Special Collections & Archives Blog

Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne (1926)

Monday, December 19, 2011 4:41 pm

Alan Alexander Milne (1882-1956) never intended to be a children’s author. A former editor at Punch magazine, Milne was by 1924 a successful playwright and author of several volumes of essays and poetry for adults. When he announced to his editors (at Methuen in London and Dutton in New York) that his next manuscript was a book of children’s poems, they were skeptical. But When We Were Very Young was an immediate bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. The publishers reprinted the book four times in November and December of 1924.

Note from dust jacket flap, first edition

Punch illustrator Ernest H. Shepard provided the “decorations.”

First edition, 1924

The bear who would become famous as Winnie-the-Pooh made his first appearance (as Edward Bear) in the poem “Teddy Bear.”

Milne took his craft seriously, observing that

The practice of no form of writing demands such a height of technical perfection as the writing of light verse. . . When We Were Very Young is not the work of a poet becoming playful, nor of a lover of children expressing his love, nor of a prose-writer knocking together a few jingles for the little ones, it is the work of a light-verse writer taking his job seriously even though he is taking it into the nursery.
Autobiography, 282

Although his English-nursery parlance can strike modern readers as a bit twee, Milne’s depiction of childhood is not sentimental. He later wrote that he sought to strike a balance between conveying the “artless beauty… innocent grace… [and] unstudied abandon of movement” of young children while also recognizing their “lack of moral quality, which expresses itself…in an egotism entirely ruthless” [Autobiography, 283].

Two years later Milne brought out a volume of stories about Winnie-the-Pooh and other stuffed animals from the collection of his young son, Christopher Robin.

Title page from first American edition (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1926)

Milne’s publishers this time anticipated the demand for his book, and they ordered two sets of electrotype plates from which to print. The first American edition included 200 signed and numbered large-paper copies, of which Wake Forest’s is number 137.

The foibles of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends Piglet, Eeyore, Owl, Rabbit, and Kanga and Roo were told with wry humor that captivated readers young and old. Milne later confirmed that all of the animals except for Rabbit and Owl were based on actual toys. The originals are still on view at the New York Public Library. The illustrations for Pooh, however, were actually based on a teddy bear named Growler, which belonged to Shepard’s son Graham.

Winnie-the-Pooh was indeed wildly popular, and Milne followed it in 1927 with another book of verse, Now We Are Six. Pooh makes an appearance in one of the poems, “Us Two.”

From the first edition of Now We Are Six (London: Methuen & co., 1927)

The animals of the Hundred Acre Woods also appear in several illustrations.

The next year Milne published another volume of stories about Pooh and friends, The House at Pooh Corner, which introduced the character of Tigger.

From the first edition of The House at Pooh Corner (London: Methuen & co., 1928)

The House at Pooh Corner (1928) was Milne’s last work for children. He returned to writing plays, essays, and novels for adults. But none of Milne’s other writings approached anywhere near the popularity of Pooh. Literary critic Alison Lurie contemplated Pooh’s lasting renown on the fiftieth anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh‘s publication, wondering “why this mild story about a group of English toys should have almost instantly become, and remained for 50 years, an international classic- probably the best-loved children’s book of the 20th century.” She concludes that

In spite of their apparent simplicity, “Winnie-the-Pooh” and its sequel, “The House at Pooh Corner,” tell a story with universal appeal to any child anywhere who finds himself, like most children, at a social disadvantage in the adult world. What Milne has done is to turn this world upside down, so that Christopher Robin becomes the responsible adult, while everyone around him has turned into toys or animals, inferior in both size and authority.

In later years Milne resented being pigeonholed as a children’s author.

I wrote four ‘Children’s books,’ containing altogether, I supposed, 70,000 words–the number of words in the average-length novel. Having said good-bye to all that in 70,000 words, knowing that as far as I was concerned the mode was outmoded, I gave up writing children’s books. I wanted to escape from them as I had once wanted to escape from Punch. . . . In vain. England expects the writer, like the cobbler, to stick to his last.
Autobiography, 286

Milne once complained that critics viewed all of his subsequent work through the lens of Pooh and Christopher Robin:

As a discerning critic pointed out: the hero of my latest play, God help it, was ‘just Christopher Robin grown up.’ So that even when I stop writing about children, I insist on writing about people who were children once.
Autobiography, 287

But Milne’s protests were indeed for naught. His children’s books, with their enduring appeal both for children and for people who were children once, have made Winnie-the-Pooh his legacy.

Illustration from the first edition of Winnie-the-Pooh

The books in Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s A.A. Milne collection were acquired from a variety of sources. The signed and numbered first edition of Winnie-the-Pooh was part of publisher Lynwood Giacomini’s collection, which was purchased by the library in 1976. When We Were Very Young came from the Charles Babcock collection and also has the bookplate of Dickens bibliographer John C. Eckel. Other volumes were purchased by the library.


Alison Lurie. “Back to Pooh Corner.” Children’s Literature 2 (1973): 11-17; “Now We Are Fifty.” New York Times Book Review (14 November 1976).

A. A. Milne. Autobiography. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1939.

John R. Payne. “Four Children’s Books by A. A. Milne.” Studies in Bibliography 23 (1970): 127-139.

