The Atlas of the Rhode Island Book Trade in the Eighteenth Century
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Background

The Atlas of the Rhode Island Book Trade in the Eighteenth Century attempts to map as many members of the book trade as possible—printers, booksellers, and many more—in both space and time. The project was begun at the Rhode Island Historical Society in April of 2009 and made available online in August of 2010.

For more information about how to use the Atlas, see the guide.

Sources for Data

The information within the Atlas was derived from dozens of sources, ranging from maps and histories of Rhode Island towns to land records and court documents. View a complete list of the sources used as well as general background resources in the bibliography.

Maude and Glenn Brown's A Directory of Printing, Publishing, Bookselling & Allied Trades in Rhode Island to 1865—an impressive compilation of data on members of the Rhode Island book trade—served as the base text for the project. In addition to the data itself, this project borrowed the Browns's framework and much of its terminology for describing occupations. Inevitably, errors and omissions were discovered during the research for the Atlas, and those are listed in an appendix.

Contemporary sources were used whenever possible to locate members of the book trade listed in the Directory of Printing or discovered elsewhere. These included maps (like Charles Blaskowitz's 1777 survey of Newport) as well as narrative descriptions found in newspapers or later histories. The Providence locations benefited from the research of Henry Chace, who integrated tax lists and other early listings of residents and businesses to form the most complete overview of Providence locations at various points in the eighteenth century. Much of this material appears in his Owners and Occupants of the Lots, Houses and Shops in the Town of Providence, Rhode Island in 1798, but additional material, especially for earlier dates, is unpublished and accessible only through the Historical Society's collection of his papers.

Unfortunately, the earliest Rhode Island city directories weren't published until the 1820s, so they weren't available for direct evidence, but they were useful both for correlating the locations mentioned in later accounts (e.g. a reference to someone's store in an 1880s history) and for estimating the earliest position of the few numbered street locations used at the time.

A note on dates: The date ranges provided as periods of activity should be used with caution. They represent the dates for which there is evidence of an individual or organization's operation. So for instance, if the only evidence of a shop owner selling books appears in an advertisement in a particular issue of a newspaper, that individual may likely have been active for a longer period of time, but only that particular date will be represented in the Atlas.

Technology

The Atlas makes use of Nick Rabinowitz's timemap.js project, which integrates the Timeline component of MIT's Simile Widgets project and the Google Maps API. An underlying MySQL database is used to store the data, generate the xml file for the timeline and map and provide search and browse functionality.

Please address suggestions, comments and questions to Jordan Goffin (jgoffin@provlib.org).

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