Zborays’ Oxford History of Popular Print Culture Released in the U.S.

U.S. Popular Print Culture to 1860, Volume 5 of The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), edited by Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray, has been released in the United States after first being issued last February in the U.K.  The volume contains forty essays authored by as many scholars, including the Zborays, as well as Pitt Professors Jean Ferguson Carr and Stephen L. Carr from Department of English.  The various contributors represent several disciplines including American Studies, Communication, English,  History, Music, Journalism, Library and Information Science, Religion, and Spanish.  

The volume takes a broad, interdisciplinary approach to publishing, distribution, and reading practices that date from the earliest Native American productions including birch bark scrolls and petroglyphs, to the beginnings of the mass-entertainment dime novel industry just prior to the American Civil War.  To emphasize the diversity which characterized American society and culture before 1860, the volume includes chapters on “Black Engagement with Print,” “Black Slave Narratives,” “Catholic Publishing,”  “Native Imprints and Readers,” “Spanish Language Publications,” and “Women Writers and Readers.”  In this volume published print culture is seen as coexisting with and augmenting other forms of communication cultures involving orality, non-alphabetic inscription, visual imagery, and manuscript production and reception.  Therefore chapters on “Oral Genres and Print,” “Lithography, Photography, and Print,” “Lyceums, Public Lectures, and Print,” “Music,” and “Manuscript Culture and Print,” receive an important place in this volume alongside considerations of printed genres such as captivity narratives, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, novels, and poetry.  An intervention that destabilizes outworn, triumphal narratives of the printed word’s cultural, economic, and social dominance throughout early American history, this volume introduces new ways of thinking about print in relation to pictographic, oral, and text-based communications.  With its emphasis upon readers, it centers print culture within the wide scope of historical people’s everyday practices.