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Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture jonathan m. yeager Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016 234 pp.

The titling of this monograph is somewhat deceptive. Readers looking for insights into Jonathan Edwards's own engagements with transatlantic print culture, such as a study of his habits of reading and writing, might be better served by consulting scholarship by Norman Fiering and Kenneth Minkema, among other sources. Stated differently, Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture is perhaps better approached as a biography of Edwards's publications from the point of view of the commercial book trade. Jonathan Yeager draws upon book history and analytical bibliography to foreground the printers, booksellers, and editors instrumental in publishing and disseminating Edwards in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Working against the conception that Edwards propagated his ideas in isolation from the agency of his publishers, Yeager outlines how the book trade in places such as Boston, London, Edinburgh, and Utrecht "shaped the public perception" of this evangelical intellectual (xi). Consequently, this monograph does not principally concern itself with reception as most literary scholars would define the term. This is evident in the author's contentious dismissal of negative reviews of Edwards as "each simply represent[ing] one person's opinion," despite the fact that the periodical in question, London's Monthly Review, undoubtedly held sway with English readers (24). After first outlining this work's most useful applications for literary history, I will conclude by calling attention to several deficits in Yeager's account.

At its strongest moments, Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture reads like a focused application of some of the most compelling insights from Hugh Amory and David Hall's The Colonial Book in the Atlantic [End Page 595] World to the career of an influential eighteenth- century writer. The study is divided into three topics of discussion. The first, which overlaps with Edwards's own lifetime, recovers details of the relationship between colonial Boston's leading bookseller, Daniel Henchman, and his printer, Samuel Kneeland. These chapters make a valuable contribution by clarifying the publication history of An Account of the Life of the Reverend Mr. David Brainerd (1749) and rightly argue that this work is central to Edwards's local reception (another example of how the book's title sits at odds with its contents). Yeager demonstrates how the success of this evangelical biography depended upon subscriptions taken by a network of ministers and other associates in New England; the subscription evidence is conveniently included in one of the book's several appendixes. Here the author offers a useful model for literary historians looking for sources to help recover the often-laborious process of publishing a book in this period. Kneeland and Henchman printed and circulated subscription proposals (in plainer terms, a folded, single-sheet advertisement) that could be carried around by Edwards's friends and representatives to help solicit orders for his Life of Brainerd. A blank leaf of paper at the end of the printed proposal served as a convenient space for prospective readers to sign their name, to indicate the desired number of copies, and to specify whether their books should be bound in sheepskin or a cheaper covering material. This kind of ephemeral evidence (a copy of the prospectus is held by the American Antiquarian Society) is supplemented by the author's research and analysis of Daniel Henchman's financial records. Currently owned by the Baker Library at the Harvard Business School, the Henchman account books—several of which are now digitized—allow Yeager to reconstruct how much and when Henchman paid Kneeland for printing Edwards's books, how much paper was used and at what cost for each edition, and, in some instances, how Henchman kept accounts with subscribers who placed larger orders for the purpose of distribution across New England. The Life of Brainerd had an unusually large print run for any New England publication of its kind, making it a rich case study in the creation and distribution of a colonial book. Details not usually covered by literary historians, such as the cost of various binding styles, are keenly accounted for by Yeager to prove that some of Edwards...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-147X
Print ISSN
0012-8163
Pages
pp. 595-599
Launched on MUSE
2018-06-14
Open Access
No
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