Of all the vast literature relating to bee culture, four American books have made lasting contribution to the subject. Some others have had wide sale and attained to considerable usefulness, but they have not been pioneers in the sense that these have been. To a great extent, the later books have been compilations from earlier writers, or have told again the story that already had been well written.
Moses Quinby wrote Mysteries of Beekeeping Explained at the time that Langstroth was writing his Hive and Honeybee, yet neither knew of the work of the other. Quinby was eminently practical and inspired his readers with the thought that bees could be the source of a livelihood, while Langstroth was a discoverer and brought a new and fundamental principle. At the same time, he wrote in beautiful language and told of the life and habits of the insects in a way to arouse enthusiasm. Both books were destined to run through many editions and to lay the foundations for a new industry.
Root's ABC of Bee Culture was destined to grow into a cyclopedia of beekeeping information and to serve as the handbook for thousands who were attracted to the new enterprise. It brought together the work of many and made it available in one volume. Both the art and the science of bee culture were outlined in its pages, together with something of its history. Probably more copies of this book have been sold than of any other American work on bees.
Scientific Queen Rearing, by G. M. Doolittle, was another epoch-making book which made public a new discovery. Later books on the subject could only elaborate on the message which it gave. It continued to sell edition after edition for forty years without revision.
There is an interesting story of personal sacrifice in connection with this book. It was interestingly told in the American Bee Journal for October, 1929, in an article on Samuel Wagner by Kent L. Pellett. Wagner had spent much time and labor in the translation of Dzierzon's Theory and Practice of Bee Culture in anticipation of publishing it in America. When it was completed he loaned the manuscript to Reverend Berg, of Philadelphia, and through Berg he learned of Langstroth. Wagner visited the Langstroth home only to find that the master was. absent, but he was much impressed with his apiary and became convinced that he was a step in advance of others in the field.
As a result of this visit, he laid aside the manuscript which he had translated with so much enthusiasm, and urged that Langstroth write a book outlining his own methods and experience instead. The close and lasting friendship that sprang up between the two men was an invaluable aid to Langstroth and well may be credited with bringing Langstroth into prominence and in obtaining for him the credit which he deserved.
Rarely do we find such unselfish interest as Wagner manifested and, without his support, it is doubtful whether Langstroth would have become known as the inventor of the bee space and the top opening hive. The controversy that followed the invention is discussed elsewhere.
Langstroth must have had a pleasing personality to attract to himself men like Wagner and Charles Dadant, who laid aside their own plans to assist in the promotion of his. Both were destined to have an important part in assisting him not only with the book but with the hive as well.
At the time that Langstroth wrote his book he was living apart from his family for financial reasons. He had suffered a period of ill health and, being without funds, went to live with his brother-in-law at Greenfield, Massachusetts, while his wife was occupied as a teacher in Philadelphia. As the manuscript was written-in long hand, of course, since typewriters had not yet been invented-it was sent to Mrs. Langstroth, who carefully copied it in legible form. Later, he expressed his appreciation of her devotion in giving up her free hours to assist with his book.
The book appeared in 1853 from the press of Hopkins, Bridgman and Company, of Northampton, with an introduction in which he stated his confidence that a new era of beekeeping had arrived, and in this he was correct. The Langstroth hive and the Langstroth book were destined to revolutionize honey production, and Wagner was entitled to no little credit for recognizing their value and helping to secure for them the merited recognition.
Charles Dadant revised Langstroth's Hive and Honeybee first in 1888.
But little profit was realized from either the hive or the book, and funds continued so low that six years passed before he was able to re-establish his home. Being separated from his family for so long was very trying, and the infrequent meetings were about the only happy times during that period. His health was too poor to permit his serving a regular pastorate, and he was so intense in his application to the study of the bees as to bring on prolonged periods of what he termed his head trouble, " a deep-seated melancholy which continued intermittently to the end of his life.
The merit of the book was soon appreciated and it has continued to sell until now, an uninterrupted period of more than eighty years, a most unusual record for a book of this kind. Langstroth was unable to make a revision of the book after 1859. It still continued in demand, but after many years the author realized the need of bringing it up to date. In the meantime comb foundation, smokers, extractors, and other equipment had come into use, and numerous other refinements had come to the attention of the beekeeper. No book could be expected to hold its place unless these things were properly treated.