Garnier Publishers: from France to the Transatlantic Space
Garnier Booksellers-Publishers were the first international company specialized in books. It existed...
At the dawn of the twentieth century, the English writer, teacher, and journalist Arthur Mee (1875 – 1943) created The Children's Encyclopaedia, published originally by Harmsworth in fortnightly issues. Mee brought with him the experience of other publications, known for their light and attractive writing when dealing with the questions being discussed. The success of the new collection, released between March 1908 and February 1910, ensured the republication of the different issues at shorter intervals, with variations in the definition of the genre and the title of the publication – New Children's Encyclopaedia, Children's Encyclopaedia Magazine, or Children's Magazine. From 1910 onwards it was possible to acquire the issues bound together. Salesmen went out in search of possible publics, offering the encyclopedia as reading for school use, teacher training, as well as leisure.1
The history of the encyclopedic collection goes back to the Enlightenment. Although France was celebrated for the extraordinary undertaking of Diderot and D´Alembert's Encyclopédie ou dicionnaire universel des arts et des sciences, whose first volume (out of an eventual total of seventeen) appeared in 1751, the project derived from the English Cyclopedia or an Universal Dictionnary of Arts and Sciences, by Ephraïm Chambers in 1740. As Robert Darnton postulated in "Philosophers prune the tree of knowledge: the epistemological strategy of the Encyclopédie," "what differentiated [the Encyclopédie] from all the other erudite compendiums which preceded it (...)? Was it, as one authority asked, a work of reference, or 'machine of war?2
Darnton starts with this finding to analyze the problem of the connection between knowledge and power, the question of the classification of knowledge as an exercise of power.
Establishing categories and policing them is, thus, a serious subject. (...) Diderot and D´Alembert took a great risk by dismantling the old order of knowledge and drawing out new lines between the known and unknown.
(...) The debate about 'method' and the correct 'disposition' of the organization of knowledge shook the republic of letters in the sixteenth century. Hence there emerged a tendency to compress knowledge into schemes (...) which illustrated the branches and the bifurcations of disciplines in accordance with the principle of Ramist logic. (...) However, the diagram used as the header in Diderot's Encyclopédie, the famous tree of knowledge, taken from Bacon and Chambers, represented something new and audacious.
(...) Diderot and d´Alembert alerted readers to the fact they were engaged in something more serious than Ramist doodles, and described their work as an encyclopedia, or a systematic report of the 'order and concatenation of human knowledge,' and it was more than another dictionary or compendium of information arranged according to innocent alphabetical order. The word encyclopedia, Diderot explains in Prospectus, comes from the Greek term corresponding to circle, signifying the concatenation (enchaïnement) of the sciences. Figuratively, it expresses the notion of a world of knowledge, which the encyclopedists thought they could circumnavigate and map."3
To forge The Children's Encyclopaedia, Arthur Mee assembled a strong team of collaborators, amongst whom he distributed the responsibility for the permanent sections of each issue – "The Earth," "Men and Women," "Stories and Legends," "Golden Deeds," "Familiar Things," "Things to Make and to Do," "Natural History," "Plant Life," "All Countries," "Our Own Life," "Poetry and Rhymes," "Famous Books," "School Lessons"... He also gathered a team of illustrators for the production of choice of maps, photographs, paintings, and drawings. Each issue had sections full of enchantment bearing Mee's name – "Greeting", "Farewell" and the "Book of Wonder." In the latter a scholar answered questions made by children.
The collection was published with great success under the title The Children's Encyclopaedia. First in eight volumes, then in expanded editions. It did not take long for it to be translated to other European and Asian languages and it would be distributed in the five continents.
The Children's Encyclopaedia assumed its pedagogical sense, but professed a learning based on pleasure, curiosity, and imagination. Based equally on the principles of the formation of character and responsibility. Its content and narratives were filled with pride for the British Empire and its civilizing mission, affiliation to Christianity, and enthusiasm for science. As the collection was transported to other regions around the world, these meanings were resignified. In this essay, we will observe how the English collection was reworked between the end of the 1910s and the 1920s for American markets and readers. This has as its central character Walter Montgomery Jackson (1863-1923), a bookseller from the US state of Massachusetts.
Jackson began his career cleaning bookshops and offices in Estes and Lauriat publishing house in Boston. There he learned to manufacture and publish books, helping the company to expand its distribution network. He was a defender of direct sales strategies, using mail order or door-to-door sales, supported by strong advertising. He developed a sales system at the national level, in which the purchaser acquired the works of interest and diluted the payment in monthly installments.
