What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A Catalogue of which will be in our next.”
In advance of an auction of “A COLLECTION of LAW BOOKS” to be held on June 22, 1768, Charles Crouch placed an advertisement in the June 14 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He attempted to incite enthusiasm by informing potential bidders that the collection included several “valuable Articles; many of which, are now rarely to be found.” Anyone potentially interested would not want to miss this sale since auctions often yielded bargain prices, even for rare items that might otherwise cost significantly more when they exchanged hands through other sorts of transactions.
Crouch did not expect prospective buyers simply to trust his assertions about the value and rarity of the books up for auction in just over a week. Instead, he advised them that “A Catalogue … will be in our next” edition, a promise that Crouch could confidently make since he was the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Publishing a catalog, whether in a newspaper or as a separate pamphlet or broadside, provided a preview of the auction. It allowed interested parties to contemplate the merchandise in advance; as they anticipated the auction they likely imagined themselves bidding and acquiring some of the items, perhaps increasing the chances they would do so once they found themselves at the auction.
Yet Crouch did not yet direct readers to such visualizations: the list of rare and valuable books would not appear in the newspaper until the following week. He mentioned the catalog, however, as an invitation to potential bidders to peruse the next issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, perhaps assuming that their eagerness would make them more inclined to select items that they did indeed wish to buy at the auction. Alternately, he ran the risk that the catalog would merely disappoint some readers if its contents did not include books they considered interesting or particularly valuable or rare. Crouch gambled that mentioning the catalog in advance would make readers more disposed to examining it and attending the auction.