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A Fictive People : Antebellum Economic Development and the American Reading Public - Ronald J. Zboray

A Fictive People

Antebellum Economic Development and the American Reading Public

Hardcover Published: 28th January 1993
ISBN: 9780195075823
Number Of Pages: 352

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This book explores an important boundary between history and literature: the antebellum reading public for books written by Americans. Zboray describes how fiction took root in the United States and what literature contributed to the readers' sense of themselves. He traces the rise of fiction as a social history centered on the book trade and chronicles the large societal changes shaping, circumscribing, and sometimes defining the limits of the antebellum reading public. A Fictive People explodes two notions that are commonplace in cultural histories of the nineteenth century: first, that the spread of literature was a simple force for the democratization of taste, and, second, that there was a body of nineteenth-century literature that reflected a "nation of readers." Zboray shows that the output of the press was so diverse and the public so indiscriminate in what it would read that we must rethink these conclusions. The essential elements for the rise of publishing turn out not to be the usual suspects of rising literacy and increased schooling. Zboray turns our attention to the railroad as well as private letter writing to see the creation of a national taste for literature. He points out the ambiguous role of the nineteenth-century school in encouraging reading and convincingly demonstrates that we must look more deeply to see why the nation turned to literature. He uses such data as sales figures and library borrowing to reveal that women read as widely as men and that the regional breakdown of sales focused the power of print.

"An entertaining and thoughtful work which demonstrates that literacy and reading in the early national period involved a complex interplay of cultural, economic, and technological forces and affected Americans at many different levels in their public and private lives."--Labor History "An indispensable work for nineteenth-century Americanists."--Studies in Popular Culture "So often books written about reading could make one swear off reading altogether...But Mr. Zboray's prose is a pleasure to read...A readable and thought-provoking study."--New York History "This challenging study deserves a wide audience; scholars from several disciplines will find much worth thinking about in Zboray's pages."--Georgia Historical Quarterly "A comprehensive, innovative, and timely study, Ronald J. Zboray's impressive book sets a new standard for histoire du livre explorations in the American context...Zboray's book establishes itself as an authoritative account of a decidedly segmented reading populace."--American Historical Review "Few historians have done more to further our understanding of the production and distribution of books in the mid-nineteenth century...[The book's] extensive documentation...should make it required reading for students of the history of communications, print culture, and the book trade."--The Journal of American History "Delightful to read, and [Zboray's] work will very likely encourage a great many young scholars to pursue other questions encompassed in book history. For the motivation it provides alone, this book will serve as a spectacular monument."--The Library Quarterly "Zboray has handled and read virtually every account of the reading habits and practices of antebellum Americans and brought them into perspective and sense."--Journal of American Culture "A welcome compendium of this scholarship and a bit more...A very ambitious work...Zboray delves into relatively unexamined areas in search of information about the elusive historical reader...This book provides a wealth of information..."--Publishing Research Quarterly "Zboray manages to reveal complexities of the antebellum book market that will significantly add to our understanding of American cultural and economic history."--Business History Review "For students of library history, Zboray's impressively researched effort points to exciting possibilities. If American library historians begin looking at their subject matter through some of the same lenses Zboray harnesses in A Fictive People, instead of more traditional institutional lenses evident in previous historiography, contemporary generations of library professionals might develop a better historical perspective on the library's social and cultural role."--Libraries & Culture "A Fictive People is a thought-provoking, interdisciplinary study...This important book adds significant complexity to our understanding of the antebellum reading public and the publishing industry. It expands our knowledge not only of literature, reading, and related topics, but also of conceptions of the 'American' self and patterns of American life."--Journal of Interdisciplinary History "A Fictive People stands as a clever and significant book that weaves several hitherto separate strands of the antebellum story into a coherent and engaging plot."--Journal of the Early Republic

Tables, Maps, Illustrationsp. xiii
Introductionp. xv
Reading and the Ironies of Technological Innovationp. 3
The Publisher's Marketp. 17
The Book Peddler and Literary Disseminationp. 37
The Transportation Revolution and Book Distributionp. 55
The Railroad, the Community, and the Bookp. 69
Family, Church, and Academyp. 83
The Common School and Other Institutionsp. 96
The Letter and the Reading Publicp. 110
Numeracy, the News, and Self-culturep. 122
The Interior Organization of a Bookstorep. 136
Gender and Boundlessness in Reading Patternsp. 156
Time, Space, and Chaosp. 180
Regionalism, Literacy, and Economic Developmentp. 196
Categories in the Analytical Catalogue (1850) of the New York Society Libraryp. 202
Notesp. 211
Works Citedp. 269
Indexp. 305
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195075823
ISBN-10: 019507582X
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 28th January 1993
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.23 x 16.23  x 3.15
Weight (kg): 0.76