December 25

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 23, 1771).

“He intends to stay a month only in this city.”

John Siemon, a furrier, planned to remain in New York for a short time, “a month only,” so he quickly set about introducing himself to prospective clients by placing advertisements in local newspapers.  He commenced with an advertisement in the New-York Journal on December 19, followed by another advertisement in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury on December 23.  In the latter advertisement, he informed the public that he had “Lately arrived from LONDON” and visited New York via Philadelphia.  He brought with him “a general assortment of the newest fashion’d MUFFS, TIPPETS, ERMINES and lining for CLOAKS … now worn by the LADIES at the Court of Great-Britain.”  He also instructed milliners and shopkeepers to contact Fromberger and Siemon on Second Street in Philadelphia if they wished to place any orders following his departure.

Word for word, Siemon’s advertisement in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury replicated the one he placed in the New-York Journal.  One important difference, however, distinguished one notice from the other.  An image of a muff and tippet adorned the advertisement in the New-York Journal, doubling the amount of space it occupied (and its cost).  The same image previously appeared in Fromberger and Siemon’s advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal, transferred from one printing office to another.  Siemon collected the woodcut and took it with him to New York to incorporate into his advertising campaign there, but since he had only one woodcut the image could appear in only one newspaper at a time.  He apparently chose to include it in the advertisement in the first newspaper going to press after his arrival in the city, intending to maximize the number of readers who encountered the image and took note of his advertisement as quickly as possible.  After all, if he planned “to stay a month only in this city” then he needed to make prospective customers aware of his presence as quickly as possible.  Advertising in multiple newspapers helped, but Siemon also strategically selected which newspaper would carry the image that identified his business.

December 24

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

The other NEW ADVERTISEMENTS are in the additional Sheet.”

Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, did a brisk business in advertising in the early 1770s.  He often had to distribute supplemental pages devoted exclusively to advertising when he did not have sufficient space to publish all the paid notices in the standard edition.  Such was the case on December 24, 1771.  Wells inserted a note at the bottom of the final column on the third page, complete with a manicule to draw attention to it, to inform readers (and advertisers looking for their notices) that “The other NEW ADVERTISEMENTS are in the additional Sheet.”

Wells was savvy in the production of that supplement, refusing to commit more resources than necessary.  The “additional Sheet” differed in size from the standard issue.  Unfortunately, digitized copies of eighteenth-century newspapers usually do not include dimensions; without examining the original, I cannot say with certainty that Wells adopted a particular strategy, but I can describe what seems likely based on both the visual evidence and common practices among eighteenth-century printers.

Let’s start with a description of the standard issue.  Like other newspapers of the era, it consisted of four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and then folding it in half.  Most newspapers published in the early 1770s had three columns per page, for a total of twelve columns in an issue, but the South-Carolina and American General Gazettehad four columns per page, bringing the total to sixteen per issue.  In this instance, the “additional Sheet” also consisted of four pages, two on each side of a folded broadsheet, but the format differed from the standard issue.  Three shorter columns filled most of the page, but a fourth column featured advertisements rotated perpendicular to the rest of the text in order to for on the page.  Printers often deployed this technique to maximize the amount of space they filled while still using the same column width to prevent breaking down and resetting type multiple times for advertisements that ran for several weeks.  The “additional Sheet” had four columns in each of the perpendicular columns.  It appears that the “additional Sheet” was actually a half sheet that Wells turned on its side.

Why did he do that?  On the same day, Charles Crouch distributed an advertising supplement with the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  He also used a half sheet, though he did not adjust the format.  As a result, that supplement consisted of only two pages rather than the four that Wells created by folding a half sheet in half once again.  Compared to Crouch’s approach, the most common one throughout the colonies, Well’s method did not reduce the amount of paper required to print the supplement.  It did, however, yield a greater number of pages and gave the impression that advertisements overflowed into the margins.  This may have been Wells’s intention, a visual suggestion to both subscribers and prospective advertisers concerning the popularity of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

Slavery Advertisements Published December 24, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina and American General Gazette (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

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Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 24, 1771).

