OF ALL THE NOVELS published by either of the Beadles, the most puzzling series, on account of the lack of sufficient copies for study, is the one entitled Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels— later changed to Irwin's American Novels and to American Novels. Irwin Beadle, redivivus, made his last attempt at publishing in 1865. He started, as before, with a songbook, and then, on the 7th of October, issued the first number of his American Novels. The booklet is about 6 1/2 by 4 1/4 inches in size, and has trimmed edges and stabbed binding. The wrappers are yellow-orange with a woodcut illustration on the front (Type I-IAN, Fig. 38), and very closely resemble those of the original Dime Novels. Near the top are the words "Published Monthly"(1) and "Price Ten Cents" in small type. Above that are the words "Irwin P. Beadle's" and then, in bold-face type curved across the page and separated by a picture of James Fenimore Cooper in a circle about the size of a half-dollar, are the words "American" and "Novels." Beneath the pictorial woodcut illustrating the novel is the title of the novel itself and the name and address of the publisher, Irwin P. Beadle, No. 51 Ann Street, New York. The story begins on page 9, although it is preceded only by the frontispiece (which is a repetition of the cover cut) and the title page. The story ends on page 97, but is followed by one blank page, a publisher's note, and one page of advertisements. The verso of the title page bears the copyright notice of Irwin P. Beadle and the date, 1865. The publisher's note in the back of the booklet reads:
"Irwin P. Beadle desires to call the attention of the Public to the fact that he has again entered the field of publication, and under the name of Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels, is issuing a series of works by the first of American authors."(2)There is also another announcement that is of particular interest. "Mr. Ellis hereafter will write exclusively for the 'American Novels'." Ellis, who was the first of the successful Beadle authors in the days when the firm was Irwin P. Beadle & Co., in 1860, remained pretty faithful to Irwin, and when the latter launched his second independent publishing venture, stopped writing for Erastus and threw his lot in with him. For the next two years, that is, until December, 1867, and as long as Irwin retained his new establishment, he wrote for him, either under his own name or under the name "Seelin Robins," and possibly also under other noms de plume. He continued writing for the American Novels another year, but from December, 1868, until May, 1874, he wrote again for Erastus, though always under pseudonyms. Many of Irwin Beadle's American Novels (except reprints from other publications) are by Ellis. A few have authors' names unknown to me, and they may possibly also be pseudonyms of Ellis.
Original numbers 2 to 5, inclusive, of the American Novels, are identical in appearance with No. 1 except that the wrappers are in different light shades of color—lemon-yellow, salmon-pink, etc.
From No. 6 on, the changes are difficult to follow. The number of copies examined was much too small to serve as a basis for very definite statements as to the first serial numbers which show major changes. These changes consist, first, of altered titles of the series, beginning as Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels, then changing to Irwin's American Novels, and finally simply to American Novels. What makes the determination of the first number with altered title so very difficult is the fact that when the earlier numbers were reprinted, the cover headings were changed to the current head, and one must, in some cases, see many copies before it will be possible to determine the number which in its first printing carried the new head—that is, to determine when this heading was first used.
Second, there were four firms concerned in the publication, although it is probable that Irwin Beadle was entire or partial owner of at least three of them. There is another difficulty besides lack of sufficient copies for examination in the fact that in some copies the publishers' imprint was omitted from both title page and cover, and only the imprint of the American News Co. was given as "Publishers' Agent." The name of the person or firm that secured the copyright is often of considerable aid, although there may be a lag of a number or two between the time the copyright was secured and the date of issue, and therefore in some cases the name of the holder of the copyright may differ from the name of the publisher. The copyright notice, however, may in certain cases be of more value than the publishers' imprint in determining whether a copy bears an original or a changed heading.
In order to make clear the difficulty and to indicate the missing critical numbers, which it is to be hoped may be reported to me after the publication of this book, I have appended a list of the numbers which have been examined.
An examination of the known copies, here listed, shows that Nos. 1 to 5 in the original form (Fig. 38), definitely bear the heading Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels. The publisher and the holder of the copyright are shown to be Irwin P. Beadle; the address is 51 and 53 Ann Street. Reprints of these numbers have as headings either Irwin's American Novels or simply American Novels, and for reasons to be mentioned later, it is certain that the heading Irwin's American Novels antedated the other. In the reprints, the name of the American News Co., Publisher's Agents, takes the place of Irwin P. Beadle on the wrapper.
Unfortunately, all of the numbers that I have seen from 6 to 13, inclusive, are reprints and bear the title American Novels and the imprint of the American News Co. No. 14 I have not seen. Original No. 15 and all higher numbers seen up to and including No. 32 (except No. 30, which is described below), give the publishers' imprint as Irwin & Co., and the title of the series as Irwin's American Novels (Type II-IAN, Fig. 39). Presumably, that became the title when the full name of Beadle was dropped, therefore it occurred some time between the issue of No. 6 and No. 16. There is some reason for assuming that the change in title from Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels to Irwin's American Novels came with No. 6 or 7 in spite of the fact that the novels up to No. 10 were copyrighted by Irwin P. Beadle.
† The tint block should have been shown as brick-red instead of orange.
Approximately simultaneously with the appearance of No. 6 (Fig. 41), there also appeared No. 6 of William H. Chaney's American Novels, with an identical title. Both novels were called sequels to Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels No. 5. The two novels, however, are entirely different, and are by different authors.(3) The Chaney novel (Fig. 42) used the same scroll work in the heading as the Beadle novel, but another portrait (Wm. H. Chaney?) was substituted for that of Cooper. The styles of lettering also are identical in the two. If Irwin Beadle disposed of his American Novels at this time, it appears to have been in part only, for the original novels continued as before.
