David Van Nostrand

David Van Nostrand (born in New York City, December 5, 1811; died there, June 14, 1886) was a New York City publisher.


He was educated at Union Hall, Jamaica, New York, and in 1826 entered the publishing house of John P. Haven, who gave him an interest in the firm when he became of age. In 1834 he formed a partnership with William Dwight, but the financial crisis of 1837 led to its dissolution. Van Nostrand then accepted the appointment of clerk of accounts and disbursements under Captain John G. Barnard, at that time in charge of the defensive works of Louisiana and Texas, with headquarters at New Orleans. While so engaged he devoted attention to the study of scientific and military affairs, and on his return to New York City began the importation of military books for officers of the U.S. Army, afterward receiving orders from private individuals and from academic institutions for foreign books of science. His place of business was at first at the corner of John Street and Broadway.

As his trade increased, he began the publication of standard works by American authors on military and scientific subjects. This extension, with the growing demands for books on scientific subjects, led him to move his firm to 23 Murray Street, where he continued until his death. In 1869 he began the publication of Van Nostrand's Engineering Magazine, a monthly journal, which was devoted to selections from foreign sources, but also contained original papers on railroads, iron work, hydraulics, water reservoirs, sewage works, ventilation and mathematics (for examples).[1] The magazine represented an early entry into the STEM fields area of publishing. Links to the volumes are given below, where a sample article is listed from each volume.

In 1884 J.C. Derby quoted Nicholas Trübner's characterization of Van Nostrand as "a gentleman of extensive and varied information, of genial and attractive character, eminent business capacity ..."[2] He also noted that beyond military titles, Van Nostrand published books by Julius Weisbach on mechanics, James B. Francis on hydraulics, Quincy Gillmore on limes and cement, and both Squire Whipple and John A. Roebling on bridge building. The twelve volume digest of the American Civil War, The Rebellion Record by Frank Moore was published by Van Nostrand. A biography of Napoleon, authored by Antoine-Henri Jomini, was translated by H. W. Halleck, an associate from New Orleans. He published Stephen Luce's textbook on seamanship for the U.S. Naval Academy.

James Clerk Maxwell's introduction to kinetic theory in his book Matter and Motion was first re-printed in the Engineering Magazine and subsequently by Van Nostrand in its own binding.[3]

Van Nostrand was one of the founders of the St. Nicholas and Holland societies, and was an early member of the Century and Union League clubs of New York City.

Engineering magazine

The Magazine appeared monthly and carried articles from other publications as well as some written for Van Nostrand. Each issue contained current information: Reports of Engineering Societies, Engineering notes, Iron & Steel notes, Railway notes, Ordnance and Naval, Book notices, and Miscellaneous. Every six months an index was compiled of a completed volume. No table of contents was published for the volumes; rather the index was placed at the head of an assembled volume as seen in these links:

After the death of David Van Nostrand the assets of the Engineering Magazine were purchased by Matthias N. Forney who also acquired American Railroad Journal. He merged these publications to form The Railroad and Engineering Journal. That publication, after acquisitions and changes in name, is perpetuated in Railway Age magazine.


  1. Van Nostrand’s Engineering Magazine, volume 1 from Internet Archive
  2. James Cephas Derby (1884) Fifty Years Among Authors, Books, Publishers, Carleton, link from Google Books
  3. James Clerk Maxwell (1878) Matter and Motion, Van Nostrand Publisher, link from Internet Archive


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