October 1, 2003 New Library of Congress Publication Explores the Book Trade on the American Frontier

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022

“Books on the Frontier: Print Culture in the American West, 1763-1875" has recently been published by the Library of Congress in association with University Press of New England.

The frontier is part of the American national identity. As settlers sought the opportunities the frontier offered, the pioneers of the American book trade went westward with them to meet the basic need for reading material and to supply the information and entertainment the printed word provided.

Drawn from the Library’s unparalleled collection of maps, photographs, songbooks, almanacs, dime novels, law books, primers and other publications, Richard Clement’s “Books on the Frontier” offers a history of book publishing and trade during the period of westward expansion. Clement chronicles the exploits of the printers and publishers who shared an interest in acquiring presses, printing type and paper; bookselling and subscription publishing; and politics. He also tells the story of the readers, such as the men and women of the Great Plains who yearned for the escape of a novel or the missionaries who used books to teach English. Books also took the stories of the frontier back East, where frontiersmen Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and Buffalo Bill Cody captured the popular imagination.

“Books on the Frontier” is richly illustrated with images of rare and unique items from the Library and other institutions. Included are photographs, lithographs and posters featuring Buffalo Bill Cody and his “Wild West” show; legal documents such as “The Laws of the Territory of Louisiana,” which was published by Joseph Charless at the behest of territory governor Meriwether Lewis; “The Missouri Harmony,” one of the first tunebooks printed in the West; several captivity narratives—tales of capture by Indians; an 1803 map of western New York and guidebooks such as U.S. Army Capt. Randolph Marcy’s “The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions.

Richard Clement is the author of “The Book in America,” a social history of books and reading in the United States. He is special collections librarian at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library of the University of Kansas.

“Books on the Frontier,” a 140-page hardcover book with 72 duotone illustrations, is distributed by University Press of New England. This 7-by-10-inch book is also available for $29.95 in bookstores or from the Library of Congress Sales Shop (credit card orders: 888-682-3557).


PR 03-163
ISSN 0731-3527