Month: April 2018

Hand Binding my Replica of the 1640Bay Psalm Book

I’m Hand Binding my replica of the Bay Psalm Book and taking photos as I go along so that you will get an idea of what goes into hand binding a book like they did in the 17th century. Scroll down to see the photos that I have taken of this process thus far. I will add more as I go along.

When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, they brought with them a Book of Psalmes (Englished both in Prose and Metre) translated by Henry Ainsworth, a fellow Separatist, and published in 1612. One of the significant innovations of the Reformation had been the introduction of Psalm singing by the entire congregation. When the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony set sail across the Atlantic in 1629, they carried Sternhold and Hopkins Book of Psalmes. This popular psalter was frequently appended to editions of the Geneva Bible and the Book of Common Prayer and was essentially the authorized Psalm book for the Church of England.
While the Puritans were not Separatists like their Pilgrim cousins, they were NonComformists. They did not separate themselves from the Church of England, but rather hoped to reform the church from within. The Sternhold and Hopkins psalter was a “poetic paraphrase” of the Psalms, thus was found unacceptable by many of the colony. The Old Testament book of II Chronicles admonishes, “Moreover Hezekiah the king and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David, and of Asaph the seer.” As early as 1636, the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony discussed the need for a fresh English translation of the original Hebrew. The Psalms were portioned out to “thirty pious and learned Ministers” with John Cotton, Richard Mather and John Eilot (also translated the Bible into the Algonquin language) of particular note.
When the Massachusetts Bay Colony was charted 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.
In 1640, The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre was printed. This book now popularly known as the Bay Psalm Book was the very first book printed in North America. Seventeen hundred copies were printed in that first edition. Later court documents record that the cost of that printing was £33. One hundred and sixteen reams of paper were used at a cost of £29. The book was sold for twenty pence per copy with the total receipts from sales estimated to be 141 pounds, 13 shillings, 4 pence with a profit of 79 pounds, 13 shillings, 4 pence! The new psalter was adopted immediately by almost every congregation in the colony henceforth its name. The Bay Psalm Book even became popular in England and Scotland. More than fifty editions were printed before the newer Tate and Brady and Isaac Watts hymnals became popular in the mid-eighteenth century.
Interestingly, despite the Puritans’ emphasis on congregational singing, the 1640 Whole Booke of Psalmes does not contain any musical notation. Instead the end of the text offers “An admonition to the Reader” which explains “The verses of these psalmes may be reduced to six kindes, the first whereof may be sung in very neere fourty common tunes, as they are collected, out of our chief musicians, by Tho. Ravenscroft.” Previously, in 1621, the English musicologist Thomas Ravenscroft published an expanded edition of Sternhold and Hopkins psalter that had included musical notation. Most of the Puritans would have been familiar with these tunes. (A complicated explanation regarding quatrains, syllables, common and long meter, etc. can be found on the Internet.)
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.
Only eleven copies of the original seventeen hundred books printed in 1640 exist today with only six still retaining their original title page. In 2013, one of these originals went up for auction at Sotheby’s. This rare book had remained under the ownership of the Old South Church in Boston until they decided to liquidate some of their assets in order to pay for some much-needed repairs to their historic building. On November 26, 2013, the book sold for a record $14,165,000! So, the very first book printed in North America also set a new world’s record for the sale of a printed book.
I own a hard back modern bound reproduction of this book. The quality of the scan is poor. Our Psalms is bound using the same traditional hand binding as the original and our type is clean and easy to read. Our Psalms book has the same size text block and its outside dimensions and thickness are the same as the original 1640.
Visit my web page at the following link to learn more about my replica of this Psalm Book:  Click Here

Hand Binding a Hieroglyphick Bible for Children

I am taking photos as I go along so that you will get an idea of what goes into hand binding a book like they did in the 17th & 18th centuries.  Scroll down to see the photos that I have taken of this process thus far.   I will add more as I go along.

Children’s Bibles like this Hieroglyphic Bible in the eighteenth century often employed the use of images to represent words and ideas to make memorization of and engagement with the Bible more appealing to children.

The full title of this book is A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible, or, Select passages in the Old and New Testaments, represented with emblematical figures, for the amusement of youth : designed chiefly to familiarize tender age, in a pleasing and diverting manner, with early ideas of the Holy Scriptures : to which are subjoined, a short account of the lives of the Evangelists, and other pieces, illustrated with cuts.

