Paraclete Potter: A Wiki-Bibliography
By Bruce McKinney
Recently I purchased, for $80, an impaired copy of "The Life of General George Washington, Late President of the United States of America, and Commander in Chief of their Armies during the Revolutionary War." It's complete with the cover detached. It is rare but not valuable except to the specialist collector for whom its not quite a black tulip but nevertheless appealing. Its printer was Paraclete Potter [1780-1858] of Poughkeepsie. In looking into both this book and Mr. Potter I was surprised that information is randomly available but not systematically presented. To remedy that and test the effectiveness and utility of on-the-fly bibliographies on small subjects, we have organized a wiki-bibliography of Mr. Potter's printings. It's intended to be freely accessible and open for additions and corrections as may be posted from time to time by anyone with information to share. Pages and links for this purpose are being built and will be provided on our now forming wiki-bibliography pages by October 15th. We anticipate this may become an enduring feature that can potentially support many small subjects. Contributors will be acknowledged unless anonymity is preferred. Dealers who organize a w-b or contribute to an existing one may invite inquiries to purchase material they reference if they are inclined to sell. Libraries may use the same link to encourage communication and support.
A link to the Wiki-Bibliography is provided here and at the conclusion of this 3 page article.
This initial effort includes 149 items, represents both high percentages of the books Potter published and probably a low percentage of his pamphlet production. He was also co-publisher and later sole publisher of the Poughkeepsie Journal [1802-1834] for which only a single listing is given. A permanent link on our home page for this and other [future] wiki-bibliographies will be continuously accessible.
Our thinking is that libraries, dealers and collectors may be interested to use this and other similarly structured bibliographies as a way to aggregate information on obscure subjects. For libraries it is the opportunity to share information and invite contributions. For collectors it is a way to share unique perspective. For dealers it is an opportunity to make a market in a subject and author. It seems promising.
Such bibliographies [perhaps up to 500 items] would also seem to hold promise to somethat resolve the vexing problem of mixing ephemera and other undocumented material within one or more collecting frameworks. Every rare book librarian, dealer and collector have thought at some time "if only I had known" when remarking on something unusual that slipped by. If related material can naturally gravitate into a single setting many parties will be able to see, support, contribute and possibly buy.
So this project, whose genesis is the Poughkeepsie printer, is not so much about Mr. Potter as it is what Mr. Potter's nascient wiki-bibliography may represent. In the Hudson Valley alone along there are many potential subjects: Rondout and Kingston, New Paltz, Ulster County, the Hudson River, and the Delaware & Hudson Canal. Each could require an expert whose life or work deeply involve the subject matter and who might lend a hand from time to time for clarification and education. Such bibliographies could easily overlap and single listings be appropriate entries in several compilations.
All this said, Paraclete Potter is not a household name. He’s not even included in the Dictionary of American Biography. He shows up randomly in the AED as a reference in the Brinley Sale more than a century ago and randomly in bibliographies and auctions ever since. He was an once a weekly newspaper publisher [The Poughkeepsie Journal] when the writing of news, the selling of subscriptions, the setting of type, the selling of ads, the delivery of papers and the collecting