Pilgrim Type

With Thanksgiving fast approaching here in the New World, I decided to do a bit of research into a subject I knew little about: what types did the Pilgrims use? Right off, I’ve had to enlarge the definition of ‘use’ and perhaps also ‘pilgrim,’ since English America didn’t see its own printing press until several years after the famous November 1621 feast at Plymouth.

P22 Mayflower by Ted Staunton, published by Sherwood

The Pilgrims read from popular religious books such as the Bible and other slightly lesser-known Puritan works with titles like Observations Divine and Moral; Defense Propounded by the Synod of Dort. These tracts and books were published back in England using types we classify today as being Baroque, or Dutch Old Style.

It was nearly 20 years later when the first printing press of the English colonies was set up in Henry Dunster’s house, in 1638. Dunster would become the first president of Harvard University. The arrangements were made by Joseph Glover who selected a printer, a Mr. Day, and transported him and his family to Cambridge. The first job printed at the Cambridge Press was done on half a broadsheet, and was known as the Freeman’s Oath. No originals survive.

We should end here. Several printers arrived in America after the establishment of the Cambridge Press. William Bradford famously started the New York Gazette as an escape from the constraints on publishing in early Pennsylvania. Benjamin Franklin can receive some credit for popularizing the types of Caslon and Baskerville in America. Though since we don’t generally count earlier colonialists of the 18th century among the Pilgrims, these must wait their turn.

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