What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The Sale of this Book has been so surprizingly rapid, as to demand Three Editions in New-York and Philadelphia.”
Two advertisements for “A DISSERTATION on the GOUT, and all CHRONIC DISEASES” by William Cadogan, “Fellow of the College of Physicians,” ran in the November 2, 1772, edition of the Boston-Gazette, one right above the other. Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of that newspaper and printers of a Boston edition of Cadogan’s book, inserted the first advertisement. Joseph Edwards, a bookseller, placed the other notice.
Both advertisements attempted to leverage the popularity of the book in other markets to generate sale in Boston. Edes and Gill confided that the “above Pamphlet had Nine Editions in England in the short Space of Five Months.” Edwards provided a similar figure, stating that the “Book is so much esteemed in England, that it has already past through Eight Editions.” It had also gained following in the colonies. “The Sale of this Book has been so surprizingly rapid, as to demand Three Editions in New-York and Philadelphia.” Several months earlier, William Bradford and Thomas Bradford deployed a similar strategy in marketing their Philadelphia editions. Given that so many other readers already purchased the book, the printers and the bookseller in Boston suggested that prospective customers should not miss out on acquiring copies of this bestseller.
Such demand suggested that the “rational and natural Method of CURE” for gout and other chronic illnesses that Cadogan proposed in the book was indeed effective. Indeed, Edes and Gill even made a joke at the expense of colonizers in New York. They observed that the book “has had such an Effect on the veteran Bacchanalians of New-York, that Madeira is no longer a fashionable Prescription for the Cure of this Disease.” The printers included a short blurb from the book, explaining how “strong Wines” like Madeira actually made gout worse rather than better. Cadogan was so convincing and his cure so effective that even New Yorkers who previously imbibed too much Madeira in their quest to quell the symptoms of gout had given up that remedy in favor of a more “judicious” approach.
Edwards did not resort to such levity. Instead, he emphasized the accessibility of Cadogan’s writing. A wide array of readers, not just physicians, could understand the discourse and recommendations in the book. “The Doctrines advanced in it,” Edwards declared, “are rational and philosophical, and are delivered in a familiar style, which renders them intelligible to Gentlemen of all professions, as well as to Physicians.” The bookseller sought to avoid the impression of a niche market for the medical text.
In their newspaper notices, the printers and the bookseller promoted the popularity of Cadogan’s Dissertation on the Gout, the effectiveness of the “Method of “CURE” outlined in it, and the accessible style. Running simultaneous advertisements also testified to the popularity of the book. Edes and Gill as well as Edwards aimed to encourage sales by creating a wide market that extended beyond physicians.