With a bit of verve, luck, and ingenuity, printing was brought to British North America in 1638. Stephen Daye, a locksmith by trade, was under contract to establish a press in North America upon his arrival. In 1640, less than two years after landing in Massachusetts Bay, Daye and his son Matthew printed The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the first book to be printed in what is now the United States.
Spanning nearly 150 years, First Among Many: The Bay Psalm Book and Early Moments in American Printing follows the spread of printing in the earliest years of the republic. American printing, often rugged, immediate, and practical took on a distinctive character and urgency. From sermons to pamphlets, newspapers, and broadsides, publications that gave shape to American causes and ideologies were distinctively products of the new American press. Throughout the exhibition, some of the best exemplars of early American printing are on display. The work of such printers as William Bradford, Benjamin Franklin, John Dunlap, and Mary Katherine Goddard, who memorialized major moments in American cultural history, thought, and politics, carry the story forward.
Beginning with a small psalm book that filled a basic need in the devotional lives of colonists, landmark printings across the colonies captured moments in American thought. Over time, publications questioned governing authority and sparked thoughts of revolution, independence, and self-governance. First Among Many tells the story of American printing as it evolved from a colonial necessity to the clarion of freedom.