Magnalia Christi Americana, by Cotton Mather (1702)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 5:00 pm

I WRITE the Wonders of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION, flying from the Depravations of Europe, to the American Strand: And, assisted by the Holy Author of that Religion, I do, with all Conscience of Truth, required therein by Him, who is the Truth it self, Report the Wonderful Displays of His Infinite Power, Wisdom, Goodness, and Faithfulness, wherewith His Divine Providence hath Irradiated an Indian Wilderness.

These opening lines of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana set the tone for his epic and exhaustive account of 17th-century Puritan New England. Running to nearly 700 pages in printed form, the Magnalia includes biographical sketches of civic and religious leaders, a history of Harvard College, arguments over church polity and discipline, descriptions of the threats and hardships (Indian attacks, Roger Williams, witches, Anne Hutchinson) endured by the Puritan faithful, and many accounts of the signs and “wonders” experienced by the colonists as evidences of God’s direct intervention in human affairs. For Mather, human history was merely a manifestation of the epic struggle between God and the forces of evil. The Magnalia is, Michael P. Winship observes, “the last great document in the orthodox providential tradition” [74].

Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was the third generation of a dynasty of Puritan ministers in North America. His grandfathers, Richard Mather and John Cotton, were prominent ministers and founders of the New England colony. His father Increase Mather was also an important religious leader, minister of Boston’s Second Church, President of Harvard College, and the colony’s official envoy to the English monarchs James II and William and Mary. Cotton, the eldest son, was from a young age acutely conscious of the family expectations. After receiving degrees from Harvard and the University of Glasgow, Cotton Mather joined his father in ministry at Second Church in Boston.

Map of New England included in the first edition of the Magnalia Christi Americana

In 1693 Cotton Mather recorded in his diary that in July of that year he “formed a Design, to endeavour, THE CHURCH-HISTORY OF THIS COUNTREY.” Encouraged by his fellow-clergy, Mather says that he set himself “to cry mightily unto the Lord, that if my Undertaking herein might bee for His Glory, Hee would grant mee His Countenance and Assistance in it. (However, I did not actually begin this Work, till the latter End of the year.)” The young Rev. Mather worked on his “Church-History ” (as he always referred to it) for the next four years. Finally in August of 1697 he records in the diary a special thanksgiving for “the singular Favour of the Lord unto mee, in upholding, and assisting mee, to finish my CHURCH-HISTORY.”

Mather had published many sermons and small pamphlets with the local Boston printers. But a work the size of the Magnalia was beyond the capabilities of any printing operation in North America. If his manuscript was to be published, it would have to be sent to London. This was not a small undertaking. Since Mather likely had no extra copy of his lengthy manuscript, he did not want to send it across the ocean unaccompanied. It was not until June of 1700 that Mather recorded:

I this Day put up my Church-History, and pen down Directions about the publishing of it. It is a work of near 300 sheets; and has lain by me, diverse Years, for want of a fitt Opportunity to send it. A Gentleman, just now sailing for England, undertakes the care of it; and by his Hand I send it for London. O my Lord Jesus Christ, lett thy Good Angels accompany it!

The gentleman in question was Mather’s friend Edward Bromfield, who delivered the manuscript to Rev. John Quick, a Presbyterian minister and friend of Increase Mather. But London publishers were skeptical about the rather unwieldy manuscript. Mather worked himself into a state of great anxiety about it, but finally in June 1701 he heard from Bromfield that a sympathetic printer, Robert Hackshaw, had been found who was willing to finance the publication. In fact Hackshaw offloaded the printing, along with a large stock of inferior paper from his warehouse, onto another publisher, Thomas Parkhurst.

Mather finally saw a copy of his published work on 30 October 1702. He “sett apart this Day, for solemn THANKSGIVING unto God, for His watchful and gracious Providence over that Work.” But he could not help being somewhat disappointed in the final product. The folio volume was indifferently printed in two columns on cheap paper, and it was riddled with errors. Mather included an errata sheet in some of the copies sold in North America, but most copies remained uncorrected. Some of Mather’s critics took him to task for errors that were in fact the fault of his printer.

From Mather’s Life of John Eliot, a description of Eliot’s Indian missions and the second edition of his Algonquin Bible

The Magnalia Christi Americana received a mixed reception on both sides of the Atlantic. Many readers praised it, but others thought the work was outdated in both style and substance before it was even published. And indeed, many of the “wonders” that Mather recounted as evidence of God’s providence would be explained away by the next generation as natural phenomena.

Mather’s style was not the “plain” Puritan idiom admired by future literary historians, but a very late Baroque style– wordy, ornamental, studded with metaphor and with classical and Biblical allusions. Many of his contemporaries accused him of being overly pedantic, and later readers tended to agree. Writing in the North American Review in 1818, William Tudor famously described the Magnalia as “a chaotick mass of history, biography, obsolete creeds, witchcraft, and Indian wars, interspersed with bad puns, and numerous quotations in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew which rise up like so many decayed, hideous stumps to arrest the eye and deform the surface.”

The Magnalia Christi Americana was not published again until 1820, when it appeared in its first American edition. American writers of the mid-19th century in particular had a love/hate relationship with the Magnalia. Hawthorne, Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and many others borrowed Mather’s source material as they formed a mythology of America’s origins. But they tended to see Mather as at best quaint and credulous, and at worst an example of all that was wrong with the Puritan forefathers– most notably the vanity, religious intolerance, and misogyny that led to the Salem witch trials debacle.

An unbiased reading of Mather’s work suggests that this is not quite fair. In the accounts of the Salem events in particular, Mather comes across in the Magnalia as a bit defensive but also genuinely conflicted.

