This essay examines the cataloguing practices of James Hammond, the proprietor of a large nineteenth-century New England circulating library, and the marginalia in his collection of sixty-five Minerva Press gothic novels, which were later acquired by the New York Society Library in New York City. Hammond’s catalogues, four of which are examined here, arranged and altered Minerva titles and authors and appended reviews. These promotional strategies foregrounded the gothic content of these novels and attested to their quality. In so doing, the catalogues assisted subscribers in selecting books and prepared them for reading those selections. If Hammond’s catalogs prepared patrons for quality gothic reading experiences, the novels’ marginalia reshaped patrons’ expectations and influenced their engagement with the novels. Written by other subscribers or earlier readers, these marginalia evaluated the novels and commented on their gothic and non-gothic elements. In the process, the marginalia sometimes supported, and at other times conflicted with, Hammond’s promotional strategies. For Hammond’s patrons, the catalogues and the marginalia constituted two points of entry into the Minerva gothic novel. Only by examining both the catalogues and the marginalia can scholars assess the degree to which Minerva’s gothic novels terrified and delighted New England readers decades after the press’s London heyday. Continue reading →
This essay examines the rich and hitherto unexplored rivalries and connections between the Romantic periodical and the Minerva Press through the lens of the hugely popular Lady’s Magazine; or, Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex (1700–1832). Close attention to the points of contact outlined in this essay is multiply illuminating, I argue, not least because it forces us to challenge enduring but misleading associations about popular literary forms, professional authorship and women’s writing in the Romantic era. The Lady’s Magazine and the Minerva Press presented aspiring authors with competing, but complementary, mass-media outlets that were eagerly exploited by hundreds of Romantic-era writers, many of whom published energetically with both. These writers’ negotiations of the literary culture of the day—their movements between publishers at key moments in their lives and turn to different modes of publication as and when it suited them—were signs of their precarity, but also of their professionalism and persistence. Uncovering these writers’ stories enables us to uncover alternative, yet ubiquitous, stories of authorship in the Romantic period that merit the telling precisely because they recalibrate our sense of how Romantic authorship was experienced by some of the most popular writers of the era. Continue reading →
This paper examines the turn of the eighteenth century, when the dichotomy between books as products and books as artistic outputs emerged and deals with three different components: novels, circulating libraries, and readers. The aim of the paper is to draw attention to some of the underlying factors that conditioned that split between high and low which came about at this time and also to pinpoint some of the actors that were involved in this process, focused in particular on the works of August Lafontaine and the translation of his works into Swedish. Continue reading →
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