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    • December 1998
    • 9780231107457
  • 224 Pages
  • 28 photos

  • Paperback
  • $29.00
  • / £20.00

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    • December 1998
    • 9780231107440
  • 224 Pages
  • 28 photos

  • Hardcover
  • $90.00
  • / £62.00

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City Reading

Written Words and Public Spaces in Antebellum New York

David Henkin

Cultural historian David Henkin explores the influential but little-noticed role played by reading in New York City's public life between 1825 and 1865. From the opening of the Erie Canal to the end of the Civil War, New York became a metropolis, and demographic, economic, and physical changes erased the old markers of continuity and order. As New York became a crowded city of strangers, everyday encounters with impersonal signs, papers, and bank notes altered people's perceptions of connectedness to the new world they lived in. The 'ubiquitous urban texts'--from newspapers to paper money, from street signs to handbills--became both indispensable urban guides and apt symbols for a new kind of public life that emerged first in New York. City Reading focuses on four principal categories of public reading: street signs and store signs; handbills and trade cards; newspapers; and paper money. Drawing on a wealth of visual sources and written texts that document the changing cityscape--including novels, diaries, newspapers, municipal guides, and government records--Henkin shows that public acts of reading (to a much greater extent than private, solitary reading) determined how New Yorkers of all backgrounds came to define themselves and their urban community.

About the Author

David Henkin is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley.

"A strikingly original account of a new kind of literacy in mid-nineteenth century New York City." — Konstantin Dierks, Journal of the Early Republic

"Ingenious, imaginative, and thoroughly intelligent,City Reading is an admirable achievement. Focusing on sources ranging from advertising signs and posters to newspapers, banners, and paper currency, Henkin grapples not just with the content of these 'public'texts but also with how such word-filled materials were experienced by city dwellers who found them passing daily before their eyes and through their hands." — Jonathan Prude, author of The Coming of Industrial Order

"City Reading is great fun to read, and it is full of fresh and insightful observations on how New Yorkers 'read' their city through a remarkable variety of public texts -- outdoor signs, billboards and handbills, newspapers, and currency -- in the first half of the nineteenth century." — Elizabeth Blackmar, author of Manhattan for Rent

About the Author

David Henkin is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley.

Introduction: Public Reading, Public Space
Brick, Paper, and the Spectacle of Urban Growth: The Rise of a New Metropolis
Commerical Impudence and the Dictatorship of the Perpendicular: Signs of the City
Word on the Streets: Bills, Boards, and Banners
Print in Public, Public in Print: The Rise of the Daily Paper
Promiscuous Circulation: The Case of Paper Money
Epilogue: Words of War

About the Author

David Henkin is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley.

About the Author

David Henkin is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley.

About the Author

David Henkin is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley.

About the Author

David Henkin is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley.