Origins

The creation of Colby College’s edition of The Poems of Celia Thaxter involved many individuals’ input. Now known as Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt Company, since the merger with Harcourt Publishing in 2007, the original publishing company started as many separate parts in the early 1800s. In 1832 William Ticknor and James Thomas Fields started a small publishing company, and throughout the century published many famous authors, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. As they were just a publishing company, they formed a close partnership with Riverside Press, which was founded in 1852 by Henry Houghton in Boston Massachusetts. In 1974 the first edition of The Poems of Celia Thaxter was printed and published by the two companies. Four years later, Houghton, Osgood, and Company formed and another edition was published, and in 1880 Houghton, Osgood, and Company merged with George Mifflin as well as Ticknor and Fields to form Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, which renamed Riverside Press to Riverside Publishing Company. In 1886 a third edition of The Poems of Celia Thaxter was published, and finally in 1896, the Appledore edition was published.

The Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt company is best known today, for publishing standardized tests and other educational materials such as technology manuals and textbooks, but while Riverside Press still existed, the majority of its titles were other collections from well known authors. Some of the titles included were the first editions of The Writings of John Fiske, The Complete Writings of James Russell Lowell, Playback by Raymond Chandler, The Complete Writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Dies Irae by John A. Dix.

Most of Celia’s career as a writer was spent writing about her family home on Appledore Island in York, Maine. Some of her other titles published by Houghton, Mifflin, and Company were, Drift-Weed, which was another collection of poems, An Island Garden, a description of the creation of Celia’s garden on Appledore Island, Stories and Poems for Children, and Among the Isles of Shoals, which was a collection of essays about the Southern Maine Islands.

When Celia Thaxter first compiled her poems into the collection, she did not take on sole copyright for the book. Her husband, Levi Lincoln Thaxter, whom she lived most of her adult life apart from, held copyright for the 1874, 78, and 86 editions of her book. Much of Levi’s life was spent trying to find himself a career to get out from under Celia’s shadow. Levi died in 1884 and was buried in Kittery Point, Maine, but when Celia died, 10 years later, she was buried at the family house on Appledore Island. When Celia died, her son, Roland Thaxter took ownership of Celia’s published works, and in 1896 when the Appledore edition of The Poems of Celia Thaxter was published, he alone held copyright.

The preface in the Appledore edition of The Poems of Celia Thaxter was written by Sarah Orne Jewett, another Maine author. Sarah Orne Jewett was best known for her stories in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine, a collection of short stories titled, A White Heron, and the novella titled, The Country of the Pointed Firs. Most of her works were also published by the Houghton, Mifflin Company, which led to her preface in the Appledore edition.

The Appledore edition of The Poems of Celia Thaxter was an exact copy of the first edition. It was created to commemorate Celia’s life, by re-collecting all of her work over the years and placing it in the order that she initially desired. As to maintain complete accuracy to the original copies of the book, the process of electrotyping was used to recreate it. Electrotyping is a way to recreate entire pages at once, as opposed to each separate word or letter. Much like its precursor, stereotyping, electrotyping involves creating a plaster or wax mold of each page and then transferring it to metal. The difference between the two processes has to do with the production of the final metal mold. Unlike stereotyping, where molten metal is poured over the plaster copies, during electrotyping the wax mold is dusted in graphite powder and submerged in an electrolyte solution, in which copper atoms adhere to the molds surface and create an new usable sheet. The reason that the publishers decided to use this process in creating the Appledore edition is because they wanted to, as accurately as possible, recreate the first edition of The Poems of Celia Thaxter.

As far as other copies of the Appledore edition are concerned, there is very little evidence that many were made. One copy that is in good condition can be bought on Ebay for less than 40 dollars, and a few other non-reviewed copies are advertised on other online marketplaces, but they lack descriptions and pictures, so I cannot be sure that they are realcopies. As the Appledore edition was made to celebrate Thaxter’s life as a poet, it would make sense that only a few copies were released to significant fans of her writing.

References:

  1. https://www.biblio.com/publisher/riverside-press
  2. https://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3ACelia+Laighton+Thaxter%2C+1835-1894&qt=hot_author
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Orne_Jewetthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houghton_Mifflin_Harcourt
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_R._Osgoodhttp://seacoastnh.com/dct/levithaxter.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrotypinghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_(printing)