Not So Quiet on the Western Paratextual Front: Additions to Dana’s Geographical Sketches of the Western Country

Other Posts on Edmund Dana’s Geographical Sketches of the Western Country:





The publisher’s page of Edmund Dana’s Geographical Sketches of the Western Country is a paratextual “sight to see.”  Some seventeen seventeen lines of text before a typographical page breaker, exhibiting numerous fonts, all variations of roman and italic typefaces.  The first line, “Geographical Sketches” seems almost proto-fat face, an early development in the predominant styling of the advertisement in 19th century in America一the kind you

Publisher’s Page

picture dotting town squares and old western saloons.  It’s exactly this type of insight that the additions beyond that of Dana’s own text in Geographical Sketches can provide in understanding the books place on the frontier of early America. In understanding the paratextual elements of Dana’s work then, we can understand his own relationship with the publishers, and gain insights into the audience of such a work in early 19th century America.

The publisher’s page acts as a nice catalog of the typeface that is found throughout Geographical Sketches.  The serifs in this line and the other of this font, “Emigrants and Settlers” are bold and thick, contrasting the modest serifs of the typical roman “A List of Principal Roads”. This, again, is a bold, and I use that word literally, assertion of audience. Reading it one finds that “Geographical Sketches”, “Western Country”, and “Emigrants and Settlers” jump off the page, as to catch the attention of any emigrants and settlers who may pick it up. This, given what I’ve researched about Dana’s history as a land proprietor, makes sense.  The publisher’s page works in cahoots with the idea of selling the Western Country to the folks back east.

There is also the frequent use of italics, which is seen throughout the book and seems, in the body of the book, to have a very specific function.  There is no table of contents or formalized pattern to the sections of the book, and in lieu of this, italics can be found at the beginning of sections to provide an overview of that sections contents, as well as throughout the section to further specify what a subsection of text is about.  This is reflective of the intended audience interaction with the book. The italics catch a reader’s eye and allow for one to jump from section to section, acting as a pragmatic addition to the utilitarian purpose of the book in the sight of potential settlers.

Table showing towns in Ohio

Included in the sections on official states are also tables of towns and populations which further add to the textual description of the then new states.  These include principle towns and their growth from 1810 to 1815. The largest in Ohio being where this book was published, Cincinnati, with a whole 18,700 “souls” as Dana would call them (75).  These published tables again act in a utilitarian way that mirrors the nature of the book. To a potential settler, it is an easy quantification of who’s moving where, and, importantly, where there is land and jobs.  Interestingly, these tables are not found in the sections which sketch territories (as opposed to states), an indication that those lands truly were on the Western frontier of the burgeoning nation, unincorporated and all.

Geographical Sketches also contains page numbers for 312 pages, starting with “The Author”, Edmund Dana’s preface all the way to the end a list of public roads.  Each page number is set in arabic numbers, and occupies the upper right hand corner on the recto side of each leaf, and upper left on the verso.  For each section, a running head is printed in the center of each page, in the same typeface as the initial section title, but a different typefont (that is, smaller sized). This reproduction is seen in the book for non-typical roman typefaces too.  The “Geographical Sketches” section beginning with the exact font seen on the publisher’s page, denoting that the publisher used the same typecase.

Substantive paratexts as I will call them, that is, bodies of text added by someone other than the author, are fairly minimal in Geographical Sketches.

Copyright Page

The most notable being the publishers page and the copyright page on its verso.  The copyright page is by the “clerk of the district of Ohio”, and is quite extensive.  It also bears
the only seal in the work, that of the court of Chillicothe, OH.   Both my edition of the book, and a digital facsimile online I found use this page as a space for their own additions as well. Mine bears the shelfmark found throughout the opening pages of my book “+F396D3” and also the date “October 31st, 1941.” This latter mark is the mark of the date that the copy of Dana’s Sketches in the Colby College collection made its way from the old campus in downtown Waterville, ME, to its current location at the newer Mayflower Hill campus, also in Waterville, ME.

Corrections and Additions Page. Opposite side of leaf begins listing of public roads

The other substantive paratext is the corrections and additions page that follows Dana’s concluding remarks on page 307. While it is pretty short, its printing on the same leaf as the public road section that follows makes me think that the body of the text may have been printed before this list of roads that makes up the end of the work.  The list of roads also bears no quire marks, which throughout the book are marked without fail and denote a book that contains folios in 8vo. I speculate that this may mean that the list was done not by Dana himself, and thus constitute paratext. (for more on the quire structure of the book: Joseph Dane, What is a Book? Chapter 1 File)  The list serves the work though, again pointing to it’s utilitarian nature for those headed east to west and north to south to the lands sketched out.  The fairly limited additions of Dana’s Geographical Sketches, and the “To the Reader” and substantial “Preface” indicate that Dana himself may have had a close influence on the additions to his book.  This would be logical, as it was to serve his commercial enterprise as a land proprietor.

The variety of typeface and extensive usage of tables that may have been authored by someone other than Dana show an enthusiasm for the Western Country shared in addition to the profit that it would bring any proprietor.  From publisher’s page, to the copyrights explicit grant under the “Act of the Congress of the United States of America”, Geographical Sketches acts as a book which reflects a then young nation’s cautious pride in establishment and desire to expand.  It beckons, serif, italic, quire mark, page number, table, large font, and small, to head west.