It would be difficult to overstate the significance of the contribution of 19th-century American authors to the literary canon—even more so when one is tasked with writing a short, prefatory remark to a bookseller catalogue. After all, what is there for one to say about Dickinson, Emerson, Twain, Hawthorne, Poe, Thoreau, and Whitman that hasn’t already been said?
Our aim for this installment in our ongoing revisiting of our inventory, then, is to examine the variety of ways in which the work of those seven authors has been interpreted by book artists, printers, and illustrators. And the wide array of miniature editions included here demonstrate that a book needn’t be large to be impactful. Here we examine the enduring influence these writings have had on the imagination of subsequent generations of artists and designers, offered during a time when we seek guidance and inspiration wherever we can.