Notes on collections at the RIHS
Picking up on the discussion of broadsides in a previous post, today we’ll highlight another broadside from the collection: The Ardent Desire. No, this isn’t a delayed Valentine’s Day post; instead this broadside deals strictly with religious ardor. Printed in 1728, it is only the fifth item published in the state of Rhode Island*, and it was published by James Franklin, brother of Benjamin and the state’s first printer.
The Dictionary of Literary Biography** describes Franklin as “America’s first crusading editor and first major defender of press freedom,” but this broadside religious poem is not one of his more radical publications. Franklin brought Rhode Island its first press when he moved to Newport from Boston in 1726, and he continued printing there until his death in 1735. (His wife Ann took over after his death and ran the shop for thirteen years before passing it on to her son.) The transfers of location and ownership are evident on the page itself in the ornamental border surrounding the poem. The border is made up of various type ornaments, all of which James had used in Boston and then taken with him when he moved his shop to Newport. The crown and rosette combination in the upper left and right corners, for instance, is first used by James in 1719 in The Isle of Man and then again after the move to Newport in 1728’s Jesus Christ an Example to His Minister. In 1735, the year of James’ death, Ann uses the ornament again in A Brief Essay on the Number Seven; and, finally, James (James’ and Ann’s son) uses them in governmental publications of the 1750s.***
** Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 43: American Newspaper Journalists, 1690-1872. Edited by Perry J. Ashley. The Gale Group, 1985. pp. 212-218. Also see Douglas McMurtrie’s “The Beginning of Printing in Rhode Island,” Americana 39.4 (1935): 607-629.
*** See Reilly, A Dictionary of Colonial American Printers’ Ornaments and Illustrations. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1975. Numbers 472, 473, 482, 672, 674 and 709. In the entry for the ornament discussed above (no. 709), The Isle of Man is incorrectly listed as a Newport, rather than Boston, publication.