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).
Osgood was among the company when the Aldriches and Howells visited the Clemenses in Hartford (143).[pages:105,143]
Osgood was one of the most prominent American publishers; Whitman's friend O'Reilly in Boston got Osgood interested in Leaves of Grass, which his firm published in 1881. Allen quotes a letter from Osgood to Whitman where 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" (492).
Source: Whitman - CW 8:276
The "Osgood edition" of Leaves of Grass is copyrighted 1881, but dated 1881-1882 on the title page and was a compact, 382 page octavo book bound in gold cloth "with title and design on the backstrip, showing a butterfly resting on the forefinger of a hand, stamped in gold." At Whitman's request, the margins were trimmed close to make the book small enough to fit into a pocket. According to Allen, "It was still rather large for most pockets, but it was a plain, neatly printed, servicable, compact volume" (496). During the planning for this edition, Whitman wrote to Osgood that "The book has not hitherto been really published at all" (501).[pages:492,496-500,501,509,590(n185)]
"In 1878, the firm of James R. Osgood & Co., who were the successors of the old and well-known house of Ticknor & Fields, was consolidated with Hurd & Houghton, and H.O. Houghton & Co." Osgood left this new firm May 1, 1880, to found a new publishing house that operates under his name (277).
After the original publishers of the Atlantic Monthly ceased to exist, the periodical became the property of Ticknor & Fields, then James R. Osgood & Co., and finally, Hougton, Mifflin, & Co., the magazine's publishers at the time of Derby's writing (281).
At the time of Derby's writing, James R. Osgood & Co., were the publishers of Joel Chandler Harris's works (438).[pages:277,281,438,591,626,669]
Wrote to Aldrich in 1866 to ask him to edit "Every SAturday" (76). Greenslet discusses how Osgood's business partner, Mr. Fields, retired from their partnership in 1871, leaving Osgood solely in charge of the business. Osgood changed "Every Saturday" to a large illustrated weekly in order to compete with "Harper's Weekly" (100). Greenslet describes Osgood as a "brilliant publisher" but feels "his reach rather exceeded his grasp" and this change was "one of his first enterprises after the dissolution of the partnership was doomed to ultimate disaster" (100).
Greenslet discusses Aldrich's reaction upon the end of "Every Saturday" and troubles in his business relationship with Osgood (106-7). Greenslet also reprints a letter in which Aldrich and Howells appear to be discussing Osgood's business misfortunes (191-2).[pages:76,100,106-107,191-192]
Levin mentions Osgood briefly as Bret Harte's east coast publsiher (155).[pages:155]
Winter describes him as "the clever, versatile, popular, lamented James R. Osgood, once prominent as a publisher in Boston and London." Osgood began his career as a bookseller at "the Old Corner" of Washington and School streets in Boston (25).
Winter remembers that during a visit from Holmes, of the group, "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).
Osgood was a member of the group that was to escort Dickens to the pier at the end of his trip in New York; Dickens wanted to slip away quietly and was instead met with a crowd (182).[pages:25,124,175,182]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015