Friday, April 15, 2011

The Wandering Poet of New Hampshire

This blog began its life as a way to mark this week in U.S. history, particularly the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and the week in which Lincoln was assassinated four years later, 15 April 1865. Somewhere along the line, however, it took a turn toward the work of George Gordon Byron DeWolfe, “The Wandering Poet of New Hampshire.”

According to Bela Chapin’s The Poets of New Hampshire, George G.B. DeWolfe was born in Canada in 1835. He left home at the age of twenty to come to the United States where he started his career traveling from place to place, writing verses on people and events. Many of his verses were printed as broadsides, and Dartmouth holds eight of them, including this one on the assassination of President Lincoln.

DeWolfe’s poetry documented a wide range of topics, from murder and disaster, to visits by famous people. Dartmouth’s collection of his broadsides is fairly representative of his work, including a beach gathering in Salisbury, a celebration in Londonderry and President Grant’s visit to Nashua… along with a murder, an assassination and a fire.

Sadly, the College does not own his last broadside, published three years after his death, the verse composed by DeWolfe from beyond the grave through the mediumship of Miss Lillie.

Ask for Broadside 000099 to see the original.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Selling Huck Finn

It sure looks like Huck Finn, but it's not. A closer inspection of this rather slim volume of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reveals that it is not all there. No, it is not an expurgated edition designed to satisfy censorious school boards, but a sample volume used by book sellers to market the first edition.

In the 19th century, many rural areas did not have book stores. At that time, the traveling book seller was still a major component of the book distribution network in the United States. This salesman's sample book featured the gold stamped publisher's binding, the table of contents, a list of illustrations and enough text to get a feel for the novel. Emphasis was placed on the physical qualities of the book and nearly all of the sample pages are illustrated. Two alternate de-luxe bindings are also displayed. At the end are eight pages of blank ruled paper for orders. This copy, which we recently acquired, has 12 signatures representing orders from the town of Edinburg (perhaps Indiana). None opted for the more expensive bindings.  Take a look by asking for Rare PS1305 .A3 1885.

Bindings options

Orders