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The First American Bibliography on the History of Printing (1877)


In 1877 American printing press inventor and manufacturer Richard March Hoe published The Literature of Printing. A Catalogue of the Library Illustrative of the History and Art of Typography Chalcography and Lithography.  A New Yorker, Hoe had this catalogue privately printed on handmade paper at the Chiswick Press in London in a small, but unspecified number of copies.  Its only illustration was a frontispiece showing one of Hoe's high speed presses. According to the Catalogue of the Wlliam Blades Library (1899) this catalogue was compiled by bibliographer and antiquarian bookseller Edward C. Bigmore, co-author of the Bigmore and Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (1880-1886).  

That Hoe, an American at the center of the American printing industry, chose to have the catalogue of his private library on the history and technique of printing published in London in 1877 rather than by a fine printer in America leads me to believe that he was motivated by the Caxton Quadricentennial Celebration, and its catalogue, which occurred in London in that year. Hoe's name appears on the list of the General Committee for the celebration printed on p. xvii of the celebration catalogue.  Because of this, I think we might reasonably speculate that Hoe wanted to show some of his fellow printing history enthusiasts in England the treasures that he had gathered in America on the history of the subjects.  Whatever Hoe's motivation, his catalogue was the first American bibliography on the history of printing and typography.

My copy of Hoe's catalogue has Hoe's signed inscription to the American minister, journalist and politician Rev. Samuel J. Barrows, who had worked for Richard Hoe as a very young man.  

Hoe died in 1886. In January 1887, ten years after Hoe's catalogue was published, his library was dispersed at auction in New York by Bangs & Co. The first 1433 lots consisted of Hoe's library on the history of printing; the remainder of the roughly 2000 lots included miscellaneous subjects.