Christopher N. Phillips, The Hymnal: A Reading History

Phillips divides the book into three sites of social reading: the church, the school, and the home, primarily in English society of the 18th and 19th Century. The church was a place of social identity where hymns were sung. James Martineau, a British Unitarian compiler and hymnist, recorded in his hymn book the dates that hymns were sung. In schools, the hymn book was a way of teaching reading to children. The hymn, “When I Can Read My Title Clear” was one of the most popular family hymns that helped children to read (106). The home was the place of the “private hymnbook” (185). A title such as Hymns for Mothers and Children traveled from one family to another because of its large size and many illustrations. Today, we would probably call this a coffee table book. Phillips points out that his chapters may be read separately or chronologically to give a sense of history. ☛ ☞

Lucy Peltz, Facing the Text: Extra-Illustration, Print Culture, and Society in Britain 1769-1840

Nearly every rare book library has at least one extra-illustrated book; many archives hold hundreds of them. Yet the polarizing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century practice of extra-illustration has rarely been studied in its own right. Instead it is generally mentioned only briefly as part of larger arguments about marginalia, book use, and private libraries. Lucy Peltz’s extravagantly illustrated and extraordinarily well-researched Facing the Text: Extra-Illustration, Print Culture, and Society in Britain 1769-1840 offers a strikingly new approach as it both defines extra-illustration against similar “bibliographic activities” (5) and traces the rise and fall of what might be called its golden age. ☛ ☞

Graham Thompson, Herman Melville Among the Magazines

The book details the practices and priorities of an evolving US periodical culture by elaborating Melville’s “embeddedness” (8–13) within it. The method foregrounds Thompson’s expert command of the author’s correspondence, publishing relationships, and bibliography. The book takes a “writer’s eye” (7) view with accounts of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine and Putnam’s Monthly focalized through Melville’s transactions with the attendant circle of publishers, editors, and printers. ☛ ☞

Juliette Wells, Reading Austen in America

Juliette Wells’s Reading Austen in America considers Austen’s influence outside of Britain, and it serves as a prequel to her earlier book, Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination (Bloomsbury, 2011). It complements other recent works such as Paula Byrne’s The Genius of Jane Austen (2017), Devoney Looser’s The Making of Jane Austen (2017), and Deidre Lynch’s Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees (2000). ☛ ☞

Tom F. Wright, Lecturing the Atlantic: Speech, Print, and an Anglo-American Commons, 1830-1870

At a time when public figures, the media, and the public are locked in an ongoing daily battle to define the truth, it feels wise to draw our attention to the relationship among public figures, the media, and the public in a period other than our own. In his new book, Lecturing the Atlantic: Speech, Print, and an Anglo-American Commons, 1830-1870, Tom F. Wright does just that. Focusing on the defunct model of public programming known as the American lyceum movement, Wright seeks to demonstrate how the movement’s lectures, delivered by some of the most prominent public figures of the day, were not just local, rhetorical acts aimed at American nation-building, but fully “international and cross-media” (3). The arguments in Lecturing the Atlantic thus focus on either the ways in which the lectures were “international” or the ways in which they were “cross-media.”