San Francisco News & Stories: 1800s

The Book Trade

January 11, 1853, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

The Book Trade in this city commenced with the peddling of a few cheap, old and ill-assorted publications from a hand-basket, in the open streets, and has, within the short space in which almost every other wonder has been accomplished in California, grown to a highly prosperous and ably-conducted branch of daily business -- with splendid sales rooms, well stocked shelves, and in some instances binderies attached to the stores -- constituting one of the prominent features of California enterprise.

The tastes and desires of the reading public have correspondingly improved since 1849. The demand for the species of literature known as "light reading," and which is in general quite as loose as it is light, has very sensibly abated, and given place to a market to which the most intellectual and refined English and American works may be brought in heavy supplies and be sure to yield remunerative prices, even on the heavy costs of Isthmus transportation.

The reading public of California now require not only the highest order of literature, and the latest publications, but appropriate styles of printing and binding for drawing-room or library purposes are now consulted. The richest and costliest works find ready sale. Our bookstores would do credit to the oldest city in the United States.

We have in San Francisco three or four establishments whose fitting up and furnishing indicates permanence and a prosperous state of refined and refining business. Their stocks are heavy, varied and well selected, from the best publishing houses in England and America. By every steamer that arrives with freight from the Atlantic shores, the latest English and American publications are received. Such is the book trade of San Francisco, whose book selling houses supply all the interior and the mines with every species of reading, and carry on a home traffic that, were figures shown would surprise some of our Eastern friends who sigh over the moral and mental darkness which still lingers around "benighted California."

By the last steamer, a number of new books and late publications were received by our booksellers. Among others laid on our table by Messrs. Lecount & Strong, are the following:

The Architecture of Country Houses. By A.J. Downing. Published by Appleton & Co. N.Y. -- The subject of this work would hardly seem to afford materiel for such an elaborate and lengthy dissertation, but notwithstanding the heaviness of the matter, it is highly useful and contains over three hundred and twenty illustrations of designs of cottages, farm houses and villas. Its remarks on interiors, furniture, and the best modes of warming and ventilating, are based on the most improved and scientific plans. It is a valuable book for those of our citizens who contemplate constructing country residences and farm houses and making their homes in the State, lumber being doubtless the cheapest and best material for such purposes.

The Bible of Rational Mind and Religion. By Thos. J. Vaiden, M.D., of St. Louis. This is the first copy we have seen of the Monotheistic Bible. On opening it, we read the following inscription: "To the citizens of the world, those of the billion, conservators of mind, inspired by reason and truth, whose reverence for Deity is most exalted, whose duty to man is most beneficial, whose desire for the investigation of truth is most ardent, and whose intellectual, moral and religious firmness, will insure their soul to be God's, and not man's, this book is inscribed." We shall take early occasion to refer more particularly to this work.

Essays from the London Times, Appleton's Popular Library. In a red muslin cover, we have here reprinted some of the choicest essays of the London Times, embracing sketches of the chief literary characters of England of the day -- The Tennysons, Dickenses, Carlyles, Thackerays, and others. It is an entertaining collection of literary papers.

Knick-Knacks from an Editor's Table. --What could be more entertaining than a dish of such Knick-Knacks as are served up by Clark, in his Knickerbocker magazine? Though "something too much" of jocular phrase and idiomatic expression, these Knick-Knacks are very racy, fresh and sparkling. It is the easiest, most good-humored home-talk and chit-chat that graces the pages of any literary magazine in the world. The volume is handsomely printed and beautifully bound, and is all the go in the eastern cities at present.

From W.B. Cooke's fine book store and stationary establishment on Montgomery Street, near Merchant, we have received a splendidly bound volume of portraits, entitled the "Book of Home Beauty." This is the work which has created so much sensation among the fashionables of New York city. It contains the portraits (beautifully engraved on steel) and sketches of life and character of twelve of the most beautiful and distinguished American ladies, and is edited by Mrs. Kirkland. Much as the plan of the work is deserving of ridicule, the style in which it is got up reflects much credit on the artists and authors. We have received from the same establishment at which this book of prints is kept for sale, a handsomely bound copy of Burns' poems, American edition, for which the proprietor will please accept our thanks.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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