The purpose of this Introductory Note is to explain some of the peculiarities of the Boston newspapers of the eighteenth century, to state what will be found in this volume, and to set forth some of the difficulties that have been encountered in its preparation.195

    This volume consists of three features: (1) Check-List; (2) Collation of Numbers and Dates; (3) Bibliographical Notes.


    Each library listed is given a symbol, and if a library contains a certain issue the symbol for that library is entered under the date of publication of that issue. If the library also has a supplement to that issue, an italic s is added. If the library has the supplement only, s* is added. If the copy is mutilated, an italic m is added. The symbol means that either the main issue or the supplement is mutilated, or that both are mutilated.

    The frequent practice of double-dating a paper has led to some confusion. Thus the first issue of the Boston News-Letter was dated not Monday, April 24, 1704, but “From Monday April 17. to Monday April 24. 1704.” The date of publication was of course not April 17, but April 24, 1704; yet some writers have asserted that the first issue appeared on April 17, 1704.196 The double-dating of the year in the issues published between January 1 and March 25, previous to the adoption of New Style in 1752, has also caused some mistakes in binding.

    The question of mutilation presents some difficulties. The edges of a paper may be cut or torn, even the number may be cut or torn, and yet the text remain intact. In such cases the paper is not regarded as mutilated. But when the text is undecipherable — either through being cut, torn, or worn in the foldings — the paper is regarded as mutilated. A more difficult point to determine is the following: Does a given issue contain one leaf, or two or more leaves? It sometimes happens that a library has the first leaf of a paper, but not the second leaf; and sometimes the second, but not the first leaf. In the latter case, the fact of mutilation is obvious. But where a library has the first leaf, the question whether that leaf constituted the entire paper, or whether the paper consisted of two or more leaves, is often puzzling. If every issue bore an imprint on the last page, there would be no uncertainty; but in many cases the last page bore no imprint. It follows that a paper may be mutilated, even if it is not so marked in the Check-List.

    Mutilation has sometimes led to mistakes by librarians. Two instances may be given. The Boston Athenæum has a mutilated copy of the Boston Evening-Post of 5 January, 1741. Internal evidence and a comparison with a perfect copy prove that that was its correct date, though it has been marked in pencil as a copy of the issue of 29 December, 1740. The Harvard College Library has a mutilated copy of the Boston News-Letter of 22 February, 1789. The date “February 22” is distinct, but the year and the number are torn off. The year 1738 and the number 1770 have been added in pencil. Internal evidence proves that the true date was 22 February, 1739, and that hence its probable number was 1822.

    The matter of supplements raises another difficult point. Many files of newspapers were formed years or even generations ago, and bound in with the newspapers themselves are copies of proclamations, declarations, poems, elegies, satirical skits, political pieces, and other documents of various kinds. Valuable and sometimes unique copies of documents have been preserved in this unexpected manner.197 But such documents are not supplements. It may be laid down as a safe rule that every genuine supplement of a newspaper has a heading or an imprint by which its identity can be established. This heading is sometimes, but by no means always, followed by a number which generally (though not always) corresponds with the number of the main issue of the same date. In the original manuscript of this Check-List, now in the Boston Athenæum, some of the documents referred to above were mistakenly regarded as supplements. In many cases the error was discovered before printing and the s struck out; but it is possible that some errors of this kind still remain.

    The statement that every genuine supplement had a heading or an imprint by which its identity can be established needs a slight qualification. The main issue of the Boston News-Letter of 22 September, 1763, contained two leaves. At the bottom of p. 4/3 of one copy198 of this paper are printed the words: “(See the additional Paper.)” The “additional paper” had precisely the same heading and the same number as the main issue, but consisted of a single leaf only. The main issue of the Boston News-Letter of 7 November, 1765, contained two leaves. At the bottom of p. 2/3 was printed this notice: “See the additional Paper for the Articles of Intelligence.” Again the “additional paper” had precisely the same heading and the same number as the main issue, but consisted of a single leaf only. Possibly other “additional papers” were issued, but these are the only two which have come under the notice of the Editor. They are of course to be regarded as supplements, and are so treated in the Check-List.199

    Finally, in connection with supplements, owners of papers should be cautioned against labelling a given file as “complete.” It cannot with certainty be stated that any file is complete. A single example will suffice. The State Historical Society of Wisconsin has fifty-two issues of the Boston Gazette for the year 1772. Its file for that year, therefore, appears to be complete. But such is actually far from being the case; for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin has not a single supplement for that year, while it is certain that no fewer than twenty supplements were issued, and how many more may never be known.200

