User menu


Osgood, James Ripley (1836-1892)


James Osgood was introduced to the publishing world in 1855 when he clerked for Ticknor and Fields, prominent Boston publishers. In 1868 he attained the status of partner and, along with James T. Fields, created Fields, Osgood and Company. More mergers and dissolutions followed--R. Osgood and Company and Houghton, Osgood, and Company were formed between 1871 and 1880 (J. Derby 277).

Osgood’s association with Pfaff’s is uncertain, but he was acquainted with Walt Whitman. In a letter to the poet, Osgood says: "I am sorry that I was absent from Boston during your visit: I should have been glad to renew the acquaintance I had with you in the old Pfaff days" (G. Allen, The Solitary Singer 492). Osgood was also familiar with Thomas Bailey Aldrich. He published numerous works by Aldrich and, in 1866, he asked him to edit Every Saturday, an illustrated weekly magazine. Another Pfaffian, William Winter, found much to praise in Osgood. Winter describes him as "the clever, versatile, popular, lamented James R. Osgood, once prominent as a publisher in Boston and London" (Old Friends 25). He also recalls that, during a visit to Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Osgood, the well-beloved publisher (and it is something of note that a publisher should be well-beloved!), seemed to have brought with him enough of sunshine to flood the room" (124). In addition to Whitman, Winter, and T. B. Aldrich, Osgood published the work of several other Pfaffian’s, including George Arnold, John Brougham, John Burroughs, Charles T. Congdon, William Dean Howells, Fitz-James O’Brien, Edmund C. Stedman, Richard H. Stoddard, and Bayard Taylor.

In 1880, Osgood started his own publishing house--James R. Osgood and Co.--and the following year he agreed to publish Leaves of Grass in all its "beastly" glory (Ballou 282). Osgood and Whitman hammered out a ten year deal, and in 1881 the heavily revised seventh edition of Leaves became available to the public for $2 per copy (Pannapacker 492). Their deal, though, did not last as Osgood folded under pressure from the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice and Boston District Attorney Oliver Stevens when he pressed Whitman to remove all offensive material from the collection. When Whitman refused, the two parted ways. Osgood gave Whitman $100 and 225 copies of the book as well as the printing plates. The plates were later used by Rees Welsh and Company for a printing of Leaves that sold almost six thousand copies. By 1885, Osgood’s company was a complete failure, although this cannot be completely attributed to his separation from Whitman (Pannapacker 493).