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Printing and Printers in Colonial America (especially Massachusetts)

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July 14, 2015 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)

Books are a central feature in the writings of Lovecraft and his circle, so it is unsurprising that Lovecraftian RPGs take interest in the minutia of books and their makers.  Today I wanted to share a trio of books on this topic that might be of special interest to anyone with an interest in Lovecraft Country – Lawrence Wroth’s The Colonial Printer (1936), G.E. Littlefield’s The Early Massachusetts Press, 1638-1711 (1907), and Early Boston Booksellers 1642-1711 (1900).

Colonial PrintersThe first of these is the most general work, covering all the 13 original Colonies, with information on first presses in each colony, the structure and organization of early printers, the business of printing, and the physical details of these early books and other documents – fonts, inks, papers, binding, etc.  While I acknowledge that this is probably more than you need to know about the topic, its great for anyone looking for some historical details for their tome or details that might enrich a prop document.

http://archive.org/stream/colonialprinter00wrot#page/n13/mode/2up

DamnedThe other work The Early Massachusetts Press 1638-1711 is more focused on Massachusetts, looking at the first quarter century of the printing press in (what would become) the Bay State.  In two volumes, this book examines the tentative early years of the printing industry in Massachusetts, in Boston and beyond, including multiple bibliographies of the early book makers, and (in the second volume) selections from the works of these earlier presses).  Should Sixtystone Press’ Colonial Cthulhu see release (or if you want to work up your own material for that era), these two volumes provide a wealth of information, not just on printers and printing, but on the life of literary men (mostly) in 17th and 18th century New England.

Vol 2 – http://archive.org/stream/earlymassachuse01volugoog#page/n12/mode/2up

Vol 2 – http://archive.org/stream/earlymassachuse00volugoog#page/n8/mode/2up

Finally there is Early Boston Booksellers 1638-1711, for those of you wanting to run a Bookhounds of London game 200 or 300 years earlier and on the other side of the Atlantic.  As an added bonus – loads of possible NPC names!  Hezekiah Usher sounds pretty spooky…

(Astute readers will note that these books were created under the auspices of the Club of Odd Volumes, a Boston-area private club for bibliophiles, founded in 1887.  Call of Cthulhu Keepers in need of a campaign hook, take note.)

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