Liberty Bell Gallery

A Gallery of Illustrations


  According to Clare Taylor,

"Gift volumes in the Boston Public Library show Maria Chapman often had them elaborately bound to present to friends like Wendell and Ann Phillips, Lydia and Theodore Parker, J.R. Lowell and Caroline Thayer. Oliver Johnson [the printer for the volumes produced from 1843 to 1845] bound some in purple or dark brown ribbed cloth, blind-blocked and gilt stamped with a bell and motto: "Proclaim Liberty," and two slaves, one kneeling, addressing Liberty, the other, half clad, bearing chains. The bell has a pineapple with leaves on top and a dangling rope. In other volumes the binding is pale yellow glazed boards, with the Wynkyn de Worde inscription, explaining that bells ring to announce great tempests and excesses of weather, and to 'abash' or drive out fiends and wicked spirits. Every volume had the gilt bell with words chosen by E.G. Loring, "Proclaim Liberty to ALL the Inhabitants." 

Taylor continues:

  In 1846 one volume had a brown leather spine, gilt stamped with dark figured brown cloth. Another had dark blue ribbed cloth, gilt stamped on spine and covers, the edges gilt. In 1847 one was crimson, blind-blocked and gilt stamped, with a bell on the front cover; another had dark green cloth, gilt stamped on spine and sides with arabesque designs. The copies in the Boston Public Library after 1848 are plain, bound in glazed paper or muslin, with no engravings save the title page, designed in 1848 by J.R. Foster. (89)

Enlarged View (173k) | Detail of Bell (195k) | Picture Credits 


  Engraved frontispiece to The Liberty Bell dated 1839 (for 1840). For the fullest discussion of the iconography at work here--those pervasive abolitionist images of a white female liberator surrounded by black people in chains--see Jean Fagan Yellin's Women and Sisters: The Antislavery Feminists in American Culture (New Haven: Yale UP, 1989).  

Enlarged View (94k) | Picture Credits 


   Elijah Lovejoy was the abolitionist editor of the Alton Observer in Alton, Illinois. He was lynched on November 7, 1837 while attempting to defend his press from a pro-slavery mob. Abolitionist editors were frequently victims of vigilante violence designed to quash public debate on the issue of slavery. Mobs sometimes seized shipments of abolitionist publications at post offices and many postmasters, supported by the Postmaster General, simply refused to deliver these controversial publications. This engraving illustrates Maria Weston Chapman's sonnet, "The Anniversary of Lovejoy's Martyrdom," appearing in The Liberty Bell dated 1839 (for 1840).  

Enlarged View (67k) | Picture Credits 


   This engraved portrait of the abolitionist-feminist leader served as the frontispiece for The Liberty Bell for 1844.  

Enlarged View (41k) | Picture Credits 


   This engraving illustrates John Pierpont's poem, "Plymouth Rock," which appears in the front matter of The Liberty Bell for 1841.  

Enlarged View (43k) | Picture Credits 


   This engraving is the frontispiece for The Liberty Bell for 1842. Boston was the geographical center of Maria Weston Chapman's circle, until she moved, with several of her sisters, to Europe in 1848. 

Enlarged View (43k) | Picture Credits 


   The imagery of this engraving recalls Thomas Paine's poem, "The Liberty Tree." Contributors to The Liberty Bell, like all abolitionists, exploited revolutionary icons and tropes in their attempt to convince the public that abolitionism was not anti-American "incendiarism," but the purest form of patriotism.  

Enlarged View (43k) | Picture Credits 


   The Liberty Bell was plain by gift book standards of the day. Chapman kept production costs as low as possible because profits benefited Garrison's anti-slavery societies. Engraving and other illustrations were rare, but the paper and printing were always good quality.  

Enlarged View (43k) | Picture Credits 


   The first page of every volume of The Liberty Bell included this engraving, followed by a poem dedicated to liberty. The image becomes, therefore, a kind of logo. 

Enlarged View (43k) | Picture Credits 

Return to "Slavery's Pleasant Homes" and Other Writings by Lydia Maria Child from The Liberty Bell.

Return to The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writings.