Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Please preserve this -- and show it to Teachers."

I have, in a couple of past posts, written about books related to the art of elocution and the complicated practice of capturing in the fixity of print the ephemeral sound of the spoken voice. The skill of public oratory was once a large part of the educational program in America’s public schools. There are still some schools that offer it (or something comparable, like debate) as an elective, and in some colleges the subject is taught (though at least one, I’ve recently learned, is teaching public speaking as an online course...the utility of which I’m afraid I don’t fully grasp).

This week’s book is a mid-nineteenth century textbook designed for use in a “common school” -- the predecessor to the modern public school, attended by students of ages six to fourteen. Though the title-page of mine is missing (more on this below), it is The American Common-School Reader and Speaker: Being a Selection of Pieces in Prose and Verse, with Rules for Reading and Speaking, written by John Goldsbury (author of The Common-School Grammar and teacher at Cambridgeport, MA’s high school) and William Russell (author of numerous elocution textbooks and teacher of elocution at various theological seminaries and schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut).

It was published in massive print-runs (of which this particular copy was around number 66,000) by Tappan, Whittemore, and Mason of 114 Washington Street in Boston. The first edition was published in 1844; subsequent editions (in which mostly the introduction only was revised -- little else was changed) followed from Tappan in 1845 and 1846. For reasons explained below, I think the firm continued reissuing the book -- including back-copies of the first edition -- for at least another decade after its publication. I believe my copy belongs to this category: it seems to be a first edition, but sold by the publisher eleven years after the first edition was actually printed.

Dr. John Goldsbury taught in various schools in Massachusetts (particularly in the Boston and Cambridge area) and New Hampshire (particularly Cheshire County) and was dedicated to advancing new theories of education, particularly in the teaching of grammar and speech. He became most famous for his Exercises and Illustrations on the Black-Board (Keene, NH: George Tilden, 1847), known simply as The Black-Board. In this treatise he expounded upon the usefulness of the blackboard as a teaching tool for disciplines besides mathematics and he called for its inclusion in every public school classroom.

William Russell (1798-1873) was a native of Glasgow, Scotland who came to the United States in 1819 to serve as the head of Chatham Academy in Savannah, Georgia. Several years later he moved to New Haven, Connecticut to teach speech and elocution in some area schools; over the ensuing years he taught in various schools in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York. He also gave public lectures and instructed preachers at various seminaries, and, from 1826-1829, served as editor for The American Journal of Education. In 1849 he founded a teachers’ institute in New Hampshire and which he moved to Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1853. In his later life, the Massachusetts Board of Education commissioned him as a floating lecturer at the teachers’ institutes around the Commonwealth. His publications were numerous and speak to his field of interest: Grammar of Composition (1823), Lessons in Enunciation (1830), Rudiments of Gesture (1838), The American Elocutionist (1844), Orthophony, or Cultivation of the Voice (1845), Elements of Musical Articulation (1845), Pulpit Elocution (1853), and Exercises in Words (1856). His son, Reverend Francis Thayer Russell (1828-1889) was a childhood friend of Louisa May Alcott, and he continued his father’s passion for education and elocution instruction.

Russell had apparently begun laying the groundwork for the Reader and Speaker several years earlier: in Reverend Ebenezer Porter’s Analysis of the Principles of Rhetorical Delivery, Porter called for the creation of “a schoolbook, containing proper lessons for the management of the voice”, to which -- in the no longer extant second edition (published sometime between 1827 and 1830) he appended the following note:

Since this remark was made in my pamphlet on Inflections, several small works, well adapted to the purpose above mentioned, have been published; and one is now in press, entitled, Lessons in Declamation, by Mr. Russell, of Boston, concerning the utility of which, high expectations are justified by the skill of the author, as a teacher of elocution.

The preface to the Reader and Speaker notes this mention and adds the following explanation for why Russell’s book was never published:

The publication of the book mentioned above, of which the late Dr. Porter had seen the proofs of the first half of the volume, was unavoidably suspended, in consequence of a change of business, on the part of the publishers who had undertaken it. But the substance of that work is embodied in Part I. of this Reader.

The other publisher’s loss was Tappan et al’s gain. Printing textbooks, such as the Reader and Speaker, was (still is) like printing cash -- and Tappan specialized in the genre. At the end of the Reader and Speaker there is an advertising supplement (separately paginated) providing numerous “recommendations” for Russell and Goldsbury’s series of textbooks, written by educators, elected officials, and reverends from around New England. After the recommendations there’s a long list of all the public school systems using the books, a note indicating that free copies can be supplied to school committees, and that other “books for Schools and Academies” can be supplied “at very low prices”. After this there is an ad for “Dunton’s Writing Books” and the note “Please preserve this -- and show it to Teachers.” The ad for Dunton is dated “Boston, 1855”, which is why I believe that my copy of Reader and Speaker was a late issue by the publisher -- though, because the preface is clearly that of a first edition, I think it was a late issue of the first edition of 1844.

An examination of the table of contents gives a good indication of what the book includes: part one (pp. 13-73; evidently mostly by Russell) lays out basic rules of elocution, including pronunciation, emphasis, volume, tone, stress, and so forth (and ending with a plug for Russell’s other textbooks on the subject); part two (pp. 75-428) provides 233 extracts from other writers -- prose, poetry, political speeches, plays, and so forth -- designed as individual lessons on specific qualities of speech. At the end of the book (and not noted in the table of contents) there is an additional section on “Expressive Tones Exemplified in Music”, edited by Lowell Mason (pp. 429-432); because this was apparently a late addition to the book -- several dealers online are apparently lacking it in their copies -- I suspect that my copy was a second printing of the first edition (issued, as noted above, quite a long time after publication). Besides these contents, my copy includes a dedicatory page (“To John Quincy Adams, This Work is, with his permission, Respectfully Dedicated”), the table of contents, and the preface (all this is paginated [iii]-x). Several pages have been removed and are missing; most notably, the title-page, with its advertisement for other books and the copyright notice on the verso, is gone (pp. i-ii) and, as a comparison to the copy on GoogleBooks reveals, the final leaf (pp. xi-xii) of the preface, which would have been conjugate with the title-page. A brief review of the book was written by Samuel Gordon Paley for RhetBlog back in 2006, also giving a quick overview of the book’s contents. Paley’s interest is in the book’s usefulness as a teaching tool for elocution and speech.

I find another value in these old speech-instruction books: they record an (idealized) aural snapshot of a moment in time -- from the kinds of texts used for examples (often patriotic and bombastic, but also touching upon some of the prevalent writers, past and present, familiar to mid-nineteenth century America, from Marlowe and Shakespeare to Clay and Calhoun) to the instructions for how to pronounce individual words or orchestrate a speech. Lacking an audio recording of, for example, a speech by James Polk or Henry Clay in their 1844 contest for President, we can nonetheless get some sense of the acoustic pitch and roll of public oratory from the period by looking at the details of the 1844 Reader and Speaker.

The book is bound in full calf, now soft with age; there’s considerable damage to the spine (top and bottom are gone and the gilt bands are faded almost compeltely) and some chipping and scarring on the boards as well. The pages are 11cm x 18cm and are of a fairly cheap, soft stock; foxing and folding is prevalent throughout. It may be described collationally as 12o: [14] 26-366[: $1 & 2] [π10+1]. The initial gathering is missing its outer leafs (see above); the final, unsigned gathering is the advertising supplement, printed on a brown stock and clearly inserted later, when the book was bound; the final leaf of the supplement is tipped in onto the rear flyleaf. The printing of the book was hastily done: inking in places is uneven (particularly in the running-titles), occasionally an erroneous setting occurs (often there are missing or extra characters; for example, in the title for the final section of the book: Expressive Tones” Exemplified in Music.), and at times the “furniture” (metal blocks of various sizes used to hold and space out the pieces of type when put into the press) were accidentally inked and show in the printing. In terms of its use as a textbook, the publisher has rather confusingly chosen, in the individual lesson extracts, to provide line numbers that re-start, not only with every extract, but even within extracts whenever an extract goes over to another page. Very irritating to try to cite this kind of lineation.

