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Tale of Two Books

When is the same book not the same book?

One of my greatest joys at the Library has been cataloging the unparalleled Rhode Island Imprint Collection of books printed in Rhode Island from 1800 to 1835. This week I was delighted to find what I believe to be the first full geography printed in R.I. –an 1822 Providence imprint from Miller & Hutchens, at No.1  Market Square (upstairs), of Luke Drury’s A Geography for Schools….Atlas of Forty Luminous and Concise Maps.

Title Page RI Imprint 1822

And luminous they are, documenting the burgeoning nation of the United States in its adolescence following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803-04, showing the vague and evolving boundaries of the nations of South America, and depicting the familiar coves of Narragansett Bay with a somewhat malformed version of Block Island.

Then I find a second copy. Why? Why! Why keep two?! Because a lot can happen to a book in 190 years. Like  Christopher.


Christopher was apparently the one-time owner of the second copy. But it seems he spent less time studying geography than pursuing some of his other interests. Like Indians.

But mostly he liked to paste labels. Textile labels to be exact. And we might speculate that his family was in the textile business and furnish his fine collection that mutilated this copy.

So we will keep these two brother books together. One a fine example of early 19th century printing of maps and geographic history. And one an object that gives evidence to the daily life of a Rhode Island child of that same time. So two copies of the same imprint are briefly alike, but then changed when they are taken into the lives of their owners.
~P.S.Bean, Printed Collection Librarian

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