Jonathan Plummer and the Problem of Print

Benjamin Bascom

When the itinerant peddler, poet, and preacher Jonathan Plummer died in 1819, he left behind a will that requested his executor to distribute several hundred copies “of the Occurrences of my life printed from the manuscript which I may leave at my disease.”[1] Unfortunately for this Newburyport eccentric, however, the money he had amassed through selling combs, thimbles, fish, and his own poetry, among other items, was given to his estranged family, leaving information about the contents of this supposed manuscript about his life reserved for speculation. During a month of research at the Phillips Library, I sought to reconstruct the life of Jonathan Plummer through the printed ephemera he left behind—from broadsides and annotations in account books to the one remaining copy of his late-1790s Sketch of the History of the Life and Adventures of Jonathan Plummer, jun. (Written by Himself). Through doing this research, I came to recognize a historically specific instance of desiring to write one’s life into book form for posthumous consumption. Read more

Exploring a Historic Panorama

Dinah Cardin

Kung Tai Studio. Photographic panorama of the Shanghai Bund. Shanghai, China, 1882. Albumen prints. Gift of Mrs. Beverley R. Robinson, 1950. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. Image credit: Walter Silver.

The world’s second tallest tower is soon to officially open in Shanghai, and with it, a sky-bound branch of China’s Guanfu Museum. To celebrate, several departments at PEM have been working together to make available online a panorama from PEM’s significant collection of 19th-century photographs of China. The museum’s 11-foot photographic panorama of the Shanghai Bund from 1882 was made by Kung Tai Studio and consists of 13 prints joined to form a sweeping view of the Shanghai waterfront. Read more