J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Virtual Visit to the A.A.S.’s Paul Revere Collection

Jumping jerboas! Last week the American Antiquarian Society announced a webpage for its Paul Revere Collection.

These aren’t the metalsmith’s primary products: silverware, church bells, copper sheeting, &c. Rather, the A.A.S. has a thorough collection of Revere’s engravings, including business documents, political cartoons, newspaper and magazine illustrations, bookplates, and currency.

Back in 1954, the A.A.S. librarian and director Clarence S. Brigham published the major study on Revere’s engravings, collecting examples, as well as sources and copies. On another webpage the A.A.S. says:

During the years leading up to the publication of this monograph, Brigham scouted out impressions of Revere's engravings until the Society had at least one of each, except for the portrait of Jonathan Mayhew. Since then, three engravings by Revere have surfaced; AAS has impressions of two (a meeting notice for the Relief Fire Society and the bookplate of John Butler) but not of the other (a billhead for Mr. John Piemont, owned by the town of Danvers, Massachusetts).
Boston 1775 readers might remember Piemont as the barber in central Boston whose apprentices were part of the spiral of violence on King Street that led to the Boston Massacre. He retired from hairdressing shortly before the war to run taverns in Danvers. Scroll down this page to see a reproduction of his billhead at the Turk’s Head inn.

Not every image in the collection is by Revere. Here’s Henry Pelham’s engraving of the Boston Massacre, which Revere copied, and someone else might have made this woodcut copy of the Massacre print.

Brigham identified a lot of these engravings as copied from English sources. (Revere was a much better artist in silver than in engraving.) It would be interesting to see the sources side by side with Revere’s copies, but I don’t think that’s possible within this collection. There is, however, a list of links to Revere items elsewhere.

The A.A.S. staff has put a lot of effort into presenting the material in different ways. There’s a thumbnail gallery, explanatory essays, and topic sortings. Teachers might appreciate the questions for further study and essays.

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