Intended Audience of The Poems of Celia Thaxter

The Appledore Edition of The Poems of Celia Thaxter was published in 1896, two years after Celia Thaxter’s death in August of 1894. This edition was published as a celebration of Thaxter’s life and all of her work. The collection of poetry is meant to be read by Celia Thaxter fanatics, Mainers, and lovers of nature. It is meant to be read in a comfortable setting with enjoyment of content as a priority. It is meant to be read often and not from cover to cover but instead in sections to the readers’ choosing. The Appledore Edition was meant for a few of the most avid fans of Thaxter.

The preface of the Appledore Edition of The Poems of Celia Thaxter was written by the poet Sarah Orne Jewett, and speaks of Celia Thaxter’s love of nature and the ocean. “As her eyes grew quicker to see the blooming of flowers and the flight of birds, the turn of the waves as they broke on the rocks of Appledore, so the eyes of her spirit read more and more clearly the inward significance of things, the mysterious sorrows and joys of human life” (Thaxter V). This summary of who Thaxter is and, what she enjoyed and wrote about shows that the book is intended for an audience of fans of Thaxter’s work before its publication.

The poetry itself deals with themes of life by the ocean and an appreciation for nature, including titles such as, “The Watch of Boon Island,” “Footprints in the Sand,” and “Seaside Goldenrod.” These common themes in Thaxter’s work show that the intended audience for the book is people that enjoy being in or seeing nature, either through their own eyes or someone else’s writing. The poems are also for people from Maine or a place similar to the islands described by Thaxter in her work, as full appreciation of poems about nature comes with an understanding of their geographical context.

The physical book of The Poems of Celia Thaxter is about five inches wide by eight inches tall, and fits comfortably in one’s hands. The cover is made of a stiff board and has been rebound with white protective cloth, and the pages are made of a thick paper. The size and durability of the book and its pages show that it is meant to be read often, as it is protected from too much damage from  handling. When the book was rebound, the spine was completely covered, hiding the title from view. This shows that the book is less of a piece of decoration and more of a book to be enjoyed for its contents. The owner did not care to maintain its original look, because that was less important than the poems within.

The Poems of Celia Thaxter contains a table of contents, an index of first lines, as well as an index of titles. The publisher wanted the reader to be able to find whichever piece of poetry they needed as easily as possible. This attention to the organization of the book shows that it is meant to be read in sections. The reader is not meant to read the book cover to cover, but instead come back to it often, when they want to find some of their favorite pieces of Celia Thaxter’s work. The publisher included both an index of titles and an index of first lines because the book is for people that have already enjoyed Thaxter’s work before its publication and may know the poems by their favorite lines if not titles.

The preface mentions that the book is a collection of Celia Thaxter’s work from multiple other collections, including both collections of poetry for children and poetry for more mature audiences. This shows that The Poems of Celia Thaxter is meant to be owned by members of a family or other group of individuals. It isn’t a collection of poems just for one person.

The book has two seller prices written in pencil on the first few pages. It sold first for five dollars in 1896, which today would be about 140 dollars, and then it was sold again for three dollars, which today would be about 84 dollars. While this is a bit more expensive than most hardcovers today, it isn’t unattainable for most middle class consumers. Upon searching the web for other copies of the Appledore Edition, I could not find more than two. Despite its rarity, the book was not meant to be a prize piece of someone’s collection, but instead an enjoyable read for an avid fan of Thaxter.