Every book has a story. That book you have laying around the house may have some really interesting background information; it just needs to be found! I’ve been finding that out firsthand. For example, my novel of interest “To Have and to Hold” by Mary Johnston, was printed and published by the Riverside Press in 1900. During that time, the Riverside Press was highly associated with Bruce Rogers, one of the most respected American typographers of all time, but it could also be linked to Henry Houghton. Houghton established H.O. Houghton and Co. in 1852, and his printing business was known as the Riverside Press. Houghton had ties with both companies, hence why the Riverside Press always published in conjunction with H.O. Houghton and Co. Houghton died in 1895, so when this particular book was printed, the company was undergoing major changes and was restructuring from a partnership to a corporation. This reorganization lead to the stabilization and long life of the company, which is now known as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is currently one of the top publishers of academic textbooks and tools, but what happened to the Riverside Press after the reorganization? Afterwards, the company followed suit by slightly changing its name and purpose. It is known today as Riverside Publishing, and the company focuses on educational assessment and evaluation.
After much research, I was also able to find information about the printing method used for this book. In the colophon in the back of “To Have and to Hold” (pictured above), it became evident that electrotyping was the printing method used for this novel. Electrotyping is a process that duplicates plates for printing by way of electrochemical reactions. A more detailed explanation of this process can be found here.
Electrotyping had many benefits, including the appearance of the copies made. For example, the photo above shows the primary difference when compared to wood engraving. As you can see, electrotyping yielded darker, more contrasted results.
As mentioned before, this book was published in 1900, and the graph above details the popularity of electrotyping by year. This particular type of printing peaked between the years of 1880-1900 and continued to gain interest until roughly the mid 1920’s.
More information on Henry Houghton: