Pet Book Project #3: Audience of “The Federalist: on the New Constitution”

As I discussed in my first entry, I choose The Federalist: On the New Constitution because I recognized it as a familiar subject that I had studied often throughout middle and high school. I was eager to understand what the Federalist Papers would look like in a book, as well as what type of book they would appear in. Looking at both the textual and physical evidence of The Federalist it is fairly easy to deduce that this book was made for college students as an academic source.

The textual evidence that pertains to the audience of this book begins before the papers themselves, as the table of contents suggests the audience being an academic one. A table of contents serves to dissect the book in a way that allows for the reader to move around from chapter to chapter in a much more fluid manner and this is no different in The Federalist. The book offers a very detailed table of contents that separates each essay, presented in the order they were written. This would be particularly useful for people using the book as a source, as they could more easily find passages that would be relevant to their writings. A student could find the information they needed without having to look through the entire book. Still, the table of contents is still only one piece of the puzzle and we need to look at more of the book until we can draw confident conclusions about the audience.

A look at the detailed table of contents.

Looking at the rest of the book, more textual evidence comes to light. Each page has a page number, something that pairs with a table of contents. This would make it a lot easier for the student to cite any quotes they wish to use, and for a teacher it would make assigning reading easier. Looking at the composition of the book as a whole, it contains a publication page, a title page, a table of contents, woodcut illustrations of the three authors, and the essays. There is no opinion based writing about the essays or anything that would influence the reader to think about the essays in a particular way. The interpretation of the essays is entirely up to the reader. This style would lend itself to book used for an academic purpose. However, this could just as easily be a coincidence; the Federalist Papers are interesting by themselves so anything else would not be necessary and might take away from the essays themselves.

The text does offer us some clues as to who the audience is, however the physical evidence paints a much clearer picture. One of the most interesting elements of the physical book is the library checkout cards it has on the back cover. These cards are very similar to ones that you would find today: The top shows the author and title of the book and there are slots below where borrowers can write the date they took out the book and their name. In my first entry, I commented on the last person to take out this book, a gentleman by the name of Moses Silverman. Silverman had a bit of an odd entry as it included a date, 3-3-48, on top of his name and year of graduation, 1969. I was not quite sure as to what this mystery date could be, however upon further reflection it is most likely a birthday. This would put Silverman at 70 years old, and after a quick google search I found that he currently works as a lawyer in New York City and he was also a member of the board for Colby from 2013-2016. I reached out to him to ask if he remembered this book; and while he did not remember this particular book, he speculated he used it for his studies as he was an American Government major. Moses Silverman is the audience of The Federalist: On the New Constitution: A college student that uses the book as a resource in their studies.

A look at the library card. Moses Silverman’s entry is at the bottom in purple ink

 

While the library card is the most telling piece of physical evidence, there are other clues throughout the book. Marginalia can be found throughout, particularly at the start. In the table of contents, many chapters have little symbols next to them. These symbols are most likely a result of students marking the chapters they have to read or ones that are particularly interesting or helpful. The beginning of the first essay has a series of numbers written on the page, perhaps a student’s notes of the chapters they were assigned to read. As a physical object, the book is quite average in size. It’s not small enough to be a pocket edition, but it is small enough to easily be carried around in backpack. All these clues point towards the same conclusion of this book’s audience being students. This also lines up with its origin story, as the publisher, Benjamin Warner, produced many academic books for students.

An example of the marginalia found throughout the essays.