What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“PROPOSALS for Re-printing by Subscription, ENGLISH LIBERTIES.”
In the first week of November in 1772, John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, issued a proposal for “Re-printing by Subscription, ENGLISH LIBERTIES, OR, The free-born Subject’s INHERITANCE,” a volume “Compiled first by HENRY CARE, and continued with large Additions, by WILLIAM NELSON, of the Middle Temple, Esq.” The contents of the book included the “Magna Charta, or the Great Charter of English Liberties,” “a short History of the Succession, not by any hereditary Right,” “a Declaration of the Liberties of the Subject, and of the Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy,” and other essays.
Carter inserted the subscription proposal in the Providence Gazette, sometimes placing it on the front page to give it greater prominence. Except for notices about goods and services available at his printing office, advertisements appeared on the final pages of that newspaper. Carter also arranged to have the subscription proposal published in other newspapers in New England, including in the New-Hampshire Gazette. The proposal stated that ‘SUBSCRIPTIONS are received by JOHN CARTER, the Publisher, and by T. and J. FLEET,” printers of the Boston Evening-Post, as well as “by a Number of Gentlemen in the neighbouring Towns and Governments, to whom Subscription Papers are sent.” Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, likely had subscription proposals, either broadsides posted in their office or handbills to distribute to customers, and collected names of those who wished to reserve copies of the book.
In the proposal, Carter advised that he would not take the work to press without first knowing that he had generated sufficient interest to make it a viable venture. “As soon as the Names and Residences of 500 Subscribers are collected,” he declared, “the Work will be immediately put to the Press, & compleated with all Expedition.” It apparently took some time for Carter to convince that many consumers to subscribe to the project. Unlike many books advertised via subscription proposal, however, he was eventually successful, publishing English Liberties more than a year later in 1774. True to his word, Carter included a list of subscribers, six pages at the end of the book. The “Friends of Libertyand useful Knowledge” that the printer addressed in the subscription notice could see their names listed among other “Friends of Liberty and useful Knowledge.”