FORD’S PLAY in Two Volumes
The relatively simple cover of Ford’s plays were standard for Harper’s Family Library publications, one of the most popular and famous series of the period. The books were advertised by the Harper Brothers as the cheapest series of popular works ever published. Each copy sold at 45 cents, about half of a day’s wage for a manual laborer. The Family Library was designed to appeal to individual readers and educational institutions such as churches, schools, libraries, and, of course, the family. In 1830, the family home was still the most likely place for reading and the principal setting for moral and elementary education.
The success of the series was not without controversy. In his classic Walden, Henry David Thoreau questioned the ubiquitous influence of Harper’s storylines, positing: “Why should we leave it to Harper & Brothers and Redding & Co. to select our reading?” Nevertheless, the Harper’s Family Library was widely welcomed by many social and educational reformers, who believed it greatly benefitted the public education and accessibility of knowledge for low- and middle-class readers.