What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“CATALOGUES to be had gratis at the London Book-Store.”
Bookseller John Mein published an advertisement that offered to deliver and distribute another advertising medium to potential customers: his book catalogue. Residents of Boston could pick up a free catalogue “at the London Book-Store, a few Days before the Sale.” While they were there, they could also examine the books, stoking their anticipation of the auction scheduled to take place at the end of the month. Mein also offered to send catalogues to potential customers who lived in the city’s hinterland. (Mein addressed them as “GENTLEMEN in the COUNTRY,” though women read books too.)
Some early American bookseller’s catalogues have been lost over the years, but Robert B. Winans has compiled A Descriptive Checklist of Books Catalogues, Separately Printed in America, 1693-1800 that includes 278 catalogues still extant. In addition, Winans identified eight others not extant but for which good evidence can be found that they were printed, 138 other unlocated catalogues, and 265 references to additional unlocated catalogues from another bibliographer’s American Book Auction Catalogues. Though less than half have survived, book catalogues were a common marketing medium in eighteenth-century America.
Here’s the main body of Winan’s entry for the catalogue mentioned in today’s advertisement:
Bookseller’s catalogue: total of 1741 consecutively numbered short author entries, 367 in the first catalogue , arranged by format, and 1375 (numbers 368-1741) in the second, arrangement not consistent, partly by format and partly by subject. Subject headings: [miscellaneous]; classics; law; physic and surgery; books of entertainment (the largest group); divinity; tragedies; comedies and operas; pretty little books for children; magazines; political pamphlets, poems, &c.; maps; Bibles, prayerbooks, &c. Date: Mein advertised the catalogue in the Boston Evening-Post, May 19, 1766.
 Robert B. Winans, A Descriptive Checklist of Book Catalogues Separately Printed in America, 1693-1800 (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1981).