The Lithuanian national movement of the 19th c. had mostly manifested itself in the literature, which, under the Lithuanian press ban, was being published both in East Prussia and in Lithuanian communities in the United States, and which was being distributed likewise in Lithuania, East Prussia, and the United States. That same time period saw the forming of a new system designed to inform readers of new releases, which was utilized to help any members of the Lithuanian diaspora to keep updated on the newest literature affairs. This system had encompassed the press of both East Prussia and the United States, and it would inform the readers of the newest publications both from the location of where the newspaper was being released and about the new books and periodicals that were being published in foreign countries; thus, it had created a reflection of Lithuanian literature as a whole. The aim of this article is to analyze the circumstances surrounding the informing of readers about the newest publications as it had occurred in the American Lithuanian press up to 1904; main focus is paid here to the information regarding Lithuanian and Lithuanistic publications released in East Prussia and elsewhere in Europe. The basis of this study is a list of 322 Lithuanian and Lithuanistic publications released in Europe; the list itself took shape after overviewing 11 Lithuanian newspapers published in the United States. The 322 publications had been distributed in Lithuanian communities in the United States and were announced by the local Lithuanian press.
This study has showed that the first announcements about the new books appeared in the US Lithuanian press in the late 1890s, and in the early 20th c., designated columns for publishing news became an ordinary practice. Unfortunately, a lack of authors capable of writing critical reviews of the new publications forced the émigré press to be content with mostly annotations and very laconic commentaries about the pros and cons of new publications. The fact that announcements were made about books (mostly publications released in Europe) that were not part of the American salespeople’s repertoire allows us to believe that the editorial boards of the newspapers behaved thus acting upon the informational mission of their newspapers, their societal role, and in seeking to support the national movement and the dissemination of its ideas as well as the mission of its consolidation.
In evaluating the repertoire of the introduced publications, we may speak not only of the dissemination of information on these works but also of a particular perspective that the editorial boards of these periodicals had and which was based on a particular set of values. Attention is paid to Lithuanian literature, its growth and place in the society of that time, and how it matches the needs of the readers. The introduced literature repertoire was dominated by secular works that had reflected the growth of Lithuanian literature and answered the demands of education. The books were oftentimes evaluated first and foremost based on the aspect of how much practical information could they provide – this had to do with the restricted possibilities of Lithuanian education; for example, the amount of information these works could give on the topics of farming, medicine, craftsmanship, and the natural sciences was an important aspect. With time, more attention began to be paid to societal-political literature, which was associated to the dissemination of the ideologies of those times, and Lithuanistic works written by foreign (not Lithuanian) authors. The works were also increasingly evaluated based on the political views of the editorial boards, which had also determined the fact that the readers were urged to buy some books while others were introduced as no good.
Yet at the same time it may be observed that attention was being paid to publishing culture, the linguistic aspects especially, prompted by the changes that were happening in written Lithuanian. Attempts were made to limit the distribution of books that had not met the standards of the written languages; however, owing to the poorness of literature, the practical value of the book was of the most importance. The perspective regarding the importance of some books can also be seen based on how many newspapers had referenced those books in their news and how well were these works met.
In understanding that the system designed to inform the readership of the books did not meet the standards of even its contemporaries, it must still be said that during those times, a tradition had taken shape to introduce publishing news in the periodicals. This tradition was developed and perfected during later times, but its proper evaluation would require the continuation of its study.
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