[The Declaration of Independence. In:] The Monthly Miscellany, or Gentleman and Lady'[s] Complete Magazine, Vol. IV, for the Year 1776.

  • (American Revolution)
  • London: Printed for R. Snagg, No. 129 in Fleet Street, R. Cruttwell in Bath & Hodgson & Johnso[n] in Salisbury 1776
  • Matyas 76-06; ESTC P1990.

£3,000

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Description

8vo, pp. [2, engraved title-page], 336, [345]-376, 385-424, [433]-496, 505-552 + 12 plates (of 24). Lacking the final gathering of the September issue, the repeated gathering ‘3O’ in the November issue, and 12 of the 24 plates listed by Matyas. Bound from parts (stab holes visible) in contemporary quarter sprinkled calf, marbled boards, spine divided by raised bands, red morocco label. Engraved title-page and several leaves printed slightly askew and consequently trimmed at fore-edge with loss of a couple of characters, top inner corner of one leaf torn away causing loss to 3 lines of text, one or two other lesser paper flaws, some spotting and staining. Rubbed, spine creased, extremities a touch worn. Ownership inscription of J. Chaplin to title-page, a few pen trials elsewhere.

Notes

A rare and early printing of the Declaration of Independence, contained within the August issue of one of a number of magazines that reported the news as soon as it had reached British shores. The Mercury packet ship brought the announcement of the declaration in time for it to be a line item in the London Gazette for 10th August, and the full text must have arrived the following week, whereupon it began to appear in the newspapers, and then the weekly and monthly magazines. Exact sequencing is impossible to determine beyond the dailies (from 16th August) and weekly magazines (22nd or 24th August) appearing earlier than the monthlies, which were probably not published before the month was out, though this has not stopped various examples being advertised as the first: as recently as 2021 a copy of the Gentleman's Magazine for August 1776 was prominently auctioned as 'likely the first printing of the Declaration of Independence in Britain'.
It can be fairly definitively stated that this example is not the first monthly magazine appearance of the Declaration: the Monthly Miscellany was one of the short-lived monthly magazines that sprung up in the second half of the 18th century - of over 100 new titles started between 1760 and 1779, only 8 were still publishing in 1780 - and was joined in printing the Declaration in August by the General, Gentleman's, London, Scots, Sentimental, Universal, Weekly, and Westminster Magazines. Begun in 1774 as a publication of Richard Snagg, The Monthly Miscellany probably changed hands in July or August 1776 (based on the typography and issue length being altered between July and August - in the year when Snagg was declared bankrupt), and the 1777 (last published) volume has a new imprint under the name of J. Coote. Under its new ownership, the Monthly Miscellany seems to have become a sister magazine to its near-exact contemporary Sentimental Magazine (1773-1777), with analysis of its contents by Pitcher ('Problems with Eighteenth-Century Periodicals', PBSA 80.2, 1986, pp. 233-237) showing that 80-90% of its contents from August 1776 until close appeared to be taken from the same month's issue of the Sentimental Magazine. This includes the Declaration, which is printed here on pages 366-368; some other revolutionary-era news features in the reports elsewhere in the volume.
This particular volume, clearly contemporaneously bound up from stab-sewn issues, is lacking several elements present in the Matyas copy. This seems likely to be a result, at least in part, of slapdash production: the final gathering of the September issue (containing 'Foreign and Domestic occurrences') has simply not been included, and the November issue apparently was produced with two gatherings in a row signed '3O' and comprising pp. 473-480, but with different text, and in this copy only one of them is present. The question of the plates is perhaps more vexed: Matyas records 24 in addition to the engraved title-page, while this copy has 12. It's possible that issues were sold with different numbers of plates at different price points, but if the order and placement recorded by Matyas is correct, this volume contains no plates for the January and October issues, two plates for February and March, then one each for all of the other months.
Withal this remains a particularly unusual example of an early printing of the Declaration, exceptionally rare on the market and scarcer in institutions than it seems: of the 12 locations with holdings of the Monthly Miscellany recorded in ESTC, only four can be confirmed through their own catalogues to have the August 1776 issue containing the Declaration: BL, Trinity College in Hartford, UC Berkeley, and the University of Minnesota.

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