FSU Special Collections & Archives recently added 33 late-nineteenth century American paperbacks to our rare book collections. These include such famous titles as Great Expectationsand Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott, and The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicansby James Fenimore Cooper. They were published between 1865-1874 by D. Appleton and Company of New York and T. B. Peterson & Brothers of Philadelphia, and, because they still have their original printed paper wrappers and advertisements, they are important artifacts in the history of nineteenth-century printing and the development of the modern paperback.
A Peterson “Cheap Edition for the Million” sold for 35 cents and would include illustrated plates, while the smaller Appleton editions sold for 25 cents. Authors like Dickens are famous for publishing their works as serialized novels, which could be bought in parts to make them more affordable to the growing numbers of working-class readers. Because they were often taken out of their wrappers and bound into single volumes, first editions of Dickens in their original covers (like FSU’s 1865 edition of Our Mutual Friend) are especially prized by collectors and historians.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, London publishers realized the additional fortune they could make on cheap reprints.¹ These were often sold at railway stations and called “yellow-backs” because of their colorful, eye-catching covers. The paperbacks published by Peterson and Appleton attest that the trend of cheap reprints was common on both sides of the Atlantic. Advertisements, like the one pictured above, list other available publications, all of which testify to the growing commodification of print in the nineteenth-century and the new technologies which made it possible.
These nineteenth-century paperbacks can be requested at the Special Collections Reading Room Monday-Thursday 10am-6pm and Friday 10am-5:30pm. For more information about titles in the collection, contact the Rare Book Librarian, Katherine Hoarn.
Gaskell, P., A New Introduction of Bibliography, New Castle 2012, pp. 248-9.
I have been wanting to highlight two books in our collection that I am particularly fond of specifically for their unique covers and are amongst my favorite books in our collection with beautiful covers. These books are different versions of The Lady of the Lake: a Poem in Six Cantos by Sir Walter Scott.
What motivated me to post pictures of the covers of these books was a reference to it that I came acrossin another book in our collection The Red Hills of Florida: 1528-1865 by Clifton Paisley. Special Collections also has the Red Hills of Florida Collection 1820-1994 that contains correspondence, notes, maps, manuscripts, photographs, and related materials. This collection is comprised of the background files, notes, correspondence, permission, maps, manuscripts, galley proofs, camera ready copies, photographs, and other materials that were collected or created by Clifton Paisley during the writing of his book.
The paragraph where I found the reference to Lady Of the Lake referred to David Macomb, who was from Detroit and aspired to become a planter. In 1825, soon after he settled in Tallahassee, he began to invest in acreage at the edge of Southwood Plantation, which was about four miles southeast of Tallahassee. Paisley comments on page 90 that “One can look out from Capital Circle across a misty lake of thirteen acres and a nearby hill that appear to have inspired the name Macomb gave to this plantation, slightly misspelled from Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, “Ben Venue on Loch Acray.” I find it interesting that two very different books like Lady of The Lake and The Red Hills of Florida can intersect in such a way.
The Lady of the Lake with notes and an appendix. Published in New York, Boston, : T. Y. Crowell & Co., c1892. From the latest Edinburgh edition. Decorative front cover with raised floral design.