|Title page for The Life of Brainerd, signed on the flyleaf by Moses Peck|
|Subscription list for The Life of Brainerd, showing Moses Peck's name|
An extant proposal for The Life of Brainerd describes the condition of the sale to subscribers, offering a number of binding options. It could be bought "halfbound, with pasteboard and cover'd with blue or marble paper," for twenty-four shillings in Old Tenor Massachusetts currency, "common plain bound" in sheepskin for twenty-eight shillings, or plain bound in sheepskin and "sowed on bands" for thirty-two shillings. According to the proposal, half the impressions for this book would be printed on one kind of paper, and a second would be printed on a paper of an inferior grade that would reduce the costs listed above by two shillings.
In the colonial period, books could be bound in a variety of ways. One of the cheapest options was to use pasteboard, made by layering several poor quality sheets of paper together by pressure until a certain thickness had been achieved. Pasteboard was often covered with inexpensive blue or marbled paper to add some color to the boards. Mention in the proposal that the books with pasteboard and marbled paper would be "halfbound" meant that the spine and part of the boards would be overlaid with leather. The other options to subscribers were for full leather bindings in sheepskin. As the cheapest form of leather available in the colonies, sheepskin provided a sturdier and better option than books "in boards" alone, although still inferior to those bound with a more durable product like calfskin or goatskin.
Even though the proposal only presented the book to subscribers in these three options, I have located several records indicating that about seventy copies or so were bound in calfskin, and some with elaborate gilt work. The most prominent name featured on the subscription list, Governor Jonathan Belcher, for instance, ordered three copies at forty shillings and another three at 37s.6d. These expensive copies were assuredly bound with gilt work and at least three seems to have had a black label on the spine (one of the purchasing orders contains the description "black" next to the entry).
In my forthcoming book, I will be talking a lot about the publication of The Life of Brainerd. With nearly 2,000 subscribers, it surpassed the average print run for colonial books by at least 1,500 copies. An army of ministers and magistrates gathered subscriptions for the book, including Brainerd's Yale classmate Samuel Buell (debited for 141 copies) and friend Ebenezer Pemberton (71 copies).
In order to complete the composition and print work, Samuel Kneeland ordered at least ninety-four reams of paper. At twenty-two sheets in octavo per book, this number of reams would have been enough to complete the print work for roughly 2,000 copies. With the help of Professor Michael Winship at the University of Texas at Austin, my preliminary analysis is that at first Kneeland thought that he could print the book with eighty-eight reams of paper, forty-four reams for each of the two kinds of paper mentioned in the proposal. However, at some point, it appears that he notified Henchman that he would need at least an additional six reams to complete the job. The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) contains a note signifying that a number of sheets were reprinted and inserted into the middle of the book. These sheets presumably came from the extra reams of paper that Kneeland ordered from Henchman. I will be studying the collation formula in my copy in order to figure out how many of the pages were reprinted and inserted into the book, and on what kind of paper. A quick look at some of the pages at the beginning of the book and in the middle of my copy, shows that this was a different kind of paper by comparison to most of the other pages. In the image below, if you look closely, you may be able to see small sections of light colored paper at the beginning and middle of the book.
In my forthcoming book, I will be including much more detailed information on the publication of The Life of Brainerd and other books by Jonathan Edwards.