Pet Book Project #2: Origins of “The Federalist, On the New Constitution”

The Federalist Papers are a very well-known collection of essays originally published in the late 1780’s and excerpts have been published in many different books and textbooks. This led me to believe that the origin of my book, “The Federalist, On the New Constitution” would be a pretty generic story. However, researching both the publisher and printer of my book opened avenues into very unique stories.

The publisher of my book was a man named Benjamin Warner. Warner was based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and had a long and rich history of publishing. Warner did most of his publishing during the 1810’s, with a focus on academic writings. He published a lot of educational material for students, however this ranged from more concrete topics like grammar and arithmetic to more subjective issues like how to be polite. He also had a bookstore that was located in Charleston, South Carolina. While his store sold a wide variety of books, his main focus was on children’s educational books. His bookstore only stayed open from 1817 to 1819 and while there was no concrete reason for its closing, it is most likely a result of the difficulty in running a publishing company in Pennsylvania and a bookstore all the way in South Carolina. Unfortunately, Warner died in 1821, and with it his publishing company. His executors sold all the books and materials left over, giving us a large glimpse into his business. Among the items looking to be sold were primers and spelling book, along with more advanced books that focused on medicine and law. There were also a lot of religious books, with Family Bibles and School Bibles for sale. The bible was a very popular book at the time, so Warner likely printed them as a way to make some reliable money. Along with books, there was a large collection of materials. From this collection, we can infer that he was a very good publisher in the sense he took it seriously and surrounded himself with as many tools and resources as possible.

This is the pamphlet adverting the goods for sale following the death of Benjamin Warner

 

While Warner was focused in Philadelphia; the printer of the book, William Greer, was focused in Harrisburg. While Greer printed many books, it was more of a job than a passion for him. His true calling was with newspaper writing. He started his very own newspaper called “the Hive” in 1804. The next year it was expanded and renamed to “the True American”. Almost 10 years later, in 1814, Greer was elected Printer of the Bills at the Senate of Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania. While working for the Senate he worked out of a printing press in Harrisburg, most likely the very same where this book was printed. Following his time with the Senate he created another newspaper, but its creation coincided with an economic recession and he was unable to maintain the paper due to a lack of financial support. From there he relocated his printing shop to Washington DC in 1819. Greer was very well liked among the members of the Legislature and was a lifelong Quaker.

The timing of this book is pretty odd when looking at Greer’s timeline. He left his job as Printer of the Bills in 1815, and it was not until 1819 when he founded another newspaper. Where was Greer during this four-year gap? The newspaper was printed and released in Columbia. This book was published in 1817, and in the publication page it says Greer was based in Harrisburg. This most likely means that Greer continued to print out of his Harrisburg studio after his position was ended and it was not until 1819 that he moved back to Columbia. Given that Greer was based in Harrisburg when this book was published, it is a little mysterious as to why Warner and Greer worked together. They did work on other publications together, however these were published in 1817 and 1819, so Warner and Greer did not have a long-standing history before the release of “The Federalist Papers: On the New Constitution”. What brought them together in the first place? Although we cannot say for certain, it was most likely a result of both skill and similarity in interests. Warner had a rich history in book publishing and Greer had just finished working in the Pennsylvania House, proving that he was a skillful printer. This political background of Greer also lends itself to the subject matter of this book, as the Federalist Papers were an instrumental part in the creation of the Constitution. Furthermore, these essays would be of great interest to a publisher like Warner who was very involved in academic works. Warner and Greer were both very accomplished in their respective fields so it is no surprise that they decided to work together.