What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A large and compleat Assortment of ENGLISH, INDIA, and SCOTCH GOODS.”
Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, had more content than would fit in the standard issue on September 23, 1771. Like other newspapers published during the colonial era, an issue of the Boston-Gazette consisted of four pages. Edes and Gill printed two pages on each side of a broadsheet and then folded it in half. On occasion, however, they had sufficient content to merit publishing a supplement to accompany the standard issue. They did so on September 23. Hugh Gaine, printer of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, did so as well.
Both supplements consisted of two pages. Both contained advertisements exclusively. Despite these differences, Gaine adopted a slightly different strategy in producing the supplement for his newspaper than Edes and Gill did. The standard issue of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury featured four columns per page. The supplement did as well. Gaine used a half sheet that matched the size of the standard issue; all six pages were the same size. Edes and Gill, on the other hand, did not. A standard issue of the Boston-Gazette had three columns, but only two columns for the supplement. The printers chose a smaller sheet to match the amount of content and conserve paper. They generated revenue from the advertisements in the supplement, but kept costs down in producing it.
The relative sizes of the supplements compared to the standard issues would be readily apparent when consulting originals, but not when working with digitized images. As a result of remediation, digital images become the size of the screen and change as readers zoom in and zoom out. The size of the page of a digital image is not permanent, unlike the size of the page of the original newspaper. In the process of remediation, information about originals gets lost if those creating new images do not record and make metadata accessible. In this case, modern readers consulting digitized images can deduce that Edes and Gill used a different size sheet for the supplement, but have a much more difficult time imagining the experience of eighteenth-century subscribers who received sheets of two different sizes.