|Presented for sale by Phil Barber, Post Office Box 8694, Boston, Mass. 02114-0036 Telephone (617) 492-4653|
SCENE in a prosperous Colonial printing shop, contemporary woodcut. Note the double presses and female printers.
About This Era and its Newspapers
The first era of American printing begins in 1639 and ends about 1830. These earliest printed items are the products of a pre-Industrial Age technology, printed on wooden "Franklin" presses on papers manufactured by a laborious hand process from rags, old clothing, and other newspapers. These wonderfully collectible imprints are charming in their simplicity, survivors of a sturdy era of hard, honest work by skilled crafts people. They are most appealing mementos of that long lost world and are among the most sought after of all American journalism history items.
Right, contemporary woodcut of Spring sowing. Almost all Americans lived on farms in this era.
The first newspaper appeared in Boston in 1690, entitled Publick Occurrences. Published without authority, it was immediately suppressed, its publisher arrested, and all copies were destroyed. The first successful newspaper was the Boston News-Letter, begun by postmaster John Campbell in 1704. Although it was heavily subsidized by the colonial government it enjoyed a very limited circulation. Two more papers made their appearance in the 1720's, in Philadelphia and New York, and the Fourth Estate slowly became established on the new continent. By the eve of the Revolutionary War, some two dozen papers were issued at all the colonies, although Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania would remain the centers of American printing for many years. Articles in colonial papers, brilliantly conceived by revolutionary propagandists, were a major force that influenced public opinion in America from reconciliation with England to full political independence. All newspapers from the Colonial and Revolutionary years are quite rare today, with issues before 1750 extremely rarely seen in today's marketplace.
LEFT, Sam Adams, master Revolutionary era strategist whose articles frequently appeared in the BOSTON GAZETTE.
When America's independence was won in 1783 there were forty-three newspapers in print. The press played a vital role in the affairs of the new nation; many more newspapers were started, representing all shades of political opinion. The importance of the press to the young nation can hardly be overemphasized. Newspapers and the occasional magazine were the only medium of mass communication and the sole sources of information needed by Americans to make informed choices about their new government. The no holds barred style of early journalism, much of it libelous by modern standards, reflected the rough and tumble political life of the republic as rival factions jostled for power. The ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791 at last guaranteed of freedom of the press, and America's newspapers began to take on a central role in national affairs. Growth continued in every state. By 1814 there were 346 newspapers.
It is worthy of remark that newspapers have almost entirely changed their form and character ... They have become the vehicles of discussion, in which the principles of government, the interests of nations, the spirit and tendency of public measures, and the public and private character of individuals are all arraigned, tried, and decided ... they have become immense moral and political engines, closely connected to the welfare of the state, and deeply involving both its peace and prosperity. -Miller, A Brief Retrospective of the Eighteenth Century, published in 1803
In these early years of the new independent America, the state was fragile and its future was far from certain. The war that resulted in American independence had been as much a civil war as a struggle against British authority. Loyalties were sharply divided among Americans, between those who kept allegiance to a king whose authority to rule them came directly from God (at least according to Church of England) and those who followed the radical French philosophes’ declaration that the inalienable “rights of man” would now replace the traditional authority of church and state. Many colonila militia units fought alongside the recoats, in addition to those which fought against their traditional comrades-in-arms in past colonial wars with France and Spain.
Atrocities had been perpetrated by both sides, leaving a deep and lingering bitterness among former rivals. One of the most gruesome of these had been carried out by future rebel leader Robert E. Lee's father, "Light Horse Harry" Lee. In order to prevent a column of 400 Virginia militiamen from joining up with Cornwallis' troops in the 1781 campaign, Lee and his men pretended to be sympathizers, and, having gained their confidence, attacked the Loyalist force and killed 90 men. After the fighting had ended, Lee ordered six of his captives hacked to death with sabers in full view of the other survivors, as a warning of the treatment that Americans loyal to their lawful king could expect from the rebels.
At war’s end the largest mass exodus in our history took place, with tens of thousands of Americans fleeing their native land rather than be subject to the radical new government. The revolutionaries’ accusations that the King and his ministers planned to enslave America were seen by Loyalists as politically-motivated exaggerations and indeed remain unproved to this day. One need look only at the true brutal horrors perpetrated by the Crown's representatives against the unhappy people of contemporary Ireland and Scotland to realize how exaggerated the claims of "tyranny" were in America.
In this difficult time the Federalist - Republican disagreements over the most important aspects of political philosophy and practice were endless and passionately defended - and there was violence, as Americans struggled, often without success, to explain themselves to each other. People used the same words, but their meanings and implementation differed drastically. The conversation nonetheless continued and in that discussion grew the symbolic language of the nation, having at its core the notions of liberty, independence, representation, what made a republic, separation of powers, “popular sovereignty,” and, ultimately, who were “the people.” In the controversy over the defining of state, the nation was born.
