September 25, 1639: The First Printing Press is set up in New England

The Rev. Joseph Glover was a great supporter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and he thought a printing press would be a vital improvement for the new colony. stephen-daye-s-press

He purchased a press, two trays of type, ink and reams of paper and found a pressman, Stephen Daye, to accompany him as he and his family sailed to New England.

Unfortunately, Reverend Glover died at sea, but the press and his widow and children and Stephen Daye made it ashore. The press was set up in Cambridge, where a college had just been started, and Elizabeth Glover quickly became the wife of Henry Dunster, the first president of the College that would soon be named Harvard.

Stephen Daye was not a great printer. In the first year he printed a broadsheet, The Freeman’s Oath and an almanack, and in 1640 printed the colony’s first book, the Bay Psalm Book. He received 300 acres of land from the colony for his work, which he promptly mortgaged for a cow, a calf, and a heifer. A close inspection of the book shows that, while the type was new and unworn, impressions were uneven, there were many typographical errors, commas and periods were used interchangeably, syllables were broken incorrectly.

By 1643, his fourth year on the job, Daye landed in jail (about average for a pressman). By 1648, he had been sacked from his job by President Dunster, and replaced by another pressman, Samuel Green. Daye hung around Cambridge, sued Dunster for one hundred pounds, and went to court to try to collect his real estate.

By 1656 the colonists had begun to teach young Indians to read. They wished to translate the Bible into the Indian languages, and it made sense to print where the Indian students could proofread the copy. Green had printed 500 copies of the New Testament when Marmaduke Johnson arrived from London in 1660.

Marmaduke was a pretty good pressman, although he also had some run-in’s with the law. His wife was back in England, so when he got to Cambridge he started hitting on Samuel Green’s daughter; by 1662 a restraining order had to be put out on him. Nevertheless, he continued working with Green printing the Bible which John Eliot was translating into Algonquin using a phonetic English alphabet. They also got help from a young Nipmunk Indian named James the Printer.

The Bible consisted of 150 press sheets, folded into signatures and then gathered, sewn, and bound into books. The pressrun was one thousand copies and it took a week to print each form, so, with Marmaduke’s periodic absences, it took more than two years to print. The printers had two trays of type, which was enough to set a form, but after each form was printed, the type had to be distributed back into the cases, so that it would be available for the next form. The New Testament came out in 1661.

There were a few delays along the way due to Marmaduke’s “ issues”, and then the Old Testament was completed in 1663.
In 1714, the press was inherited by Timothy Green who took it to New London, Connecticut.

Over the years, the press moved through Connecticut and New Hampshire. It eventually printed the first Vermont newspaper, The Vermont Gazette, in Westminster in 1781. George Hough purchased the old press and moved it to Windsor in 1783 where he published The Vermont Journal and the Universal Advertiser.

After over 150 years of continuous work, the old Daye Press retired from daily work, but it can still be seen – at the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier, Vermont.

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