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    New York Printing of the Stamp Act

    [Stamp Act of 1765]. Anno quinto Georgii III Regis. Chap. XII. [New York: Reprinted by Hugh Gaine, 1765]. Contains "An Act for granting and applying certain Stamp Duties, and other Duties, in the British Colonies and Plantations in America, towards further defraying the Expences of defending, protecting, and securing the same; and for amending such Parts of the several Acts of Parliament relating to the Trade and Revenues of the said Colonies and Plantations, as direct the Manner of determining and recovering the Penalties and Forfeitures therein mentioned." 8vo, 22 pages (pagination begins with page 3 through 24). The pages have been bound at the left edge. Areas of water damage along the right and bottom edges of some pages. Paper loss to the edges (on some pages) has been archivally repaired. Scattered foxing throughout. The entire booklet has been tipped onto a backing sheet of heavy card stock to an overall size of 11.5" x 16".

    This is a very scarce printing with only three libraries worldwide known to be in possession of it. There are no records of this piece ever having been sold at auction.

    Hugh Gaine (1726-1807), a native of Ireland, immigrated to New York in 1744. Having apprenticed as a printer in Belfast, he quickly found work in the print shop of James Parker. He opened his own shop in 1752 and later that year printed the first issue of The New-York Mercury, regarded by some as the best newspaper of the day.

    Gaine initially resisted politics, but the passage of the Stamp Act of 1765 changed everything. The Stamp Act, first proposed in Parliament in 1764, required all printed materials in the American colonies, legal documents, newspapers, magazines, playing cards, etc., to be printed on stamped paper in an effort to fund the British soldiers stationed in the colonies. Most Americans, for their part, believed the act violated their right to "no taxation without representation" and insisted there was no need for a British military presence as they had always protected themselves from incursions by Indians and there was no foreign enemy present.

    Gaine first commented on the proposed Stamp Act in the June 11, 1764, issue of The Mercury. In a later issue he advertised it as "The Oppressive Stamp Act" (issue No. 730) and sold copies for one shilling. In the final issue of The Mercury before the Stamp Act went into effect (No. 731, October 28, 1765), he printed a farewell, saying, "It [The Mercury] must now cease for some Time, and the Period of its Resurrection uncertain; the Reason of which, is too well known to every Individual in America." He continued printing his paper, however, and issues 732 through 734 (November 4, 11, and 18) were printed minus the title with a heading instead reading, "No Stamped Paper to be had." He returned to using the title, The New-York Mercury, in issue No. 735, November 25, 1765. The following February, he printed a broadside announcing the introduction of an act to repeal the hated Stamp Act. (The Journals of Hugh Gaine, pp. 42-43.)

    In 1768, Gaine changed the name of the paper to New-York Gazette, and Weekly Mercury following an appointment to public printer of the province of New York. Initially in favor of accommodation with Great Britain, he became an ardent patriot after the opening of the Revolutionary War and supported the Declaration of Independence. He fled for New Jersey when the British invaded New York, but returned two months later, in November 1776. He embraced loyalism (making him an enemy to many colonists, who vilified him in the press) and continued to print his paper until the end of the war. Despite his loyalism, Gaine remained in New York and supported the Constitution in 1787.

    Reference: Hugh Gaine and Paul Leicester Ford. The Journals of Hugh Gaine, Printer: Biography and Bibliography. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1902; OCLC # 36129882.

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    October, 2014
    8th-9th Wednesday-Thursday
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