December 23

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (December 23, 1771).

Give him the Preference of buying his Ames’s Genuine Almanack before any PIRATED Edition.”

Ezekiel Russell claimed that he published “The Original Copy of Ames’s Almanack, For the Year 1772.”  On December 9, 1771, he announced that he would print the almanac the following week, as well as disseminate new advertisements that included the “Particulars of the above curious Almanack with the Places where the Original are sold.”  True to his word, he placed much more extensive advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy on December 16 and 23.  Those notices included an overview of the contents, such as “Eclipses” and “Courts in the Massachusetts-Bay, New-Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode-Island,” as well as a list of nearly twenty printers and booksellers who carried copies, many of them in Boston, but others in Salem, Newburyport, and Portsmouth.

Russell also took an opportunity to air a grievance with other printers in hopes of convincing consumers to purchase his edition of Ames’s Almanack.  He asserted that he “purchased of Doctor AMES, at a great Expence, the true Original Copy of his Almanack.”  That being the case, he hoped that “the Publick, with their usual Impartiality,” would buy “hisAmes’s Genuine Almanack before any PIRATED Edition.”  Furthermore, he accused “some of his Elder Typographical Brethren,” other printers in Boston, of attempting to “prejudice the Interest of a YOUNGER BROTHER.”  In other words, Russell declared that his competitors, men with much greater experience as printers, unfairly attempted to sabotage his endeavor and ruin his business.  It was not the first time that residents of Boston witnessed disputes over which printers published the “Original” or the most accurate version of Ames’s Almanack.  In a crowded marketplace, several printers aimed to profit from the popular title.  Russell sought to convince consumers that the character of the printer mattered as much as the contents of the almanac.  At the very least, he wanted those who purchased copies of Ames’s Almanack to make informed decisions about what kind of behavior they were willing to tolerate from printers who produced and sold the almanac.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 23, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Boston Evening-Post (December 23, 1771).

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Boston Evening-Post (December 23, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 23, 1771).

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New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 23, 1771).

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Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 23, 1771).

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Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 23, 1771).

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Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 23, 1771).

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Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 23, 1771).

December 22

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

New-York Journal (December 19, 1771).

“MUFFS, TIPPETS, ERMINE and lining for CLOAKS.”

In the fall of 1771, furriers Fromberger and Siemon placed a series of advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal.  On several occasions, an image of a muff and tippet adorned their notices, helping to draw attention to the various appeals they made concerning fashion, quality, and price.  The partners even offered ancillary services to entice prospective customers, including caring for furs “gratis for the summer season.”

The furriers apparently considered the image of the muff and tippet so effective in promoting their enterprise that when Siemon traveled to New York to conduct business there he took the woodcut with him in order to enhance advertisements he placed in newspapers published in that busy port.  He placed a notice in the December 19, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal that included both the image and copy, effectively doubling the cost.  According to the newspaper’s colophon, John Holt charged five shillings to insert “Advertisements of no more Length than Breadth” for four weeks and “larger Advertisements in the same Proportion.”  The woodcut doubled the length of Siemon’s advertisement, but very well may have been worth the additional expense if it aided in cultivating a clientele previously unfamiliar with the furrier.

Familiar appeals accompanied the visual image.  Siemon informed “the LADIES and others” that he brought with him “a general assortment of the newest fashion’d MUFFS, TIPPETS, ERMINE and lining for CLOAKS … now worn by the LADIES at the Court of Great-Britain,” echoing appeals to fashion, taste, and gentility advanced in advertisements that ran in newspapers in Philadelphia.  He also encouraged prospective customers to make their purchases soon because he would be in New York for a limited time.  Siemon had plans to return to Philadelphia, so would stay “a month only in this city.”  Milliners and shopkeepers who missed that window of opportunity, however, could direct orders to Fromberger and Siemon in Philadelphia.

