Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Lakeside Press chooses Bartram

Every year in December, R.R. Donnelley, the publishing and printing giant, publishes a petite volume in the series The Lakeside Classics. The company has been doing this since 1903.

The company never sells the book. It is given as a gift to customers, company retirees, some employees and shareholders who request them.

Thomas Donnelley
The project was the brainchild of Thomas E. Donnelley, son of the company’s founder, R.R. Donnelley. Thomas began the series to demonstrate that the company’s “machine-made books are not a crime against art, and that books may be plain but good, and good though not costly,” as Thomas put it in the first of the series, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

So, it was a marketing piece, an example of the kind of quality work the company could do.

Each book in the series highlights an individual experience in American history. Some are on early exploration, others on the Old West or the Civil War. The newest volume is a reprint of William Bartram’s Travels Through South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, originally published 1791. A copy of it was recently added to the Lighthouse Books, ABAA collection of rare and unusual books.

We spent some time discussing Bartram’s book last month when we featured a 1792 British edition in our collection. Considering the lack of success Bartram found early in his career as a merchant and the fact that it took him 15 years to finally publish Travels, we wonder if he’d find the longevity of his famous book somehow quietly satisfying and somewhat amazing.

This volume contains a portrait of Bartram by Charles Willson Peale and a portrait of Dr. John Fothergill, who was Bartram’s patron. The book also has some of the original illustrations by Bartram, to which color has been added as well as illustrations by Mark Catesby, George Catlin and John Trumbull.

This volume was edited by Thomas F. Slaughter, the Arthur R. Miller professor of History at University of Rochester.

Florida history lovers will, no doubt, be pleased at Donnelley’s selection of this Florida classic for its Classics series.

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