George Palmer Putnam (1814–1872) was arguably the most important American publisher of the nineteenth century, a man fully and multiply involved in developments transforming all aspects of literary culture. In this comprehensive cultural biography, Ezra Greenspan offers a wide-ranging account of a rich, productive life lived in print, interrelating Putnam’s life with the life of his family (one of the most remarkable of its time), with the changing patterns of life in New York City and the nation, and with the institutionalization of modern print culture in nineteenth-century America.
Putnam’s roles and achievements were many: he established and ran the publishing house of G. P. Putnam’s in New York City; published many of the leading American antebellum writers, male and female, canonical and noncanonical (indeed, was responsible for the first act of American canonization—of Washington Irving); was the leading publisher of art books in his time and launched Putnam's Monthly; led efforts resulting in the institutionalization of the American publishing industry and was the most outspoken promoter of American authorship; led the fight in the United States for international copyright; was the first American publisher to open an overseas (London) branch office; and for a decade was the leading American agent in the international book trade.
Putnam’s achievements were not limited to his professional sphere: he was also the founding Superintendent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the official publisher to the New York World's Fair of 1853, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue in New York City during the Civil War, and the organizer of the greatest authors-publishers dinner ever given in nineteenth-century America. Friend and confidant to many of the leading figures of his time, he was not simply a centrally placed publisher but was one of the most centrally placed people of his entire society.
This study is based on meticulous archival research into not only Putnam's own papers but into the records of his business, the papers of other family members, and the archives of persons with whom Putnam had contact through business and social networks. In a finely detailed narrative, Greenspan weaves together the story of Putnam's life and that of the development of print culture in nineteenth-century America to offer an ambitious, comprehensive biography of this "representative American publisher."
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"This is an impressive intellectual achievement; an early entrant in what has long been needed: the serious, systematic examination of American publishing. But it is more than that. It is also a Horatio Alger narrative; the story of a fatherless boy, age fifteen, who came to New York City seeking his fortune and found it, in international publishing. Putnam's career on both sides of the Atlantic, as presented by Greenspan, is continuously fascinating; in particular his relationships with the authors, male and female, on his growing backlist. Attractively written, George Palmer Putnam: Representative American Publisher is highly recommended for historians, literary scholars, and history buffs of every persuasion." —Calhoun Winton, University of Maryland
"An essential source for the study of American literary publishing. Ezra Greenspan has provided more than a thoroughly researched life of George Palmer Putnam: he has written a history of Anglo-American literary publishing during the first half of the nineteenth century." —Matthew J. Bruccoli, University of South Carolina
"An authoritative biography, one that examines an increasingly transatlantic book trade, the manner in which literary business was transacted in the nineteenth century, and the spheres of gendered endeavor that were not nearly as separate as our distance from them makes us believe. It is intriguing to imagine antebellum publishing as the kind of 'enlightened agriculture' that this volume describes and that Putnam tended with such remarkable consequence. At once archivally rich and systematically disciplined, detailed and comprehensive, this is a big book in every sense, one that will strategically redefine how new national literary traditions in the U.S. are understood and how popular cultural studies are undertaken." - Kathleen Diffley, University of Iowa
"At last-the biography of a publisher that goes beyond mere business details. Greenspan has vividly recreated the mid-nineteenth-century literary and cultural scene in a work that combines social history, biography, publishing history, cultural studies, and literary history to show us what transatlantic author-publisher relations were really like during the formative years of American literary culture." —Joel Myerson, University of South Carolina
"There are many books viewing the world through the eyes of politicians. This is an exciting book that views nineteenth-century America through the eyes of one of its most important publishers, George Palmer Putman. Putnam’s publisher’s eyes are amazing lenses because of his total involvement and patronage of the leading authors of his time. He toiled to give their voices greater exposure to the world. What drove him to play this vital role? Read the book!" —Patricia Schroeder, President & CEO, Association of American Publishers Inc.About the Author:
Ezra Greenspan is Associate Professor of English at the University of South Carolina. His previously published books are The Schlemiel Comes to America (1981), Walt Whitman and the American Reader (1990), and Cambridge Companion to Walt Whitman (1995).
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