Although printers provided stock images of ships, houses, horses, indentured servants, and enslaved men and women, woodcuts with images that represented specific businesses belonged to the advertisers to transfer from newspaper to newspaper as they saw fit.  Some advertisers did indeed deploy the same woodcut in multiple newspapers printed in a city, but it was much more unusual for advertisers to transport an image to newspapers published in other cities. Fromberger and Siemon did so, their advertisement running in the Pennsylvania Journal without an image on the same day that Siemon’s advertisement first appeared in the New-York Journal with an image.  Having gained some visibility in Philadelphia over the course of several months, the furriers likely aimed to achieve maximum effectiveness through using the woodcut to call attention to their advertisements in another city when one of the partners visited and temporarily conducted business there.

December 21

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (December 21, 1771).

“THE NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK … For the Year of our LORD 1772.”

As the first day of winter arrived and the new year approached, John Carter and Benjamin West continued marketing the almanacs that West wrote and Carter printed.  In the December 21, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette, they inserted an advertisement that advised prospective customers that they could purchase “THE NEW-ENGLAND ALMANACK, OR Lady’s and Gentleman’s DIARY, For the Year of our LORD 1772” from either the printer of the author.  The contents included “the usual Astronomical Calculations,” undertaken by West, an astronomer, mathematician, and professor at Rhode Island College (now Brown University), as well as “a Variety of Matter, useful, instructive, and entertaining.”  In addition, the printer and the astronomer also sold “West’s SHEET-ALMANACK, For the Year 1772,” giving consumers a choice of formats.  The pamphlet version was more portable, but the broadsheet better for hanging on a wall for easy reference.

Carter and West had been marketing these products for several months.  On September 21, they advised prospective customers that the New-England Almanack would be published just days later.  To generate demand, especially among retailers, they listed prices that included a discount for purchasing a dozen and an even more significant discount for purchasing at least two dozen.  A little over a month later, they advertised the sheet almanac, once again offering a discount for purchasing a dozen.  For a while, they ran separate advertisements for the two formats, but by the end of the year incorporated parts of each advertisement into a single notice.  Perhaps they determined that they had already achieved any additional visibility garnered from multiple advertisements.  Alternately, Carter, who also printed the Providence Gazette, may have streamlined the advertisements to create more space for paid notices, news, and other items in the newspaper.  After several months of promoting the almanacs, Carter and West may have decided that additional advertisements, even though they proclaimed “JUST PUBLISHED,” operated as reminders for most readers, making multiple or elaborate notices ineffective or unnecessary.  Having worked together on publishing almanacs for several years, they very well may have calibrated their advertising with the same attention that West gave to performing the astronomical calculations.

Slavery Advertisements Published December 21, 1771

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements about enslaved people – for sale as individuals or in groups, wanted to purchase or for hire for short periods, runaways who liberated themselves, and those who were subsequently captured and confined in jails and workhouses – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not purport to own enslaved people were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing enslaved men, women, and children or assisting in the capture of so-called “runaways” who sought to free themselves from bondage. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by enslavers rather than enslaved people themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Providence Gazette (December 21, 1771).

December 20

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 20, 1771).

Every Gentleman who holds and Office … ought and will furnish himself with one.”

A week after first advertising “A Civil, Military & Ecclesiastical REGISTER of the Province of New-Hampshire, for the YEAR 1772” in the New-Hampshire Gazette, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle updated their advertisement.  The original version announced publication of the pamphlet and listed its contents, but did not make any direct appeals to prospective customers.  The Fowles remedied that in the subsequent iteration by adding six new lines following the contents.  On one line, they advised readers, “Price half a Pistereen only,” letting them know that acquiring a copy was indeed affordable.

