Title Reviewed:
A Bibliography of Illinois Imprints, 1814–1858

Author Reviewed:
Cecil K. Byrd

John T. Flanagan


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 62, Issue 4, pp 352-353

Article Type:
Book Review

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A Bibliography of Illinois Imprints, 1814–1858. By Cecil K. Byrd. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1966. Pp. xxv, 601. Index. $12.50.)

This inventory of Illinois imprints includes 3,089 items, ranging from a communication to the Illinois legislature by Governor Ninian Edwards in 1814 to the constitution and bylaws of the Chicago YMCA in 1858. The intermediate material is amazingly diversified. In form there are broadsides, leaflets, pamphlets, programs, handbills, and printed books. In content there are legal codes, sermons, addresses, gazetteers, almanacs, prospectuses, directories, college catalogues, petitions, public letters by candidates for office, announcements of concerts, and of course volumes of prose and verse. Thirteen different communities produced printing of one kind or another, beginning with Kaskaskia and Edwardsville 1814–1820; the first Chicago imprint listed is dated 1834, a memorial from the citizens of Cook County to the general assembly calling for a navigable link between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. By 1858, interestingly enough, Kaskaskia is missing, Edwardsville appears twice, while Chicago gets credit for 154 items. In the 44 year period covered by the bibliography Chicago produced 866 imprints while Alton had 441, Springfield 286, and Jacksonville 231. No other publishing center had as many as two hundred.

A volume of this kind is primarily a research tool, the conspicuous virtues of which must be thoroughness and accuracy. Cecil K. Byrd, university librarian at Indiana University, has produced a model book. He has drawn on the resources of over two hundred institutional and municipal libraries plus five private collections. He has examined the books he lists, and he notes at least one location for each item. Sufficiently full bibliographical data are provided for the specialist while the background material is both helpful and interesting. Thus the reader is given succinct but useful biographical accounts of such important early Illinois figures as Ninian Edwards, Morris Birkbeck, Peter Cart- wright, James Hall, John Mason Peck, and John Reynolds. Material about early newspapers and magazines is presented, and the student of Illinois political or religious history will find considerable information about his specialty. Certainly the published records of Baptist association meetings account for a substantial number of items.

The arrangement is properly chronological and the index is thorough. Not only are biographical and geographical names listed, but collective references to poetry and sermons are also given (fiction seems to have been neglected). The titles of newspapers alone comprise three columns of the index. Nevertheless, it might have helped the reader if the authors of verse and fiction had been identified. Only by paging through the volume can one discover that Horatio Cooke published a volume of poems in Chicago in 1843, that William Asbury Kenyon published another in 1845, and that William H. Bushnell's Prairie Fire! A Tale of Early Illinois appeared in Chicago in 1854.

An enterprise of this nature inevitably produces a strange kettle of fish. Side by side with the legal codes, the directories, the church records, and the lists of lands on which taxes were still due are curious items which reflect the period covered. Joseph Duncan, for example, issued a broadside in 1837 about his stud horse Rob Roy. In 1846 the Jersey County Horse Thief Detecting Society published a list of the members' names, some ninety-eight in all. Three years later an Oquawka horticulturist circulated a catalogue of fruit trees which he offered for sale, and in 1850 the Northern Cross Railroad Company printed a report of its experimental survey from Quincy to Meredosia. By the 1850's the published programs of McVicker's Theater and Rice's Theater in Chicago accounted for many items.

Byrd has produced an invaluable reference volume which is also surprisingly readable. One wonders, however, why the volume ends after forty-four years. The editor states bluntly that there is no historical or bibliographical reason for concluding with the year 1858, and the terminal date seems rather freakish. The Chicago fire of 1871 might have made a more logical termination. One can only hope for an extension of the work in the future.

University of Illinois John T. Flanagan

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.