The collections consist primarily of letters, as well as poems and manuscripts, from various American and British authors
to American editor, publisher, and poet James Thomas Fields (1817-1881),
mostly relating to publication of their manuscripts by his firm Ticknor and Fields and in The Atlantic Monthly. The collection
also includes letters to Fields's wife Annie Fields (1834-1915) concerning literary matters.
James Thomas Fields (1817-1881) occupied an important position in the nineteenth century literary scene in his dual role as
editor of The Atlantic Monthly and
publisher in the Boston firm of Ticknor and Fields. His career as publisher began in 1831, when he became a clerk for the
Old Corner Bookstore, which evolved into the firm of William D. Ticknor
and Company. During the forties, Ticknor and Co. began its rise to greatness, with extra impetus provided by its publication
in 1847 of Longfellow's Evangeline.
Soon after, the firm also established relations with other New England writers such as Whittier, Lowell, Hawthorne, and Holmes,
each of whom contributed to the increasing prestige of Ticknor
and Co. Meanwhile, Fields began a corresponding rise, advancing to a junior partnership in 1843, though the firm retained
its title until 1849, when it became Ticknor, Reed and Fields. The title
of Ticknor and Fields came into being in June, 1854, and lasted until 1868, when reorganization changed the name to Fields,
Osgood and Company, with Fields as senior partner. Throughout his career
as a publisher, Fields was extremely successful in establishing good relationships (and in a great many cases, friendships)
with a large number of authors, both American and English. Through his
fair and generous terms in dealing with them and through his policy of protecting their works against piracy in spite of the
absence of any international copyright laws, he was able to attract
established, well-known writers to his firm, as well as many who would yet achieve fame. Fields succeeded also in obtaining
wide exposure of his firm's books by means of his extensive circle of
friends and acquaintances among editors and book reviewers. Chiefly as a result of his promotional talents, Ticknor and Fields
were able to develop a national market for their books and hence
to make Boston the primary center in the United States for the publication of literary works.
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