Excerpt from Mather’s Life of William Phips, describing the situation in Salem

Mather was not unaware of the changing intellectual currents of his day. He had a keen interest in the new pursuit of natural science: he considered giving up the ministry to study medicine at one point, and he campaigned for controversial smallpox inoculation during an outbreak in Boston. But he remained firmly committed to the theological outlook of his grandfathers, the first generation of New England Puritans. This tension is evident in Mather’s sprawling, messy, flawed, but fascinating book. The Magnalia is, as Kenneth Murdock observes in his introduction to the 1977 scholarly edition, “a completely idiosyncratic document, one which none of Mather’s contemporaries could, or would, have written.”[46]

Wake Forest’s copy of the first edition was part of the library of Charles Babcock, which was donated to the University in the 1970s. It also bears the bookplate of Charles Bruce, (1682-1747). Viscount Bruce’s amassed a large personal library, the catalog of which was published in 1733, one of the first published catalogs of private libraries in Britain.


Bercovitch, Sacvan. “New England Epic: Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana”, ELH Vol. 33, No. 3 (Sep., 1966), pp. 337-350.

Mather, Cotton, and Kenneth Ballard Murdock. Magnalia Christi Americana: Books I and II. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1977.

Warren, Austin. “Grandfather Mather and His Wonder Book” The Sewanee Review Vol. 72, No. 1 (Winter, 1964), pp. 96-116.

Winship, Michael. Seers of God: Puritan Providentialism in the Restoration and Early Enlightenment. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Formulation : Articulation, by Josef Albers (1972)

Friday, October 14, 2011 12:33 pm

If one says “Red” (the name of a color)
and there are 50 people listening,
it can be expected that there will be 50 reds in their minds.
And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.

Josef Albers, Interaction of Color (1963)


The artist Joseph Albers (1888-1976) was born in Germany and began his career as an art teacher, painter, and printmaker. In 1920 he enrolled in the new Bauhaus School in Weimar, where he studied under color theorist Johannes Itten and began to formulate his own theories about the perception and interaction of color. Albers eventually joined the Bahaus faculty and remained there until the Nazis closed the school in 1933. He and his wife, the artist Anni Fleischmann Albers, left Germany for Asheville, North Carolina when Black Mountain College offered Albers a teaching post. While at Black Mountain Albers became influential in the American art world as an artist, color theorist, and art teacher . He remained at the college until 1949, when he left to become head of the Design Department at Yale.

Color remained Albers’s main preoccupation in both his art and his teaching. He emphasized the changeable nature of color, demonstrating how color perception is affected by light, shape, motion, and juxtaposition of other colors. In 1963 he published Interaction of Color, in which he set forth his ideas about the teaching of color theory and provided plates, many of them interactive, for use in classroom settings.

Formulation : Articulation, a collection of 127 silkscreen prints of Albers’s works, was published in 1972. Albers himself selected the works and arranged their order.

The preface to Formulation : Articulation states that

The concept of this publication is the realization rather than the reproduction of the essential ideas in Josef Albers’ works. . . . No attempt has been made to present the work in chronological order; rather, for each portfolio the artist has placed the folders in a sequential order so that they may be seen and examined for their interaction. . . .

Albers collaborated with Yale colleagues Norman Ives and Sewell Sillman to design the book and produce the silkscreens, a process which took nearly two years. The finished product, published by Ives and Sillman in cooperation with Harry N. Abrams, consists of the plates and a booklet of notes by Albers, all contained in two large portfolio cases.

Below is a sampling of images from Formulation : Articulation, with Albers’s notes on each print or set of prints.

I : 25

From oil of 1940, Bent Black. On tiptoe and pendant between points.


I : 26

Repeated and not repeated.

II : 8


Seeing several of these paintings next to each other makes it obvious that each painting is an instrumentation of its own.
This means that they are all of different palettes, and therefore, so to speak, of different climates.
Choice of the colors used, as well as their order, is aimed at an interaction- influencing and changing each other forth and back.
Thus, character and feeling alter from painting to painting without any additional “hand writing,” or so-called texture.
Although the underlying symmetrical and quasi-concentric order of squares remains the same in all paintings — in proportion and placement — these same squares group or single themselves, connect and separate, in many different ways.
In consequence, they move forth and back, in and out, and grow up and down and near and far, enlarged and diminished. All this, to proclaim color autonomy as a means of a plastic organization.

II : 18

A rare palette for a Variant in six colors. See the color interaction, particularly the illusionary transparencies within the grays.


II : 19

A quartet within an Homage to the Square which permits and deserves reversal — and, although reversed, the two remain twins.

Two original paintings by Albers– one of which is part of hisHomage to the Square series –are on view through December 31 at Reynolda House Museum of American Art as part of the special exhibit Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s copy of Formulation : Articulation is number 705 of 1000 copies printed. It was purchased by the Special Collections Department in 1986.

Select bibliography of works by and about Josef Albers in the ZSR Library collection:

Albers, Josef, and Francois Bucher. Despite Straight Lines. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1961.

Albers, Josef. Interaction of Color. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963.

Albers, Josef., and Casa Luis Barragan. Homage to the Square: Josef Albers. Mexico, D.F.: Casa Luis Barragan, 2009.

Danilowitz, Brenda., Josef Albers, and Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. The Prints of Josef Albers: A Catalogue Raisonne, 1915-1976. New York : [Lanham, Md.?]: Hudson Hills Press in association with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 2001.

