Rural Massachusetts Imprints Collection

Rural Massachusetts Imprints Collection
48 items (3 linear feet)
Call no.: RB 012
Image of John Metcalf
John Metcalf

Although printing requires a substantial capital investment in equipment before any hope of profitability can be entertained, there have been numerous attempts over the years to set up printing houses in communities with astonishingly small population bases. In even the most remote Massachusetts towns, people like John Metcalf (Wendell), Ezekiel Terry (Palmer), and John and Solomon Howe (Enfield and Greenwich) operated as printers during the nineteenth century, specializing in a quotidian array of broadsides, song sheets, almanacs, toy books, and printed forms, hoping to supplement, or provide, a decent living.

This small, but growing collection consists of materials printed prior to the twentieth century in small Massachusetts towns, defined as towns with populations less than about 2,500. Although few of these houses survived for long, they were important sources for rural communities. Typically simple in typography, design, and binding, even crude, the output of such printers provides an important gauge of the interests and tastes of New England’s smallest and often poorest communities.


Operating a capital-intensive business like a printer’s shop in a rural setting is not an obvious route to financial success. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, several printers tried their hand in rural communities, attempting to make, or supplement, a living by meeting local demand for reading matter.

In many ways, the output of rural printing shops is unlike that coming from more cosmopolitan printing centers, centered on the more popular forms of literature and relatively easy to produce works like broadsides, song sheets, commemorative poems, almanacs, toy books, and, probably, forms. Generally simple, even crude, with respect to typography, design, and binding, the output of such printers provides an important gauge of the interests and tastes of New England’s smallest and often poorest communities. In some cases, the printing history of rural shops can be exceedingly complex. John Metcalf, for example, who operated in the tiny town of Wendell between 1812-1832, specialized in the simplest children’s books, using his array of woodblock illustrations creatively, sometimes chaotically, when printing what appear to be a series of very short runs. As a result, each printing may vary slightly, but frequently.

Contents of Collection

This small, but growing collection consists of books, pamphlets, and broadsides printed prior to the twentieth century in small Massachusetts towns, arbitrarily defined as towns with populations less than about 2,500. Although few of these shops survived for long, they were important resources for rural communities.

Among the printers represented in the collection are well-known firms such as the Howes of the Quabbin region, John Metcalf of Wendell, and Ezekiel Terry of Palmer. For comparative purposes, we have included a few works by printers such as the Merriams of Brookfield, a small town which was nevertheless well connected to a larger market by being situated on a major thoroughfare.

