From the Joe Johnson Collection in American Christianity, these covers represent the variety of artistic decoration of periodical covers in the nineteenth century. The Herald of the Truth and Ladies’ Home magazine illustrates the heights of the craft with elaborate typeface and illustrations. The Christian Preacher, on the other hand, is more restrained. It accomplishes its purpose in a simple and straightforward manner.
Covers such as these tell us something of aesthetics, of the printer’s art and provide in many cases valuable data. While subscribers often bound their issues at year’s end, it is not common to find a bound volume containing the covers. Usually they were discarded, and with them went their testimony to aesthetics, or the printer’s art…you get the picture. One type of very useful information found inside these covers can be illustrated, no pun intended, from this early (7 June 1824) issue of Alexander Campbell’s Christian Baptist.
While Campbell often used the covers to advertise books or periodicals, he called readers’ attention to the agents acting on his behalf to secure subscriptions and collect monies owed. Let’s assume you are charting the course of Stone-Campbell Movement into your geographical area. What a boon it would be if we could know whether any in that area read literature such as Campbell’s works. If we can locate an agent for a periodical such as Christian Baptist in the area, then we can have a certain degree of confidence that someone in that city or town or county was not only aware of Campbell but read and disseminated his ideas. The same holds true for any periodical where something more than the volume and issue number were printed on the covers. It is a small point, but potentially a significant point. Those covers really are treasures. We’ll post more…please check back often.