John George Hohman, Part 2

As we discussed in our last post on Hohman, the author of The Long-Lost Friend who lived near Reading, Pennsylvania around 1820, there’s a great deal we don’t understand about the man.  I’ll share with you one particular mystery that’s come up during my research.

One of the key topics that Wilbur Oda covered in the article I mentioned last time was Hohman’s publication history.  Oda had access to the account books for the Readinger Adler, a local newspaper in Hohman’s area which he employed as a printer for many of his early publications.  As it turns out, LLF was not Hohman’s first book containing magical remedies.

An entry in the account book, dated December 23, 1812, describes Hohman’s order of one thousand copies of a work called the “Kunststuecke.”  Oda – with whom I agree – believes this is a work called the Verschiedene Sympathetische und Geheime Kunst-Stücke.  To my knowledge, only one copy of this work is known, and that is incomplete, but it is a short book containing a number of charms.

Here’s where it gets curious.

Two and a half weeks later – January 8, 1813 – Hohman commissioned the printing of another book, Der Freund in der Noth, in a thousand copy run.  This is also incredibly rare – I was able to see this because a friend of mine took my complaints about how difficult it was to find as a personal challenge, tracked down a copy, and bought it.  What I found upon examination was that this book was identical in content to the Verschiedene.

So, in short, Hohman published a book of charms and then published it again under a different title less than three weeks.

Based on my knowledge of small press publishing, I can say that selling through a thousand copies of a book in less than two weeks is highly unlikely.  (Even today, it would be considered really good – the hardback Necronomicon Files sold the same number of copies in three months, and that’s in the age of Internet promotion to a worldwide market, not just selling to German-speaking farmers in the Reading, PA area.)  This means that something highly interesting happened here, about which we might never know.

(And for what it’s worth, I’m certain that Der Freund in der Noth was the inspiration for The Long-Lost Friend.)

Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 12:09 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Dan

    I was wondering if there is any conection between Hohman’s “Der Freund in der Noth” and Tobias Hirte’s (Ed.) “Der Freund in der Noth” printed in Germantaun(town)in 1793.

    As we can see Hohman is not alone there a other “friends” around, for example: Baptista Libertus’ “Freund in der Noth : darbietend bewährte und offt versuchte Artzney-Mittel vor allerhand inn- und äusserliche Gebrechen deß menschlichen Leibes aus … geheimen Schrifften … hinterlegt u. getreulich an Tag gegeben”, Franckfurt, 1710. Friends in times of trouble were apparently not uncommon. As in christian writings the friend for clerical matters was Jesus.

    You mentioned the “Kunst-Stücke” as ordered for printing by Hohman in 1812. Bötte and Tannhof in “The first century of German language printing in the United States of America” identify the only known printing of “Kunststücke” on the basis of typographical characteristics as printed in Reading between 1803 and 1805 by Gottlob Jungmann and Carl A. Bruckmann who were also the editors of the “Neue unpartheyische Readinger Zeitung, und Anzeigs- Nachrichten” from 1800 – 180? (last identifies issue 1802). But the imprint of the “Kunststücke” read 1790 in Offenbach am Mayn with an english remark “copy-right secured”. So if the book has been published between 1803 and 1805 than it can hardly be his own work as we know he arrived in 1802. Then thinking about why Hohman should give his own work in comission with a fake imprint and a faked publication year that only dates back a bit more than 20 years it lets me dare the conclusion that he maybe makes business with reprinting books that are not in his own authorship. Another remark is, where does a redemptioner has so much money ordering 1000 copies of a book. As far as I know the publishing business today from inside either the publisher pays the production cost but then Hohmans name wôuld not be in the account book or the author or editor pays. But then again wherefrom should he have all thet money. Lots to think of.

    Best regards


  2. It seems like two and a half weeks is a rather short time to typeset, print and fold a thousand copies of a work, let alone sell them. Especially since the printer was also printing the news and, I’m guessing, took other printing jobs besides Hohman’s.

    I wonder if maybe the second printing job isn’t actually the same order as the first. The first being canceled, for whatever reason, and the work being retitled (once again) for whatever reason.

  3. Dear Dan

    A few posts ago you wrote about what the pensses blum powder could be that appears in the remedy against worms in a bee hive.
    I thought about it and asked my mother in law who was a pharmacist by trade and speaks french. She told me that the french “pensée” (from french “pensée” for “thinking (noun)”) is the term for german “Stiefmütterchen” or english “pansy” (botanical name is “viola tricolor”) It’s an old medical plant that is also called “Denkblume”. In the 19th century it was a symbol of lovers that send each other bouquets from pansys called “pensées”. Oberon brewed his love potion with viola tricolor. So the french and english name derived from “thinking of someone”. Just like the flower “forget me not” in german “Vergissmeinnicht”.
    “Pensses blum” then seems to be “pansy flower”

    Best regard


  4. […] few of you had a number of comments about my last post on Hohman, so let’s get started with […]

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