This Day in History: October 14th, 1639

This Day in History: October 14th, 1639

The first printing press in America was set up in Cambridge, Massachusetts by the printer, Stephen Daye. His first print jobs were the broadside, “Oath of a Freeman” and “An Almanac for New England for the Year 1639”. He also printed the 1640 Bay Psalme Book which was the first book ever printed in American. We make a replica of this book. To get a copy of our replica visit our web site at the following link:

To learn a lot more about Stephen Daye keep reading.

When the Massachusetts Bay Colony was chartered in 1628, the Reverend Jose Glover of Surrey subscribed for £50 of its capital stock. Later, Glover raised funds and acquired a printing press for the new colony. After resigning from his pulpit, Glover secured passage for his family and for the family of his indentured servant Stephen Daye. In addition to his family, servants, and household furnishings, Glover set sail in 1638 with a printing press valued at £20, 240 reams of paper worth £60, and a case of assorted type. Sadly, Mr. Glover did not survive the voyage. Glover’s widow, Elizabeth, with assistance from Mr. Daye, went on to set up the press at a house on Crooked Lane (now 15 Holyoke Street) in Cambridge. In a journal entry dated March 1639, John Winthrop, the governor for the colony, noted, “A printing house was begun at Cambridge by one Daye, at the charge of Mr. Glover, who died on seas hitherward.” Interestingly, Stephen Daye was a locksmith by trade. More is not known regarding why he was indentured and what position Mr. Glover originally intended him to have in the print shop. However, Mr. Daye’s son, Matthew, may have been apprenticed as a printer in London.

Much also can be found regarding the eccentricities of Daye’s printing. The type used in the printing were worn. Daye did not clean his type well between pulls resulting in dirty or ink-clotted type. Italics were in short supply and there were no apostrophes. He had to make do. Many of the Hebrew characters were woodcuts. The Whole Booke of Psalmes was printed as a quarto, but an octavo format would have saved more than half the paper that was used. The text type, 95 English Roman, was not well suited to the smaller format. The book is full of misspellings and typographical errors. At the head of every left hand page throughout, ‘PSALM’ is spelled while at the head of every right hand page, it is spelled ‘PSALME’. Humorously, Daye acknowledges that his printing includes mistakes. On the recto of the final leaf, Daye lists “Faults escaped in printing” where he goes on to list seven mistakes specifically. He then continues, “The rest, which have escaped through oversight, you may amend, as you finde them obvious.” Nevertheless, while these mistakes that may have been obvious to the seventeenth century reader, I dare say that most of us will probably less observant. Despite his lack of training and expertise, Stephen Daye will go down in history as America’s first printer.


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