Both this entry and the next will focus on what may initially seem mundane questions—but are, nonetheless, massively important and provocative: how we might “count” and conceive of what we have left of the Recorder of the 1860s.
Folks have, for example, occasionally asked me why Black Print Unbound and much of my other works cite the Recorder and other Black newspapers by date in text rather, say, with full notes emphasizing volume/issue numbers or whole numbers.
My quick answer generally centers on my desire to make it easier for readers to find the issues I’m talking about, as most presentations--from microfilm that runs in chronological order to online resources organized around dates. I’m also deeply interested in thinking about the texts I study in time.
But I want to highlight two other reasons that have broader methodological import.
First, none of the major documentation styles effectively envisions scholarship that relies on a large number of citations from newspapers. As with the initial attempts to figure out how to cite online sources—something that hasn’t been fixed much—all of the major documentation formats, at best, require massive, cumbersome, and often repetitious listings. (Consider, just for a moment, how even the American system of dates used in Black Print Unbound—named month and numeric day followed by a comma before the numeric year—requires a flurry of commas and semi-colons that make any list of issues hard to read.)
As we’ve done in much literary criticism, we’ve built citation systems that privilege the bound book (something that carries only a year). Folks who work with census records, land records, and a range of other archival sources can testify similarly.
Second, editing and printing can be messy business, and there were moments when it seems the Recorder editor or staff—and/or the external contracted printers—had too much on their minds to carefully track volume numbers, issue numbers, and/or whole numbers. This means that there are sometimes errors in some or all of these numbers. While dating is occasionally imperfect—and while it can sometimes suggest an immediacy of the moment that wasn’t always present, given lag time in the editorial or printing work on the one side of an issue and delays in mailing and receiving issues on the other—issues dates are usually simply more accurate.
The sometime-inaccuracy in terms of the Recorder’s numbering becomes a crucial concern if, for example, we use issue numbering alone to think about which issues are missing. (My next entry will focus on questions surrounding missing and partial issues.) Thus, what follows is a year-by-year thick description of the paper’s numbering between 1861 and 1868—one drawing on and slightly expanding note 14 in chapter 2 of Black Print Unbound (pages 264-265).
One last thought before that description, though: as I talk about in Black Print Unbound and elsewhere, these questions also highlight flaws in most catalog and bibliographic records of the Recorder. Anecdotally, I can say that such flaws run throughout other treatments of Black periodicals—especially Black newspapers—of the nineteenth century. This, it seems to me, reminds us again of the simple facts that we still have much work to do at the most basic levels if we are to have a full sense of early Black print culture.
So here’s how to “count” the early Recorder:
Elisha Weaver opened 1861 with a “new series” and so dropped previous editor Jabez Pitt Campbell’s numbering and approach to labeling issues. Taking the (now-missing) 12 January 1861 issue as volume 1, number 1, the rest of the 1861 issues are numbered correctly, ending with 1.51.
The 4 January 1862 issue is correctly numbered 2.1 and whole number 52. Though some 1862 issues are extant in only partial form, all are accounted for in terms of numbering. The 27 December 1862 issue represents the first catchable error in numbering during Weaver’s tenure. While correctly marked 2.52, its whole number was mistakenly given as 104. (As the 13 December 1862 and 20 December 1862 issues are partials missing their first two pages, it is difficult to tell where this error began, though the 6 December 1862 issue’s whole number is correct.)
The 3 January 1863 issue is numbered 3.1 but, continuing the late-1862 error, has the incorrect whole number 105. The 10 January 1863 is numbered 3.2 and the corrected whole number 105 (thus sharing this whole number with the 3 January issue). Though there are June and July missing and partial issues, the 18 July 1863 is correctly numbered 3.29, whole number 132. The final issue of 1863 (26 December) is correctly numbered 3.52, whole number 155.
The first issue of 1864 (2 January) is numbered 4.1, whole number 156. The 9 April issue has an incorrect whole number—171, which should be 170—and this error persists in whole numbers for the rest of 1864. The final issue of 1864 (31 December) is numbered 4.52 (correct), whole number 209 (which should be 208).
The initial issue of 1865 (7 January) corrects the whole number error and is numbered 5.1, whole number 209 (thus sharing this whole number with the 31 December 1864 issue). The 18 February 1865 issue, which should have been whole number 215, is mislabeled 216, and this error persists for the rest of 1865. Of less import, the 18 March 1865 issue is erroneously marked 5.12; it was actually 5.11; the 1 April 1865 issue, which is marked 5.13, corrects this error by carrying the same number as the 25 March 1865 issue.
Except for the last issue of January 1866, that month’s issues continue the error in whole numbering from 1865. The 27 January 1866 issue’s whole number (264) corrects this error (and so shares the whole number with the 20 January 1866 issue). The final 1866 issue (29 December) is correctly numbered 6.52, whole number 312.
The first issue of 1867 (5 January) is correctly numbered 7.1, whole number 313, and the rest of this year’s numbering is correct. The last 1867 issue (28 December) was numbered 7.52, whole number 364.
The first issue of 1868 (4 January) was correctly numbered 8.1, whole number 365. No issues after 8 February 1868 (8.6, whole number 370) up to 28 March 1868 have been found, and the 4 April 1868 issue is available only in partial/damaged form. The 11 April 1868 issue is numbered 8.9, whole number 372; this confusing numbering (it should be either 8.8, 372 or 8.9, 373) suggests that only one or perhaps two issues were published during the gap.
Issues for 18 April, 25 April, and 2 May 1868 seem to have come out roughly on time, but the numbering of the 2 May 1868 issue (8.12, whole number 375, continuing the 11 April 1868 error in numbering) and of the 16 May 1868 issue (8.13, whole number 376)—as well as the lack of an extant issue between—suggest that no issue was published on 9 May 1868.
The 20 June 1868 issue—the first extant issue from new editor Benjamin Tucker Tanner—is listed only as whole number 377, though Tanner’s later continuance of the numbering above would also mean it was 8.14.
All of this strongly suggests that the paper did not appear at all on 23 May, 30 May, 6 June, or 13 June 1868. After Tanner took over, at least two more issues seem to have been missed before the final issue of the year (26 December), which is numbered 8.39, whole number 402 (continuing the 11 April 1868 error).