Boston: Sold at the Bible & Heart, in Cornhill, [ca. 1780-1805]. Broadside printed in three columns, 14.75 x 9.88 inches. Backed onto a leaf of a Vermont newspaper dated ca. 1811. Some old edge wear; three flaws to both leaves, with loss of a few words and several stray letters; in good condition. Item #20403
“Here’s one penny’s worth of wit, / To them that go astray; / If warning they will take by it, / ‘Twill do them good another day.” A fugitive example of ephemeral popular literature, an early American version of an evergreen humorous ballad, here printed as a broadside and telling the tale of an errant mariner husband who finds his harlot mistress to be untrue and returns to his honest wife. The American Antiquarian Society’s Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Project notes that while the story itself dates as far back as the 14th century, this version of the text dates from the mid-18th century; various editions of this text had appeared in America since at least the late 18th century: “By the mid-eighteenth century the text was completely rewritten, apparently by a ‘Mr. William Lane,’ as the third verse suggests. From the 1750s the new version was printed often on broadsides and in song collections in England and America (Roud; Ford, ‘Broadsides’ #3161-66; Welsh and Tillinghast #1006-10; Simpson 418-20; Dicey).” Ford, Broadsides, ballads, &c. printed in Massachusetts 1639-1800, 3163. Per the AAS catalog entry, “The Bible and Heart was the sign of T. & J. Fleet from 1776 to 1797, and of John and Thomas Fleet from 1797 to 1805. Another edition printed at the Bible & Heart [with a relief-printed vignette] (Evans 30990) is dated .” ESTC notes two copies of this version at AAS, one at Penn. The newspaper to which this broadside is mounted includes accounts of Fourth of July celebrations in Guilford, Vermont and Norwich, Vermont; among the many proposed toasts for the celebration is one for the 12th Congress, suggesting an 1810-1812 issue of this unidentified newspaper fragment.