    A matter which has proved troublesome is irregularities in publication. A paper, instead of being issued on its regular day of publication, was often issued a day or two before,201 or, more generally, a day or two after. A paper was occasionally published two days in succession.202 These irregularities were particularly common with the Boston News-Letter. The actual date of publication is of course given in the Check-List, but the fact of irregularity is not stated in a footnote.203 It follows that all dates in the Check-List for papers of which there are no known copies are purely conjectural; for until a copy is discovered, it cannot be known with certainty whether such papers were issued on the regular day of publication or on some other day.204 It occasionally happened, also, that no paper was published at all during a certain week. Thus, no issue of the New-England Courant was published between 7 and 21 May, 1726, though in the issue of 21 May no reason was given for the omission. Again, owing to the death of one publisher and the illness of the other, no issue of the New-England Chronicle was published between 8 and 22 February, 1776. It is probable that no issues of the Independent Advertiser were published between 2 October and 5 December, 1749. The outbreak of the Revolutionary War and the Evacuation of Boston each caused the omission of various issues. Such omissions, where known, are recorded in footnotes in the Check-List.

    Another matter which has caused much trouble is misprints. These were of various kinds. First, the year may be misprinted. Thus, some copies of the Boston Post-Boy of 1 January, 1759, were misdated 1 January, 1758; some copies of the supplement to the Boston Gazette of 26 January, 1756, were misdated 26 January, 1755.205 Secondly, the month may be misprinted. Thus, some copies of the Massachusetts Spy of 3 December, 1770, were misdated 3 September, 1770; some copies of the Boston Evening-Post of 6 June, 1757, were misdated 6 April, 1757. Thirdly — and this is by far the most common error of the sort — the day of the month may be misprinted. Thus, some copies of the New-England Weekly Journal of 2 September, 1728, were misdated 4 September, 1728; the Boston News-Letter of 9 October, 1740, was misdated 7 October, 1740; the Massachusetts Historical Society has two copies of the supplement to the Boston Gazette of 3 June, 1756, one dated 3 June, the other misdated 4 June, 1756. Again, some copies of the Boston Gazette of 16 June, 1777, were misdated 9 June, 1777. This last error is particularly confusing, because the Boston Gazette was regularly issued on 9 as well as on 16 June, 1777. Fourthly, both the month and the day of the month may be misprinted. Thus, some copies of the Boston Gazette of 1 June, 1724, were misdated 31 May, 1724; the Boston Gazette of 31 July, 1753, was misdated 1 August, 1753; the supplement to the Massachusetts Spy of 1 July, 1773, was misdated 31 June, 1773. Fifthly, both the day of the week and the day of the month may be misprinted. Thus, some copies of the New-England Chronicle published on Friday, 21 November, 1777, were misdated Thursday, 20 November, 1777.206 Even such impossible dates as February 29 in an odd-numbered year207 and June 31 are found.208 In short, there was perhaps no possible miscombination of dates which the printers did not perpetrate. Further instances of such misprints need not be detailed here, for every misprint which has been observed is duly recorded in a footnote in the Check-List.209 In some cases, the fact that a paper had been wrongly dated was apparently not discovered by the publishers. In at least one case, the misprint was discovered, but too late for correction, though attention was called to it.210 But in many cases the error was discovered, and a second edition of the paper was issued.

    A second edition of a paper was sometimes issued even when it was not made necessary by a misprint. Two editions, each very different from the other, of the Boston Chronicle of 21 and of 28 December, 1767, were issued.211 The Lenox Library has two editions, with variations, of the Boston Chronicle of 7 March, 1768. The Boston Athenæum has two editions, with variations, of the Massachusetts Gazette of 7 April, 1769. Only a minute examination of different copies of the same issue will show whether all copies are of the same edition, and before disposing of what is thought to be a duplicate copy such an examination should be made.


