|Title page from University of Pennsylvania Library|
Growing up in Massachusetts, I heard at an early age stories of Mary Rowlandson and others captured by “the Indians.” We lived quite close to a stone tower commemorating the capture & escape—thanks to a woman—of a young boy.
Google Books offers several editions of Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative. Here's a little background, from the 1828 edition: “‘In 1643,’ . . . Sholan, an Indian of mild and pacific character, was sachem of the Nashaway tribe, who lived chiefly in what are now the towns of Lancaster and Sterling. Sholan . . . recommended this valley to Thomas King as a favourable spot for a plantation. The same year King united with John Prescott, Harmon Garrett, Thomas Skidmore, Stephen Day, (the father of American typography) Mr. Symonds, and others, and purchased a tract of land ten miles in length and eight in breadth; covenanting not to molest the Indians in their hunting, fishing, or planting places.”
Relations continued peaceable for many years. Then”Shoshanim became chief sachem of the tribe . . . For some cause he felt hostile to the English,” and in 1676,* his tribe attacked & destroyed the town, and made off with Mrs. Rowlandson.
The news today was that a New England historian, Mr. Warren Rasmussen, has produced an updated, corrected edition of the narrative. That was interesting—but not as much as what he revealed about the conditions under which the original book was printed.
“The book was printed at the Cambridge Press, the only press in the United States at the time, he said, meaning it had a limited amount of type, which quickly got depleted.
“‘First, they ran out of periods, so they substituted them with colons. Then they ran out of those and they used semicolons. They also ran out of capital I’s so they used lower case ‘i’ and when they ran out of that, they used lower case ‘j.’”
Who knew? Not I, certainly. It sounds like something from a Monty Python skit.
You can read the full news article here.