The initial release of a major new enrichment to the Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker collections has just occurred. Rare items from the American Antiquarian Society, available for the first time in Readex digital editions of Early American Imprints, are highlighted below.
The Gosport Tragedy (1776)
From Early American Imprints, Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society.
The Gosport Tragedy, or The Perjured Ship Carpenter, is a murder ballad set to the tune of Peggy’s Gone Over Sea. The folk song tells of a young woman lured by her lover into the forest where she is killed and buried in a shallow grave. In this version of the story the woman, Molly, is murdered by a ship’s carpenter, William, who had promised to marry her after she became pregnant. When William returns to sea, he is haunted by Molly’s ghost and confesses to the murder before going mad.
The life of a virgin, sweet William, I prize,
For marriage brings sorrow and troubles likewise;
I am loath to venture, and therefore forbear,
For I will not wed with a ship-carpenter,
For in the time of war to the sea you must go,
And leave wife and children in sorrow and woe.
The seas they are perilous, therefore forbear,
For I will not wed with a ship-carpenter.
But yet all in vain she his suit did deny,
Though he still did press her maker her comply,
At length with his cunning he did her betray,
And to lewd desire he led her away.
In other versions the woman is named Polly and the song is titled Pretty Polly. Some have suggested the ballad is the musical basis for Ballad of Hollis Brown by Bob Dylan who, in his early career, played the song under the title Pretty Polly. Woody Guthrie also used the tune for Pastures of Plenty.
The Solar System Displayed (1789)
By Bartholomew Burges
From Early American Imprints, Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society
Bartholomew Burges dedicated this intricate and surprisingly accurate map of the known solar system to the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the State of Massachusetts and to the Philosophical Society of Pennsylvania. Although this map was created 48 years prior to the discovery of Neptune and only eight years after the official discovery of Uranus, labeled here after its discoverer William Herschel, it includes Saturn’s rings and five of its moons as well as four of Jupiter’s moons. Even more amazing is the accuracy of the table showing the various planets’ distances from the sun.