Friday, August 5, 2016

Getting to the South Pole on the Installment Plan

By 1912, selling books in parts was pretty much a thing of the past (think Dickens in the 1850s). If you wanted to serialize a book, mass-market magazines were the best avenue for distribution. But serialization offered a pay-as-you-go option many people were still willing to take advantage of, for the right book.

Sold for half a krone (roughly a dime in U.S. currency in 1912), the the forty individual parts of Roald Amundsen's Sydpolen would run a reader twenty kroner spread out over time. That would have been a hefty price to pay, but the budget plan enabled by selling the book in parts could put it in reach of poorer Norwegians anxious to celebrate their national hero.

The structure of the serialization is rather odd. Instead of ending each part with a chapter conclusion, these parts break strictly at 25 pages, usually mid-sentence. A reader would have to wait for the object or verb to appear a week later! Talk about a cliffhanger.

The set contains over 400 original illustrations, and the wrappers feature a photograph framed by penguins. Unlike Nansen's Farthest North, these parts contain no advertisements. They are simply the book and images.

Our set has the original prospectus as well. It promotes the illustrations and lays out schedule of publication, the payment plan, and the bonus binding for those who subscribe.

To see it, ask for Stef G850 1910 .A52 1912.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The King's Trees

Copy of 1735 Act related to poaching from the King's WoodsIn the 1720s, the newly-formed Kingdom of Great Britain was in a bit of a fix. Although the Royal Navy was the largest in the world, the British Empire kept embroiling itself in wars with either France, Spain, or an alliance of both. This meant that the British fleet had to be continually repaired and replaced as damage accumulated. As a result, ship timber was at a premium during the early 18th century for England, who had nearly exhausted its native supply. Luckily, its North American colony of New Hampshire was a veritable treasure trove of white pine trees, the preferred wood for warship masts and spars.

Letter from British Admiralty to David Dunbar, April 28, 1742The challenge was that New Hampshire was also in a period of expansion into and settlement of the "wilderness" beyond Portsmouth, which included areas technically belonging to the king. As the colonists expanded, they cleared a path through the forest, often felling white pines that belonged to the crown. In response, the British government appointed a Surveyor General of the His Majesty's Woods, who was tasked with the thankless and sometimes dangerous duty of hunting down colonial poachers and bringing them to justice.

Here at Rauner, we have a small slice of this interesting story represented in three original manuscripts from the era. The first is a copy of an act, passed in 1735, that allowed the Surveyor General and his deputies exceptional leeway in accusing people of stealing white pines: only circumstantial evidence was necessary to bring individuals before the court.

Page One of Letter from David Dunbar to British Admiralty, April 30, 1742Despite these expanded powers, the British Admiralty remained concerned enough about their mast supply to send a brief but portentous inquiry on April 28, 1742, to David Dunbar, the Surveyor General of the King's Wood. They wanted to know what he had been doing since his 1728 appointment and how he had been of benefit to the navy during that time. Dated April 30, 1742, only two day's after the Admiralty's letter, Dunbar's hasty response is telling. His six-page report chronicles fourteen years of forest-related activity in New England, including his clear frustration with Jonathan Belcher, the governor of New Hampshire at the time. According to Dunbar, Belcher did everything within his power to restrict or impede the Surveyor General and his deputies from executing their duties while encouraging the colonists to use the forest for their own ends. Dunbar emphasizes that his enforcement of the law "made all
Page Six of Letter from David Dunbar to British Admiralty, April 30, 1742the Country our Enemys" and meant that "many Insults were offered to us, and even some Attempts upon our Lives." This account of a beleaguered British government official highlights the discontent that was already growing among the colonies towards Great Britain thirty years before the Revolutionary War. In particular, it serves as a harbinger of the New Hampshire Pine Tree Riot of 1772, one of the many immediate precursors to the colonial rebellion.

To see these handwritten documents, come to Rauner and ask for MSS 738327 and MSS 735103.