The Rosebud, an ornate gift book composed of various fables and tidbits of knowledge by various authors. Therefore, there is no author listed. Curiously, the authors of each work are not listed, and the only credit given is to the publisher, Leavitt and Allen.
Leavitt and Allen was established in 1851 when George Ayers Leavitt took over his father, Jonathan Leavitt’s publishing firm after his death and took on a partner, John K. Allen. The company was located in Lower Manhattan, and first settled on Dey St, what would be called Broadway today.
Leavitt and Allen were best known for publishing gift books, also called annuals, which were a common gift in the 19th century. They were often anthology style collections of short fiction, poetry, fables and essays, with ornate and beautiful decorative covers. Their purpose was essentially to be displayed and sometimes flipped through, but served as what we would contemporarily refer to as a “coffee table book.” They were often used as a courtship gift. In particular, many gift books such as The Rosebud were purposely given names of flowers to signify their purpose as a romantic gesture, as “flower language” was a common courtship tactic during this time. Often gift books would come with a “presentation plate” that marked their purpose as a gift.
The building Leavitt and Allen worked from also housed their printer and business partner, John Fowler Trow. Trow was born in 1810 in Andover, Massachusetts. He first came into the printing business due to working at his brother-in-law’s printing business, where he acquired knowledge of Greek and Hebrew type. He established a newspaper in April 1832 that only lasted until July 1832, after which he moved to New York City and worked under various publishers before establishing his own printing and bookbinding company, where he worked until his death. Trow is notable for being among the first to introduce electrotyping to the printing business, which was a means of creating duplicate plates for letterpress printing (Electrotyping | Britannica), as well as his publication of Trow’s New York City Directory. He worked with Jonathan Leavitt under the name Leavitt and Trow, and worked with Leavitt and Allen until 1849, after which the printer of the business remains unknown. (John Trow).
An interesting aspect of The Rosebud is that there is no editor listed. Many gift books by Leavitt and Allen published in the 1850’s were edited by Timothy Shay Arthur (Timothy Shay Arthur) but The Rose Bud has no listed editor despite having a very similar look and genre of other gift books from that particular time period. It is unclear if there was an editor at all, or multiple, as the only credit given in The Rosebud is to the publishers.
Many gift books published by Leavitt and Allen are bound in Morocco leather, and ornately tooled and later machine embossed. With the invention of the stamping press in the 1830’s, ornate designs became even easier. Additionally, gold leaf was a common feature in the covers as well as gilt edges to both protect the pages and contribute to the ornamental look of the book. It is unlikely this is the case in this particular edition, but an interesting aspect of the binding is that it is possible that the green onlays included in the ornamentation of the cover may actually be poisonous, as arsenic is a key component in some emerald green pigments for binding and onlays. There are some Leavitt and Allen published works that incorporate arsenic binding, including two editions of The Rosebud that do use arsenic green onlays, but it is unclear if the edition that I possess has these components(ARSENICAL BOOKS DATABASE – Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library). The color of the green onlays is similar to those used in the arsenic bindings, but it is unconfirmed.