Part 1. MAGAZINES AND PAMPHLETS. — The oldest of our Periodicals, which now has nearly reached the age of two score, and flourishes without losing its youthful vigor, was commenced as "The Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Magazine" in 1803 It was published semi-annually for the first two years—then three times a year—so that No. 12, or the end of Vol. I, was not reached till Jan. 1808. In that year 5 Nos. were published at somewhat irregular intervals, and afterwards, till the conclusion of the first series, consisting of 4 Vols., it was regularly published quarterly — though until the end of the 2nd Vol. the 2nd No. of each year was issued in May instead of June.
Its beginning was very humble in every way. Its aim, as Dr. Baldwin, its editor, declares in the preface to the second volume, was two-fold; first, to collect and circulate correct information respecting revivals of religion, and second, to aid the funds of the Missionary society by its profits.
The number of copies printed at first, was but 1000: but the second number was increased to 1500 — the third to 1750 — then to 2000, and before the end of Vol. 1, to 2,400.
Its circulation was confined chiefly to the northern States for the first 5 or 6 years. In the preface to Vol. 3rd, in 1811, the editor congratulates its patrons that it was beginning to find its way to the southern Atlantic States, and was desired by many in the western states, but no method of sending it to them had then been secured. Up to this period, religious intelligence had been almost the sole aim. Now it was perceived that a certain class desired dissertations and essays, and it was therefore promised that "to avoid tedious sameness it should be interspersed with sentimental essays, biblical criticism, serious anecdotes, biography, poetry, &c." Such was its character, through the remainder of that series. Its interest was not a little increased, however, during the whole of the 4th Vol., by the foreign Missionary enterprise, the establishment of which gives marked character to that part of our denominational history which over the years 1814-15 and 1816. For the whole period of the first series, from 1803 to the end of 1816, Dr. Baldwin was sole editor, and also sole agent for procuring the publication, distributing the numbers, and collecting the proceeds. As is well known, he was during this time the devoted pastor of one of the largest churches and congregations in our country. President of the Board of Foreign Missions, and identified as one of the most active and efficient instruments in all the plans and societies for the exercise of religious benevolence. How versatile must have been his talents—bow full of toil his hands, and of care, his mind, in accomplishing all these services!
In 1817 a new series, taking the name of "The American Baptist Magazine," was commenced, and the seasonable aid of the other pastors in Boston, Daniel Sharp and James M. Winchell, was secured, as assistant editors. The work had now obtained a circulation of 4,000 copies, and was from this time published every alternate month: completing a volume in two years. Its character was essentially improved by these changes, though the general scope of its contents remained much as before.
In the first Vol. of this series, there is seen for the first time an engraving, — a handsome likeness of its senior editor, Dr. Baldwin, — and throughout the remainder of this series such embellishments frequently occur. The taste of the present age would rather repudiate this kind of exhibition of the living; especially those who were most active and responsible for their insertion. Such was not the standard, however, thirty years since, nor is it in our parent country, even at this time, as one may see by looking into the Methodist, Baptist, and other Magazines of London. We very much prefer, however, the more rigid exclusiveness, which in this respect now prevails among us. While the first Vol. of this series was in progress, the circulation of the work increased from 4,000 to 11,000, a most unprecedented advance for two years.
The second volume of this series contains several "Reviews of New Publications," a species of writing which had not before been found in this Magazine, and which in its various forms, has so largely characterized the periodical literature of the last quarter of a century. In this volume too, there is a touching notice of the death of the younger assistant editor, the lamented Winchell, snatched away from a sphere or usefulness to which he seemed admirably fitted, in the very morning of his days.
In the year 1835 another change was made in the publication. From that time it has been issued monthly, forming a volume every year. The change was induced, no doubt, by the hope of retaining readers, who began to be drawn away by the multiplication of religious newspapers. Several considerations are urged in the preface to that Vol. why their patrons should continue to prefer the magazine to other publications. Its circulation had, no doubt, diminished at that time, and it continued to decrease, it is believed, for several years afterward. Its editorial corps had changed, by the accession of Francis Wayland, jr., then Pastor of the 1st Church, Boston; and before the end of the year 1825, by the sudden death of Dr. Baldwin, another change was produced. In the following year, the magazine was transferred from the Mass. Missionary Society, who had hitherto been its proprietors, and to whom it had yielded an aggregate profit of six or eight thousand dollars, to the Foreign Missionary Board, which had just been removed to Boston, as the seat of its operations.