    The numbering of papers was erratic in the extreme. Not only do we find such amazing sequences as 1958, 1459, 1960 (p. 96); as 2059, 2951 (p. 97); as 2966, 2077 (p. 98); as 1314, 3115 (p. 102); as 3361, 3361, 3361 (p. 104); as 433, 344 (p. 173); as 530, 530, 530 (p. 173); as 1025, 942 (p. 176); as 1104, 1015 (p. 176); as 1029, 1003 (p. 176); as 1344, 3442 (p. 178); as 1640, 6410 (p. 179); as 218, 183 (p. 181);212 but other irregularities occur. The Boston Athenæum has two copies of the Boston News-Letter of 10 March, 1768, one numbered 3361, the other numbered 3362. The Lenox Library has two copies of the Boston Chronicle of 19 January, 1769, one numbered 58, the other numbered 59. The Boston News-Letter of 5 August, 1762, was numbered 3032; the supplement of the same date was numbered 2032. The Boston News-Letter of 27 October, 1763, was numbered 1314; the supplement of the same date was numbered 3124. Further instances need not be given here, as all that have been observed are recorded in footnotes in the Collation of Numbers and Dates.213

    Some former owners of papers have defaced the printed number by running a pen through it and have substituted what they regarded as the “correct” number. It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that such alterations are improper, and that the only “correct” number is the number printed on the paper.214 A printed number should never be defaced,215 for it may be an important means of identifying a paper. The Collation of Numbers and Dates has proved of great value in the preparation of this volume. Two instances will suffice. The Library of Congress was reported to own a copy of the Boston Evening-Post dated 2 May, 1753. It was ascertained that it was numbered 925. As this was also the number of the issue of 21 May, 1753, it was inferred that the copy in the Library of Congress was mutilated and was in reality the issue of 21 May, 1753. Upon inquiry, this proved to be the case. Bound in the American Antiquarian Society’s file of the Boston Gazette for the year 1773 is the issue of 5 January, 1778. Owing to bad paper and poor print, the year is undecipherable; but the number of the paper proves that it is the issue of 5 January, 1778. Thus, erratic as the numbering was, a number is at times of value.216

    Some writers cite a paper by its number only. For two reasons this practice should be avoided. First, owing to the frequent errors made in numbering. Secondly, owing to the fact that deliberate changes were sometimes made. Thus, the Boston Gazette changed its numbering on 3 January, 1753, and again on 7 April, 1755, each time beginning afresh with number 1. If, therefore, a writer cites the Boston Gazette, numbered 12, he may refer to the issue of 7 March, 1720, or to the issue of 20 March, 1753, or to the issue of 23 June, 1755. Hence the Collation of Numbers and Dates, even if it serves no other useful purpose, will at least show the inexactness of citing a paper by its number only.

    In this Collation, the numbers of certain issues of which copies are known are not given. The explanation is that in such cases the number has been cut off, or torn, or mutilated, so as to be undecipherable. Hence, if given, the number would be purely conjectural; and such conjectures are not admitted.


    Of the many accounts which have been written of the Boston newspapers of the eighteenth century, it is necessary to mention only a few. The earliest was “A Narrative of the Newspapers printed in New-England,” by A. Z.217, printed in the Massachusetts Historical Collections for 1798 and 1799, V. 208–216, VI. 64–77. This is filled with errors and is without value. The next account was written by Isaiah Thomas and published at Worcester in 1810 in his History of Printing in America.218 This was a very creditable piece of work for its day, and has been the basis of all subsequent accounts until the present. Moreover, Thomas, who, born in 1749, was himself a printer as early as 1755, had an unrivalled knowledge of the printers and printing of his times; and in spite of inevitable incompleteness and of many inaccuracies, his statements about publishers and printers must always be received with respect and rejected with caution. As his account did not purport to come beyond the beginning of the Revolutionary War, two or three papers listed in this volume are not mentioned by him. The next account appeared in the first volume of Joseph T. Buckingham’s Specimens of Newspaper Literature — sometimes, from the title on the back of the cover, called Reminiscences — published at Boston in 1850. The next was that of Frederic Hudson, in his Journalism in the United States, from 1690 to 1872, published at New York in 1873. This was followed by Delano A. Goddard’s “The Press and Literature of the Provincial Period,” by the same writer’s “The Pulpit, Press, and Literature of the Revolution,” and by Charles A. Cummings’s “The Press and Literature of the last Hundred Years,” — all printed in the Memorial History of Boston, published at Boston in 1881, II. 387–436, III. 119–148, 617–682. The next account was S. N. D. North’s “The Newspaper and Periodical Press of the United States,” published at Washington in 1884 in the Tenth Census of the United States. Finally, William Nelson’s “History of American Newspapers: Massachusetts” was published at Paterson in 1895 in the New Jersey Archives, XII. cxxvii–cclxviii.

