May 22, 2012

What to Research Next?

With some basic information about my character established, I need to determine what to research next.  Over the past few days, discussions on the 18th Century Life list have brought up the topics of religions of the time, getting started in the hobby, and clothing.  Any of these would be good topics to research next.

In addition to those topics, I need to research the trade of bookbinding some more.  I've done reading about this in the past, but more to learn the basics of the craft as opposed to documenting its use.  I did do a little general Google research on the history of bookbinding last night.  I also made an attempt at finding a couple of books that I own about the subject.  One turned up, but not the other.

Since part of the goal of this project is to fully document what I can, I suppose I should first establish that the craft of bookbinding did exist during the time period.

In 1775, The New and Complete Dictionary of The English Language lists two terms that document the craft in the time period that I'm researching:

"Book'binder (s. from book, and bind) One whose business is to bind books."

And below it:

"Book'binding (s. from book, and bind) The art of binding books."[1]

Now to document that the profession existed in New England in, or around, the year 1776.

A simple search for the term "1776" on the website of The American Bookbinders Museum returns 17 results.  One result is for a piece of equipment. Ten of the results are for bookbinders outside of New England.  Of the remaining six entries, four are for William MacAlpine (also spelled McAlpine), and two are for James While, both of Boston, Massachusetts.

Clicking on the entries, it appears that both men are mentioned in the book Bookbinding in America, which I've requested via Inter-library loan from my local library.  One of the entries for William MacAlpine also mentions that he is listed on the "Banishment Act of the State of Massachusetts, 1778."

The Banishment Act sounds like it would be a good primary reference for documenting the trade in New England.

Google searches on the Banishment Act show that it was passed in 1778 to prevent certain people from returning to Massachusetts upon penalty of arrest or death.  A few sites have transcripts of the act, and William McAlpine, Bookbinder, is listed as one of those people.  The genealogist in me, however, wants to see primary documentation, or at least a transcription with a citation.  Without a good citation, it's not documentation, it's just a good clue.

Searching further, it appears that the best way to see a copy of the actual act is through the Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800, put out by Readex.  The only way to do that, it appears, is to find a library that subscribes to the series.  Looks like it may be time to start researching libraries in the area, and finding out what their visiting rules are.

While looking for information about the Banishment Act, I did run across another mention of William MacAlpine.  Apparently, in 1748, he had some property stolen by three people.  His name is mentioned on a warrant for their arrest: 

"3 The Jurors present Ann Grafton Cuffe & Quoma
Negroes as Above for Stealing sundry things from
Walter McAlpine of Boston Bookbinder of the Value
of Twenty pounds --"

The warrant is dated 12 July, 1748.  The reverse side of the warrant states that on 25 July, 1748, the three persons named were arrested and secured to appear in court.[2]

This primary document, combined with the mention of William MacAlpine in the Banishment Act, places a bookbinder in Boston, Massachusetts between the years of 1748 and 1778, which falls nicely into the timeline of my persona.  I'd still like to research the Banishment Act some more to see if I can track down a primary or cited source, but I think I can consider the trade of bookbinder in the location of New England documented. 

[1] John Ash, The New and Complete Dictionary of The English Language, (London: 1775) (accessed May 22, 2012).

[2] Warrant for the arrest of Ann Grafton, Cuffee (a slave), and Quoma (a slave), 12 July 1748. Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Historical Society. Digital image online accessed May 22, 2012.

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