By this Board it has since been continued, sometimes under the editorial care of its Secretaries, and sometimes by the service of an editor specially appointed.
Until the year 1836 it continued to embrace the different topics of general interest to the denomination, but since that time it has been thought best to confine it exclusively to the interests of foreign missions. Its size and price have been reduced, and its circulation is just about sufficient to pay the expense of editing, publishing, and distributing it. — Though not of much direct pecuniary profit, its advantage to the Board and to the cause of missions is incalculable;—in diffusing the equisite [sic] information and furnishing a convenient medium of communication from the Board, with contributors, missionaries, and the public.
In April 1814, Elders P. P. Root, Daniel Hascall, John Lawton, in central, or as it was then called, western New York, upon their own responsibility, engaged in the publication of a magazine of 48 pages, 12mo., three times a year, entitled, "The Vehicle." The first No. was issued in May, the second in August, of that year. In September its proprietors offered it to the Board of the Hamilton Baptist Missionary Society, who accepted of it and appointed Elders Lawton, Peck, and Hascall, editors, and subsequently, N. Kendrick, T. Purinton, and A. Bennett, were associated with them. At the close of the first volume the title was altered to "The Western Magazine," and it was published quarterly. Its character was very similar to the first series of the Massachusetts Baptist Magazine, above described, and its influence was, doubtless, in a high degree salutary. It found its way into a great many of the families of central and western N. Y., which otherwise would have been unvisited with the missionary and other intelligence, which it was so happily adapted to awaken, and increase evangelical benevolence. The work was continued till the end of the year 1825, comprising in all 45 numbers, which constitute 4 Vols. It was then merged in the New York Baptist Register.
"The Latter Day Luminary," a quarterly religious miscellany, was begun in Philadelphia in 1818. Luther Rice, at that time agent of the General Convention, appears to have been the chief instrument of setting forward this enterprise. He purchased a printing press, and employed printers and binders to execute the work fur the Board, in whose service he was employed. Dr. Staughton, the Corresponding Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, was enabled to enrich its pages with the most recent and important missionary intelligence. He also contributed many articles of attractive interest and permanent value, and might properly be regarded as the editor of the first two volumes, extending through the years 1818-1821, inclusive. The receipts of the Luminary for one year, ending April 1821, are stated at 82,280, and as "a considerable amount was still due," the circulation at that time was probably about 3,000 copies. At the end of that year, and of the second volume, it was removed to Washington city, and was published monthly, for the years 1822-3 and 4, forming one volume in each of those years, or 5 Vols, in all. Its character for this latter period was somewhat fluctuating, as it was edited sometimes by a committee of the Board, and sometimes by some temporary agent engaged by them. We presume that its circulation rather diminished than increased after its removal, for which satisfactory reasons might be assigned. Still it is a work, of no small interest, embodying much information of the current history of the denomination, which cannot be elsewhere obtained.
In 1827 "The Baptist Tract Magazine," a small 12mo., published monthly in Philadelphia was commenced, under the auspices of the General Agent of the Tract Society, the lamented Noah Davis. By him, and his successor, I. M. Allen, it was conducted with spirit and success for some 7 or 8 years, until its place was supplied by the monthly paper, since called the Baptist Record. Besides those things which more immediately related to the objects of the Tract Society, this magazine contained many matters of general interest; and for a time an interesting department for juvenile readers. Its patronage was never more than sufficient to sustain it, having reached in its best days about 2000 copies.
"The Sunday School Treasury," also a monthly periodical, containing much information pertaining to its appropriate sphere, and deservedly esteemed wherever Sunday schools are in operation, has been a Baptist but not a sectarian publication, since the withdrawment of the Congregationalists from the Massachusetts (now the New England) S. S. Union in 1831. It is published at Boston, and circulates chiefly in N. England, though eminently worthy of a wider range.
"The S. S. Gleaner," intended solely for children, was begun in Philadelphia in 1839. It is a monthly, 18mo. well adapted to interest and benefit the young, being fully imbued with missionary facts, anecdotes, cuts, and whatever seems best adapted for this interesting class of readers. It enjoys but a moderate degree of patronage, having never more than paid for making it.
