The American publisher Thomas Bird Mosher (1852-1923) published his first book in 1891, a poem titled Modern Love by George Meredith, without the author's knowledge or permission. The next year he published James Thomson's The City of Dreadful Night, and the year after that, 1893, he published two books, including his first anthology, Songs of Adieu. By 1895, he had published 16 books, and decided to publish full-time.
Mosher believed that everyone should have access to good literary works, and produced small, beautifully printed books at a reasonable price, rendering them affordable to the middle class. Mosher himself became notorious as the impassioned “Portland Pirate” of the turn-of-the-century printing world. The international copyright laws of 1891 were widely misunderstood and commonly flouted. The United States only protected works from foreign publishers if the book was published in America. Any material not published in the States was fair game. Mosher’s books were banned in England, but some authors defended Mosher for giving them an American audience they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Thomas Mosher chose quality materials for his publications and often used handmade paper from Holland or vellum imported from Japan. Forty seven of Mosher Press books were entirely printed on vellum made from sheep or calf skin.
The Special Collections Department at the UW-Parkside Archives & Area Research Center owns several editions of Mosher Press publications, including Underwoods by Robert Louis Stevenson, and Danted at Verona, by Dante Gabriel Rosetti.
For more information on the Thomas Bird Mosher Press, including a biography of Thomas Bird Mosher, history of the press and links to related sites, please visit www.ThomasBirdMosher.net