The January number of 1795 contains an interesting engraving of the Government House, so called because it was appropriated to the use of the Governors of the State, although originally intended as a presidential residence when it was thought that New York would be fixed upon as the Capitol City of the country. This building was erected on the spot where Fort George formerly stood, fronting Broadway. The view is taken from the northwest corner of the Battery near the end of Greenwich Street, and shows a part of the city and some portion of the Battery.
In the same volume (October, 1795) we have the last of these attractive pictures of old New York. The series closes with a view of St. Paul's Church, which displays, in addition to the chapel, the lower portion of the City Hall Park, then surrounded by wooden palings. The spire of this venerable edifice still points heavenward, as it did in the days when Anderson drew its graceful outlines, but every other architectural landmark depicted in the pages of the New York Magazine has long since vanished as completely as the baseless fabric of a dream.
With the exception of a few comparatively large engravings, such as the memorial portrait of Washington standing on a pedestal in front of Bowling Green (also engraved by Tiebout), that rara avis among New York prints known as the Rip Van Dam plate of the Middle Dutch Church, and the "Federal Edifice" in the Columbian Magazine, the old periodical before us supplies all the engravings of New York in the latter part of the last century that to the best of my knowledge exist. These penciled records of the past are few and simple, but precious in the sight of every collector of memorials of this goodly town of Manhattan, and in their modest, unpretentious way they supply important links in the chain of our topographical history.
The world's a scene of changes and to be
Constant in nature were inconstancy,
For 'twere to break the laws herself has made,
Our substances themselves do fleet and fade;
The most fixed Being still does move and fly
Swift as the wings of Time 'tis measured by."
Atnes's Almanac, l760.
THE first product of the printing-press which Stephen Daye set up under the shadow of Harvard College, before the walls of that infant seat of learning were fairly dry, was a pamphlet, "The Freeman's Oath," to which immediately succeeded an Almanac for the Year of our Lord 1639. We surmise the compiler thereof, one Mr. William Pierce, to have been a weather-beaten old salt, who having abandoned his seafaring life and cast his moorings ashore for the remainder of his days, was ready to turn his nautical knowledge to practical account. He modestly disclaims the academic title of Philomath assumed by Almanac makers in general, and subscribes himself simply "Mariner."
The following year Daye covered his name as a typographer with imperishable glory by printing the first book ever issued from a press in this part of America, "The Psalms in Metre," or the "New England Version of the Psalms," commonly known as the "Bay Psalm Book," and to the bibliophile as
" One of the books we read aboutOne or more Almanacs were issued annually by Daye and by his successor, Samuel Green, whose name is conspicuous in the typographical annals of this country as the printer of "Eliot's Indian Bible," that extremely useful book which it is said no man living can read. Following in the wake of these early Cambridge printers, every enterprising proprietor of a hand-press and font of type during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries felt it his bounden duty—or found it to his pecuniary interest—to provide the community with a yearly Calendar. Suspended behind the farmhouse kitchen-door, this silent monitor of the passing hours repeated from year to year its trustworthy predictions of returning seed-time and harvest and its dubious prophecies of rain and sunshine, heat and cold, until, yellowed with smoke, begrimed by constant use and thumbed to bits, the last fragment of a leaf fell fluttering to the ground. In view of the extremely utilitarian role they were called upon to play, it is not singular that old Almanacs not things of rags and tatters are difficult to find.
But very seldom see."
In those primitive days presumably few books beside the Bible, the Psalm-book, the Almanac, and now and then a printed sermon of one of the reverend fathers of the Church—Increase or Cotton Mather, Thomas Shephard or Samuel Willard—found their way over the rugged New England hills to remote and scattered Puritan homes. In the hard struggle for existence of pioneer life, with its scant hours of leisure, they doubtless sufficed for the intellectual requirements of the inmates. We are inclined to believe that the Almanac occupied a higher place in popular estimation than its numerical strength (1 to 4) in this primitive family library would indicate. If the question of dispensing with either the sermon or the Almanac came to a vote in the domestic circle, we would not rely with confidence upon the staying powers of the sermon, especially if it were one of those highly impressive religious discourses which the divines of Massachusetts did on occasion preach of a quiet Sabbath day morning to a youth in his teens, in the presence of the congregation which during the coming week was to escort the culprit to the gallows, and under the blue sky of heaven hang him for the crime of sheep-stealing.
The feast of fat things that the makers of these harbingers of the new year strove to provide for their readers is thus humorously set forth by Dr. Franklin, in his Almanac "Poor Richard Improved" for 1756: