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THE DEARTH OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE early public printers of the United States has been commented on often enough; and, were it not for the pioneer listing of Greely,[1] the historian and the bibliographer alike would be lost in the morass of miscellaneous official and semi-official leaves and pamphlets which poured from the American presses during the first fourteen Congresses.

Since the following heretofore unpublished letters shed considerable light on the printing practices of the first days of the Republic, they are transcribed in full. They have not been burdened with notes concerning the writers, since such information is readily available in standard reference works.[2] They comprise the earliest group of a collection of letters in the Executive and Foreign Affairs section of the National Archives, entitled "Laws of the United States and Related Papers 1789-1923," and are contained in a portfolio of letters to the Secretaries of State, concerning the printing of laws, 1789-1822. In


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addition to fourteen letters to Jefferson, eleven of which are from printers, presented here are a letter from the printing establishment of Childs and to Remsen, chief clerk at the State Department for two years under Jefferson, and a document, signed by Jefferson, to the Department of State, which confers his official approval on an edition of the "Laws of the United States of America," printed by Andrew Brown in Philadelphia, 1792. The remaining three letters to Jefferson recommend printers; one, from Jabez Bowen, recommends Bennett Wheeler; another, from William Bingham, recommends Andrew Brown; and the third, from David Sewall, recommends Benjamin Titcomb, Jr. One other unpublished Jefferson letter from the Library of Congress collection is printed in a footnote, because it supplements the correspondence with Benjamin Russell.

This group is of special interest because of the information contained therein concerning printing prices current, and the indication, evinced by the letters of application and the letters "recommendatory," that much competition was called forth by the prestige accruing to those printers who were fortunate enough to obtain the coveted privilege of printing the federal laws. David Sewall's effort to get some political patronage for the State of Maine is also worthy of note.