What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The APPENDIX is not in the London Edition.”
Henry Miller, printer of the Wöchentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote, published and advertised an American edition of A Complete German Grammar by John James Bachmair in 1772. German-speaking colonizers constituted a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s population, prompting Miller, himself born in the principality of Waldeck on the Upper Rhine, to believe a local market existed for this book. He informed prospective customers that he charged nine shillings for his edition, compared to fourteen shillings for the London edition.
In addition to declaring that he published the third edition, “greatly altered and improved,” Miller also promoted an Appendix that included “An Index of German Words similar in Sound, but of different Orthography and Signification,” “Names of the most common Occupations and Trades, as also the Names of the Materials and Implements, &c. thereto belonging,” and an “Explication of a German Proverb.” In a nota bene, Miller underscored that all of those items were bonus materials not included in the London edition. In addition to the lower price, the useful and entertaining supplemental materials likely made Miller’s American edition seem like an even better choice for colonizers interested in learning German.
Miller also deployed a blurb from the first edition in his efforts to market the book. He quoted from the preface to the first edition, highlighting Bachmair’s assertion that “those who have a Mind to learn fundamentally the German Language, will find such plain and easy Instructions, that, even without a Master, they may at least attain to read and understand it.” The blurb simultaneously offered encouragement and set expectations. With some diligence, those who studied from the book could learn to read and understand German, even if they did not become fluent enough to speak and write the language. They could achieve that level of proficiency studying on their own rather than working with tutors or schoolmasters.
Miller incorporated a variety of marketing strategies into advertisements for his American edition of Bachmair’s German Grammar. He hawked supplementary materials that did not appear in the more expensive London edition, while also including a blurb in which the author gave encouragement and promised “plain and easy Instructions.” In describing the contents of the appendix and inserting the blurb, Miller sought to help prospective customers imagine themselves learning German with greater ease than they previously anticipated.