With No. 11 the issues were marked "Published semi-monthly." There is a suggestion that the change in heading to Irwin's American Novels may have come with No. 11 instead of No. 6 in the fact that beginning with this number and continuing to No. 26 (or 27), the name of the holder of the copyright was changed from Irwin P. Beadle to Irwin P. Beadle & Co. Never has this third use of "& Co." in the firm name been seen in advertisements or elsewhere, and even in original copies of Nos. 16 to 26, where Irwin P. Beadle & Co. is used in the copyright notices, only Irwin & Co. is used as the publishers' imprint on the title page. All advertisements in 1866 and 1867 were signed Irwin & Co. and not Irwin P. Beadle & Co. The firm name on title pages and advertisements was changed from Irwin P. Beadle to Irwin & Co. some time in 1865 or 1866 and between the issuing of Nos. 6 and 15, but it will be necessary to see original issues of these numbers before the date can be set definitely.
The copyright of No. 30 was taken out by Chapman & Co., but this number contains a story originally published some years previously by another publisher and reprinted by Chapman & Co. The quality of the paper is entirely different from the other numbers of the series, and since the name Chapman is given also on the title page, it seems probable that Irwin & Co. bought the printed sheets of unsold copies and attached their own wrappers.
With No. 33 or No. 34 (probably the latter), the American Novel Publishing Co., of 81 Nassau Street, took over, and by them the succeeding numbers were published with the short title, American Novels (Type III-IAN, Fig. 40), and with brick-red wrappers.
The reason for the statement that the title Irwin's American Novels came before American Novels is that in a reprint of one of the higher numbers there is an announcement that "News Agents and the Public generally will please observe that 'Irwin & Co.' have no longer any interest in the American Novels," and it is probable that the title was changed when Irwin & Co. dropped out. Unfortunately, this notice was seen only in a reprinted novel, consequently it is unknown at what date the change was made. It may not have appeared in that number originally, but may have been added only when the novel was reprinted. It must have appeared first some time between the dates of publication of No. 32, which still has the imprint Irwin & Co., and No. 34, which was advertised as an "American Novel" in the New York Weekly, October 17, 1867, by the American News Co., Publisher's Agents, and spoken of as "just issued."
The change in publishers from Irwin & Co. to the American Novel Publishing Company, and the change in title from Irwin's American Novels to American Novels, probably came with No. 34, because, following the advertisement of No. 34 by the American News Company, there were two other advertisements (Fig. 43) in the same paper on November 7 and November 28, each advertising thirty-six numbers, but signed by The American Novel Publishing Company. Since the novels were advertised in this paper only these three times, it is reasonable to suppose that the first advertisement of this group of three, inserted by the American News Co., was authorized by the new American Novel Publishing Co. whose name was affixed to the second and third insertions. It is hardly likely that Irwin & Co. would have advertised the last number issued by them, but it is much more probable that the American Novel Publishing Co. began advertising immediately upon acquiring the business.
It is also unlikely that the title American Novels was used for early original printings of the low numbers and then abandoned for Irwin's American Novels and resumed for the high numbers. The priority of Irwin's American Novels is made still more certain by the fact that most if not all of the reprints of early numbers, with the short title American Novels, are enclosed in the same brick-red or Venetian red wrappers that were used on the high original numbers. Whether all of the early issues were reprinted, is unknown. The headings in the reprints of Nos. 1 to 9, at least, were changed merely by cutting out the name "Irwin P. Beadle's" (or "Irwin's," where that head was used in originals) from the top of the wrapper design, leaving only the title American Novels. The whole of the printed matter inside the box was moved upward, leaving nearly a half inch blank at the bottom below the "American News Co., Publisher's Agent" imprint. In the higher numbers, the printed matter was better centered. The portrait of Cooper remains in the heading throughout the series.
We may assume, then, that the title was changed in original printing from Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels to Irwin's American Novels between Nos. 6 and 10, and from the latter title to American Novels with either No. 33 (not seen) or No. 34, more probably with the latter. The third title continued to be used to the end of the series, and was used also on all reprints made by the American Novel Publishing Co.
So far as I have been able to determine, only 48 numbers were issued, the last number appearing in December, 1868. However, none of the Beadles, apparently, was connected with the firm at that date. Of whom the firms Irwin & Co., Irwin P. Beadle & Co. (of the copyright notice), and the American Novel Publishing Co. consisted, there is no knowledge, the co-partnership directories giving no information.
I have seen only nineteen of the Irwin's American Novels listed below. A small number of titles has been obtained from correspondents, the others were given in advertisements in newspapers and the backs of other novels. Owing to the lack of sufficient data, the list, therefore, is not guaranteed absolutely accurate although it is hoped that there are no great errors.
|1.||An advertisement in the New York Tribune, December 23, 1865, when five numbers had been issued, stated that the novels were issued regularly on the first Tuesday of each month. However, after No. 3 was issued, they appeared rather irregularly.|
|2.||The complete announcement is given in this book, in Part II, under the Year 1865.|
|3.||William H. Chaney: The Rescue. A Sequel to "The Prairie Rangers." The characters in this tale are the same as those in Ellis' Prairie Rangers. The locale and the events, however, are different from those in Ellis' own sequel, also called The Rescue. Chaney's No. 7 was announced for March 7, 1866, while Irwin Beadle's No. 7 appeared February 28, 1866. I have seen none of Chaney's series except No. 6.|
|For more about Chaney's American Novels, see Part II of this book, under the year 1866.|