Collection inventory
Advice to sabbath school children. Wendell, Mass.: J. Metcalf
Rural Mass. BJ1631 . A38 1828
Allen, Alonzo G. (Alonzo Giles), 1811-1872, Alonzo and Melissa: illustrating the changes of fortune and triumph of virtue. [Enfield, Mass.]: [Printed by S. Howe]
Rural Mass. PS1029 . A45 A5 1844
Beckwith, E. (Ebenezer), 1796-, Various poems: for the perusal of young and old. Greenfield, Mass.: Charles A. Mirick
Rural Mass. PS1083 . B45 V37
Belden, Joshua, 1766-1849, The angel’s book. Whately: For sale by Joshua Belden
Rural Mass. BF1101 . B45 1820
Blair, Hugh, 1718-1800, An abridgment of lectures on rhetoric. Wendell, Mass.: J. Metcalf
Rural Mass. PE1402. B72 1823c
Bullock, Alexander H. (Alexander Hamilton), 1816-1882, A commemorative address at Royalston. August 23rd, 1865: the hundredth anniversary of its incorporation. Winchendon, Mass.: Frank W. Ward
Rural Mass. F74 . R92 B9 1865
Burroughs, Stephen, 1765-1840, Sketch of the life of the notorious Stephen Burroughs . . .: Containing the most interesting events of his life
. Greenfield, Mass.: Printed by John Denio
Rural Mass. CT275 . B8 A3 1812
Carter, Simeon, 1824-, Poems and aphorisms: a woodsman’s musings. Baldwinville, Mass.: Published and for sale by the author
Rural Mass. PS1262 . C4 P6
Cave, William, 1637-1713, The lives of the holy evangelists and apostles: with their martyrdoms, for preaching the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Leominster, (Massachusetts): By Charles Prentiss
Rural Mass. BS2440 . C32 1797
Cooke, Parsons, 1800-1864, An address delivered at the laying of the corner stone of the meeting house of the First Calvinistic Society in Hardwick, Mass. , Sept. 1828
. Brookfield, Mass.: E. and G. Merriam
Rural Mass. BX9426 . C66 1828
Davison, Phinehas, 1743-1826, Evangelical poems; in two books. The first book: being the husbandman’s companion: showing how his business may assist him in spiritual meditation. Palmer, Mass.: E. Terry
Rural Mass. PS1524 . D16 E8 1810
Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764, The economy of human life / translated from an Indian manuscript, written by an antient Bramin ; to which is prefixed an account of the manner in which the said manuscript was discovered, if [i. e. in] a letter, from an English gentleman residing in China, to his friend in England. Leominster, (Massachusetts): By Charles Prentiss
Rural Mass. BJ1561 . D6 1797
Dunn, Samuel, 1746-1843, An elegy on the death of Mr. Harfield Lyndsey, aged 26 years. [Enfield, Mass.]: S. Howe
Rural Mass. Broadside 2
Emmons, Nathanael, 1745-1840, A sermon preached at the ordination of the Rev. Edwards Whipple: to the pastoral care of the First Congregational Church in Charlton, January 25, 1804. Brookfield, Mass.: E. Merriam and Co.
Rural Mass. BX7239 . O7 E66 1804
Emmons, Nathanael, 1745-1840, A sermon preached at the ordination of the Rev. Edwards Whipple to the pastoral care of the First Congregational Church in Charlton, January 25, 1804, 2nd ed.
. New York: Printed by George Forman for C. Davis
Rural Mass. BX7239 . O7 E66 1809
Farmer’s, mechanics and gentleman’s almanack. Keene, N. H.: J. and J. W. Prentiss
Rural Mass. AY81 . F3 F395
Field, Joseph, 1772-1866, The benevolence of the gospel ministry: illustrated in a sermon, preached at Heath, December 26, 1804, at the ordination of Rev. Moses Miller, A. M. . Greenfield, Mass.: Printed by John Denio
Rural Mass. BX7239 . O7 F54 1805
Gibbon, Edward, 1737-1794, The life of Mahomet: with sketches of the reigns of his successors Abubeker, Omar, Othman, and Ali: from The decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Leominster, Mass.: Printed by Salmon Wilder for John Whiting of Lancaster
Rural Mass. BP75 . G54 1805
Gray mare, or, Johnny the miller, and beautiful Kate. [Enfield, Mass.]?: S. Howe?
Rural Mass. M1628. 3 . G73 1838
Harding, Alpheus, 1790-1869, Address delivered in Greenfield, June 25, 5832, before the “Franklin R. A. Chapter,” and a collection of companions and brethren of the Masonic family,: in commemoration of the birth of John the Baptist
. Wendell, Mass.: J. Metcalf
Rural Mass. HS445 . M4 H37
The history of Capt. Thomas Parismas: containing a particular account of the cruel and barbarous treatment of a young lady, who was the wife of Mr. James Negotio, a merchant, in the East Indies. Greenwich [Mass.]: Printed and sold by John Howe
Rural Mass. PS475 . H5 1812
History of the Holy Bible {title vignette with caption: Luke ii. 27. 38]. Wendell, Mass.: J. Metcalf
Rural Mass. BS539 . H5 1825
Howe, John, 1783-1845, The Christian’s pocket-companion: being a choice collection of devotional hymns for the use of Christians, in public worship and private devotion, without distinction of denomination. Enfield, Mass.: John Howe
Rural Mass. BV459 . H69 1826
Howe’s almanac, for the year of our Lord. Greenwich, Mass.: [J. Howe]
Rural Mass. AY201 . G9 F8
Howe’s genuine almanac for the year of our Lord. Greenwich, [Mass.]: [publisher not identified]
Rural Mass. AY201 . G9 F8
Invitation hymn. [Enfield, Mass.]?: S. Howe?
Rural Mass. Broadside 1
Lecraw, J. B. , A Sketch of the life, travels, and sufferings of a reformed man: showing the misery to which intemperance brought him, and the means he would resort to procure the inebriating draught; and also showing the strength of this ferocious appetite for alcoholic drinks, when once fastened upon our system. Pawtucket [Mass.]: B. W. Pearce
