ABSTRACT

Closely comparing two copies of the earliest image of Nathaniel Hawthorne, a silhouette purportedly cut while he was a student at Bowdoin College in Maine, this article considers the production, history, and authenticity of the image. In particular, the author examines the silhouettes’ watermarks, signatures, context, and provenance to reconcile remembrances of Hawthorne’s classmates, especially those of Horatio Bridge, who recorded that Hawthorne did not have his profile cut at Bowdoin, with the countervailing physical evidence that the silhouettes themselves present, concluding that the two silhouettes—one held by Bowdoin College for over a century and one newly acquired from the descendants of Hawthorne’s classmate Jonathan Cilley—are almost certainly genuine depictions of Hawthorne created in 1823.

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