Pakay, S., Weber, N. F., Albers, J., Albers, A., et. al. Hudson Film Works (Firm), & WMHT (Television station : Schenectady, N. (2006). Josef and Anni Albers: Art is everywhere. [Hudson, NY]: Hudson Film Works.



Lenardo und Blandine, illustrated by Joseph Franz von Goez (1783)

Friday, September 30, 2011 10:53 am

Joseph Franz von Goez’s 1783 adaptation of Lenardo und Blandine “in 160 impassioned designs” may be the world’s first graphic novel.

Based on a ballad by German poet Gottfried August Bürger , Goez’s book tells the story of doomed lovers Lenardo and Blandine in a series of captioned copper etchings.

Bürger’s poem is itself based on Boccacio’s tale of Ghismonda and Guiscardo. In both versions a young woman is promised in marriage to a nobleman. However, her betrothed soon discovers that she already has a lover. The girl’s father kills the lover, after which the distraught daughter goes mad and dies.

Bürger’s poem was popular in 18th century Germany, inspiring works of art and theatrical adaptations. A musical melodrama based on the poem was staged in Munich in 1779, with a score by Peter Winter. The director and librettist was Joseph Franz von Goez.

Goez’s illustrations were based on the theatrical version of Lenardo und Blandine. The melodrama makes a few adjustments to Bürger’s poem , mostly to make the title characters more sympathetic. In Goez’s version the lovers are secretly married and Lenardo is a faithful courtier to Blandine’s father the king.

Whether or not Goez’s book is the first graphic novel, it is a fascinating record of an 18th century theatrical performance.

As the story begins, Blandine’s fiance witnesses her tryst with Lenardo and vows revenge.

The lovers, meanwhile, are grieved to have to part as morning approaches.

Parallels with stories of other doomed lovers are abundant. Here Blandine insists that the bird Lenardo hears is a nightingale, not a swallow, herald of the morning.

Lenardo, as it turns out, was right to feel a sense of foreboding. After he leaves Blandine, he is killed by her father the king.

That evening Blandine wonders why Lenardo does not come to her as he had promised.

She is visited by three mysterious messengers, bearing in turn a bloody, broken ring…

…an urn containing the dead Lenardo’s heart…

…and a letter accusing her of infidelity.

Blandine goes mad…

…and soon dies of grief.

The king is left to mourn his dead daughter and repent of his rash actions.

Wake Forest’s copy of Lenardo und Blandine was purchased by the library in 1964.

Images of the Old Testament, by Hans Holbein (1549)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 3:59 pm

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) is now best known as portrait painter of some of the most famous figures of Renaissance Europe, including Erasmus, Thomas More, and King Henry VIII of England. But as a young artist in his native Basel, Holbein also worked as an illustrator, producing drawings that would be reproduced in woodcuts and included in printed books.

Holbein’s most famous illustrations are his Dance of Death series. The drawings that make up The Images of the Old Testament (better known by its Latin title Icones Historiarum Veteris Testamenti) were likely done at about the same time as the Dance of Death, probably between 1523 and 1526. The first four illustrations in the Icones are taken from the Dance of Death series. The depict the creation of Adam and Eve and their fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, with Death personified as a skeletal figure.

The rest of the illustrations are in landscape format and demonstrate Holbein’s movement toward increasingly complex spatial structure in his drawings.

Woodcut illustrations of the 16th century required collaboration between artist and craftsmen. Holbein would have provided the original drawings for engravers to transfer onto woodblocks for the printing press. There is considerable discussion among art historians about who the engravers for the Icones might have been. A few of the engravings have been attributed to Hans Lützelburger, a particularly skilled wood-engraver who had also worked on the Dance of Death. ButLützelburger died in 1526, and it is clear that a number of other engravers worked on the illustrations.

Holbein’s Icones are part of a long tradition of biblical illustration in Europe. Lavishly illustrated manuscript Bibles were a popular luxury item during the Middle Ages. The religious Reformation of the early 16th century, with its emphasis on bringing scripture directly to the laity, created a new demand for Bibles translated into the language of everyday speech rather than scholarly Latin. Many of these vernacular Bibles contained illustrations, maps, and diagrams. It is not known who commissioned Holbein’s Old Testament illustrations, but they may have been intended for an illustrated Bible.

Proof copies of the Icones woodcuts are known to have been in existence by 1531, but the entire set was not published in any form until 1538. By the 1530’s religious conflict and Protestant iconoclasm were on the rise in Germany, and religious illustrations fell somewhat out of favor. This may account for the fact that the first appearance of the Icones was in a Catholic folio Bible printed in Lyons.

The Icones prints were published separately for the first time in the same year by the Lyonnais publishers Francis and Johan Frellon. This small book, with verses in French by Gilles Corrozet and an introductory poem in praise of Holbein by Nicholas Bourbon, was likely intended as a Christian version of the classical emblem books that were extremely popular at the time.

Over the next decade the Frellons published several editions of the Icones with text in various combinations of Latin and vernacular languages. The 1549 edition held by Wake Forest has verses in French below the woodcuts and English text above. The English spellings are peculiar even by 16th century standards, suggesting that the translation was probably done by the French-speaking printers or one of their employees.

