After a little research, a fascinating story emerged about an item in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division titled, “The life of Bonaparte: late Emperor of the French, from his birth until his departure to the Island of St. Helena.” The book was discovered by William E. Henry, State Librarian (1897-1906), on a visit to Salem, Indiana in 1897. Henry knew right away it “was doubtless the first literary work published in the State.” The book was published by a small print shop called, Patrick & Booth, in 1818. If you’re from Washington County, Indiana, you’ve probably heard about the successful duo.
Beebe Booth (1793-1888) migrated to Indiana from Connecticut and established a printing business with Ebenezer Patrick (1793-1844) in Salem, Indiana during 1818. Patrick, a printer by trade, moved to Indiana in 1816 from Vermont. As editors and printers, Patrick and Booth created one of the first Indiana newspapers titled, “The Tocsin” as well as our book, “The life of Bonaparte…” The Indiana State Library’s Hoosier State Chronicles, Indiana’s Digital Historic Newspaper Program, has digitized and made available two issues of “The Tocsin” here: http://tinyurl.com/ncy6lvb.
Interestingly enough, the author of the book is “By a Citizen of the United States.” Marshal (Michel) Ney (1769-1815?), a French soldier and commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, is likely the unidentified author. Colonel John Jacob Lehmanowski (1773-1858) arranged the biography’s first publication in Philadelphia during 1816.
Printed on a small hand-press only two years after our state’s admission to the Union, this book is bound in calfskin and beautifully printed with no known typographical errors.
Gould, S. C., ed. Miscellaneous Notes and Queries: A Monthly Magazine of History, Folk-lore, Mathematics, Mysticism, Art, Science, Etc. 10th ed. Vol. 15. Manchester, New Hampshire: S. C. and L. M. Gould, 1897. 317.
Dennis Burch, Annie, Frederick C. Bursch, and G. D. Smith, eds. The Literary Collector: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Book-lore and Bibliography. Vol. 8. Greenwich, Connecticut: Literary Collector Press. 186.
This blog post was written by Bethany Fiechter, Rare Books and Manuscripts Supervisor. For more information, contact the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division at (317) 232-3671 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.