Thursday, February 9, 2012

American Scrapbook

This seems like a good place to start.

When we think about the issues surrounding (the lack of) international copyright in the nineteenth century, I think we still tend to think of it mainly in its relation to the pirated editions of popular British authors that circulated cheaply and widely in America. But in reality it was a two-way street, and I'm very interested in thinking about the kinds of American literary products that were disseminated in nineteenth century Britain. The American Scrapbook, published in London from 1861-1863 in its first incarnation, seems a particularly compelling example of that process - and a very fitting ancestor for this project. What's more, it's also a great example of the kind of antiquarian bounty that digitisation has thrown open to all.

As Clarence Gohdes explains in his ever-useful American Literature in Nineteenth Century England (which itself is, inexplicably, available in its entirety here), the Scrapbook was only one of a number of similar products:
That the American Scrapbook was published during the first years of the Civil War seems no coincidence, and was undoubtedly intended to capitalise on the popular interest in the other side of the Atlantic generated by the conflict. Its launch was noted, not a little dismissively, in The Literary Budget:
Perhaps it's resonant, too, that it stopped publication in 1863, before the end of the war but after the Emancipation Proclamation, and at a point when it was becoming clear that Britain would not support the Confederacy? It's interesting, certainly, to see Southern author Eliza Ann Dupuy featured prominently. More broadly, as The Literary Budget suggested, the Scrapbook dealt in a rich blend of sensational Americana, mostly lifted from Robert Bonner's New York LedgerI'll undoubtedly take a closer look at the kind of material included in the Scrapbook down the line, and think some more about the readership for this kind of literary fare. But for now, you can get familiar with Volumes 2 and 3 courtesy of Google Books. And if any one can find Volume 1, I'll be very pleased.