Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2012 Issue

Broadsides from the William Reese Company


Broadsides from the William Reese Company.

The William Reese Company has issued a bulletin entitled Broadsides. These are single sheets, often the means of conveying news during the 18th and 19th century. They may have been handed out or posted in a public place. These are overwhelmingly American, with an exception for the British. They range in date from the early 18th century through the end of the Civil War. There are 32 in all, and each offers an intriguing look at their times. Here are a few.

Times were tense in America when Massachusetts Governor William Shirley issued this broadside: A Proclamation for a public FAST. The year was 1755, the French and Indian War just underway, and no one knew how that was going to turn out. Whether fasting was a good way to win the war is debatable. If not eating could win a war, Napoleon would have conquered Russia. However, the Governor believed the war must have been God's punishment for the colonists' sinfulness. Not having burned a witch in half a century, Shirley believed the colonists must do something to appease God's anger, and not eating for a day is certainly far more humanitarian than killing old ladies. Shirley's fast was not particularly effective, at least short term, as the war dragged on for eight more years, but eventually the British did win, so maybe it didn't hurt. Item 5. $4,500.

What a difference two decades make! In 1755, the British and Americans were working hand in hand. In 1775, they were at each others' throats. When this appeal was sent out by the Continental Congress on July 8, 1775, the colonists had already fought the British at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. The anger had spread way beyond Massachusetts, but the actual fighting had still been confined to that colony. There was still hope. This broadside is headed, The Twelve united Colonies, by their DELEGATES in CONGRESS To the Inhabitants of GREAT_BRITAIN. Friends, Countrymen, and Brethren! It is a long and emotional appeal directed at the citizens of England to encourage their leaders to lay off of the colonies. The appeal was promoted by the more conservative members of the Congress, still hopeful that a reconciliation was possible. The broadside lists the wrongs that have been done to the colonies, notably the Intolerable Acts, but still calls for a peaceful resolution to their differences. Item 7. $27,500.

Item 16 is a list of rules for Kine Pock Inoculation. They were issued in 1809 by Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, the first professor of medicine at Harvard, and an expert in vaccinations. The rules warn against scratching your arm where it has been vaccinated. Vinegar will provide relief for the itchiness. There is no need to change your diet, and working men can go to work. Women, however, should not wash or bake on the 7th and 8th days. Waterhouse at the end explains, “It leaves behind no blemish, but a blessing...a perfect security against the future infection of the small-pox.” $1,250.

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