The First Printing Presses of America

A dozen years after the appearance of Sandys’s Ovid, the Reverend Jose Glover emigrated to New England. Glover died en route in the summer of 1638, but the printing press he was bringing with him arrived safely. The president of Harvard College, Henry Dunster, married Glover’s widow and set up the first press in British North America at Harvard, which itself had been in existence for only two years. Stephen Daye, the first printer in Cambridge, brought out the press’s first big project, The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, in 1640. The Bay Psalm Book, as it is known, went through several editions and set the tone for much of the publishing in the earliest years of the North American colonies, which predominantly included religious titles: sermons, treatises, and John Eliot’s translation of the Bible into the Massachusetts Native American language (1661 1663), as well as other religious publications in the Native American language, and even religious verse. After a second press set up operation in Boston, however, publications with a more secular orientation began to appear, although not always with the authorities’ approval. Marmaduke Johnson was fined in the 1660s for printing a romance titled The Isle of Pines. Even so, when Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative first appeared from the Boston and Cambridge presses, it was titled The Soveraignty and Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed; Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682), whereas the London reprinting was more simply A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682). The New England edition emphasizes the divine framework, while the English edition emphasizes the human drama. Daye was soon succeeded as printer by Samuel Green, who became the patriarch of a veritable dynasty of New England printers, with shops opening in Cambridge, Boston, New London, and New Haven, and even an office in Annapolis, Maryland, during the course of the next century. If religious texts were a mainstay of the printer’s business, government publications were another important, reliable source of income, and printers eventually vied for the right to publish the laws and official proceedings and announcements of colonial governments. Green’s publication of the laws of Massachusetts in 1660 was a major accomplishment and implicitly signaled, perhaps, the connection in early Massachusetts between the ministerial and political orders. The intellectual center of the community was thus bounded by the General Court in Boston, Harvard College, and its press. The culture bearers of the early generations there and throughout New England were, for the most part, the ministers, men like John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, Thomas Shepard, and a host of others who were memorialized in Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana (1702). Their most ambitious productions were typically published in London, both because of the limited abilities of the New England press and because of the desire to speak to the larger British evangelical audience. The first generation of preachers was concerned with defending and defining the New England ecclesiastical order and its covenant theology with books such as John Cotton’s Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (1644) and The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared (1648), Thomas Hooker’s A Survey of the Summe of Church Discipline (1648), and Peter Bulkeley’s The Gospel Covenant (1646). Samuel Willard, a third-generation minister, culminated the defense of the covenant theology of the New England Way, or clergy-led society, with his posthumously published A Compleat Body of Divinity (1726). At the time, it was the longest book published on an American press, and it remained an influential statement of Puritan religious orthodoxy for a century to come. Cotton’s controversy with Roger Williams went beyond arguments about church government and became a major debate about the freedom of conscience. Williams’s Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (1644) was answered by Cotton’s The Bloudy Tenent Washed and Made White in the Bloud of the Lambe (1647), to which Williams fired back The Bloudy Tenent Yet More Bloudy (1652), restating his landmark defense of religious freedom. Although defenses of the congregational form of church order and the New England Way were, in the first generation, largely arguments with critics in England and Europe, the more immediate concerns of ministers were with the spiritual welfare of their congregants. In elaborating the process of salvation and the difficulties troubled souls could meet, many of them published sermon collections that revealed a shrewd understanding of religious psychology. Eminent examples are Thomas Hooker’s final series of sermons published as The Application of Redemption the First Eight Books (1656) and The Application of Redemption the Ninth and Tenth Books (1659), and Thomas Shepard’s considerations of the grounds of true faith in The Sincere Convert (1641) and The Sound Believer (1645). Shepard also wrote about the beginnings of the attempts to convert Native Americans in New England to Christianity in The Clear Sunshine of the Gospel Breaking Forth upon the Indians of New England (1648), a project later discussed by its chief missionary, John Eliot, in a series of reports that appeared between the 1650s and 1680s. Sermons that warned of divine judgments and the necessity to preserve the piety of the founding generation were a staple of the clergy, and these jeremiads appeared particularly at times of religious or political crisis. Nathaniel Ward’s The Simple Cobbler of Aggawam in America (1647) assailed the vices of the day with energetic comic satire, a reminder that for Puritans, being morally serious did not necessarily mean being humorless. Global spread of the printing press – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Mapq8Who Invented the Printing Press? Mapq8The first printing press in America: Parker Printing Press … Mapq8

Leave a Reply

− 1 = 3