James Russell Wiggins Lectures in the History of the Book in American Culture

The James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture, inaugurated in 1983, is an annual activity of the American Antiquarian Society through its Program in the History of the book in American Culture. Wiggins Lectures have featured statements on key methodological and interpretive issues by scholars in several disciplines from the United States and abroad.


2016 - Eric Gardner

Eric Garnder is professor of English at Saginaw Valley State University. He is the author of Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture (Oxford University Press, 2015).


2014/2015 - Meredith McGill
Disappearing Medium: Poetry and Print in the Antebellum United States

Book historians have for the most part told the story of the rise of a mass-market for literature with reference to short fiction and the novel, leaving poetry curiously out of the picture until the arrival of America’s great printer-poet, Walt Whitman. And yet poetry thrived in the antebellum marketplace, circulating across a wide range of popular and elite print formats. Moreover, poetry was understood as a test case for the viability of American literature itself; many writers and readers assumed that the very possibility of a democratic culture depended on the fate of American verse. In this talk, Professor McGill will ask how we might understand the explosion of mass print as formative event in the history of American poetry, and how we might look to antebellum poetry as a primary means for taking the measure of the cultural impact of print.

Meredith McGill is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University. An elected member of the Society, she is the author of American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834-1853 and the editor of The Traffic in Poems: Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange. The Wiggins Lecture, inaugurated in 1983, honors James Russell Wiggins, former editor of the Washington Post, former United States ambassador to the United Nations, and editor of the Ellsworth (Maine) American, and from 1970 to 1977, the president of the American Antiquarian Society.

2013/2014 - Kenneth Carpenter
The incredible journey of Benjamin Franklin’s Way to Wealth--and its bibliographical traces

Benjamin Franklin’s “Way to Wealth” began its existence in Philadelphia as the untitled preface to Poor Richard’s Almanac for 1758. Despite not having a formal title—or author’s name—and despite being published on the periphery of the British Empire, it gradually spread around the world, eventually being published in twenty-six languages, in well over a thousand appearances. Franklin’s paean to hard work and frugality was issued for a variety of audiences, from elites to peasants and servants, and in formats ranging from newspapers to advice manuals to schoolbooks. Thanks to digitization, it has been possible to produce a bibliography that describes distinct appearances, not just editions. This lecture will explain the process by which Franklin’s anonymous text spread widely and deeply into the Western world.

Kenneth Carpenter retired in 2000 after a thirty-five-year career in Harvard University’s libraries. He is the author of numerous works of bibliography and library history including Readers & Libraries: Toward a History of Libraries and Culture in America (1996), The Legacy of James Bowdoin III (1994) and Dissemination of the Wealth of Nations in French and in France, 1776-1843 (2002).


2012 - Vincent Carretta
In Search of Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley was only about 7 years old when she stepped off a slave ship in Boston harbor in 1761. She rose from the indignity of enslavement to earn international celebrity, only to die in obscurity and poverty. As the first person of African descent and the second woman in America to publish a book, Wheatley wrote remarkable contributions on topics ranging from religion to politics. Wheatley is now widely recognized as the mother of African-American literature. Despite her contemporaneous fame and subsequent reputation, the many mysteries surrounding her life made a biography of her seemingly impossible until 250 years after she left Africa.

Vin Carretta, Professor of English at the University of Maryland, specializes in eighteenth-century transatlantic historical and literary studies. He has recently held fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the John Carter Brown Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the University of London, the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University, and the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton. Author of more than 100 articles and reviews, Vin has also written and edited eleven books, most recently Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (2005), The Life and Letters of Philip Quaque The First African Anglican Missionary (2010), co-edited with Ty M. Reese, and Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (2011).


2011 - David S. Reynolds
Igniting the War: Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Antislavery Politics, and the Rise of Lincoln

Mightier Than The SwordLincoln reportedly called Harriet Beecher Stowe "the little woman who made this great war." Although Stowe's mammoth best-seller Uncle Tom's Cabin is vaguely associated in many people's minds with the Civil War, several modern commentators have tried to argue that it actually had only a minimal influence on the political decisions that led to the war. One historian maintains that "its political effect" was "negligible." Another asks, "In what sense does a novel have the power to move a nation to battle?" Such remarks ignore the tremendous power of public opinion in America, which Tocqueville regarded as stronger than the government—an idea Lincoln echoed when he declared, "Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion can change the government."

No book in American history molded public opinion more powerfully than Uncle Tom's Cabin. Based on his new book, Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Battle for America, David S. Reynolds will describe how Stowe's novel shaped the political scene by making the North, formerly largely hostile to the antislavery reform, far more open to it than it had been. The novel and its dissemination in plays, essays, reviews, and the tie-in merchandise directly paved the way for the public's openness to an antislavery candidate like Lincoln. Simultaneously, it stiffened the South's resolve to defend slavery and demonize the North. Uncle Tom's Cabin thus ratcheted up the political tensions that led to the war that ended slavery.

David S. Reynolds is a Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His works include the award-winning Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, Walt Whitman's America, Beneath the American Renaissance, and John Brown, Abolitionist.


2010 - John B. Hench
Random Notes from a Book History Bureaucrat

John HenchThis talk by John B. Hench, retired vice president for collections and programs at AAS, will combine elements of memoir, reflections on the development and influence of the Society's Program in the History of the Book in American Culture, and notes on some of the themes in his recent scholarship on publishing in the World War II era.

John B. Hench worked at AAS for 33 years beginning as editor of publications in 1973. He is the author of Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II (2010). Additionally, he co-edited The Press and the American Revolution (1981) and Printing and Society in Early America (1983).



