What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Beautifully printed on a fine American Paper, and with elegant Types.”
In the summer of 1772, John Dunlap informed the public that he “JUST PUBLISHED … POEMS on SEVERAL OCCASIONS, with some other COMPOSITIONS; by NATHANIEL EVANS.” He called on subscribers who previously reserved copies to collect them from his printing office on Market Street in Philadelphia while also encouraging others “who design to become Purchasers … as there are but few Copies thrown off above those subscribed for.” In addition to promoting the author as a former “Missionary (appointed by the Society for propogating the Gospel) for Gloucester County, in New-Jersey; and Chaplain to the Lord Viscount Kilmorey, of the Kingdom ofIreland,” Dunlap asserted that the book was “Beautifully printed on a fine American Paper, and with elegant Types.”
That short advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette reiterated several of the appeals that Dunlap previously deployed in marketing the book. He distributed a broadsheet subscription notice that gave prospective buyers a chance to examine both the paper and the type. At the beginning of a lengthy description of the project on one side, Dunlap declared that the book would be “printed on the same Pennsylvania manufactured Paper as this Advertisement, and the same Type as the Poem annexed.” During the imperial crisis, many colonizers express their appreciation for domestic manufactures, items produced in the colonies, making “Pennsylvania manufactured Paper” an attractive alternative to imported paper. The printer devoted the other side of the broadsheet to “AN ODE, Written by the AUTHOR on compleating the Twenty-First Year of his Age” that doubled as a “A SPECIMEN OF THE TYPE.” That preview of the content simultaneously allowed buyers to see what they could expect in terms of the material qualities of the book.
An excerpt from the “PREFACE,” including a history of collecting and preparing the poems for publication following the death of the author, appeared on the other side of the broadsheet. Dunlap appended a note that “the List of Subscribers will be committed to the press,” instructing “all who are desirous of encouraging this Publication, and who may not yet have subscribed [to] send their names.” He also advised “those who have taken subscriptions of others” to send their lists as quickly as possible so he could include all subscribers in the list and print enough copies to match the advance orders. In the newspaper advertisement, Dunlap promised that non-subscribers who bought any of the surplus copies would have their name “printed in the List of Subscribers to the 2d Edition.” They would eventually be recognized among the ranks of those who supported the project.
Dunlap did not rely solely on newspaper advertisements in marketing his edition of Evans’s Poems. Instead, he printed and distributed a broadsheet subscription notice that incorporated excerpts to entice prospective subscribers. He also promised public recognition in the form of a printed subscription list. Unlike newspaper advertisements, the broadsheet utilized the paper and the type for the project, allowing prospective customers to assess the material conditions of the proposed book when they decided if they wished to subscribe. Although newspaper notices accounted for most advertising in eighteenth century America, entrepreneurs circulated many other kinds of marketing media, including trade cards, catalogs, and subscription notices with excerpts and type specimens.