Skip to main content

‘A new species of Monster’: Newly Digitized Items in Early American Imprints, Series II

Posted on 01/09/2017

GerryMonster 4.jpgThe December release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 1 from the American Antiquarian Society includes rare broadsides on health, politics, and entertainment. This release, which also contains a scarce atlas mapping the West Indies, is the final major release of this collection.


Indian Medicine.jpg

Indian Medicines: Recommendations and Directions (1805)

By Charity Shaw

Early nineteenth-century America saw the commercialization of many aspects of American Indian culture, including the use of therapeutic herbs and other approaches to popular medicine. Charity Shaw offers an array of remedies for a wider range of maladies, writing:

Indian Medicines, composed of roots and herbs only, adapted to almost every complaint, so rapid in their progress, that one week will decide their power and efficacy. Indisputable testimonies can be produced, of their curing numbers of the Dysentery (in three days,) Canker, Tooth Ache, Rheumatism, contracted Sinews, callous Swellings, Gravel, Tape-Worm and all others in old and young, Scrofulous Humours, Cancers, Itch, Hooping Cough, Consumptive and Liver Complaints, Leprosy, Sciatica, Dropsy and Fevers, since May last.

One such testimonial is offered by Freelove Boyden:

This is to certify, that I, the subscriber, Freelove Boyden, of Walpole, was in a deplorable situation with a cancer in my head; my life was despaired of, and I was considered as a dying woman. I had no hope of recovery in June last. From the application of Mrs. Shaw’s Arab’s Cure for the Cancer, I was comforted – several pieces of bone discharged from my head, and I have been rapidly recovering ever since, so that I walked a mile, and enjoy surprising spirits, ease and health – my cancer is rapidly healing, but my blood being in a bad state, may retard a perfect cure; but it is a fact, that I have not enjoyed so much rest and comfort for years before.

One of the many intriguing treatments Shaw offers is Scorbutick bitters which is claimed to cure “the nervous head ache, dizziness, loss of appetite and debility” and should be taken “in wine, at 11 o’clock daily…”



A New Atlas of the British West Indies (1810)

By Bryan Edwards

Bryan Edwards (1743-1800) was an English politician, historian, and supporter of the slave trade. In 1758, Edwards’ father died and he moved to Jamaica to live with his uncle Zacchary Bayly, a successful merchant and plantation owner. Edwards inherited Bayly’s wealth and property in the West Indies including several plantations. In the following decades, he made several journeys back and forth between England and the West Indies and authored several books. This collection of maps was engraved to accompany an edition, published posthumously, of his History of the West Indies.


GerryMonster 5.jpg

The Gerry-mander (1812)

This early political cartoon contains the first use of the term gerrymander. The illustration, published in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812, was in reaction to the redistricting of Massachusetts under Governor Elbridge Gerry. One of the newly formed districts was shaped, to the eye of some, like a salamander. The word is a portmanteau of Gerry and salamander. The original gerrymander depicts the Essex South district in Jan. 1812. Below the illustration reads:

The horrid Monster of which this drawing is a correct representation, appeared in the County of Essex, during the last session of the Legislature. Various and manifold have been the speculations and conjectures, among learned naturalists respecting the genus and origin of this astonishing production. Others pronounce it the Serpens Menocephalus of Pliny, or single-headed Hydra, a terrible animal of pagan extraction. Many are of opinion that it is the Griffin or Hippogriff of romance, which flourished in the dark ages, and has come hither to assist the knight of the rueful countenance in restoring that gloomy period of ignorance, fiction and imposition. Some think it the great Red Dragon, or Bunyun’s Apollyon or the Monsirum Horrendum of Virgil, and all believe it a creature of infernal origin, both from its aspect, and from the circumstance of its birth.

But the learned Doctor Watergruel who is famous for peeping under the skirts of nature, has decided that it belongs to the Salamander tribe, and give many plausible reasons for this opinion.



Tigers (1815)

This broadside advertises the exhibition of “two royal Brazilian Tigers, Remarkably Elegant and Docile” and its citation includes the following ominous note:

Advertised in the June 28, 1815, issue of the Columbian Centinel, Boston: Tigers! The subscriber [Edward Savage] informs the public, that he has added to the museum in Boylston Market-House, living tigers which were taken out of a prize and brought into this town by the frigate Constitution.

For more information about Early American Imprints, Series I and II: Supplements from the American Antiquarian Society, 1652-1819, including pricing, or to request a trial for your institution, please contact

Stay in Touch

Receive product news, special offers and invitations, or the acclaimed Readex Report

Sign Up

By clicking "Sign Up", you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.