The Acquisitions Table: Leonard Deming Booksellers’ Stamp

Leonard Deming booksellers’ stamp. In Jonathan Edward’s The Salvation of All Men Strictly Examined.Boston: Published by C. Ewer, and T. Bedlington, 1824.

Leonard Deming is best known to scholars today for being (along with Nathaniel Coverly) the other important purveyor of folk ballads and street literature in early nineteenth-century Boston and a prolific publisher of Jim Crow lyrics in Boston. One penny ballad, published by Demingand likely hawked by street vendors, contains sixty-six verses on “Jim Crow.”

In 1830, Leonard Deming advertised himself as a Boston book and ballad seller, but he wanted readers to know he could cut their hair as well.  The booksellers’ stamp he included on the front free endpaper of this theological book reads: “Leonard Deming, books and stationary, ballads, songs & pamphlets wholesale and retail. Also Barber’s shop, at No. 1, south side of Faneuil-Hall, corner of Market Square, Boston, 1830.”  The connection between books and barbershops may not seem a natural one to us today, but it was not uncommon in the nineteenth century.

The advertisement of one of Deming’s immediate competitors at the “South End Bookstore” demonstrates this fact. “James B. Dow, bookseller, stationer, and dealer in fancy goods, no. 362 Washington Street, Boston, (sign of the large book, near the Boylston Market.)” advertised his Boston bookshop as carrying “a complete assortment of articles usually kept in this line of business, of the best quality, and at the lowest prices.”  These included, along with books and stationary supplies, “Cutlery” (including razors, scissors, and shears) and “Fancy Goods” (including tooth brushes).  So the connection between bookstores and personal grooming was well-established.  Perhaps this understanding of books as one of number of consumer experience options offered by the same purveyor may not be so wildly different from our habit of putting cafes and wireless hotspots in our Barnes &Nobles today?  AAS Bicentennial Gift of John F. Gately, 2012.

Published by

Elizabeth Watts Pope

Curator of Books, American Antiquarian Society

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