What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“We shall refer for particulars to our general catalogue now printing.”
Booksellers, like other purveyors of consumer goods, often listed their merchandise in their advertisements. James Rivington, for instance, inserted a notice that named dozens of titles in the June 10, 1771, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury. On the same day, an advertisement for a “New-Book & Stationer’s Store” in Boston filled an entire column and overflowed into another in the Boston-Gazette, most of the space devoted to naming more than 150 books.
The partnership of Noel and Hazard, on the other hand, took a different approach in their advertisement in the New-York Gazette. In a short paragraph, they listed sixteen books “just come to hand,” but also reported that they recently imported many other titles from London and Bristol. The booksellers opined that “the news-paper can’t afford room but for a few articles,” so rather than publishing a longer list like Rivington and the proprietor of the “New-Book & Stationer’s Store,” a list that would have been incomplete, they directed readers to “our general catalogue now printing” in order to learn more “particulars” about their inventory. Interested parties presumably visited Noel and Hazard’s shop to acquire copies of the catalog.
The booksellers may have also distributed copies to retailers who had done business with them in the past. They stated that they had “a large supply of books and stationary, suitable for country stores” and noted that they sold their wares “wholesale and retail.” Some eighteenth-century printers sent catalogs to associates with the intention that they would use them as order forms. The recipients marked the number of copies next to each title before returning them, a more efficient method than copying titles into a letter.
Noel and Hazard used one form of marketing, a newspaper advertisement, to promote another form of marketing, a book catalog. Other newspaper advertisements that listed scores of titles amounted to book catalogs embedded in newspapers, but Noel and Hazard instead opted to produce an item that circulated separately. The frequency that booksellers mentioned catalogs in their newspaper advertisements suggests that retailers and consumers had access to many more than survive today.