AAS Visit

On Wednesday we as a class when to the American Antiquarian Society and got to physically see published and unpublished documents in person. The cool thing about this was being able to touch and feel how the paper felt during the time period. Between seeing how a letter would have been folded in order to save paper, to seeing one of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense pamphlets. Looking at the Maryland Journal newspaper throughout the years of the war was interesting, because the quality of the paper in some weeks was completely different from the quality of other weeks.

The Coquette was one of the artifacts we got to look at and examine and there were certain things that I had noticed just by looking at it. The book was leather bound, so we can assume that this was someone’s personal copy. Another reason we can assume that this copy of a personal one is because the pages were partially torn and very fragile. The pages were thin and yellowish in color. While compared to Ben Franklin’s Autobiography which was in very good condition considering it was published 6 years before The Coquette.  The autobiography was in very good condition regarding that it was published in 1791. This copy had a leather bound cover as well, but the pages were less fragile than The Coquette’s. Stamped on the cover page of the autobiography, was for the New York Public Library. This shows that the books was more of an academic medium than The Coquette was. The condition of The Coquette showed that the book was read very often, and that is was clearly popular, while with having the pages of Ben Franklin’s Autobiography having been kept in a library, shows that it was more of a valuable book in terms of academic purposes. Also there was a display of The New-England almanack, or, Lady’s and gentleman’s diary, for the year of our Lord Christ 1788. This showed how the book binders would put in blank pieces of paper inside the almanack so the buyer could write down certain things that happened during that month. It was very interesting to see the sun and moon rises and sets for each of the months. When the almanack would get to December, the last few pages were certain events and news that had happened before the almanack was published for example, “Amount of flour shipped.” [1] These pages were also very fragile, but I think that has to do with two contributing factors: that it was being written in, and carried around all the time, and also the book was very small, so the pages had been folded many times, and harder to open so you are able to write in it.

Looking at just these three artifacts, it really shows how they influenced media at the time, and shows the difference between who was using these specific artifacts. Ben Franklin’s Autobiography was used for academic and for the upper class people. This particular book was kept in the New York Public Library so it was more directed for the people who could afford to take it out of the library. This copy was also published in France so it was in french, which meant people who wanted to read it needed to be able to read and comprehend french. While The Coquette was a novel generated towards women. This book was very well distributed throughout the area. This form of media is different than the autobiography because you just needed to know how to read to be able to read the entirety of the novel and be able to understand the plot of the novel. This is also another reason why the book was in worse condition than Ben Franklin’s Autobiography due to how many times it had been read and cared for. While the almanack was in very poor condition. It shows how communication was developing because who knows people may have compared notes with other people. People kept the almanacks with them all the time so, when they wanted to know if they would get home before the sun was going to set, they had the exact time it was going to set.  The visit to the AAS had really opened my eyes and showed me how valuable history is. With ability to be able to look, touch, and read a newspaper from 1778 shows you how valuable history is to our culture.

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[1] The New-England almanack, or, Lady’s and gentleman’s diary, for the year of our Lord Christ 1788. Providence: Printed and sold, wholesale and retail, by John Carter, at the Post-Office, at Shakespeare’s Head, near the State-House, 1787.

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