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Inventory of the James Thomas Fields Papers, 1767-1914 (bulk 1850-1914)
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Subject matter
  • Bibliography

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: James Thomas Fields Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1767-1914
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1850-1914)
    Creator: Fields, James Thomas
    Extent: 5,438 pieces
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Provenance

    Acquired from Rosenbach in 1922. FI 5097-5438 and FAC 1015 acquired from Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Bole in 1978.

    Access

    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL .

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], James Thomas Fields Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Biography

    James Thomas Fields (1817-1881) occupied an important position in the nineteenth century literary scene in his dual role as editor of The Atlantic Monthly and publisher in the Boston firm of Ticknor and Fields. His career as publisher began in 1831, when he became a clerk for the Old Corner Bookstore, which evolved into the firm of William D. Ticknor and Company. During the forties, Ticknor and Co. began its rise to greatness, with extra impetus provided by its publication in 1847 of Longfellow's Evangeline. Soon after, the firm also established relations with other New England writers such as Whittier, Lowell, Hawthorne, and Holmes, each of whom contributed to the increasing prestige of Ticknor and Co. Meanwhile, Fields began a corresponding rise, advancing to a junior partnership in 1843, though the firm retained its title until 1849, when it became Ticknor, Reed and Fields. The title of Ticknor and Fields came into being in June, 1854, and lasted until 1868, when reorganization changed the name to Fields, Osgood and Company, with Fields as senior partner. Throughout his career as a publisher, Fields was extremely successful in establishing good relationships (and in a great many cases, friendships) with a large number of authors, both American and English. Through his fair and generous terms in dealing with them and through his policy of protecting their works against piracy in spite of the absence of any international copyright laws, he was able to attract established, well-known writers to his firm, as well as many who would yet achieve fame. Fields succeeded also in obtaining wide exposure of his firm's books by means of his extensive circle of friends and acquaintances among editors and book reviewers. Chiefly as a result of his promotional talents, Ticknor and Fields were able to develop a national market for their books and hence to make Boston the primary center in the United States for the publication of literary works.
    In his capacity as editor of The Atlantic Monthly, Fields was no less successful. Created in May, 1857, the magazine was purchased by Ticknor and Fields two years later. The following year, Fields took over the editorship of the magazine from James Russell Lowell. During Field's tenure as editor, he continued to maintain the magazine's reputation for dignity and integrity which Lowell had established, and his promptness and business acumen provided a marked contrast to Lowell's sometimes casual methods. As in his role of publisher, Fields dealt fairly and generously with Atlantic contributors, inaugurating the practice of paying for articles when accepted rather than when published. Further, he actively sought out new writers in an effort to broaden the appeal of the magazine, also accepting more pieces of light fiction to ease the number of scholarly literary and historical articles. Under his leadership, the Atlantic significantly increased its circulation, becoming widely known throughout much of the United States and England, as well.
    On December 31, 1870, Fields retired from business, partly because of health, but was able to continue his writing and lecturing. He also continued to enjoy the many friendships he had formed with authors and other literary figures. The Fields home, with James and his wife, Annie (Adams) Fields (1834-1915) receiving, had become a delightful gathering place for literary people in Boston. There were frequent visits from those in and around Boston, such as Dr. Holmes, who lived just down the street, and there were guests from abroad -- those whom the Fieldses had met on their several trips to England, and many distinguished visitors who were brought to the Fieldses' to meet the Boston literary circle. The story of the many hours spent with their literary friends is told in their memoirs: Authors and Friends, by Annie Fields, and Yesterdays with Authors, by James T. Fields.
    Following James Fields's death in 1881, Annie continued to receive her many friends, with the frequent companionship of Sarah Orne Jewett, and continued her own literary activities until her death in 1915.

    Subject matter

    The collection consists primarily of letters from authors to James Thomas Fields, mostly relating to publication of their manuscripts by his firm. Letters concerning literary matters are also addressed to Annie Fields. Included in the collection are many autograph manuscripts of poems, essays, articles, etc. by American and English authors.

    Bibliography

    Austin, James C. Fields of the Atlantic Monthly. (San Marino, Calif.: The Huntington Library, 1953).
    Charvat, William. James T. Fields and the Beginnings of Book Promotion, 1840-1855, The Huntington Library Quarterly VIII (Nov., 1944), 75-94.
    Fields, Annie. Authors and Friends. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1897).
    Fields, James T. Yesterdays with Authors. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1900).
    Howe, M. A. DeWolfe. Memories of a Hostess. (Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1922).