A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING BUSINESS IN THE UNITED STATES
“The history of a nation,” one dictionary says, “is a systematic record of past events; especially the record of events in which man has taken part.”
The history of the educational publishing business in America is likewise a systematic record of past events in which man has taken part. The events of this history include the beginning, the development, and the wonderful improvement in books and book-making since 1691, and the men and women who have taken part in these events are authors and publishers.
Starr King, the eloquent preacher and orator whose powerful arguments in 1860 and ’61 aided mightily in saving California for the Union, was once riding on a very slow train from Boston to New York with a friend, who asked Mr. King if he were going to fill a New York pulpit on the following day, which was Sunday.
“No,” replied the great preacher, “I am not going to fill, but I am going to rattle ’round in Henry Ward Beecher’s.”
A comprehensive history of the American educational publishing business has never been prepared, although a number of writers have produced interesting and instructive books, booklets, periodical, magazine, and newspaper articles covering in some detail such portions of this history as engaged their attention. For instance, Dr. Meriwether and Professor Johnson have rather thoroughly and with reasonably satisfactory completeness given us an account of the schoolbooks of colonial times and of the clumsy and slow process of manufacturing and distributing them. They have described in considerable detail the gruesome text matter of these early books, and their ugly and almost ludicrous illustrations.
Ford has given us a most interesting and historically valuable account of the oldest American schoolbook, The New England Primer, prepared and printed by Benjamin Harris of Boston, the second edition appearing in 1691. This was printed 44 years after Massachusetts had passed a law requiring each town of fifty householders to “appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read.” Others have written of the first Arithmetic, prepared by Nicholas Pike of Newburyport, Mass., and printed in 1788; of the first American Geography, written by the Reverend Jedidiah Morse of Charlestown, Mass., and published at New Haven in 1784; of the first pedagogical and educational book, written by Christopher Dock, America’s pioneer writer on education, a second edition of which was published by Christopher Sower of Philadelphia in 1770. Much has been written concerning the world-famous Blue Back Speller, prepared by Dr. Noah Webster and printed at Hartford in 1793; of Peter Parley’s Geographies, the first of which was published in 1829. Dr. Henry H. Vail, formerly connected with the American Book Company, has written a most interesting history of the McGuffey Readers, of which the first two books of the four-book series were copyrighted in 1836 and the second two in 1837.
Then there have been published such books as The House of Harper, which gives the history of a business concern now more than a hundred years old; a most charmingly written biography of Henry O. Houghton, the founder of the house now known as the Houghton Mifflin Company; a memorial volume giving in some detail the story of the life and activities of Henry Ivison, of the old firm of Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor & Company; a book giving a rather complete account of several century-old business houses, including that of Christopher Sower & Company of Philadelphia; a volume entitled Fifty Years Among Authors, Books and Publishers, by J. C. Derby; Memories of a Publisher, by Major George Haven Putnam; a book on the Old Schools and