The late art historian Arthur M. Hind wrote that

Holbein’s Images of the Old Testament, as they were called in the English edition of 1549, are the most wonderful series of illustration to the Bible in existence. Even outside the more limited sphere of book illustration they have practically no rivals, except the scriptural printes of Dürer and Rembrandt. Inspiration is so much more often found in separate works than in a series, that it is all the more remarkable to see so high a level of artistic power preserved throughout the ninety-one uniform cuts that make up Holbein’s Old Testament.

Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s copy of The Images of the Old Testament was purchased for the Rare Books Collection with funds from the Oscar T. Smith endowment. The book is part of the Historic Bibles exhibit on view in the ZSR Special Collections Reading Room, September 2011 through January 2012.



Common Sense, by Thomas Paine (1776)

Friday, July 1, 2011 11:43 am

Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle between England and America. Men of all ranks have embarked in the controversy, from different motives, and with various designs; but all have been ineffectual, and the period of debate is closed. Arms as the last resource decide the contest; the appeal was the choice of the King, and the Continent has accepted the challenge.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Thomas Paine’s 79-page pamphlet has achieved a mythic status in the history of the American Revolution. Paine often gets credit for more or less single-handedly galvanizing the reluctant colonists to commit to the war of independence. As one historian puts it “Common Sense swept the country [sic] like a prairie fire,” and “as a direct result of this overwhelming distribution, the Declaration of Independence was unanimously ratified on July 4, 1776.” [Gimbel, 57]

This may be overstating the case a bit. Paine’s pamphlet was certainly popular and influential in revolutionary America, but the real story of Common Sense‘s creation, dissemination, and reception is less straightforward– and perhaps more interesting– than the myth.

Thomas Paine was born to a Quaker family of modest means in Norfolk, England in 1737. His formal education ended when he was 12 years old, after which he pursued various occupations without great success. In 1774 he emigrated to Philadelphia, where he soon took on the job of editing Robert Aitken’s radical new monthly newspaper, the Pennsylvania Magazine. Paine loved controversy, hated the British aristocracy, and was devoted to the Enlightenment ideal of individual liberty. So it comes as no surprise that he was an immediate and vocal supporter of American independence.

In October 1775 King George III gave a speech to Parliament in which he declared that the American colonies were in rebellion against the crown and therefore subject to military intervention. Paine wrote a response to the king’s pronouncement, for which his friend Dr. Benjamin Rush suggested the title Common Sense.

Paine had originally intended Common Sense to appear in newspapers in several installments, but he realized that his argument was more convincing when taken as a whole. So he contracted with Philadelphia printer Robert Bell to publish the work.

Wake Forest’s copy of Common Sense is Bell’s third edition, published in February 1776.

Common Sense was first published on January 9, 1776. This first printing consisted of 1000 copies, with profits to be split evenly between the author and publisher. By January 20 Bell was advertising a “new edition” in press, which likely means that the first printing had already sold out.

Paine had already publicly announced a plan to use his share of the profits from Common Sense to buy mittens for the Continental Army in Quebec. However, Robert Bell insisted that printing costs had eaten up all the profits from the first edition and that he owed Paine nothing. A very public feud commenced between Paine and his publisher, with accusations and counter-accusations printed in the Pennsylvania Evening Post.

Bell published his unauthorized “second edition” (really just a reprint of the first edition) on January 27. Paine meanwhile contracted with printers Thomas and William Bradford to publish, at the author’s expense, a “new edition” with “large and interesting additions by the author” and a response to Quaker objections to a military rebellion. The Bradford edition was published in February and sold for half the price (one shilling) of Bell’s.

A publisher’s advertisement from Bell’s 3rd edition of Common Sense gives an idea of the reading habits of Philadelphians in 1776.

Undeterred, Bell produced a third edition that not only pirated the additional materials from the Bradford edition, but also included a section called “Large Additions to Common Sense,” which reprinted several pieces by other authors. Paine was predictably incensed by this and published another denunciation in the Post, to which Bell then responded in kind.

Despite–or more likely, because of– this feud, copies of Common Sense continued to sell briskly in Philadelphia.

There were many loyalist rebuttals of Common Sense. One of the earliest and best known is Plain Truth: Addressed to the Inhabitants of North America, written by Maryland planter James Chalmers under the generic pseudonym Candidus.

Wake Forest’s 1776 London edition of Plain Truth

Both Bell and Bradford published several more editions of Common Sense in 1776, and it was also reprinted by dozens of publishers in North America and eventually in Europe. But there is no way to know how many actual copies were produced. Thomas Paine made various claims that 100,000 to 150,000 pamphlets were printed and distributed in the first months of 1776. But he had no evidence for these very large figures (a sale of 150,000 copies in three months in colonial North America would be comparable to a modern Harry Potter book release), and it seems likely that the actual numbers were considerably lower. And since Common Sense was published only once south of Philadelphia (in Charleston), it is also likely that the North American distribution was concentrated in the urban centers of New England. A close look at the dissemination and reception of Common Sense suggests that its influence was strongest among people who were already sympathetic to the revolutionary cause [Loughran, 13].

But if Common Sense is not necessarily the book that sparked a revolution, it is certainly the book that came to symbolize the American Revolution for later generations. One need only read a few pages of Paine’s pamphlet to see why this is so.

Paine’s gift for rhetoric, his persuasive power, and his ability to make complex ideas accessible to any audience have ensured his status as an American icon. And our 1776 copy of Common Sense– stained, dog-eared, and hastily printed on cheap paper– is a tangible link to the birth of the American republic.


