West Virginia, the Mountain State

By Charles H. Ambler; Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

Chapter XIII
Pioneering in Literature and Education

CRADLE BOOKS

WEST VIRGINIA'S literary background is somewhat unusual. Within its boundaries were enacted some of the most thrilling and heroic deeds and adventures of American pioneer life. Accounts of these experiences were handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, enriching the folk songs and tales imported from foreign lands. Meanwhile, explorers and adventurers wrote journals and diaries which added a feature of reality to this rich and, as yet, not wholly exploited heritage. Among these journalistic writings were those of Thomas Batts, John Peter Salling (Salley), Thomas Walker, Christopher Gist, George Washington, Francis Asbury, and the numerous travelers who passed down the Ohio River and through western Virginia in the last decade of the eighteenth and the first decades of the nineteenth century.1

Although not so well known as were the writings of some of the authors mentioned in the above paragraph, West Virginia incunabula, or "cradle books," are not without interest. A Short Treatise on the Application of Steam, by James Rumsey, was perhaps the first of these works. The first edition of this pamphlet appeared in 1787, the place of publication being given as "somewhere in Virginia." The following year, it was reprinted in Philadelphia. This work, together with another by the same

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1
For more or less detailed bibliographies, see Virgil A. Lewis, Hand Book of West Virginia ( Charleston, 1904), pp. 113-173; Callahan, History of West Virginia, Vol. I, Chs. 19, 37; Mary M. Atkeson, A Study of the Literature of West Virginia ( Columbus, Ohio, 1921); Ella Mae Turner , Stories and Verse of West Virginia ( Hagerstown, Md., 1921); Warren Wood, Representative Authors of West Virginia ( Ravenswood, W.Va., 1926).

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