In 18th century Protestant Great Britain and her colonies, an individual’s ability to read the Bible was considered a necessity for spiritual growth. Yet, children who were not yet able to read and comprehend the Bible needed a simplified version which would lead them to Christian faith. A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible offered children a fun way to learn Bible stories while also learning how to read. (At that time, the word “curious” meant carefully made, not strange or odd!) Each page offers a Bible verse set out with certain key words replaced with images. Some of the hieroglyphs are hard to decipher so thankfully each Scripture verse is printed on the bottom of each page.

If you would like to learn more about this Bible and see each page in a slide show format, visit my web page at the following link:  Click Here

Original Letter Written by Robert Aitken’s Hand dated July 7, 1797

This is an original letter written by Robert Aitken to John Nicholson regarding money due on property purchased by Aitken from Charles Ludwig for use as his printing house.  In this letter dated July 7th, 1797 he mentions that his printing house is closed. This original letter is Courtesy of The Rosenbach Museum & Library.


Dear Sir,

I reluctantly mention the frequent Dunns & noisys calls of Chr. Ludwick for a 2nd payment of 300 pounds for the purchase of the house for printing office ___I thought to mention this much, fearing I cannot be further favor with your assistance___he seems extremely anxious, I know not how to put him off without cash, which I assuredly have not, or know where for to get it__the printing business is closed with the enevality, at present, nothing can be done to any advantage, a most afflicting consideration with demands on

Dear Sir,

Your most Affecitionate

Humble Servant

Robt. Aitken

July 7__1797

Original Letter Written by Robert Aitken’s Hand dated Aug. 14, 1797

This is a letter written by Robert Aitken to John Nicholson which contains Aitken’s proposal to sell his printing house property and equipment, dated August 14th, 1797.  This original letter is Courtesy of The Rosenbach Museum & Library.  This letter makes me sad.



My Dear Sir,

The difficulty of the times, the tardy & uncertain payment of monies due, various loses incurred, & at present no prospect of printing work, I have been let to contemplate the sale of Ludwicks purchase, with the additional building & the whole material of my printing office______

If I could get or nearly, 2,000 pounds for the buildings____ and 1500 pounds for my printing utensils, or nearly that sum____ would it not be better for me to ease my mind in old age, & clear off all demands & give my whole attention to my trade of Book Binding, & stationary store & try to import articles for daily sale, as I find, many irons in the fire, some cool, but a loss incurred; especially when I have not a suitable fund of cash to carry on with, I must confess the printing when carried on & supported with ready money will yield something to advantage, but truly not the advantage the Public so much & often guesses at_____

It would be imprudent to be hasty in a matter of such importance, although I think, I forever, a prudent, & perhaps, a wise necessity_____ I have my Dear Sir, my sincere friend, taking liberty to communicate my private meditation on the above subject in for no other purpose, than your sound judgment & advise____please write me, particularly, what is your opinion?  After meditation on this notion of mine____will you be so kind, of which I have no doubt at all, will you direct

My Dear Sir,

Your Most Affectionate

Humble Servant

Robt. Aitken

Aug.14- 1797

Where was Robert Aitken’s Shop?

Robert Aitken’s bookbinder’s tickets and his advertisements in the newspaper all contained his business location.  Some described his location as in or at Pope’s Head, in Market Street, near the Coffee House.  Another says, Nearly Opposite the London Coffee- House, Front-Street, Philadelphia. Another ad says, Three doors above the Coffee House, in Market Street. While another says, in Market Street, near Coffee House.  See them all below.   The book, Market Street, Philadelphia; the most historic highway in America, its merchants and its story: Jackson, Joseph, 1867-1946 gives his street address as 106 Market Street.  I assume that this street address was given to his location years later in the 19th century.  This address is on the corner of Front & Market Street.  See his tickets, bookplates, and ads below.  In addition, notice the photo of the London Coffee House so often mentioned in his address.

The ad was run in papers from 1782-83

This is a book ticket commonly found in his books.

This is an ad from Sept. 4th, 1782

This is an ad from April 16th , 1783

London Coffee House @ Southwest Corner of Front and Market Street, taken 1859



Aitken Advertising His 1782 Bible Plus Two More Books in the April 16th, 1783 Edition of Freeman’s Journals

This is the last of Robert Aitken’s, 1782 Bible ads that I have been able to find.  This on makes ten in all.  In this April 16th, 1783 edition of Freeman’s Journal  Aitken started advertising the books, The Fables of AESOP and The Psalms of David  along with his “Bible of the Revolution” on separate pages, but still no Congressional report as he had the year before.