[AUDIENCE] Abbott’s “The Young Astronomer” (Shaw’s Pet Book)

Abbott places who he views as his audience right at the forefront. In his Author’s Preface and on the title page, he states that the information is “collected for the use of schools and the general reader.” This directly addresses the author’s intent. It explicitly states the intended audience and does so in a way that the audience can be broad as possible. While it is a scientific book, its function is inherently academic at the most basic level. The prosaic style is simple for the time it was written, yet not so simple that an older audience would feel too adept for the content. The table of contents shows the book’s structure formed around topics in the field of astronomy and provides basic summaries of the key points of the text. Each chapter has questions at the end. The presentation of the material is educational at its core, showing Abbott’s drive for the accessibility of his work.

I couldn’t find a price listing in my perusal of the book, however, I may have simply missed it as it seems quite likely that this would be a text to have its price visibly apparent. The flyleaf focuses on advertising other educational texts from the publisher. Most likely, those buying this text were scholars and teachers who purchased with the intent to teach from it or distribute to students to learn from it. It’s interesting to see early forms of marketing in texts like this and how it can compare to modern marketing. It appeals to the scholar who wishes to learn about a variety of topics, and thus presents titles of works of a similar caliber and provides information about how to (theoretically) purchase them. This similarity-based marketing is one of the key marketing methods seen in modern society, both for physical products like books or magazines and for content over social media like posts or blogs.

It seems relatively cheaply made, yet the design looks elegant enough to be valued and even cherished by the individual. The techniques for crafting the physical book are common and good for speedy production, yet they can still create an aesthetically pleasing object. These techniques include sprinkling, blind stamping, and creating a gold-stamped vignette. The cheap production means it could be produced for the higher demand a textbook may get in the marketplace.

In regards to the audience of my physical copy, it’s part of the Eastman collection.There are five sections of Abbott books in the Eastman collection of special collections. This collection is not displayed at the forefront of special collections but in a side room. It can be accessed by individuals who want to examine it of course, but it’s still out of the way and no longer serves its initial purpose as a textbook. The information present in the textbook is now over a century old, is not necessarily accurate, and doesn’t hold an accepted holistic perspective of astronomy. With the original intent and primary method of gaining an audience, the book had to take on a new meaning to remain relevant and alive. In this case, the audience is not meant to engage with this text necessarily as an individual piece of work, but as a portion of a greater overall notion of the author and the concept of authorship. It being a part of this collection reduces the emphasis on the textual content and reapplies that evidence to the book as a physical piece adding to a whole.

In examining modern contexts, it’s interesting what we can learn about a text and how it is valued from a simple Google search of the author’s name and the title of the book. The first search result is a listing for The Young Astronomer on Amazon, however, it’s out of stock with no indication of when it will be back. A full ebook is available through internet archive from the Library of Congress’s website along with bibliographical information and links for downloading. At the time of my writing this, the fourth result is my own introduction blog post about this book. This information puts the book in a weird place. It’s popular enough to be easily accessible and have lots of public information on it, yet it’s not sold and no one else seems to be writing about it or studying it. This puts the book in a weird crossroad of notoriety in that it has all of the information to be known, yet it’s not really. It’s open to a modern audience if only the modern audience knew about it. Maybe these blog posts will make that difference.

Works Cited

  • Abbott, John S. C. The Young Astronomer, Or, the Facts Developed by Modern Astronomy: Collected for the Use of Schools and the General Reader. , 1858. Internet resource.