Jonathan Senchyne (University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Slavery and the History of the Book in America”
Thursday, March 1, 2018 @ 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
In The History of Printing In America (1812), Isaiah Thomas briefly records the life of Primus Fowle, an African American who was enslaved by Daniel Fowle in Boston and Portsmouth. Thomas writes, “This negro was named Primus. He was an African. I well remember him; he worked at press with or without an assistant; he continued to do press work until prevented by age. He went to Portsmouth with his master, and there died, being more than ninety years of age; about fifty of which he was a pressman.” Though he “did press work,” the broadsides, newspapers, and other sheets that came off his press were marked “Daniel Fowle, Printer” or “Printed by Daniel Fowle,” never formally crediting Primus Fowle. What are the logics of both print and slavery that occlude a figure like Primus Fowle? What would it mean to account for enslaved printers within our vast archives of early American print? Senchyne argues for the importance of reading typography, accidents, breakages, and other non-alphabetic marks in recovering the presence of enslaved printers like Primus Fowle.
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