Rural Mass. hv5070 . l4 1844
Little rhymes for little readers. Wendell, Mass.: J. Metcalf
Rural Mass. BJ1571 . L58 1832
Little verses, for good children. Wendell, Mass.: J. Metcalf
Rural Mass. PZ6 . H6244 1831
Macgowan, John, 1726-1780, The life of Joseph, the son of Israel.: In eight books. Chiefly designed to allure young minds to a love of the sacred scriptures
. Williamsburg, Mass.: Ephraim Whitman
Rural Mass. BS580 . J6 M3 1818
Mason, Mrs. , Ellegiac poems, sacred to freindship. Greenwich, Mass.: J. Howe
Rural Mass. PS804 . M3 E44 1803
New Catherine Ogee. [Enfield, Mass.]?: S. Howe?
ca. 1835
Rural Mass. M1628. 3 . N49 1830z
ImagePictures of animals. Wendell, Mass.: J. Metcalf
Rural Mass. QL49 . P538 1832
Prentiss, Charles, 1774-1820, The life of the late Gen. William Eaton;: several years an officer in the United States’ army, consul at the Regency of Tunis on the coast of Barbary, and commander of the Christian and other forces that marched from Egypt through the Desert of Barca, in 1805, and conquered the city of Derne, which let to the treaty of peace between the United States and the Regency of Tripoli. Principally collected from his correspondence and other manuscripts
. Brookfield, Mass.: E. Merriam and Co.
Rural Mass. DT264. 3 . E3 R6 1813
Quabbin Club, Enfield, Mass. , Calendar and Quabbin Elegy. [Enfield, Mass.]: [publisher not identified]
Rural Mass. F74 . E5 Q3
Robert and William, or, the beauties of nature. Greenfield, Mass.: A. Phelps
Rural Mass. QH48 . R63 1844
Rogers, Timothy, 1589-1650?, The righteous man’s evidence for heaven: or, A treaties [sic] shewing how every one, while he lives here, may certainly know what shall become of him after his departure out of this life. / By Timothy Rogers. Preacher of God’s word in Essex. West-Springfield [Mass.]: Printed by Edward Gray, for Nathaniel Patten
Rural Mass. BT845 . R63 1797
Second Congregational Church (Hadley, Mass.), The confession of faith, and covenant, and regulations of the Second Church in Hadley. Amherst [Mass.]: J. S. and C. Adams, Printers
Rural Mass. BX7255 . H25 S4 1843
Sherwood, Mary Martha, 1775-1851, The little woodman, and his dog Caesar. Brookfield, Mass.: E. and G. Merriam
Rural Mass. PR5449 . S4 L45 1829
Smith, Eunice, of Ashfield, Some motives to engage those who have professed the name of the Lord Jesus to depart from all iniquity and study a close walk with God: to which are affixed a number of songs presented to those who love the Lord. Greenfield, Mass.: Printed for the proprietor
Rural Mass. BV4510 . A2 S64 1798
Stearns, Charles, 1753-1826, The ladies’ philosophy of love: a poem, in four cantos. Leominster, Mass.: Printed by John Prentiss, and Co. for the author
Rural Mass. PS843 . S7 L3 1797
The stray lamb. Wendell, Mass.: J. Metcalf
Rural Mass. BV4571 . S77 1828
Strong, Titus, 1787-1855, The common reader: consisting of a variety of pieces, original and selected, intended for the use of schools and particularly calculated for the improvement of scholars of the first and second classes in the art of reading. Greenfield, Mass.: Denio and Phelps
Rural Mass. PE1120 . S78 1818x
Terry, Ezekiel, 1775-1829, Memoirs of the life and character of the late Rev. George Atwell. Palmer, Mass.: Ezekiel Terry
Rural Mass. BX495 . A69 T4
Thayer, Nathaniel, 1769-1840, The characteristics of Christian preaching.: A discourse, delivered at Littleton, Massachusetts, at the ordination of Reverend William Hunt White, January 2, 1828. . . . Lancaster, Mass.: Printed by Ferdinand and Joseph Andrews
Rural Mass. BX7232 . T43 C43 1828
Ward, Ephraim, 1741-1818, A sermon, preached in Barre, October 3, 1801: at the interment, of the Rev. Josiah Dana. . . . Brookfield, Mass.: E. Merriam and Co.
Rural Mass. BX7260 . D25 W37 1802
White, N. (Noah), An easy guide to the art of spelling: constructed on an easy and regular plan, for the use of schools: proposing, and recommending a new scheme of an alphabet, and a regular mode of spelling: calculated to remove the difficulties complained of, in the present mode of spelling. Enfield, Mass.: Printed for the author, John Howe, printer
Rural Mass. PE1144 . W55 1819
Yeaw, Juliette, The word: inspirational discourse / delivered by Mrs. Juliette Yeaw, in the Independent Liberal Church at Greenwich, Mass. ; stenographically reported by W. B. Wright. Greenwich, Mass.: H. W. Smith
ca. 1885
Rural Mass. BR560 ,G7556 Y52 1880z
Administrative information

Acquired variously.

Processing Information

Processed by I. Eliot Wentworth, July 2015.

Related Material

Works by other rural printers can be found elsewhere in SCUA’s collections: for example, several of Metcalf’s imprints from his time in Wendell (and his later work in Northampton) are included in the Early Children’s Literature Collection.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: Rural Massachusetts Imprints Collection (RB 012). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

  • Children's books--Massachusetts
  • Printers--Massachusetts
  • Howe, John, 1783-1845
  • Howe, Solomon, 1750-1835
  • Metcalf, John, 1788-1864
  • Terry, Ezekiel, 1775-1829
Types of material
  • Almanacs
  • Broadsides

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