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Stephen Daye

America's first printer

In 1638, a ship called John of London arrived at Cambridge, Massachusetts. Among the ship's many passengers was Stephen Daye, along with his wife, two sons, step-son, and three servants, as well as Reverend Joseph Glover and his wife, five children, and a few technicians. Along with his family and personal effects, Glover also brought a printing press, with which he intended to print religious books and tracts for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Glover died soon after arriving in America, however, so his wife took over the task of setting up the printing press. Since Mrs. Glover had no mechanical training, she assigned the task of setting up and operating the press to Daye. Even though he was a locksmith by trade, not a printer, Daye was obligated to do as Mrs. Glover asked because the Reverend had loaned him money for his passage to America.

the first printing press in America
the first printing press in America

Despite having no experience with printing presses, Daye set the press up at Harvard College and became America's first printer. Within a year after getting the press operational Daye had produced a broadside called The Freeman's Oath, an 8-page almanac, and the now-famous Bay Psalm Book. The latter, the first book printed in America, was a 5- by 7-inch book of just under 300 pages that contained paraphrases from the Book of Psalms and other period devotional information. Of the 1,700 copies printed, only 11 survive today. No copies of Daye's earlier printed works exist.

one of the few surviving copies of The Bay Psalm Book
one of the few surviving copies of The Bay Psalm Book

After the Bay Psalm Book, most of Daye's printing work consisted of Harvard commencement theses and a printing of laws punishable by the death penalty. The press itself was operated by Harvard until 1693.

WEB SOURCE
Engines of Our Ingenuity http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi733.htm

SEE ALSO
Massachusetts Bay Colony

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The Robinson Library >> Library Science and Information Resources >> Printing History

This page was last updated on 03/10/2017.