reaching movements as transcendentalism and abolition were taken up and spread by the newspapers, periodicals, lectures, and published in books throughout the country. In 1830 only 40 per cent of the books published in the United States were by American authors; in 1840 approximately 55 per cent were of native origin; and in 1850 nearly 70 per cent were of American origin. In this thirty year period American changed from dependent reprint trade to thriving self-sufficient American booktrade. Books were distributed by the subscription agent, the peddler, the auction sale, and the retail store, which, in order to pay a profit, was generally operated in conjunction with some other enterprise. Early in this period booksellers functioned under an exchange arrangement, and when the system ceased to function in the late 1830's and 1840's, ruinous piracy prevailed. Agitation for adequate copyright legislation, advocated by Charles Dickens and several other authors and publishers, was underway as early as 1842. The site on the corner of Washington and School Streets on which Timothy Harrington Carter established the Old Corner Book Store in 1829 has a long and interesting lineage. The present building was erected in 1712 following the great fire by Thomas Creese, an apothecary. Timothy H. Carter had been associated with Cummings and Billiard in their Boston store before he branched out for himself and established his younger brother, Richard, and Charles J.…