Pet Book Project: America’s Original Fashion Magazine

Before I had seen what physically attracted me to by Pet Book, Godey’s Lady’s Book and Ladies’ American Magazine was something catalyzed my interests and passions. My ardor for advertisement and fashion as well as vintage photography made this book, a collection of issues of America’s original fashion magazine, a perfect fit. Entitled Godey’s Lady’s, the magazine was first published in 1830 by Louis A. Godey. The magazine’s success perpetuated throughout the 19th century selling as many as 150,000 copies a month. The magazine was based out of Philadelphia and operated for forty-eight years. Sarah Josepha Hale, who also was the author of Mary had a Little Lamb, was the editor for forty years. The magazine’s target market was women, the magazine said its mission was to fulfill a moral instruction for women. Whatever that means is for a different essay. Because of this mission the magazine lacked any discussion of politics and finance. Instead, poems, stories, exquisite and colorful illustrations, and articles filled its pages. Hale did published three issues where only works written or created by women were published.

In addition to my excitement to explore this books content, seeing the pages and gorgeous illustrations of this book demonstrated how much more it had to share. This specific book is volume XXVI. – From January to June 1843 of Godey’s Lady’s Magazine. It was published by Publishers’ Hall in Philadelphia in 1843.

The book cover’s materials seem to be millboard coated with a snake skin like patterned finish. The spine of the book is a burgundy leather and the corners are finished leather material and coloring. The spine had gold letter spelling out “Lady’s Book” and the year 1843. The condition of the front and back cover as well as the spine is somewhat tattered. Scratch marks are all down the spine of the book as well as scrapes in the millboard have taken off some of the snake skin finish. This demonstrates that the book was probably used ofter and possibly traveled around between different users.


The prelims of the book hold a lot of interesting information. There is quarter inch stamp located on the upper-left inside of the books cover. This details the binder and book seller, A. Hutchinson of Worcester, Mass. Additionally there is a note from the buyer of this book, Mary Davis written in cursive detailing the gift of this book to her daughter. The inscription reads in cursive,

“This book + all the subsequent volumes I give to my daughter Mary Davis reserving the use of them during my life – Grace Davis 1854”. 

This book in this instance is a gift book. Many Godey’s have been as well throughout history. Gift books were 19th-century books that were usually lavishly decorated and comprised essays, short fiction, and poetry. They were primarily published in the autumn, in time for the holiday season and were intended to be given away rather than read by the purchaser. The imprints on the title page show the regular contributors to the magazine as well as the editors. Following the title page there is a table of contents organized alphabetically detailing each article and story in the book labeled with a page number.

This book has six issues of Godey’s Lady’s Magazine. After careful analysis of the ways the book naturally opens and closely looking at the binding, it seems that roughly twelve pages comprise each coalition. This book has no signature marks throughout so the estimation of where each coalition was made much more difficult.

The format of this book has a journalistic and almost newspaper-like style. The font is times new-roman-esque and very small with equally as small spacing between the lines. Additionally, the margins are quite large. There is a chase, which is a four-sided frame in which the type for a page or pages of one form is locked prior to its being placed on the press. This chase is on every page expect for the illustration pages that were placed into the book individually. The chase is a thin line that has a wave like trail around the page. The corners each have a three leaf plant-like design, somewhat similar to a clover.

When I looked closer at the pages of the book there is a freckling of what looked to be ink or oil stains. Nearly every page in this book has what is called foxing. Foxing is an age-related process of deterioration that causes spots and browning on old paper. The name is said to be derived fro fox-like reddish-brown color of the stains. The foxing in Godey’s Lady’s is caused by the frontispiece bleeding onto the opposite page. This foxing has an affect on the value of the book for collectors but doesn’t affect the integrity of the paper. In addition to the foxing, there are many dog eared creases from potential readers whom saved a page.

The illustrations in this book are exquisite and colorful. The pages themselves are on much thicker paper than the magazine pages and seem to have been placed after binding. Many of the images in these issues are drawn by A.C. Smith. His signature is in italics at the bottom left of most of the drawings. Additionally there is a printers mark in bottom of most of the drawings saying for example, “printed by P.S. Duval Phil”. The printers are almost all different throughout the issues.

At least one full page steel engraving and sometimes more, along with copper and wood engravings were included in each magazine. Under each title of an article (see plate) is writing demonstrating its importance to its partnered story. These images were used to illustrate one of the fiction pieces.


These images in the magazine are fashions plates. Each month ladies were granted a new issue which included the monthly fashion plates hand-colored by the group Godey referred to as “our corps of one hundred and fifty female colorers.” These fashion plates were some of the first trend setting tools. The magazine highlighted fashionable garments and styling techniques of the time so women could copy. The technique used here is a line engraving or etching and then hand coloring. The plate below was paired along side the Editors Book Table which details the garments of each of the women in the picture.

In conclusion, I am enticed and excited to dive further into the pages of this collection of issues. Specifically, I am excited to research the context and further understand the meaning behind a large blue stamp-like sticker covering the last entire page.


Erin in Special collections 🙂