Godey’s Lady’s Book, victorian, patrice le pera
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VICTORIANA - Enjoy articles relating to the Victorian Era. A regular column in each issue of The Tea House Times. Written by Patrice LePera - Authority, Victorian Era, Historical Writing - www.afterimage-art.com

August 2010 Posts


Blog Entry

J/A 10 - Godey’s Lady’s Book by Patrice LePera

posted by TeaHouseTimes Admin, ADMINMonday, August 16th 2010 @ 9:40 PM

From the July/August10 issue of The Tea House Times.  To view the most recent issue, please register / log-in at http://www.theteahousetimes.com for free access.


In 1830 – a “Magazine of Elegant Literature” was begun.  Godey’s Lady’s Book advised Victorians on Fashion, Etiquette, Raising Children, Household Economy, Travelogues, Drawing, Architecture and Home-Building Layouts, Art Reviews and up-and-coming Artists were praised or criticized. 

Beautiful fashion engravings were the feature of each issue.  Godey employed upward of 150 women to hand-tint the foldout fashion plates, allowing the artists leeway in selecting colors, so that comparing issues; one could compare colors for dresses.  Godey Clubs could order one of the expensive magazines and featured tea-parties so that their members could view and discuss the newest Magazine with its beautifully illustrated stories and poems.

In 1834, Edgar Allan Poe contributed one of his earliest stories.  Authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Washington Irving were featured.  Godey writes:  “Remember the Lady’s Book is not a mere luxury; it is a necessity. There is no lady who takes the Book that does not save twice the price of it in a year in the matter of domestic economy. Its receipts, its patterns, its needle-work, its instructions in housekeeping are invaluable to the housekeeper.” Each issue included a piece of new sheet music, as well as cookery recipes – amusing to read now, with references to ‘about a cup of lard’ and ‘a handful of currants.’

“Godey’s Arm Chair” provided Godey with a platform to scold those who made noise in the Opera, praise for his magazine, disparagement of postage prices, and cautions such as, using a “registered letter” to send money was advising thieves there was money in the envelope.
So many of the articles were pirated that in 1845 Louis Godey began copyrighting each issue of the magazine.  This was a first in America, and criticized by other magazines; calling it a “narrowly selfish course” and that Godey would “rue it bitterly.”

Sarah Josepha Hale (author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) was its editor. Godey disliked certain political controversies, and dismissed Sara Jane Lippincott (“Grace Greenwood”) as assistant editor for denouncing slavery.  The Civil War was completely ignored by the magazine, and in consequence, lost about a third of its readers.

Godey reprinted a woodcut of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – albeit removing her crown and his moustache, and “In all of America there was no more important medium in spreading the Christmas tree in the decade 1850-60 than Godey’s Lady’s Book”. By the 1870s, putting up a Christmas tree had become a United States tradition.

Godey sold the magazine in 1877, a year before his death, but it continued to be published until 1898, nearly to the end of the Victorian era in 1901.  The fashion plates document the changing styles throughout the era.

Collectibles:  Ephemera – Hand-tinted colour plates and foldouts. Entire magazines, including the colour plates have become rare, as most were torn out and sold separately.


©2010 by Patrice LePera ~ Authority, Victorian Era, Historical Writing ~ www.afterimage-art.com

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