by Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist/Cataloger
What was being printed and published in Maine in the early part of the 19th century? A newly acquired and catalogued collection at the Maine Historical Society tells the tale. The E. Christopher Livesay Maine Imprint Library of approximately 657 titles ranges from about 1772 to 1845, and while most were published in Maine, a few were published outside the state.
Hotbeds of publishing in Maine could be found in Hallowell, Augusta, and Portland, with publishers such as Peter Edes, Ekekiel Goodale, Arthur Shirley, William Hyde, and Nathaniel Cheever leading the charge.
Religion is the key theme of the collection. Most of the collection consists of sermons, orations, discourses, and church publications (including meeting minutes and periodicals), which reflect the religious history of Maine. Occasionally something surprising (and salacious) will turn up, such as: “Report of the trial of Jacob Cochrane : on sundry charges of adultery, and lewd and lascivious conduct,” printed in Kennebunk by James K. Remich in 1819. Cochrane, founder of Free Brethren and Sisters, a religious society opposed to marriage, was found guilty of seducing Eliza Hill.
Masonic literature seems to be next in line to religious literature, and following that can be found hymns and music, almanacs, poetry, and textbooks. A few children’s books are in the collection such as The history of little Henry and his bearer, The Wishing cap, and The history of little George and his penny, all by Mary Martha Butt Sherwood.
Non-religion items of interest include:
- Cavalry exercise : containing instructions for the American cavalry. : An approved work. Printed for E.A. Jenks, and sold at his bookstore in Portland in 1801.
- Rules and regulations of the Portland Rifle Company… : together with the manual exercise practised by said company and the names of the officers and members. Printed in Portland by Arthur Shirley in 1812.
- A narration of the captivity of John Fillmore, and his escape from the pirates, which describes the escape of John Fillmore and James Cheeseman. Printed at Portland: by B. Titcomb, Jun, in 1792.
- Housewrights’ Rules of work of the town of Portland, 1805. Printed by Jenks & Shirley in Portland in 1805.
- A narrative of the extraordinary sufferings of Mr. Robert Forbes, his wife, and five children during an unfortunate journey through the wilderness–from Canada to Kennebeck River in the year 1784 : in which three of their children were starved to death / taken partly from their own mouths and partly from an imperfect journal ; and compiled at their request by Arthur Bradman.Printed at Thomas Baker Wait’s office in Portland in 1791.
- Female friendship : or, The innocent sufferer : a moral novel, printed by Howard S. Robinson for Nathaniel Cogswell in Hallowell in 1797. It is said to be the first novel in Maine.
- An abridgment of the second edition of a work, written by Dr. Currie, of Liverpool in England, on the use of water, in diseases of the human frame : and on fever, opium, strong drink, abstinence from food, and the passages through the human skin ; with occasional remarks. Printed in Augusta by Peter Edes, 1799.
- The Trial of David Lynn, Prince Kein [sic], Jabez Meiggs [sic], Elijah Barton, Adam Pitts, Anson Meiggs [sic], and Nathaniel Lynn : indicted for the murder of Paul Chadwick, containing a compendious but clear and full statement of all the evidence, together with a correct abridgement of the pleadings of council, and the charge to the jury, as delivered by the court. Printed by Peter Edes in Augusta in 1809.
- The American ship-master’s daily assistant : or, Compendium of marine law and mercantile regulations and customs : being a correct and useful guide to all men in business especially those employed in the merchant-service : explaining by judicial decisions the duty, authority, and responsibility of ship-masters and the liability of ship-owners for the contracts or misconduct of those they employ as masters : containing also a great variety of useful tables and commercial forms calculated to assist ship-owners, consignees, supercargoes, and masters of vessels / the whole carefully compiled from undoubted sources. Printed in Portland by J. M’Kown for Daniel Johnson and sold by Thomas & Whiple in Newburyport in 1807.
George Washington received a lot of attention when he died in 1799, and this is evidenced by these samples:
- A discourse, on occasion of the death of General George Washington : delivered in St. Ann’s Church, Pittston, on Saturday, 22d February, 1800 / by James Bowers.
- An eulogy, in commemoration of the “sublime virtues” of General George Washington, late president of the United States, who died December 14th, 1799 : pronounced in Wiscasset, February 22d, 1800 / by Alden Bradford.
- A sermon delivered February 22d, 1800 : the day of national mourning, recommended by the government of the United States for the death of General George Washington / by the Rev. Ebenezer Coffin, A. B., pastor of a church in Brunswick.
- An eulogical poem, on General George Washington : who died at his seat at Mount-Vernon, December 14, 1799. Pronounced at Topsham, February 22d. 1800.
- An oration, delivered January 8, 1800, before the citizens of Hallowell, and its vicinity, in commemoration of the much lamented death of General George Washington / by Eliphalet Gillet.
And on it goes, a way for the citizens of each town to deal with their grief at the death of the first President of the United States.
In 1819 the legislature in Maine was getting ready for separating from Massachusetts, and constitutional documents in the collection reflect that exciting and momentous time in the history of the state. There are basically three series in the collection:
- Series one: Loose pamphlets in custom-made boxes arranged in chronological order (ECL 1-11)
- Series two: Individual books (ECL 12-150)
- Series three: Pamphlets bound into books (ECL 151-163)
This last section of pamphlets bound into books sometimes tells a story too. ECL 154 consists of pamphlets probably owned by Simon Greenleaf (1783-1854), a lawyer, jurist, and Harvard professor. ECL 156 has a bookplate which proclaims that this volume was “Presented to the Maine Missionary Society through its secretary, Rev. Stephen Thurston, by Samuel C. Fessenden, of Stamford, Ct., First Missionary of the Society (1837) to Thomaston, Short Village, now Rockland, Maine. January 1st, 1873.” And other volumes have themes such as Wesleyan Methodists or Masonic fraternal societies.
This collection, collected by E. Christopher Livesay, and given to the Maine Historical Society, offers a glimpse into a period of time in Maine’s history, including its religious and printing history.
To search for the imprints you can either do a (Dewey) call number search for ECL, or do an author search for Maine Historical Society. E. Christopher Livesay Maine Imprint Library.