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Saturday, April 15, 2017

The "Holding An Historical Piece Of "The Black Art" In My Hand" Story

Small book printed in 1796 in Lancaster, PA
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in my brother Steve's garage in Ephrata, Pennsylvania looking at a large table full of ... stuff.  The stuff consists of a small box of old locks and keys, many old posters in frames, old books, rusted tools, a plastic envelope filled with old newspapers and a multitude of old books.  This ... stuff ... is part of an enormous batch of ... well, stuff ... that he bought from a person who is clearing out his business space so he can set up an office.  After looking through about half of the ... stuff ... Steve grabs one small book and tells me I might be interested in this.  Book is about 4"x7"x1/2" thick with a weathered brown leather cover on it that bears no title whatsoever.  
End sheet has the name of the original owner and the
first page tells the story of the book.  Click on to enlarge.
Since I taught graphic arts and printing for years, I knew I should handle this piece of "The Black Art" with care, so I opened it gently to find the title page read:
THE New Teftament Of our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, Newly Tranflated out of the ORIGINAL GREEK; And with the former TRANSLATIONS Diligently Compared and Revifed, LANCASTER, Printed by J. BAILEY and W. DICKSON, in Kingftreet, M,DCC,XCIII.  
Portraiture of Benjamin Franklin who opened
a shop in Lancaster in 1751.
Wow, now it has my undivided attention!  Lancaster County, Pennsyl- 

vania has a storied history of the "The Black Art" with Ben Franklin founding Lancaster City's first print shop in 1751 and for six years he and his partners tried to duplicate the success they had created in Philadelphia.  It happened to be at the same time as the famous Ephrata Cloisters was printing a newspaper as well as a multitude of publications, some in German and some in English.  Due to the immense competition from the Cloisters as well as many other upstart print shops, Franklin's print shop sort of fizzled out and he closed up shop in 1757.  
Historical sign in front of the Lancaster
Newspaper office in Lancaster.
Another Lancaster printer, Francis Bailey, learned the printing trade from Peter Miller at the Cloisters and opened his shop in downtown Lancaster in 1771 where he printed sermons and pamphlets supporting the Patriot cause as well as a variety of other works.  In 1776 he printed one of the earliest editions of Thomas Paine's
Common Sense, calling for America independence.  Now, I searched and searched to find out why the book I was holding in my hand had J. Bailey instead of F. Bailey.  After several hours of searching various websites I found what I was after.  Mr. Jacob Bailey was a printer who arrived in Lancaster in 1784.  Happened to be the same year that Francis Bailey, a supposed but not documented relative, left the printing trade.  
Rear pages of the book look as if they were used  by
the owner of the book to practice his calligraphy.
In 1784 Jacob began his career in Lancaster by printing
The New and Improved North American Almanac for 1785 which had for the previous nine years been printed by ... Francis Bailey.  He also printed a variety of religious books and manuscripts which makes me believe that it was he, Jacob, that was responsible for the book I am holding.  The books pages are rather tattered, being very yellowed.  A small section of the book seemed to be falling out until I realized it was another document altogether.  
These loose pages fell from the book.  They are hand-sewn
in white thread and are printed in both English and German.
This section of about 16 pages was hand-stitched with white thread and half in English and half in German.  It somehow had found a home inside the New Testament book.  I then began a search for the other printer, William Dickson.  He and his brother Robert opened their printing office in Lancaster in 1796, the same year the small book I have was printed, and became the best-known of Lancaster's publishers.  Three years later they founded the Lancaster Intelligencer which was published by them until William's death in 1823.  Interesting that my youngest son just so happens to work for the Lancaster Intelligencer Company (now called LNP Media Group).  So, I think I have finally found the identity of the printers who were responsible for the very interesting religious book that my brother has now given to me.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.    

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