London: Printed for J. Debrett, J. Sewell, R. Baldwin & J. Bew and E. Harlowe, 1789. ,271pp. Modern half calf and marbled boards, spine gilt, gilt morocco label. Minor scattered foxing. Very good. Untrimmed. Item #WRCAM39226B
First edition of this important work on early printed and manuscript Americana, with a valuable introductory essay. This anonymous work has in the past been ascribed variously to "[Alexander] Dalrymple, Homer, Long, and Reid" (Church), but is now known to have been written by the miscellaneous writer, Leman Thomas Rede, a student of the Middle Temple (see Stuart C. Sherman, THE WILLIAM & MARY QUARTERLY, 3rd Ser., Vol. 4, No. 3 [July 1947], pp.332-49). According to the title, Rede compiled the work from the holdings of the British Museum "and the most celebrated public and private libraries, reviews, catalogues, &c." It is of particular value as it includes manuscript material in addition to printed works, and also for the seventeen-page "Introductory Discourse on the State of Literature in North and South America," which includes musings on the benefits of freedom of the press to the development of "Genius" (South America does not compare well with North), as well as interesting details of bookselling in the United States. The demand was for small format works on practical matters; imported books were generally cheaper than home-produced editions (even with the hefty premiums that booksellers were able to place on the imports) because of the cost of materials and printers' wages. CHURCH 1235. SABIN 5198.