Gimbel, Richard. Thomas Paine: a Bibliographical Check List of Common Sense with an Account of its Publication. New Haven: Yale U.P., 1956.

Gilreath, James. “American Book Distribution,” in Needs and Opportunities in the History of the Book: America, 1639-1876, David D. Hall and John B. Hench, eds. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1987.

Loughran, Trish. “Disseminating Common Sense: Thomas Paine and the Problem of the Early National Bestseller.” American Literature 78.1 (March 2006): 1-28.

Rare Book of the Month: Ulysses, by James Joyce (1922)

Friday, June 10, 2011 4:22 pm

Text page from the first edition of Ulysses

The publishing history of James Joyce’s Ulysses is itself a complicated odyssey.

Joyce began writing Ulysses, a modernist novel detailing one day (16 June 1904) in the life of Dubliner Leopold Bloom, in 1914. By 1918 he was sending typescript chapters to Ezra Pound to be published in installments in the American magazine Little Review. But the publication of the Nausikaa section resulted in an obscenity lawsuit against the the magazine’s publishers, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap.

From the Nausikaa section, Shakespeare and Company first edition.

By 1921 the Little Review was bankrupt. Meanwhile Joyce’s friend and benefactor Harriet Weaver approached several English publishers (including Leonard and Virginia Woolf), but none were willing to take on a huge and complex printing project with dubious legal implications.

In 1920 Joyce moved to Paris and made the acquaintance of Sylvia Beach, whose bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, was a social center for the American and British expatriate author community. Despite her lack of experience as a publisher, Beach decided to take on Ulysses as a project.

In her 1959 memoir Shakespeare and Company Beach described Joyce’s “complete discouragement” after the Little Review ceased publication:

All hope of publication in the English-speaking countries, at least for a long time to come, was gone. And here in my little bookshop sat James Joyce, sighing deeply.

It occurred to me that something might be done, and I asked : “Would you let Shakespeare and Company have the honour of bringing out your Ulysses?”

He accepted my offer immediately and joyfully. I thought it rash of him to entrust his great Ulysses to such a funny little publisher. But he seemed delighted, and so was I. . . . Undeterred by lack of capital, experience, and all the other requisites of a publisher, I went right ahead with Ulysses. [57]

Publisher's note from the first edition

Publisher’s note from the first edition

Sylvia Beach found a French printer, Maurice Darantiere, who was willing to print the book essentially on commission. They planned a first edition of 1000 copies (including 100 signed by the author).

Printer’s colophon from the first edition

The process of printing the 700+ page book was complicated for a variety of reasons. Just finding typists who could create useable typescripts from Joyce’s manuscripts was a challenge. Joyce’s writing process involved so many revisions, insertions, and emendations that transcribing them was sometimes nearly impossible. And his nonstandard language and potentially offensive content provided another layer of difficulty. Sylvia Beach recounts how the printing was at one point held up because no typist could be found to complete the Circe section of the manuscript.

Joyce had been trying in vain for some time to get this episode typed. Nine typists had failed in the attempt. The eighth, Joyce told me, threatened in her despair to throw herself out of the window. As for the ninth, she rang the bell at his door and, when it was opened, threw the pages she had done on the floor, then rushed away down the street and disappeared forever. “If she had given me her name and address, at least I could have paid her for her work,” Joyce said. [Beach, 73]

From the Circe section, first edition.

Beach pressed various of her friends and family into service to try to complete the Circe typescript. When one friend’s husband happened to read the manuscript pages she was typing, he was so disgusted that he threw the manuscript into the fire. Photographic copies of the missing pages had to be retrieved, with great difficulty, from the uncooperative American collector to whom Joyce had sold carbon copies of his manuscripts.

There was even difficulty with finding the right paper for the book’s cover. Joyce wanted the cover to be the blue and white of the Greek flag, but Beach and Darantiere could not find paper in a shade of blue that met with his approval. Finally the resourceful printer found the right blue in Germany and had it lithographed onto white cardboard for the bindings.

Beach had advertised a publication date of autumn 1921 for the first edition of Ulysses, but the many complications in the printing process delayed the project for more than a year. The first copies finally appeared on 2 February 1922, Joyce’s fortieth birthday.

Copies of the book sold briskly at the Shakespeare and Company shop in Paris. Getting books into the hands of the many British and American subscribers proved to be more of a challenge, since the book was banned from distribution through the mail in both countries. But the always resourceful Sylvia Beach found ways to get around the official censorship. At one point she enlisted the help of Ernest Hemingway, who recruited a friend from Toronto (the book was not banned in Canada). A shipment of books for American subscribers was sent to Hemingway’s friend, who then boarded the ferry from Toronto every day with “a copy of Ulysses stuffed down inside his pants” [Beach, 96].

“If Joyce had foreseen all these difficulties,” Beach observed, “maybe he would have written a smaller book.”

Harriet Weaver arranged for an English edition in the same year. Published by John Rodker, the edition was also printed by Darantiere using the same printing plates as Beach’s Paris edition.

The English edition encountered censorship problems almost immediately, and most copies intended for the British market were confiscated by the authorities. Copies headed for the U.S. met a similar fate, although some were supposedly smuggled into the country disguised as volumes of Shakespeare. Of course, the censorship mostly served to pique interest in Joyce’s novel. A copy of Ulysses was a popular souvenir for American and English visitors to Paris in the 1920s.