W. M. Jackson's commercial flair very quickly resulted in his becoming the sales director of Estes and Lauriat. At the beginnings of 1890s, he began to accumulate activities parallel to this job. In a partnership with Leavitt K. Merril, a New York bookseller, he began his own publishing projects, which did not take long to extend to Latin America.
In 1895, Jackson also joined Francis A. Nichols in the creation of The Grolier Society, future publisher of The Children's Encyclopaedia for the Americas.
On a trip to Europe in the middle of 1897 he decided to settle in a country house near London. In the following year, he left Estes and Lauriat and transferred The Grolier Society from Boston to New York, administering his business from a distance, since he continued to live in England. These were times of feverish activity and some commercial battles. In partnership with the US publisher Horace Everett Hooper, Jackson obtained the rights for reprinting and selling Encyclopedia Britannica. The commercial return from this venture encouraged the partners to prepare an updated edition of the collection with ten new volumes. They commissioned professors from prestigious British teaching institutions and in 1903, the expanded Britannica was concluded and in circulation.
Following various paths, Jackson experimented forms of conquering low income readers. The prospects for the expansion of the publishing market were not only outlined vertically in the social pyramid, but also horizontally on the mapa mundi, Jackson's eyes fell on Latin America and its immense potential.
With Leavitt K. Merril, he founded Sociedad Internacional de Editores to explore the Spanish speaking market in the Americas. Soon afterwards came the translations of works into Portuguese. In March 1911, the Biblioteca Universal collection was put on sale in Rio de Janeiro, and in May in São Paulo. The company was rebaptized as W. M. Jackson in 1914, after the Latin American press accused Biblioteca Internacional de Obras Famosas of publishing incomplete works. The change of name represented a fresh start, and Casa Jackson's purpose of covering its continent of origin, from Europe at this moment, would have a long life.
The publishers' business expanded shortly afterwards with the publication of El Tesoro de la Juventud, or Tesouro da Juventude, a little after Jackson, feeling the effects of the First World War, had returned to live in the United States in 1916. Jackson had purchased the publication rights of the British collection, The Children's Encyclopaedia, at the suggestion of a seller linked to The Grolier Society, who had learned that Harmsworth was looking for a distributor of the work in Canada. A. E. Smith sent a telegram to the head of the company in London, proposing the rights for its sale in the United States. Jackson included in the contact the rights for Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries.
Then with ten volumes, the encyclopedia was released by The Grolier Society in the United States. In Britain, in circumstances which we have not managed to specify, The Children's Encyclopaedia came to be published by the Educational Book Company, which figured as the co-publisher in the first American editions of the collection baptized as The Book of Knowledge.
Holland Thompson (1873-1940), who had a doctorate in History from Columbia University, and was a specialist in the transition processes from agricultural to industrial production in North Carolina, his state of origin, and Professor of History of the College of the City of New York since 1901, appeared as editor-in-chief of the work, alongside Arthur Mee. The Introduction was written by a renowned scholar from Political Science, John Huston Finley (1863-1940), who, among the various positions he held during his trajectory, was a professor in Princeton and the University of the State of New York, president of the College of the City of New York, associate editor of The New York Times, and president of the American Geographical Society.
The Book of Knowledge soon gained a specific version for Canada, also containing the names of specialists from prestigious scientific institutions in the country. It also gained a Spanish translation.
W. F. Kellogg, a collaborator of Jackson's, moved to Barcelona to implement the plan. The seven thousand pages of the original were zealously translated over three years. It was necessary to conciliate the correction of the language, using light, clear, and inviting writing. Renamed El Tesoro de la Juventud (initially with the subtitle O Enciclopedia de Conocimientos), the collection began to be sold in the Buenos Aires branch in 1917.
Although it had been prepared in Barcelona, the El Tesoro de la Juventud collection sold in Argentina in 1917 contained on its title page the information that the "Consultant compiler, author of the introduction and the part on the Argentine Republic, [was] Dr. Estanislao S. Zeballos..." (1854-1923), an Argentine writer, geographer, and jurist. Zeballos was a great enthusiast of the Campaigns of the Desert against the indigenous populations in the 1870s and 1880s. In defense of policies which ended the indigenous malones and encouraged the modernity of the country, in 1878 he published Las quince mil léguas – estúdio sobre la translación de la frontera sur de la República al Rio Negro. In the following years, he wrote texts and newspaper columns about the Patagonia region and the indigenous chiefs of the 'past.' He assumed important political and diplomatic functions and in 1918 became Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Buenos Aires, leaving a vast and controversial work containing his views on International Private Law.