It has been said that to be American was to participate in the “revolutionary dialogue” that Adams and Jefferson had started. In these early years, our newspapers did not try to dampen the hostilities that this dialogue created. In fact, they amplified them, and helped bring about new crises for the state to manage. But as the only vehicles of mass communication, they made the dialogue possible, and there lies the vital link between early American journalism and American nationhood in this formative period.
The subject period of this catalog ends in the 1830's, at the dawn of the Industrial Age, when dramatic advances in printing and papermaking technology led to an explosion of newspaper growth. It became possible for the first time to produce a daily newspaper that could be sold for just a cent a copy, and so the period came to be known as the "Penny Press" revolution. Previously, newspapers were the province of the wealthy, literate minority, but now the availability of cheap, interesting reading material created a significant stimulus to the achievement of the nearly universal literacy now taken for granted in America. Examples of these later newspapers are offered for sale in the next section of my Introductory Catalog. Click here to go there.
RIGHT, Street scene in Philadelphia, one of America's three large cities. Contemporary woodcut.
All items from this formative period of American journalism are now scarce to rare. An experienced printer and his apprentices could "pull" no more than six hundred newspapers a day; a circulation of two thousand copies per issue was considered exceptional throughout most of the period. Many papers produced less than five hundred copies of each issue. Almost all early papers and magazines ended up discarded or recycled into new paper. Only a few specimens saved by libraries, by the newspaper publishers themselves, and by a handful of individuals, and form these come the examples available to modern collectors.
About The Catalog Listings
These are the finest quality original antique newspapers and magazines, that you might find elsewhere priced at much greater cost. It has always been my policy to present my catalog items at "wholesale to the public" prices. Therefore all catalog items and quoted prices are net, and are not subject to further discount, either for dealers or in consideration of quantity orders. It is our policy to price our items based on what we believe to be their fair market value. I do not set prices at absurdly inflated levels to take advantage of novices or "investors"; nor do employ the common ploy of starting with an unrealistically high price in order to "negotiate" a phony discount later. As over a third of our catalog orders are from dealers buying for resale, at our stated prices, we have every confidence that this policy maintains an ethical standard of integrity and fairness to all.
About These Newspapers and Magazines
Each catalog entry is very briefly described for the general appearance, historical significance, and content of the title. Every issue contains hours of additional historic reading and insights into the world preserved on its pages, much more than I could find the space to describe here. The periodicals offered here are what are called "atmosphere" or "type" issues. They were printed on those ninety-nine days in a hundred that nothing of great historic note occurred. They are still of great value (and quite modest price) for the intimate glimpse they provide into a long-vanished world. Their articles detail what was important to Americans of those days, be it politics, wars, social values, or any of the other enduring human concerns. Even the ads, so modest by our standards, speak to us of the never-changing human wish for novelty, status, comfort, and security.
The exact dates that you will receive will be of my choice as stock allows, all from within the years listed. There is a good supply of different dates in stock of each title, so you may order multiples of each listing with confidence; all different dates will be provided. Catalog prices are per single issue. I cannot accept requests for specific dates or special historic content at these low "type issue" prices but we will be pleased to receive your want lists for such items.
I pride myself on the quality and accuracy of my catalog descriptions, and strive to provide all the information needed to enable you to make an informed selection. Please consult my collector information pages and glossary of terms page linked below, if you are not sure of what any of the descriptive terms mean.
Pictures of Cataloged Items
Please note that the camera flash tends to exaggerate foxing and spotting, some degree of which is normal in old paper and which is not so dramatic in person!
Your comments are always welcome, as are your inquiries, if you have questions about these historic collectibles. We value our customers, and appreciate the confidence you place in us when ordering from our online catalogs. We strive to merit your patronage and to enrich your collecting experience through accurate, knowledgeable descriptions, honest pricing, courteous service, and timely order filling. Enjoy your browsing!
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.-Thomas Jefferson, 1787.
"...the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings." -Thomas Jefferson, on federal taxation, 1811
DETAIL. Masthead of the INDEPENDENT CHRONICLE
N-225. THE MINERVA, typical issue printed in 1822. [Complete issue of 4 pages, quarto size, published at New York by George Houston and James G. Brooks].
Sub-headed a "Literary, Entertaining, and Scientific Journal", a fine weekly with a wide range of reading material on the stated topics, and inclusive of reviews, popular tales, criticism and some poetry. Nice addition to an unusual title collection. Minerva was the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, which that Classically educated generation readers would have recognized immediately. Good example of this popular genre of early American reading material, from the start of the expansion of the weekly miscellany, as urban Americans found more leisure time.
Condition is fine with light normal foxing. . . 4.95
DETAIL factory workers in the Masthead of the LYNN MIRROR
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Contents ©:2013 Phil Barber.