    In all the accounts subsequent to that of Thomas, the bibliographical details are based on Thomas’s, and in some instances are less complete and more inaccurate than those given by Thomas. But both Thomas and his successors give much information in regard to publishers, printers, writers, and politics, and many entertaining passages from the papers themselves. Hence, as the bibliographical details in previous accounts were unsatisfactory, and as other aspects of Boston newspapers from 1704 to 1780 had been already exhibited with much fulness, in projecting the present volume it was decided to confine these Bibliographical Notes strictly to bibliographical details.219 These details have been drawn wholly from the newspapers themselves, except where, as occasionally happens, the newspapers fail to yield the desired information. In such cases, the fact is noted, and the probable facts are drawn from other sources.

    Innumerable discrepancies occur between the facts as given in this volume and the alleged facts as stated in previous accounts; but, except occasionally, it has not been thought necessary to point out the differences.

    Before starting a newspaper, it was apparently customary to issue a prospectus. So far as is known, only one of the prospectuses issued by the Boston publishers has been preserved.220 The first issue of a paper generally, if not always, contained a notice stating what the aims and policy of the paper would be. Such notices are not copied in these Bibliographical Notes. The size of the paper and the number of leaves were so constantly varying that no attempt is made in these Bibliographical Notes to record the changes. It may be stated, however, that a paper usually consisted of one leaf, printed on both sides, or of two leaves, generally printed on all four pages but occasionally printed on three pages only; and that supplements usually consisted of one leaf — sometimes a broadside, sometimes printed on both pages — or of two leaves.

    In each Bibliographical Note the details are arranged under the following four heads: (1) Titles; (2) Days of Publication; (3) Publishers, Printers, and Places of Publication; (4) Devices.


    Titles were frequently changing, sometimes beyond recognition.221 In regard to the brief but descriptive title under which each paper is listed in this volume, there may well be in some cases a difference of opinion as to exactly what the title should be. In spite of the fact that the Boston News-Letter changed its title no fewer than ten times, and that for a brief period its identity was obscured under the title of “The Massachusetts Gazette,” it is certain that throughout its career from 1704 to 1776 it had a continuous existence; and, in this case, the propriety of the brief title “Boston News-Letter” will hardly be questioned. On the other hand, the New-England Chronicle retained that title for sixteen months only, while for many years it was entitled “The Independent Chronicle,” and is doubtless best known under the latter title. It was necessary, however, if only for mechanical reasons, to choose some brief title for each paper for the Check-List and the Collation of Numbers and Dates. Confusing as the titles often were — especially between 1769 and 1775, when two papers each bore the words “Massachusetts Gazette” in its title — it is believed that by the aid of the Chronological List on pp. 3–5, of the Alphabetical List on pp. 6–8, of the List by Years on pp. 9–11, and of the Index, it will always be easy to find what is wanted.

    Every change of title involving a word is recorded;222 but where a change consisted merely in the omission of a hyphen223 or of a comma,224 or the substitution of a semicolon for a comma,225 the change is not recorded.

    The exact titles are so important that it seems extraordinary that they should never before have been given. The present list will enable librarians to have their files properly labelled.226


    As titles were constantly changing, so too were the days of publication. Thus, the Boston Gazette was first published on Monday, then on Tuesday, then on Wednesday, then on Tuesday, and finally on Monday again. The days of publication are now given with completeness and accuracy for the first time.


    Under this head are given — except where information cannot be procured — the names of publishers and printers, and the exact date of every change in publisher or printer. No sharp distinctions can be drawn between publisher and printer, and none are attempted here. By “places of publication” is meant the location of printing-offices. Imprints frequently gave the names of the booksellers who sold the papers,227 the names of those who “took in” advertisements,228 the price at which papers were sold, and other information. Such information has not been considered of sufficient value to be collected for this volume.

    The practice of publishers and printers in regard to imprints was varied.229 In some cases the name of the publisher was printed under the title on the first page, in others across the bottom of any page, in still others at the bottom of any column on any page. The imprint appeared sometimes across the bottom of any page, and sometimes at the bottom of any column on the second or the third or the last page; but most frequently either across the bottom of the last page, or at the bottom of the second or third column on the last page. In many cases, however, there was never an imprint on the last page; and even where an imprint was commonly employed, it was frequently omitted, and its presence or absence was apparently without rhyme or reason.

