I am learning exciting things and while I am proud to that I am documenting them in a properly-MLA-formatted annotated bibliography, I wanted to document them here for anyone who might be curious about textbook printing practices in America at the start of the 20th century and how it pertains to Shakespeare.
So below I’ve listed a few of my favorite finds and revealing reads:
- Most articles and books I’ve read discussing paperback printing in America begin around 1939 with the release of Robert de Graff’s Pocket Books which swept the nation (and world of publishing) by providing literature to the masses via news-stands and gas stations rather than the usual libraries and book stores. So imagine my surprise when browsing the haphazard shelves of a book store in Charlottesville when I came across several of Shakespeare’s plays in paperback published in 1911, as a reprint too. And that’s when I became obsessed with paperback/pocket-book printing before the paperback/pocket-book revolution.
- My hunches about Ginn & Co. Publishing being revolutionary in the printing and design of books were validated when I came across several designers for the company being noted for innovative design, but so far my cursory searches have yielded minimal critical response to and about their work (this is the recurring rhythm of my (re)search).
- A 1922 article referenced a pamphlet by a fellow named Feuess that seemed like it could be hugely helpful, but the best of my research skills couldn’t track it down. A enthusiastic MBC librarian found it in minutes once she established my first source mispelt the author’s name: Feuss. I felt a bit better about my research skills and ended up with a fantastic source for my thesis, so good things all around.
- Ginn became more even interesting when it cropped up in an unexpected place: the Scopes Trial. And that is why I am reading a book titled Trying Biology for my thesis about Shakespeare. Apparently the text book trusts and monopolies were invisible forces in the trial, and Edwin Ginn (of Ginn and Co. Publishing) stubbornly refused to play by the rules of the powers that be. Exactly how he and his company relate to the Scopes Trial and how it might relate to the editions of Shakespeare his house published, I don’t yet know. But ISN’T THIS A SURPRISING TURN!?
More than any of the big finds, it’s been thrilling to come across surprisingly helpful tidbits of information that have survived a century in the form library purchasing records, stories of censorship disputes, and detailed sales accounts.
Even though my focus remains a bit nebulous, I feel deeply comfortable with my topic. I love Shakespeare deeply, but the opportunity to read about and explore something entirely new enlivens me and fuels my adventure.
If any of you happen to have secret knowledge about this slice of history, feel free to drop me a hint of two.