The Minnesota Historical Society Reserve copy of Mary Butler Renville’s 1863 A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity (above) is one of only five publicly cataloged copies in the world.
The MHS copy is one of only three to have Hugh Cunningham’s story bound in at the back. The photo above shows that Cunningham’s Statement, which was printed and trimmed separately, then incorporated into the book at binding.
A statehood centennial investigation by the Minnesota Historical Society discovered A Thrilling Narrative was the first book copyrighted in Minnesota by a woman living in the state, entered in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Minnesota in July 1863.
The story first appeared as a 13-part serial in the Berlin [Wisconsin] City Courant beginning on December 25, 1862. Despite the title A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity on the cover and on the title page of the 1863 edition, the story bore its original title “The Indian Captives: Leaves from a Journal” at the head of the first chapter (above), and as a running title throughout the book.
I investigated the business model of the Atlas Press and similar small presses in that era trying to discover whether the Atlas had any financial interest in sensationalizing the title on the cover of the 1863 edition. If the Atlas printed little books like this one strictly as a small jobs printer, then the press would have made its profit when the Renvilles paid the printing invoice. Or did the Atlas buy into the printing project in exchange for a cut on each book sold? Zabelle and I suspect the latter given the evidence of editorial intrusion on two other titles produced by the Atlas in this period. But as we discuss in our introductions, the evidence is not conclusive.