Professor Lisa Harris
January 18, 2014
The Development of American Literature via American Book Publishing
Several influential factors have been important to the development of American authors and the literature produced in the 19th century. One of the more critical factors was the onset of industrialized American book publishing. Before 1820, printed media was generally manufactured and sold by way of printers, binders, and book dealers working separately (Gabler-Hover, Sattelmeyer). In the years that followed, American businessmen merged the processes and created successful publishing houses which created a need for the development of American literature. In the early 1800s, limited resources such as financial stability and viable transportation made publishing in the United States a less than profitable venture. The mid 1800s, however, generated technology that helped to dramatically increase profitability in the trade. Progressive methods of transportation such as the opening of the Erie Canal (Gabler-Hover, Sattelmeyer), inventions such as “stereotyping, the iron press, the application of steam power, mechanical typecasting/ typesetting, and new methods of producing illustrations created a revolution in book production” that bred competition for imported fiction (Encyclopedia Britannica). American publishers routinely and illegally reproduced copies of British and European text, profiting from readers who were eager for access to foreign fiction. Copyright laws didn’t regulate imported texts; irresistible revenues inspired other companies to begin producing their own editions of popular imported literature. This practice of high profit piracy among American publishers was frustrating to American writers who needed an opportunity to prove their viability (Gabler-Hover, Sattelmeyer). British and European authors were established in the American market and (obviously) weren’t viewed as a financial risk. American authors were...
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