The other appeal addressed the many officeholders whose names appeared in the Register, everyone from “Judges and Officers of the Superior Court, and Courts of Admiralty” and “Justices of the Peace through the Province and for each County” to “Custom House Officers and Notaries Public” and “Sheriffs, Judges and Registers of Probate, Recorders of Deeds and Treasurers of each County” to “Field Officers of the several Regiments in each County” and “Ministers … of the several Denominations in each County.”  The Fowles decreed that “Every Gentleman who holds and Office, and has the Honor of having it recorded in the above Register, undoubtedly ought and will furnish himself with one.”  For local officials, this was an opportunity to see their names listed alongside those of “the Governor, Council and House of Representatives.”  The Fowles saw the various officeholders as a likely customer base for the publication, but they also encouraged others to purchase a copy “in order rightly to know their Superiors.”  The Fowles probably did not mean, at least not exclusively, that colonists needed to recognize the officeholders among them in order to show proper deference; instead, “rightly [knowing] their Superiors” may have also referred to knowing who to contact with concerns and requests in order to maintain good government throughout the colony.

Apparently, neither those who held office nor “other Persons” heeded the call to buy their own copies in sufficient numbers to convince the Fowles to publish a Register for 1773 or any subsequent year.  The disruptions of the imperial crisis and the American Revolution may have also played a role in such decisions.  They experimented with offering a product to consumers, but even after tinkering with their advertising did not manage to generate a robust market for it.

December 19

GUEST CURATOR:  Colin Wren

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Massachusetts Spy (December 19, 1771).

“CHEEVER’S Latin ACCIDENCE, carefully revised.”

Ezekiel Cheever, the author of A Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue, was a Puritan who migrated to New England in 1637. He originally settled in Connecticut before moving to Massachusetts to teach Latin and grammar in the public schools. In 1670 he took the position of Master of the Boston Latin Grammar School which he held until his death in 1708. During his life he was widely loved by his students despite his strict reputation. Under his leadership the school became regarded as one of the best in the colonies and his students included men such as the poet Michael Wigglesworth, Governor Johnathan Belcher, and Judge Samuel Sewall. One year after his death, one of Cheever’s students compiled his teaching notes into a book and published Cheever’s Accidence in 1709. The book was exceedingly popular and became the unofficial standard textbook for teaching Latin grammar in America. In all, twenty-three editions of the book were published, the last of which was published in 1838. While “Latin ACCIDENCE,” as the book was called in this advertisement, was written to teach students Latin, it also taught them the basics of English grammar and helped to formalize definitions that are still taught in schools today.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Colin selected an advertisement for the fifteenth edition of Ezekiel Cheever’s Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue. Two variants of that edition hit the market in 1771.  In one, the imprint stated, “Printed and sold by Isaiah Thomas, in Union-Street.”  In the other, the imprint declared, “Printed by Isaiah Thomas, for John Perkins, on Union-Street.”  According to the catalogers at the American Antiquarian Society, only the imprints differed between the two volumes.  Perkins most likely placed the advertisement in the Massachusetts Spy since it advised prospective customers that he sold the textbook, as well as a “few sets of ACCOUNT BOOKS,” but did not mention Thomas.

What prompted Thomas to produce variant imprints for the fifteenth edition?  Did Perkins pay to publish only a certain number to carry at his shop, assuming the risk for those copies but not for any others?  If so, did he and Thomas agree in advance that the printer would produce additional copies that omitted Perkins’s name from the imprint?  Or did production take place in the opposite order?  Perhaps Thomas initiated the project, but Perkins recognized an opportunity to profit from a new edition, one with significant improvements.  The advertisement did underscore that the volume had been “carefully revised, and the numerous errors of the former editions corrected by one of the Masters of the South Grammer School in Boston.”

Whatever the order of publication of the variants, Perkins turned to Thomas when he set about marketing the book, inserting an advertisement in the newspaper that Thomas published.  Did Perkins have to pay for that advertisement?  Or was advertising part of a more extensive agreement?  Given that Perkins also promoted “BINDING work performed in the neatest manner, with fidelity and dispatch,” the two entrepreneurs, fellow members of the book trades who possessed different skills, may have negotiated several in-kind exchanges that went beyond publishing Cheever’s “Latin ACCIDENCE.”