Abstract: “Elements of Useful Knowledge”: Evert Duyckinck and the Publishing Industry in New York City, 1794-1833

Steven Carl Smith


This paper directs attention to a bustling publishing industry in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century New York. Scholars have focused on Philadelphia and Boston as the primary centers of production, distribution, and use of print; New York has been considered a minor player, despite its importance as a major port. Fueled by the founding the Onderdonk Paper Mill on Long Island, trade fairs, and the George Bruce & Company Type Foundry, printers and booksellers such as Samuel Loudon, Samuel Campbell, and Evert Duyckinck established New York as a dynamic cooperative in the interstate publishing industry during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Utilizing previously unused manuscript daybooks and receipt books, this paper argues that Duyckinck's business drove the maturation of New York City's publishing trade in the nineteenth century. His records indicate that he expanded from a small bookstore he co-owned with Samuel Campbell into a large interstate wholesaling venture, reaching into markets previously understood to be the province of New England and Philadelphia publishers. Indeed, by the time he sold a portion of the business in 1825, Duyckinck had evolved from a humble artisan into New York's first publishing mogul who demonstrated his wealth and social status by relocating his family from above his shop to a stately residence on Bleecker Street, complete with mahogany furniture, a large private library, and fine silverware, mirroring the transformation of the "art of printing" from an artisanal craft to a mechanized, corporate structure.