In 1835 "The Mother's Monthly Journal" was commenced under the auspices of an enterprising firm of publishers in Utica, who still remain its proprietors. They have been uncommonly fortunate to secure as its successive editors such ladies as Mrs. Kingsford, Conant, and Allen, by the last of whom it is now ably conducted. This monthly sheet, handsomely executed, has earned for itself the high and wide celebrity which it now enjoys, placing it at the head of this class of publications in our country. Its circulation has never much exceeded 3000 copies, a large portion of which find their destination within the state. Surely there is no good reason why others should not enjoy the advantage which its monthly visits could scarce fail to afford.
In several of the western states, some of our religious publications have for a time assumed the magazine or pamphlet form, though their character in other respects has been nearly assimilated to the religious newspapers, for which, in most cases, they have pioneered the way. In Ohio, "The Western Magazine," was attempted in 1826, but soon failed. For the next four years a similar publication was continued by G. Sedgwick, of Zanesville. In 1835 "The Baptist Advocate" was begun as a monthly pamphlet in Cincinnati, and continued two years.
In Kentucky, "The Baptist Chronicle" was commenced by Mr. U. B. Chambers, in 1835, and continued three years. About the same time "The Western Pioneer," and "Western Baptist," were, for some years, circulated in pamphlet form in Illinois, by J. M. Peck.
In Tennessee, for nearly four years, from 1835, the vigorous effort of R. B. C. Howell, of Nashville, carried forward the publication of "The Baptist," a monthly folded sheet, and if we are not mistaken, a somewhat similar effort was, for a short time, made in Indiana. In 1839, J. S. Baker, of Georgia, commenced a monthly "Baptist Chronicle," which, at the end of the first Vol., has been merged in the Memorial.
In 1827 the enterprise was begun of publishing "The Baptist Preacher," by Wm. Collier of Boston. He completed three volumes, each of 12 monthly numbers, containing one or two sermons each. The work was then discontinued.
"The Baptist Library," a semi-monthly publication, containing the rare and valuable works of Baptist authors, faithfully reprinted, was commenced in Greene county, N. Y., 1840, by L. L. Hill, who has since associated with him his brother, R. H. Hill, as publisher; and Messrs. C. G. Sommers, and Wm. R. Williams, of N. T. as editors. The number now circulated exceeds 10,000.
There only remains to be noticed in this connexion, "The Christian Review," which is the largest, and on some accounts, the most important and responsible of any of the publications of this description undertaken by the denomination. It was begun in 1836 under the editorship of Prof. Knowles, who was justly thought to possess rare talents for the successful management of such a work. It has from the outset been issued quarterly, by the publishers, Gould, Kendall & Lincoln, Boston, forming a beautifully executed volume of more than 600 pages, annually. It was peculiarly characterized, for the first two or three years, by a careful regard to everything of permanent interest to the denomination, which originated and sustained it. Their literature, their biography, and everything connected with the operations of benevolence among them, received a prompt and full notice. Its influence was thus rapidly augmenting, and was seen to be eminently salutary in cementing the union and increasing the efficiency, the wisdom, and the zeal of our dispersed communities.
On the death of its first editor, when the third volume was half completed, Prof. Sears was induced to assume the editorial responsibility, which, with great credit to himself and the denomination, he has retained to the close of the 6th volume. His extensive and profound scholarship has made the Review in his hands, a radiant point of literary eminence, especially in whatever relates to biblical research and German sacred literature. While some have regretted that its range is somewhat above their reach, it cannot be doubted that it has indirectly served an important purpose in elevating the views of its readers, and increasing the respect for the denomination, among an increasing number of our sister communities, who have been induced to patronize or at least peruse the work, from the conviction of the pre-eminent ability with which it has been conducted. Its circulation is highly respectable for a work so extensive, and it may now be regarded as established on a permanent basis.
We intended also to notice another description of periodical literature which has vastly increased of late among us, namely, the annual Reports of our various religious, benevolent societies and associations. They furnish a new and interesting feature, which might profitably be reviewed; but this article has already become more extended than was originally proposed, which forbids a proper consideration of this additional topic for the present.
[From The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Chronicle, Volume 1, 1842. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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