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Printing in Massachusetts

Stephen Daye stepped aside from the Cambridge Press in 1649 and his assistant English-born Samuel Green (ca. 1614–1702) assumed control until it ceased operation in 1692. Green was the first of a two-hundred-year run of family printers. His work exemplified the narrow range of publishing in seventeenth-century Massachusetts. With a purposeful selection of essays, sermons, and homilies, the press in this period served the church rather than the social and economic interests of a growing river city.

To produce the most significant publication of the Massachusetts colonial period, the Eliot Indian Bible, Green took on an assistant, Marmaduke Johnson (1614–1702), to manage the printing of 1,000 copies of the book, each more than 1,100 pages in length. Johnson went on to operate the first press in Boston in 1674 where he and others attempted to launch a newspaper. Despite several efforts of local printers, British North America did not have a successful, continually published newspaper until Bartholomew Green (1666–1732) printed the Boston News-Letter in 1704.

Although printing eventually spread to other Massachusetts towns, it was carefully controlled by civil and church authorities. An open press implied the ability to question standing authority and to promote heresy. Because newspaper printing often sustained the finances of a press operation, many Massachusetts printers found government intervention intolerable and moved out of the colony in order to operate viable printing businesses. Philadelphia, in particular, emerged as the next major center of colonial printing in the eighteenth century, in part, because its size and diversity attracted a more varied and robust press.
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