Noah Webster and his Spelling-book 171
When the first edition of the spelling-book was printed, Webster had to give a bond to make good any loss that might result, but the copyright was soon very valuable. Authors were in the habit of selling the printers the right to issue editions of their books for a certain number of years, and Webster sold his privilege to a firm in his home city, and to other firms in Boston, Albany, New York, and Philadelphia. Such a multiplication of publishers would hardly do now, but the old-time difficulties of transportation afforded these firms ample protection from rival encroachment. In 1817, when the speller was revised, one printer gave Webster three thousand dollars a year for his term of copyright, and another forty thousand for the privilege of publishing editions for fourteen years.
Each printer varied his issue in minor particulars to please his own fancy. One edition appeared " embellished ** with a portrait of "The Father of his Country," another with a dreadful woodcut that purported to show the features of " Noah Webster, Jun. Esq.," but which made him look like a porcupine. This engraving and the absurd title of the book furnished vulnerable points of attack. Names like " Mr. Grammatical Institute," " Mr. Institutional Genius," and " Mr. Squire, Jun." were applied to the author, and one critic drew up a mock will, in which he bequeathed Webster "six Spanish-milled dollars, to be expended on a new plate of his portrait at the head of his spelling-book, that which graces it at present being so ugly it scares the children from their lessons; but this legacy is