Pet Book 7: Reprinting

When I first started to think about my Pet Book in terms of reprinting, I originally hadn’t considered the possibility that excerpts were taken and reprinted in newspapers around the time of publication. Though I do remember it being a point of discussion in Garvey’s Running with Scissors, I figured a book was much too long for that sort of editorial clipping to take place. Digitally leafing through the Northeastern Library database of 19th century newspapers, I was at first a little overwhelmed with the idea of copying fragments of the novel and searching for them blindly, hoping for a result to pop up that would prove it had been reprinted at some point. I decided to stick with a broad search, looking first for mentions of Charles Kingsley, then the title of the novel, as well as the very first line of the work itself.

The book was definitely mentioned often in the “Literary Notices,” or other similarly-named, sections of U.S. newspapers. In one Literary Review section of The Congregationalist, published in Boston on January 8, 1885, the paper actually mentions the very Children’s Collection edition that I have been studying this semester (as a side note, it’s incredible to me that the book was only sold for 40 cents at the time of publication). Even though this isn’t technically a reprinting of the book, I thought it was a really interesting find because it discusses the version of the text I have been looking at since September.

In the Literary Notices section of The North American and United States Gazette, issue 26,661 published on December 17, 1863, there isn’t a reprinting itself, but rather a mention of the fact that it had been reprinted in the paper before. The article states, “A portion of this story appeared in the columns of the weekly The North American some little while ago.” Sorting through page after page of the publication’s issues from September to December, I was unfortunately unable to find the aforementioned reprinting, but it is entirely possible that I just didn’t click on the section of the paper it was located in.

While thinking about my Pet Book in terms of reprinting, I had originally focused on the fact that it was reprinted by different publishers and in different styles, and exists in many different physical formats (the Northeastern Library Special Collections has two different versions of the text). The notion of newspaper reprinting, I had originally thought, was mainly contained to the world of short prose and anonymous poetry. However, I think that there can be a lot said about including excerpts from books, either ones that have already been published or ones that will be published soon, in newspapers. In the same way that authors like Poe sent their poetry to newspapers in order to stir up excitement and interest about their forthcoming work, the same might also be true for the authors of novels. If you give a newspaper part of your book and it is reprinted, any reader who likes the excerpt will thus be compelled to buy the whole book when it comes out. The reading for this week touches on this idea in the context of poetry: “The newspaper exchange system was simultaneously the broadest distribution channel and least certain communication channel for poets during the period. Poems traveled far and fast through reprinting, but their form, authorship, and reception were distributed through a highly variable network over which typical literary authorities had little say.” While questions of authorship and intellectual property are key concerns, the idea of newspapers functioning as distribution channels is something of particular interest to me in terms of my Pet Book.

The idea of Literary Notices sections in and of itself is something I find highly interesting – it reminds me a lot of the New York Times Bestsellers list that is published by the paper, altering readers of what’s new and thriving in the book market world. Because of this, I think that authorship was more closely preserved when excerpts from novels were printed because of copyright (but I could be totally off in that assumption). This related back to the point I brought up previously concerning reprinting as a form of publicity. If Kingsley gave The North American and United States Gazette a piece of his work in the hopes that it would be reprinted, considered favorably in a review by the editors, and thus would appeal to readers and sell more books. The paper writes at the end of Kingsley’s section, “As for the rest, we leave the public to form their own judgement.” By mentioning the reprinting of Kingsley’s book excerpt, they are convincing readers to buy the book for themselves to see how they feel about the rest of the story.

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