El Tesoro de la Juventud entered circulation in an Argentina full of children's literature from Spain and France. These included the Cuentos de Calleja published by Saturnino Calleja in Madrid and the editions translated from French by Garnier or Casa Ollendorf, which published books in Spanish in Paris for export to Spain and its former old colonies in the Americas. In the 1920s, Argentine productions began to dispute the market, with the release of Billiken magazine in 1919 and the collections published by Constancio C. Vigil, founder of Editorial Atlántida in 1918.
During these years in Buenos Aires there was already a dynamic distribution network of printed material, based not only in bookshops, but also the socially more democratic newsstands. Publishers and sellers of reading material benefited from the public educated in the primary schools which had developed in the country, especially under the policies of Domingo F. Sarmiento, in the second half of the nineteenth century.
In this scenario, when the circulation of books and printed material was expanding, El Tesoro de la Juventud conquered its space. The collection was sold accompanied by a small bookcase – for many children and young people this would form their first library.
In the memoirs of readers – especially those readers who, having become writers, spoke of their formative readings –, evidence of the rise of El Tesoro can be found. In Los autonautas de la cosmopista. O Un viaje atemporal París-Marsella, written in 1982 at the end of his life with his wife Carol Dunlop, Julio Cortázar gives his testimony
In my suburban childhood there were no larks, though someone in my family said that the lark sings most when flying, unlike other birds, and this particularity gave it a special prestige in my imagination; furthermore, there was a lot of talk about larks in El Tesoro de la Juventud which my inexhaustible store of reality.
Versions of the collection were released for different regions of the Americas, always under the name of locally respected intellectuals. The regionalized editions of the collection incorporated extra content related to local history, literature, fauna, and flora. They also kept texts common to the British original or the US adaptation of the encyclopedia.
Casa Jackson's writers were spread all over the Americas, Cuba, and Porto Rico – in addition to Buenos Aires, they were present in the cities of Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Bogotá, Mexico City, Havana... Some of the offices had attractive and well located bookshops.
Nevertheless, the company still used distance sales to conquer new publics, based on mail orders and the travelling sales representatives.
Released in Brazil in the 1920s, the Thesouro da Juventude collection, (using the spelling corresponding to the orthographic rules then in force) also carried a heavyweight name. It contained an introduction by Clóvis Bevilacqua (1859-1944), a jurist from Ceará and author of the 1916 Brazilian civil code.
A memorandum dictated by Jackson on 24 February 1919, on the occasion of the launch of another collection, indicates that the company had then a single permanent branch, in Rio de Janeiro, run by D. C. MacArthur, and that provisional offices were being organized in São Paulo, Recife, Porto Alegre, Salvador, Belém, and Manaus.4
The Introduction to the Thesouro had in its header the following subtitle, using the Portuguese spelling of that period: "A book for boys, adolescents, and men of the people who have a thirst for knowledge."
(...) seeking to instruct, without inadequate and tedious theoretical discussions for young spirits, and for those who do not have the necessary time to immerse themselves in science or letters; without philosophy, without technical concerns, or didactic purposes; the most notable facts of history are narrated, the aesthetic sense is developed, the moral is taught through examples, patriotism, love of the family, and humanity are stimulated (...)
One page describes the earth, the planetary system, and the cosmos; another is occupied with the kingdoms of nature; later countries are talked about, with their customs, industries, and population centers; in addition to dealing with our American continent and our country, which we should know better and more completely than the other continents and foreign countries; famous men and women, who have facilitated life with their inventions, or illuminated it with their thought, or ennobled it with their acts (...)5
As in Julio Cotázar's statement, we can find among the readers of the collection in Brazil registers of the profound impact of this publishing project. The journalist Luis Nassif, born in Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais in May 1950, once published in his blog a note about the collection which his grandfather had purchased in 1928, which he read avidly around 30 years afterwards and actually inherited later.
I learned to read with the Thesouro da Juventude, spelt with a th, from W. M. Jackson Editores and a preface by Clóvis Bevilacqua. It belonged to my grandfather Issa. I counted the minutes to reach my father's pharmacy, climbed the external stairs which led to the upstairs floor, where my grandfather lived. I ran to the bookshelf, took out a volume, opened it on the floor covered by a blanket, and lay face down devouring the pages and the pen-and-ink illustrations. (...)
The Thesouro accompanied me my whole life, and all of my generation and of my parents. It did not reach my children. (...)
There were 18 volumes, all containing a sequence of terms. The first picture in the first volume was a painting of the solar system, with stars of all sizes and trains being launched into space to reach them. An express train, running at 1600 km per minute could go around the world in less than twenty days, the text said, but it would take 177 years to reach the sun.
