Penn has one of the world’s best collections of printed material relating to Jonathan Swift and his work . Within this collection is an unassuming pamphlet bound into a volume with other tracts relating to political controversies of Swift’s day:
The *Calves’s-Head Club; or, a modest apology for Parson Alberoni, governor to King Philip, a minor; and universal curate of the whole Spanish monarchy: the whole being a short, but unanswerable Defence of Priestcraft, and a new confutation of the Bishop of Bangor. Jamaica: printed by R. Baldwin,in Kingston, 1719. [ESTC N67272]
This particular pamphlet stood out to me because of its unusual place of publication – Jamaica in 1719.
While from the title this tract might seem obtuse and unremarkable, it represents the earliest known book printed in Jamaica to survive in the western hemisphere, making it also one of the earliest known examples of Caribbean printing.
The first printing press and printer (Robert Baldwin) arrived in Jamaica in 1718 and soon began printing a newspaper, the Weekly Jamaica Courant, as well as reports from the local legislative assembly. While this press was undoubtedly quite busy printing legal forms, receipts, small pamphlets, and other items integral to daily life in colonial Kingston, almost none of these have survived to this day. To give an example of how little survives from these early years of printing, scholars have only located 10 issues of the the Weekly Jamaica Courant printed before 1730. Of these, two issues have been found which date to 1718 (discovered in the binding of a volume in the British Library) and two from 1719 (now in the National Library of Jamaica) . Likewise, scholars have only been able to trace five other short documents printed in Jamaica between 1718 and 1719. The 31 page pamphlet held here at Penn, printed in 1719, is by far the longest and most substantial example of Jamaican printing before 1721 anywhere in the world (the second longest is only 8 pages).
The pamphlet itself is a modified reprint of a satirical tract published in London that year taking a Whig political stance on the subject of royal authority and the established church . The tract was a wild success in the capital, going through at least 11 editions in 1719 in London alone. Clearly Baldwin in Jamaica sought to capitalize on this interest and decided to publish the 31-page work for local distribution. Penn’s copy was likely picked up in Jamaica and taken to Pennsylvania as part of the burgeoning trade between the two colonies. In fact, this work is part of a set of seven pamphlets that once likely belonged to Isaac Norris (1701-1766), a prominent Philadelphia merchant and early trustee of Penn. His father and grandfather had spent time in Jamaica and Norris kept up his trade connections with the island. He gave much of his library to Dickinson College during his lifetime but some books remained with the family; this particular Jamaica pamphlet was bound into a volume sometime later and bears the bookplate of his grand-nephew Isaac Norris (1802-1890) . It was later given to Penn by Dr. Charles Norris in the 1950s.
The other pamphlets in the assembled volume also relate to Whig political themes as well as political matters of interest to those involved in Caribbean trade . Remarkably, one of these neighboring texts relating to Caribbean matters: A letter to a noble peer, relating to the bill in favour of the sugar planters [London?], 1733 survives only at Penn and at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence. The presence of both of these pamphlets together at Penn demonstrates the close ties between cities within the 18th c. Atlantic world as well as the ephemerality of a lot of the early print production of these imperial centers.
The Teerink collection. See Daniel Traister, “The History of the Herman Teerink Collection of the Works of Jonathan Swift at the University of Pennsylvania Library,” Swift Studies, 10 (1995), 80-88.
As an example of how little newspaper printing survives from Jamaica, I know of only the following extant Weekly Jamaica Courant issues published before 1725:
1718:July 30 (BL), Aug.5 (BL)
1719:Feb.11 (NLJ), Apr.14 (NLJ)
1720:June 17 (NLJ), Sept.12 (NLJ)
1721:June 28 (NLJ)
For the best work on printing in Jamaica see Roderick Cave’s scholarship especially his “Printing in Eighteenth Century Jamaica,” Library 33.3 (Sept. 1978), pp. 187-206. For another version of this piece available online see http://www.dloc.com/UF00090030/00027/13j
For more on the controversy which inspired this tract see Andrew Starkie, The Church of England and the Bangorian Controversy, 1716-1721. (Boydell, 2007).
For Dickinson’s collection of Norris books see http://deila.dickinson.edu/norris/ and for a list of books formerly owned by Isaac Norris in the Penn Libraries catalog see here. Isaac Norris (1701-66) had a similar bookplate which is present elsewhere in the Penn collection. For an example see the Penn Provenance Project here
The other six texts in the volume are as follows:
A speech without doors. (London : printed for A. Baldwin near the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane, M.DCCX. ) [ESTC T66280]
The conduct of the allies, and of the late ministry, in beginning and carrying on the present war. The second edition, corrected.London : printed for John Morphew, near Stationers-Hall, 1711. 96p. ; 8⁰. Anonymous. By Jonathan Swift. [ESTC T31147]
Available to Penn community members online: http://hdl.library.upenn.edu/1017.12/106916
Remarks on a false, scandalous, and seditious libel, intituled, The conduct of the allies, and of the late ministry, &c. London : printed for A. Baldwin, near the Oxford Arms in Warwick-Lane, ,21,24-40p. 8⁰. [ESTC T46744]
Available to Penn community members online: http://hdl.library.upenn.edu/1017.12/210364
The necessity of impeaching the late ministry. In a letter to the Earl of Hallifax. By Thomas Burnett, Esq; [ The third edition.] (London : printed by W. Wilkins, and sold by J. Roberts in Warwick-Lane, ) [ESTC T39732]
The craftsmen: a sermon or paraphrase upon several verses of the 19th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Composed by the late Daniel Burgess, The second edition. London : printed for A. Moore, 1720. 38p. 8⁰. [ESTC N4878]
A letter to a noble peer, relating to the bill in favour of the sugar planters.[London?], 1733. 22p. octavo. [ESTC N33606]