    An imprint is often an important means of identifying a paper. A single instance may be given. In the Massachusetts Historical Society’s file of the Boston News-Letter, between the issues of 2 and 9 February, 1775, is bound a copy of the “Supplement to the Massachusetts Gazette, &c. for February 6, 1775.” At that time the exact title of the Boston News-Letter was “The Massachusetts Gazette: and the Boston Weekly News-Letter;” and the exact title of the Boston Post-Boy was “The Massachusetts Gazette; and the Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser.” Did this supplement belong to the Boston News-Letter or to the Boston Post-Boy? The date is not decisive, for February 6 may be a misprint for February 2 or February 9. The imprint, which bears the names of Mills and Hicks, proves that it belonged not to the Boston News-Letter, but to the Boston Post-Boy.230


    Devices, while without any great importance, are yet of some interest, especially during the period from 1765 to 1780. They are given with completeness and with accuracy for the first time in this volume.231

    In addition to devices, mottoes were also sometimes employed. While these have a certain interest, they have not been considered of sufficient value to be collected for this volume. But a few examples may be given. At the time the Stamp Act went into effect, the New-York Gazette used (7 November, 1765 – 8 May, 1766) a motto which was adopted both by the Boston Post-Boy and by the Boston Evening-Post. This motto, which was printed at the top of the first page, under the title, first appeared in the Boston Post-Boy in the issue of 18 November, 1765, and was as follows:

    The united Voice of all His Majesty’s free and loyal Subjects in AMERICA, — — — LIBERTY and PROPERTY, and no STAMPS.

    This motto appeared in the issues of the Boston Post-Boy of 18 November, 1765 – 14 April, 1766; and, in a slightly different typographical form, in the issues of the Boston Evening-Post of 18 November – 2 December, 1765.

    In its issues of 7 March, 1771 – 30 June, 1774, the Massachusetts Spy printed underneath its title this line:

    A Weekly Political, and Commercial Paper: — — Open to all Parties, but Influenced by None.

    In its issues of 22 November, 1771 – 6 April, 1775, the Massachusetts Spy also printed the following lines from Addison’s Cato:

    DO thou Great LIBERTY inspire our Souls, — — And make our Lives in thy Possession happy, — —Or, our Deaths glorious in thy just Defence!

    On 2 January, 1777, the Continental Journal adopted the following motto:


    Attention may be called to a few matters of a miscellaneous character.

    A practice which some librarians have of binding in the same volume issues of different papers is apt to lead to errors which it is surprisingly difficult to detect. Miss Ayer’s original list contained several errors due to this cause, though it is hoped that they have been corrected in this volume. It would certainly be better to bind together only issues of the same paper.232

    An error still more difficult to detect is caused by binding an issue in the proper volume, but under the wrong date. Miss Ayer’s original list indicated that the American Antiquarian Society owned supplements to the Boston Gazette dated 18 April, 9 and 16 May, 1766. Upon inquiry it was found that all these supplements were dated 1768 and had been bound in the wrong place.

    The question is often asked: What library has the largest collection of newspapers? A glance through the Check-List in this volume will furnish an answer.

    A more important question is the following: How many papers were published between 1704 and 1780, and how many of those published are now in existence? The absurd statement is sometimes made that the New York Historical Society owns the only complete file of the Boston News-Letter. As a matter of fact, if all known issues of the Boston News-Letter were placed in one library, the file would still be far from complete. Most of the papers listed in this volume are to be found in the American Antiquarian Society, or in the Boston Athenæum, or in the Boston Public Library, or in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society. But for certain issues of the Boston News-Letter between 1705 and 1708, for certain issues of the Boston Gazette between 1724 and 1736, and for certain issues of the Boston Gazette between 1737 and 1739, the inquirer must seek the New York Historical Society, or the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, or the Lenox Library. The following table shows the approximate number of papers published and the approximate number of copies known and unknown. When a supplement was issued on the same day as the main paper, it is not counted; but when a supplement was issued on a different day from the main paper, it is counted as a separate paper.

    Title Number of issues Copies known Copies unknown

    Boston News-Letter




    Boston Gazette




    New-England Courant




    New-England Weekly Journal




    Weekly Rehearsal




    Boston Post-Boy




    Boston Evening-Post




    Independent Advertiser233




    Boston Chronicle




    Massachusetts Gazette




    Massachusetts Spy




    New-England Chronicle




    Continental Journal




    Independent Ledger




    Evening Post