We were presented to our insignificance, passing through the lessons of The Book of Earth. (...)
Afterwards, in The Book of Our Life, aimed at unveiling the wonders of humanity. There was the Book of the New World, which ran from primate man to the construction of America, and the Book of the Old World, talking about the old civilizations, with a big report on China, about its isolation which took away from it the idea of progress and how little by little it was opening again to the world.
In a period of great innovations, inventions were dealt with in the chapter Things we Should Know and curiosities in The Book of Whys, perhaps the most popular theme of the encyclopedia.
However, my favorite theme was Famous Men and Women, Noble Lives, Noble Deeds. Marco Polo opened the first volume of the collection, Afterwards, it turned to the creation of the famous Sagres School in Portugal and the Portuguese explorers. (...)6
Luis Nassif also added: "In the Introduction, Clóvis Bevilacqua indicated the book for boys, adolescents, and men of the people who had a thirst for knowledge. The editors defined it as a popular encyclopedia, a book about everything for everyone, especially for the young." After the Introduction by Bevilacqua came another, unauthored, presentation text, unauthored, entitled "A general book of culture."
Reader, this encyclopedia you have in your hands is an encyclopedia of things. Here there is no debate, no controversy, no attempt to force any philosophy on you; here it refers to what, admitted by all, constitutes the minimum which an educated man should know. (...)
Moreover, a book like this substitutes, with a great advantage, a small library, always very different to form and to choose. A collection of books which constitutes a summary of the most important types of knowledge is not very easy to form. And it is indispensable, above all outside large cities.7
On the one hand, the Thesouro da Juventude assumed the encyclopedic impulse of listing and spreading 'knowledge,' without controversy or philosophy, in other words, a 'neutral' and universal knowledge, of interest to the average man who wanted to educate himself. On the other hand, the encyclopedic impulse was accompanied by determined conceptions of education – not an abstract intellectualized education, but one permeated by imagination, action, and pragmatism. This pedagogical project, in relation to which the collection is placed as a guide, defining the correct measures, selecting the minimum library available to many, aimed not only at an child/youth public, but also the 'men of the people.' These also demanded guidance to acquire an 'average culture,' in harmony with the ideas of democracy and individualism which permeated, in the sphere of the political imagination and cultural practices and representations, the process of the national construction of the United States.
Teso(u)ros kept, like The Children's Encyclopaedia, a structure with permanent sections: The Book of Earth, The Book of Nature, The Book of Our Life, Things We Should Know, The Book of 'Whys,' Things We Can Do, The Book of Good Actions... However, accompanying the version prepared by Jackson for English speaking America, certain sections had been altered.
The Bible, for example, present in the original collection, was a section that disappeared from the American adaptations. All Countries, a section designed by Arthur Mee for The Children's Encyclopaedia, turned into The Book of the Old World and The Book of the New World, as the collection gained a new shape after crossing the Atlantic. Before this solution was adopted, a specific section was created for the American countries at which The Book of Knowledge was essentially aimed: the United States and Canada.
In the different versions of the encyclopedia adapted by Jackson, the section reserved for the New World always presented the American countries in a positive and optimistic manner – their history advanced towards modernization, full of material and cultural conquests to be listed. Delicate historical episodes, such as frontier wars with the loss of territories, are dealt with in a soft way, in the shadow of events that lend themselves to praise. The images selected to illustrate the texts also privileged the signs of action of Man and the marks of technology on the landscape.
The political dimensions of the discourses produced by the collection can be analyzed from many prisms – how slavery is covered in the historical narratives of the colonial period and the nineteenth century, the presence of imperialist relations, the pantheon of cultural repertoires given valued in the different sections... It is also possible to problematize the representations of women – famous women are placed alongside famous men. Or also, in a final example of explanatory paths, to ask which American themes and content were incorporated in editions derived from Jackson's publishing project.
With the aim of ensuring that this essay is not overlong, we will just look at the collection's perspective of Amerindians. The first volume of Thesouro da Juventude contained in the Book of the New World section a text about the original inhabitants of South America. The narrative opened with a description of the indigenous Guarani tribe whom Pedro Álvares Cabral encountered when he landed in Brazil. It offered a meticulous description of their physical appearance and material artifacts, food, and musical instruments. They appeared 'sweet' and 'innocent,' apt to rapidly convert to Christianity. However, not all were so 'easy to deal with,' some rebelled and attacked Europeans from later expeditions.
Afterwards the text presents the indigenous populations from the River Platte region, the Andes, and Patagonia...
