The Book Club of California has generously agreed to host me for a public lecture and exhibit of all things literary annuals. Join me on February 22 in San Francisco for a jaunty walk through beautiful books.
“The Rise of the Literary Annual, Powerful Femininity, and Beautiful Books,” Feb 22, 5-7pm
In May 2015, I published a scholarly literary history about the rise of the British literary annual based on the rich diversity of European religious emblems, French almanacs, and British conduct manuals. All of these forms of diminutive books were meant to define, and in essence control, femininity — at least that is the idea offered by a German publisher, Rudolph Ackermann. In the end the literary annual provided a space for re-creating a massive reading public who enjoyed poetry, travel tales, gothic short stories, images of popular (yet difficult to reach) artwork, morality short stories, fantasy, and other early forms of literature. The literary annual as a genre was exported to America soon after it was proved to be lucrative in London with its first publication in November 1822. By 1828, the craze for this type of reading material overwhelmed booksellers and drawing rooms in England, France, South America, and finally, America, where publishers shameless pirated copies of the London volumes, even exchanging an anglo-centric poem for one that celebrates the nascent formation of an American pride. Well before the development of the short story by Edgar Allen Poe in the mid-nineteenth century, Mary Shelley was developing her craft as an effective short story author, as were other contributors to the British literary annuals. The annuals allowed authors to reach a massive audience both in England and abroad.
With an exhibit of a selection from my 300+ collection of literary annuals (American, British, and French), almanacs, and anthologies, the presentation ventures into show and tell about the rise of the British literary annual as a precursor to American Romanticism (1830-1865). Though The Book Club of California focuses on literature of California and the West, this exhibit and talk links to the expansion of print culture stemming from London, arguably the center of the publishing industry in the early nineteenth century and certainly the locus of innovation with the mechanization of print and paper making — especially Rudolph Ackermann, the publisher of the first British literary annual in November 1822.
If interested for the sake of the exhibit, please see the Forget Me Not: A Hypertextual Archive of Ackermann’s 19th-century Literary Annual, a digital archive of the first published British literary annual here (only a few are displayed): http://www.orgs.miamioh.edu/anthologies/fmn/frame_1.htm
My book, Forget Me Not: The Rise of the British Literary Annual 1823-1835, spans far across the globe to discover the influence of literary annuals on all facets of publishing, printing, and literary production from England to America in the early nineteenth century.