Within the book itself the only marginalia appears on p. 96. This is Lesson XV: “Impressions from History” by Shakespeare editor, professor, and Congressman Gulian C. Verplanck. The passage is “[t]o be marked for Emphasis, by the reader”. A reader has marked the passage with pencil in three places, but not for emphasis. Rather, the reader has, in broad and rather youthful cursive, changed “No, -- Land of Liberty!” to “Our Land of Liberty!”, “Land of Refuge” to “Our Land of Refuge”, and “May peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces” to the more domestic “May peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within our Homes”. Clearly the changes are for a recitation of some kind and the reader anticipated that his or her audience would respond more favorably to a more specifically patriotic (“our land”) and less aristocratic (not “palaces”, but “homes”) tone.

The hand that made these revisions does not seem to belong to either of the two owners who inscribed the book on the recto of the front flyleaf. Both inscriptions are in a copper ink and cursive hand, though the first seems more firm and certain than the second, which seems more juvenile. The first reads:

Howard P. Marston.




The second, directly below it:

William Henry Davis

Bought of H. P. Marston

Sep 2< > 1864

Given that the book was sold by the publisher in 1855 (see above), I would assume that Marston was its very first owner and he bought it in that year. Marston is an old New Hampshire name and appears scattered throughout the state’s history. Possibly, however, he was the Howard P. Marston who was born February 24, 1834 in Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada; though born in Canada, his parents were American (his father, David Marston, was from Parsonfield, Maine and his mother, Martha Dearborn, from New Hampshire). He married Mary Spencer, of Greenland, New Hampshire (only about 8 miles from Newmarket), in March 1865, which may suggest he was living in New Hampshire at the time. He may have been involved with the fishing industry, for in June 1860 a Howard Marston was one of 58 individuals to petition the New Hampshire state senate opposing “the passage of any law to prevent the netting of smelts in Great Bay” (Journal of the Honorable Senate of the State of New-Hampshire [Concord: Asa McFarland, 1860], 68).

If this is the same man, that would make him 21 years old when he bought and inscribed the book -- too old to be a student in a common school. According to The Marston Genealogy (South Lubec, ME: N. W. Marston, 1888), Howard and Mary ended up in South Berwick, Maine and they had no children (108).

The man to whom Marston sold the book in the year before his marriage is even harder to track down. One possibility is he is the William Henry Davis, Sr. born in Worcester, MA on June 30, 1853 (making him 11 when he bought the book from Marston -- a plausible age for a common-school student). This W. H. Davis ended up in New Hampshire (though I don’t know when) and was a resident of Epping when he passed away in December 1933.

A more likely candidate, however, is William Henry Davis, son of Calvin Davis, of Canterbury, NH and Sarah Lucy, of Nottingham, NH: he was born in Barrington on April 23, 1828 -- making him 36 when he bought the book (again, too old to be a common-school student); but the reason I think him the likely owner is because he and Marston would have crossed paths: this William Henry Davis moved to Newmarket, where he worked as a distributing agent for a company that sold stoves and tinware, and resided there until his death in August 1910. Davis married Lavinia Chapman in October 1853 and they had five children between 1854 and 1869 (the year Lavinia died; the next year Davis remarried to Susan Richardson). Perhaps, then, this explains why Davis bought the book in 1864: one of his children -- probably his eldest, James, who was 10 in 1864 -- needed the book for school, and so the local merchant bought the second-hand textbook from a neighbor, local fisherman Howard Marston. This, of course, would also account for the presence of the third, pencil-wielding hand revising the text of Verplanck’s “Impressions from History": it is the hand, not of Marston or Davis, but young James, preparing a speech for class.

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