In most of South America the Indians defended their independence and their lands for more than three centuries, but they were defeated in the end. The Incas, Guaranis, and Araucanas mixed with people of a European origin, crossing with them. Crossing between the aboriginal elements of the country and the fearless Portuguese adventurers from the sixteenth century resulted in the emergence in Brazil of an admirable race of bravery, resistance, and venturous courage, as the daring Paulista bandeirantes proved with their long marches into unknown lands. Their victories over the Indians and the Spanish led to Portuguese dominion in the Americas up to 4000 km from the Atlantic. Despite these crossings between Europeans and indigenous people, to form the mestiços, mamelucos, to curibocas, the Indians never confidently reconciled with the white invaders. Since the whites had come from the sea, the Indians retreated to the sertão of the interior, until they became enchanted with the West, where now live around 800,000 of them, of whom almost 300,000 are almost entirely savage, elusive of civilization, avoiding the coexistence of the conquistadores.8
The text describes the confrontations which took place on this frontier, in which the indigenous peoples, having incorporated the use of cavalry with admirable skill, often beat the 'Christian cavalry.'
In Brazil, some groups were cannibals and exercised this practice within the tribe or against their enemies. "They are generally treacherous, vindictive, and very suspicious and are decorated with feathers of various colors, mottled skins, use bracelets and necklaces with bones and teeth." They use bows and arrows to hunt and fight. Sometimes they poison the tips of the arrows with the powerful curare, "a poison whose secret has yet been taken from them. The victim of this poison dies seeing, hearing, understanding everything going on around them, but without being able to speak or move, in a situation which we can classify as truly horrible."9
A narrative with good aspects of literature, images fed by the social imagination long built around the 'conquest.' In The Book of Knowledge, the dialogue of this civilizing vision with the work of the novelist Fenimore Cooper is explicit. At the start of each volume, the collection tells readers of the emotions that await them:
Chieftains of a vanishing race.
The red men of North America, who held undisputed sway in the vast countries where now fly the Stars and Stripes and Union Jack, are no longer powerful. They must change their way of life or they will soon be as extinct as the Aztecs of South America. A brave and picturesque race, they have always numbered among their tribes men with noble souls, like the chief described in the story "The Last of the Mohicans," on page 178.10
The knowledge which is 'not discussed' and 'not disputed' in the terms of the Thesouro presentation text, but which is 'admitted by all' as a minimum average cultural repertoire, is based on a clear place of enunciation, the ordering of the tree of knowledge, to return to the image proposed by the first encyclopedists. In turn, boys would engage themselves in an adventure, in which curiosity, knowledge, imagination, and emotion would mix and keep their taste for reading.
The transposition of Encyclopedia Britannica to the youth of the Americas involved appropriation operations within determined limits. Local questions gained a place in the tree of knowledge, but the branches grew in alignment with predesigned conceptions. The circulation of knowledge and culture crossed the Atlantic, fed on translations and new content, re-dimensioned publics by aiming, in addition to children, at the average/common man which modernization allowed be forged. Perhaps these are the most profound marks of the Americanization of the encyclopedia which has taken deep root among us. The New World was raised to a place of civilization and science, equivalent to the Old World. But the New World captured in these lenses mirrored in many sense the 'old' tree of knowledge.
This research received funding from CNPq and Fapesp.
Robert Darnton, O grande massacre dos gatos: e outros episódios da história cultural francesa, (Rio de Janeiro: Graal, 1986), 247-248. In relation to the history of encyclopedias and the organization of knowledge, see also, amongst others, Robert Collison, Encyclopedias: Their History throughout the Ages, (New York, 1964) and Frank Kafker, Notable Encyclopedias of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century: Nine Predecessors of the Encyclopédie, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, (CXCIV, Oxford, 1981).
R. Darnton, op. Cit., 247-251. The trivium refers to the liberal arts and the quadrivium to the mechanical arts.
Historia de la Casa Jackson, (Barcelona, W. M. Jackson, Inc. Nueva York Garriga Impressores, 1969), 66.
Thesouro da Juventude, (Clinton, Massachusetts, The Colonial Press Inc., W. M. Jackson Inc., n.d.), 7.
Opinião & notícia, Blog do Luis Nassif, 18 de março de 2006. Accessed on 15 July 2015.
Thesouro da Juventude, ( Clinton, Massachusetts, The Colonial Press Inc., W. M. Jackson Inc., n.d.), 9-11.
The Book of Knowledge, The Children´s Encyclopedia, (New York, The Grolier Society; London, The Educational Book Co., v. XII, s. d.), "Contents of this Volume".