A well-worn copy of the Shakespeare and Company second edition, inscribed by its American owner B.W. Walton

Ulysses was finally cleared of obscenity charges in the U.S. in 1934.

Dust jacket from the first U.S. edition, Random House, 1934

The later publication history of Ulysses was no less complicated. Sylvia Beach published several printings of the first edition and in 1926 brought out a “corrected” second edition.

Edition statement from the Shakespeare and Company second edition, second printing.

Many more editions of Ulysses were published throughout the 20th century, and literary scholars still argue over what constitutes the definitive text of Joyce’s novel.

Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s copy of the first edition of Ulysses was purchased by the library in 1967. The Egoist Press edition was purchased in 1981. Both are part of Special Collections’ extensive Joyce collection.

Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman (1855)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 9:50 am

We have yet had no genius in America, with tyrannous eye, which knew the value of our incomparable materials, and saw, in the barbarism and materialism of the times, another carnival of the same gods whose picture he so much admires in Homer; then in the middle age; then in Calvinism. . . .Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet” (1843)

The young Walt Whitman heeded Emerson’s call for an American poet, and the result in 1855 was Leaves of Grass.

Whitman had worked as a printer and newspaper publisher, and this first edition of his poetry was self-published in every sense of the word. The book was printed at the shop of Whitman’s friends Andrew and Thomas Rome. The poet himself was involved in all aspects of design and production, even helping to set some of the type.

The first edition of Leaves of Grass was, like its author, an oddity in mid-19th century America. Whitman’s name did not appear on the title page; instead his now-famous portrait was featured opposite as a frontispiece.

The book is only 95 pages long but is printed on large paper. The size and the leafy decoration and lettering on the dark green covers suggest a Victorian botanical scrapbook.

The twelve poems that make up the text of the first edition are untitled. It was not until 1881 that the first and longest was given the name “Song of Myself”.

Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s Special Collections holds two copies of the 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass. One is from the library of Charles Babcock; the other was purchased in 1954 with funds from the Oscar T. Smith bequest. The O.T. Smith copy includes a page from a 19th century autograph album tipped in at the front, inscribed by Whitman to his friend John H. Johnston and his wife.

The autograph note reads: “Walt Whitman, visiting New York City after an absence of over four years– guest now of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Johnston at 113 East 10th Street. March 15th, 1877.”

The visit was a sadly memorable one. Johnston wrote to mutual friend Horace Traubel on March 17, 1892

Fifteen years ago yesterday Walt was with us when my wife was taken sick and died. He was in the room until the last, and went home next morning after a month’s stay– his first visit.
[Traubel, Horace, With Walt Whitman in Camden (Boston:Small, Maynard, 1906) 607]

Whitman printed 795 copies of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, but the book did not sell particularly well. About 200 copies of the 1855 edition are known to survive today.

Ivan Marki writes in the Walt Whitman Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998) that

The importance of the first edition of Leaves of Grass to American literary history is impossible to exaggerate. The slender volume introduced the poet who, celebrating the nation by celebrating himself, has since remained at the heart of America’s cultural memory because in the world of his imagination Americans have learned to recognize and possibly understand their own. As Leaves of Grass grew through its five subsequent editions into a hefty book of 389 poems (with the addition of the two annexes), it gained much in variety and complexity, but Whitman’s distinctive voice was never stronger, his vision never clearer, and his design never more improvisational than in the twelve poems of the first edition.

Whitman continued to tinker with Leaves of Grass throughout his entire life, giving it one of the most complicated publishing histories of any major American literary work. The second edition, published by Whitman in 1856, was smaller in format and included twenty additional poems.

In 1860 the progressive new Boston publishing firm Thayer & Eldridge came out with a third edition.

The third edition included another 120 new poems as well as Whitman’s revisions of poems from the first two editions. Whitman’s friends referred to the new frontispiece engraving as his “Byronic portrait”.

This was Whitman’s first publication by a commercial press. The poet’s reputation had grown since the first Leaves of Grass, and the third edition sold reasonably well. Unfortunately Thayer and Eldridge proved not to be astute businessmen, and their firm went bankrupt in 1861. The stereotyped plates were sold to another publisher, who published several more issues of the third edition without Whitman’s permission.

In 1867 Whitman published a fourth edition of the book which incorporated his Civil War poetry. 1871-72 saw a fifth edition that was again revised and reconfigured. The seventh edition of 1881-82 finally achieved a definitive arrangement of the poems; future editions merely appended material to this text.

The seventh edition, published by James R. Osgood of Boston, marked the first time that Leaves of Grass was issued by a major commercial publisher. But when threatened with an obscenity suit by a Boston district attorney, Osgood quickly ceased publishing the book and sold the rights to the Philadelphia firm of Rees, Welsh & Co.

From left to right: WFU’s copies of the 1867, 1881 (Osgood), and 1882 (Rees, Welsh) editions.

The final “deathbed edition” of Leaves of Grass (1891-92) was really just a reprint of the 1881 edition with the addition of “annexes” of new material.

In “A Backward Glance O’er Travel’d Roads,” an essay appended to this final edition, Whitman addresses future generations of readers:

Result of seven or eight stages and struggles extending through nearly thirty years, . . . I look upon “Leaves of Grass,” now finish’d to the end of its opportunities and powers, as my definitive carte visite to the coming generations of the New World. . . . That from a worldly and business point of view “Leaves of Grass” has been worse than a failure–that public criticism on the book and myself as author of it yet shows mark’d anger and contempt more than anything else . . . is all probably no more than I ought to have expected. . . . I have had my say entirely my own way, and put it unerringly on record– the value thereof to be decided by time.