2009 - Joshua Brown
Catching His Eye: The Sporting Male Pictorial Press in the Gilded Age

The post-Civil War pictorial press covered the gamut of the American reading public, but few publications were as brazen as illustrated sporting papers. Depicting blood sports, sex, scandal, crime, and, less predictably, current events, these weeklies reveled in impropriety and outrage and were ubiquitous in bars, barbershops, hotel lobbies, liveries, clubs, and other male enclaves. This lecture examines the two most prominent pictorial sporting weeklies, the National Police Gazette and The Days' Doings, and the vision of Gilded Age America they offered to a distinctly male readership.

Joshua Brown is executive director of the American Social History Project and professor of history at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is author of Beyond the Lines: Pictorial Reporting, Everyday Life, and the Crisis of Gilded Age America (2002), co-author of Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction (2005), and executive producer of award-winning Web projects, including History Matters, The Lost Museum, The September 11 Digital Archive, and Picturing U.S. History. His illustrations and cartoons appear regularly in print and online.


2008 - Patricia Crain
Babes in the Wood: Print, Orality, and Children's Literature in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Originating as a broadside ballad in the sixteenth century, "Babes in the Wood" had a long afterlife in the United States as a staple of the nineteenth-century juvenile literature market in poetry, in prose, and in a range of printed formats. This lecture explores the striking resilience of this text and its illustrations in order to reflect on the role of "the death in childhood" in the creation of modern children's literature.

Patricia Crain is associate professor of English at New York University. She is the author of The Story of A: The Alphabetization of America from the New England Primer to The Scarlet Letter (Stanford University Press, 2000). She held an AAS-NEH fellowship in 2005-2006.


2007 - Wayne Franklin
Financing America's First Literary Boom

Red RoverAmerican literature has had many origins, but as a modern commercial phenomenon it took its clearest rise in New York City and Philadelphia in the two decades immediately following the War of 1812. Here a group of apologists for the coming maturity of American culture battled English condescension in a series of publications such as James Kirke Paulding's Diverting History of John Bull and Brother Jonathan (1812), Robert Walsh's Appeal from the Judgments of Great Britain (1819), and Charles Jared Ingersoll's Discourse of America on the Mind (1823). More importantly, writers in this region invented both a series of popular literary types and innovative means of marketing them. "Financing America's First Literary Boom" will examine the parallel efforts of Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper to secure the profits from their wildly successful books in the United States and abroad in the years from 1820 to 1830. In doing so, it will offer a lively portrait of how literature was transformed from a cultural ambition into a paying profession in the new American nation. This lecture is based on Franklin's forthcoming book, James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years (Yale University Press, May 2007).

Wayne Franklin is the author of several studies of early American literature and culture, including Discoverers, Explorers, Settlers (1979) and The New World of James Fenimore Cooper (1982). He is the editor of the pre-1700 section of the Norton Anthology of American Literature and is the founding editor of the 25-volume American Land and Life series (1990-present). He is a professor of American Studies and English at the University of Connecticut.


2006 - David S. Shields
We Declare You Independent Whether You Wish It or Not: The Print Culture of Early Filibusterism


2005 - Sandra Gustafson
The Emerging Media of Early America


2004 - Philip F. Gura
Magnalia Historiae Libri Americana; or, How the American Antiquarian Society Brought the History of the Book into the New Millennium


2003 - Gregory H. Nobles
A Book in the Hand is Worth Two in the Press: Making and Marketing John James Audubon's
Birds of America


2002 - Patricia Fleming and Yvan Lamonde
Cultural Crossroads: Print and Reading in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Montreal


2001 - Richard Brodhead
Prophets, Publics, and Publication: A History of the Book from One Cultural Margin


2000 - Richard Ohmann
Epochal Change: Economics and Print Culture


1999 - Michael Winship
'The Greatest Book of Its Kind': A Publishing History of Uncle Tom's Cabin


1998 - E. Jennifer Monaghan
Reading for the Enslaved, Writing for the Free: Reflections on Liberty and Literacy

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1997 - Carla Peterson
Reconstructing the Nation: Frances Harper, Charlotte Forten, and the Racial Politics of Periodical Publications

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1996 - David Paul Nord
Free Grace, Free Books, Free Riders: The Economics of Religious Publishing in Early Nineteenth-Century America

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1995 - Mary Kelley
Designing A Past for the Present: Women Writing Women's History in Antebellum America

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1994 - Lawrence Buell
The Rise and "Fall" of the Great American Novel

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1993 - Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Truth or Consequences: Putting Limits on Limits

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1992 - Ian Willison
The History of the Book in Twentieth-Century Britain and America: Perspective and Evidence

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1991 - Nina Baym
At Home with History: History Books and Women's Sphere Before the Civil War

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1990 - Michael Schudson
Preparing the Minds of the People: Three Hundred Years of the American Newspaper

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1989 - Robert A. Gross
Printing, Politics, and the People

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1988 - John Bidwell
American History in Image and Text

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1987 - Roger Chartier
Frenchness in the History of the Book: From the History of Publishing to the History of the Book

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1986 - Cathy N. Davidson
Ideology and Genre: The Rise of the Novel in America

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1985 - Larzer Ziff
Upon What Pretext?: The Book and Literary History

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1984 - James M. Wells
American Printing: The Search for Self Sufficiency

Lecture as published in the Proceedings


1983 - David D. Hall
On Native Ground: From the History of Printing to the History of the Book

Lecture as published in the Proceedings

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