"Isaiah Thomas's Apprenticeship:
The Labor and Value of Children’s Literature"

Karen Sánchez-Eppler

Monday, June 8, 2020 - 3:00pm

View Program

Approx. 60 minutes

This is an online event. Virtual public programs are free.

When the Worcester, Massachusetts, printer Isaiah Thomas (1749–1831) donated his collection of early American imprints to found the American Antiquarian Society, he did not include in that donation many books written for children. Yet Thomas was the foremost publisher of children’s literature in his time, and books addressed to child readers at school or at home generated at least a quarter of his press profits. Isaiah Thomas’s own accounts of his career always emphasized his experience as a printer’s apprentice, beginning to set type when he was only six years old. Linking Thomas’s apprenticeship, his juvenile publishing, and his memorializing and collecting practices, in this talk Karen Sánchez-Eppler asserts the importance of children’s labor and ideas of childhood probably for all history, and certainly for American book history.


Karen Sánchez-Eppler is L. Stanton Williams 1941 Professor of American Studies and English at Amherst College, and is honored this year to be Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American Antiquarian Society. The author of Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body (1993) and Dependent States: The Child’s Part in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (2005). In addition to AAS, her scholarship has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Newberry Library, the Winterthur Library, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Fulbright Foundation. She is one of the founding coeditors of the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth and past president of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists.

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