Rare Book of the Month: The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid, by Oliver Byrne (1847)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 5:01 pm

THIS WORK has a greater aim than mere illustration; we do not introduce colours for the purpose of entertainment, or to amuse by certain combinations of tint and form, but to assist the mind in its researches after truth, to increase the facilities of instruction, and to diffuse permanent knowledge.

Oliver Byrne (ca. 1810-1890) was an eccentric Irish mathematician and teacher. His Elements of Euclid is a classic of enough enduring interest that a facsimile reprint was published in 2010. Byrne’s Euclid is admired as much for its surprisingly modernist design and color palette–which seems to anticipate Bauhaus and De Stijl— as for its innovative pedagogy.

Geometry was emphasized as a particularly vital part of a basic mathematical education in 19th century Britain, and Euclid was still the standard curriculum. However, many reform-minded educators (including Byrne) believed that Euclid’s geometry was not being taught effectively to modern students [cf. Alice Jenkins, “What the Victorians Learned: Perspectives on Nineteenth-Century Schoolbooks” Journal of Victorian Culture 12.2 (2007) 267-272]. Several 19th century mathematicians attempted to make use of new printing technologies to produce new and improved editions of Euclid, but Byrne’s Elements was the most innovative. As Jenkins describes it,

This beautiful book adopts the principle of explanation via visual illustration, but goes much further than other attempts. Where many other textbooks confined themselves to providing enlarged diagrams and replacing Greek letters for angles with Roman ones, Byrne’s book eliminates letters altogether, instead printing lines, angles and figures in different vivid colours. Byrne’s book was far more than a response to new markets for textbooks: although clearly Euclidean, it was an entire rethinking of the nature of geometrical pedagogy. [270]

Byrne’s book was printed by Charles Whittingham II at the Chiswick Press, a small press noted for its innovative design and devotion to high quality printing, especially of illustrated works. And it is the graphic design elements of Byrne’s book that spark the most interest today. The New York Times review of the Taschen facsimile reprint enthused that “The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid is so rationalist, minimalist and aesthetically pure, every graphic designer, book lover and math nerd will be as awe-struck as I was.”

Wake Forest’s 1847 first edition of The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid was purchased by the Library in 1986.

Rare Book of the Month: The Chimes: A Goblin Story, by Charles Dickens

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 10:07 am

Of the five Christmas books that Charles Dickens published in the 1840s, the first, A Christmas Carol (1843), is by far the most famous. The following year Dickens came out with The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In.

Although the book sold well in 1844, it suffered the fate of many sequels in that it was criticized for being both similar to and different from its predecessor. In The Chimes Dickens once again takes up the cause of the underprivileged classes’ struggle for survival in a rapidly industrializing society. But The Chimes is a darker book than A Christmas Carol, its social criticisms more pointed and specific and its happy ending less certain.

Dickens’s protagonist is Toby Veck, a “ticket-porter” or messenger-for-hire who plies his trade on the steps of an old church, whose tower houses the Chimes of the title. Toby, his beautiful and virtuous daughter Meg, Meg’s fiance Richard, and Will Fern, an agricultural laborer newly arrived in the city, personify the struggles of the urban poor. On New Year’s Eve they suffer unpleasant encounters with a Member of Parliament, an Alderman, and a rich young gentleman. And Toby is further discouraged by newspaper depictions of the lower classes as inevitably prone to evil. When Toby reads an account (based on a notorious true story) of a desperate young woman who drowned herself and her illegitimate child, he succumbs to cynicism and despair: “None but people who were bad at heart: born bad: who had no business on the earth could do such deeds. It’s too true, all I’ve heard to-day; too just, too full of proof. We’re Bad!”

Toby then hears the Chimes in the church tower calling his name. He finds the bell tower “swarming with dwarf phantoms,spirits, elfin creatures of the Bells.” The Goblin of the Great Bell tells Toby that “Who turns his back upon the fallen and disfigured of his kind; abandons them as Vile; and does not trace and track with pitying eyes the unfenced precipice by which they fell from Good. . . does wrong to Heaven and Man, to Time and to Eternity.”

The Goblin informs Toby that he has died and shows him a vision of his daughter Meg’s unhappy future life. Through a combination of misfortune and malicious interference by the rich and powerful, Meg too is reduced to contemplating suicide with her infant child. Toby then understands that the unfortunate people he reads about in the papers are not bad by nature, but are driven to desperate acts by an uncaring world. The “spirit of the Chimes” has taught him that “we must trust and hope, and neither doubt ourselves, nor doubt the Good in one another.”

Toby then wakes in his own rooms to find Meg and Richard happily planning their wedding for the next day. A crowd of jolly neighbors soon join them to celebrate the new year and the upcoming nuptials, and one of the revelers proves to be a long-lost friend for whom Will Fern was searching.

Dickens leaves his readers with an admonition to “bear in mind the stern realities from which these shadows come; and in your sphere. . . endeavor to correct, improve, and soften them. . . . So may each Year be happier than the last, and not the meanest of our brethren or sisterhood debarred their rightful share, in what our Great Creator formed them to enjoy.”

ZSR Library’s copy of The Chimes is a first edition published by Chapman and Hall in 1844. It was purchased by the library in 1970.

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