Friday, December 12, 2008

The Constitution in Magazines

There were four contemporary magazine printings of the Constitution of the United States. I have been fortunate to obtain them all. My favorite and perhaps the earliest, rarest and most valuable is from this issue of The New Haven Gazette and Connecticut Magazine. A fabulous front page appearance.

Two most important and widely circulated magazines in 1789 were the Columbian Magazine and Matthew Carey's American Museum. My copy of Columbian is in the very rare original wrappers. I obtained is from a fine Rhode Island antiquarian paper dealer, M & S Books, about twenty years ago for $5000. It seemed like a lot then but its rarity made it an imperative for my collection. As I've said, buy the best and you'll never go wrong and this is a great example. The American Museum issue is from a bound volume but, as all eigteenth century magazines, is quite difficult to come across.

The fourth Constitition issue is from Isaiah Thomas' Worcester Magazine. It would have been instead in Thomas' newspaper The Massachusetts Spy, but he suspended publishing it in favor of a magazine format to avoid the tax on the delivery of newspapers at the time. Apparantly, the one who laid out the magazine had some trouble fitting it in as can be seen by the reduced type size on the back page!

The Bill of Rights was never printed in a magazine at the time it was ratified. There are two collected newspaper appearances (in Gazette of the United States). An earlier draft of the Bill did appear in American Museum. When I found it in a bound volume I went back and found that I indeed had previously bought the issue in the original wrappers. A few thousand dollars of serendipity never hurts.

All of these magazines are quite expensive and I haven't seen one on the market for many years. With the possible exception of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts (founded by Isaiah Thomas and the greatest repository in the world of pre-centennial American paper) you won't find them in one place anywhere!

Since we're on the subject of the Constitution, here's another gem. It's the earliest periodical in my collection and mega-rare. John Peter Zenger had quite a lot to do with establishing freedom of the press in America.

Here is the second issue of his New York Weekly Journal, containing his first essay on the importance of the freedom of the press- a true milestone of American journalism. For me, it simply doesn't get better than this one.

No comments: