The Quiver

South Caroliniana Library

Described as the first Jewish publication printed in the United States, The Quiver exists foremost as an antebellum Charleston literary publication that solicited the intellectual attention of Charleston’s learned and elite. The Quiver’s pubisher, Isaac Harby (1788-1828), was eighteen at the time of the first issue’s printing and had already authored two plays and multiple periodical articles. Born and educated in Charleston, Harby served as member and president of the Philomathean Society, a debate club with membership including Charles Snowden, Langdon Cheves, John Gadsden, and Charles Fraser.

Raised in a middling, Jewish family during Charleston’s early nationalist period, the energetic Harby possessed a strong intellect matched by a desire to rise through the ranks of Charleston’s elite. Privately educated in the Classic tradition of the time, Harby possessed a reading knowledge of Latin, Greek, and French. He earned a living as a dramatist, a newspaper publisher, and teacher. Harby also served as one of the founding members of Charleston’s Reformed Society of Israelites, a group that led to the reformation of Judaism in Charleston, and eventually the nation.

The Quiver involves much of Harby’s intellectual interests, especially dramatic criticism, poetry, humor and philosophy. Some selections of note include: a dialectic on “Fame” between ones “Horatius” and “Eugenius” that stretches over the first five issues (v1:1-5 p1-4, 17-20, 33-36, 49-58); a critique of the play, “The Mysterious Father: a Tragedy in Five acts, by William B. Maxwell” (v :1-2 p4-8, 20-24); anonymous poems that represent the style of the period and the attitudes and preoccupations of Charleston’s learned young men and women, such as “The Death of Jowler” (v1:2 p31), “Sonnet to Delia” (1:2 p32), “The Maid of the Haram” (v1:4 p 63), “The Winter’s Morning” (v1:7 p113), and “Epigram on a Coquet” (v1:8 p 128); previously published poems, such as William Moore Smith’s “Ode to Insensibility” (v1:6 p95); satirical correspondence such as the exchanges between the editor (Harby) and a fictitious fop, Bob Short (v1:5-6 p72-74, 92-93); and previously published essays, such as, David Ramsay’s “Character of Washington”, (v1:6 p86).

Earnest in its promotion of intellectual pursuit, The Quiver enjoyed a small run of 12 consecutive weekly issues, beginning in early 1807 October and ending in 1807 December. The last issue ends with a final paragraph explaining, “And now three months having completed the twelfth number of the Quiver, and the number of subscribers being far from even paying the expenses, the editor begs leave to inform, that he henceforward discontinues his unencouraged publication”.

South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina houses the only known physical copy of The Quiver.

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