In the middle of the 20th century, any one involved in the science or engineering fields would have been familiar with the D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. publishing firm. It was one of the major science and engineering publishers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Van Nostrand's flagship products, "Van Nostrands's Encyclopedia of Chemistry", and "Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia" are still published today by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
In the latter part of the 20th century, competition in the publishing field became very aggressive, and gradually the Van Nostrand Company was edged out by more successful publishers. In 1968, Litton Industries purchased the company and merged it with Chapman-Reinhold, Inc. to form Van Nostrand-Reinhold Publishing operations. In 1997, the operations of Van Nostrand-Reinhold were acquired by John Wiley & Sons from International Thompson Publishing.
The year 1996, was the 148th year since the Van Nostrand Publishing firm was founded by David Van Nostrand in New York City, in 1848. The first Van Nostrand enterprise was probably not just a publishing firm but was combined with a book store. If we study the history of most publishing firms, we find that nearly all were founded by book store operators. The publishing firm became known as the D. Van Nostrand Company, publishers of trade, technical and scientific books.
During the 19th century the Van Nostrand publishing firm concentrated on the publishing of technical and scientific books whose focus was on the education of people who were to lead the developing industrial society that was then being formed. Some titles published during that time period consisted of Minnefie's "Textbook of Geometrical Drawing", and Pierce's "A System of Analytical Mechanics". During the Civil War Van Nostrand began to focus on military related books such as Captain S. B. Luce's "Seamanship", published in 1861. This book became the official text book of the United States Naval Academy until its replacement by Knight's "Modern Seamanship, published in 1898.
Following the Civil War, publications became more industry-oriented. In 1869, "Van Nostrand's Engineering Magazine" was founded, followed later by "The American Chemical Journal". Van Nostrand Publishing also became involved with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge by publishing John A. Roebling's "Long and Short Span Railway Bridges".
During the late 19th century, Van Nostrand Publishing initiated a book series on Science. The Science series was edited by George Plympton, professor of physics and engineering at the prestigious Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. The famous Van Nostrand Science Series had as many as 127 titles when it was completed in 1902. It was claimed that the Van Nostrand Science series helped educate a generation of engineers. The series was still being sold in the 1920s.
The International Weekly Journal of Science, in its April 1949 edition, had an article with the title: “A Century of Book Publishing”. In the article a quote appears which gives tribute to David Van Nostrand for his contributions during the early Van Nostrand book store years. The quote states: “A hundred years ago David Van Nostrand opened his bookshop in New York. Many of the customers were his personal friends, who came to discuss with him the merits of the latest books; and in a few years his office became more like a literary club than the book shop of today”. Based on this quote, it appears that the Van Nostrand firm continued to maintain its book store well after it had become a major publisher.
In perusing the various online book web sites, I found the following Van Nostrand book for sale. The author was Ernest Guenter, and the title of the book was, “Essential Oils, Volume 6: Individual Essential Oils of the Plant Families”. The book was published in 1992 by Krieger Publishing of Malaber, Florida, and was a reprint of the original 1952 edition. The price quoted was $ 55.
Following the death of David Van Nostrand in 1886, the Van Nostrand family turned the management, and probably the ownership, of the company over to the Crane family in 1888. The last Crane family member to manage the firm was Edward M. Crane, Jr., who managed the firm from 1964 until 1968, the year the Van Nostrand firm was acquired by Litton Industries and merged with Reinhold. Edward Crane, Jr. was the last of four Crane family members to have managed the firm from 1888 until 1968.
David Van Nostrand was born in New York city on December 5, 1811. He was the son of Jacob Van Nostrand and Harriet Rhodes Van Nostrand. After graduating, in 1826, from the respected private school, Union Hall in Jamaica, New York, at age 15, David Van Nostrand went to work for a book seller and publisher. During the 1930's he was briefly involved in a book sales and publishing partnership, but the depression of 1837 caused its demise. During that time his first wife passed away. Van Nostrand then relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana for 11 years, where he was engaged in studying engineering and became engaged in engineering work.
In 1848, David Van Nostrand returned to New York City, married his second wife, Sarah Ann Nichols, and established his book selling and publishing operations, an enterprise which grew into the D. Van Nostrand Publishing firm. On June 14, 1886, at the advanced age of 74 years, he passed away in New York City. He was survived by his wife Sarah Ann but left no children.
The Van Nostrand name is not uncommon. I discovered that one David van Nostrand, and a John E. Van Nostrand were founding members of the Holland Society of New York in 1885. I suspect that they may have been sons or perhaps nephews of David Van Nostrand of the Van Nostrand Publishing firm. The first Van Nostrands arrived in New Netherland during the mid-1600’s. They consisted of two or three brothers, or possibly cousins, who then went by the name of Jansen.
The common theory is that the Van Nostrands probably came from the islands along the northern Dutch and German coast. One of these islands was named Nordstrand, which was almost completely destroyed in a devastating flood in 1634, killing thousands of inhabitants. Many of the survivors settled in the northern Dutch provinces, which are part of the Netherlands. The survivors were known as the people who came from the Noord Strand, translated in English as north beach, or north shore. The “Van” was added, because “van” means “from”. Eventually the name Van Nostrand emerged. However, there are many variations of the name among the descendants of the two or three brothers.
Another theory is that since the Van Nostrand name is clearly Dutch, and not German, that the Van Nostrands came from the northern shore or beach of what is now the province of Groningen in the northern the Netherlands. One of the variations of the Van Nostrand name is “Van ‘t Noort Strant”. Translated into English it means, “From the north beach or north shore”.
For those interested in more information on the Van Nostrands in the United States, the various genealogical web sites have abundant theories and information on the history of the Van Nostrand family.
Van Nostrand, http://longislandgenealogy.com/vannostrand.html
Formation of a Society, Chapter One from the History of the Holland Society,
D. Van Nostrand Collection of Edward M. Crane, 1834-1969,
“A History of Book Publishing in the United States”, by John Tebbel. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1975, Vol. 2, P. 239.
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