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Historical newspaper fragment from late 1700s or early 1800s, Philadelphia (specimen 1)

Bartram text 1a.jpg
Bartram text 1b.jpg
This newspaper fragment (photos depict front and back) was found in the attic of Philadelphia's first botanist and founder of the American Philosophical Society, John Bartram. We are trying to identify the typeface and whether it may have been printed during his lifetime (1699-1777). However, radiocarbon dates from other artifacts in the attic assemblage suggest it may be from the early 1800s.
asked by anonymous Apr 24, 2018

2 Answers

+1 vote
Sorry, but the typeface alone won't help you date your sample that precisely.

Metal typefaces had long lifespans/periods of use. Faces introduced in the 17th and 18th centuries were still in circulation well into the 19th century and beyond, often refined and reissued but still relatively close to the original design.

From what little detail can be seen in your samples, it appears to be some form of Caslon (the same typeface used for the first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence), which was introduced in 1720 (EDIT: first specimen sheet published in the 1730s). It fell out of favor by the early 1800s, but enjoyed a revival around 1840 and still exists in a number of digital variations today.
answered by kthomps5 Expert (2,550 points) Apr 24, 2018
edited by kthomps5 Apr 25, 2018
Thank you so much for your response about this newspaper fragment. If you're interested in looking at additional historical paper fragments from Bartram's attic (8 typeface, 1 handwritten), I've included a link to the images. I'd be grateful for any additional thoughts/suggestions too!
0 votes

Great answer from Kevin. What typefaces can do is give you an estimated limit on age. This fragment

shows a very heavy style of roman (AKA fat face) which was probably not produced before 1800. That, paired with the Caslon, suggests the newspaper was printed in the mid to late 19th century.

answered by Stewf Expert (3,413 points) Apr 25, 2018
edited by Stewf Apr 25, 2018
Thank you for this information! One of our radiocarbon dates from the attic assemblage (from a preserved plant specimen) suggests a date of around 1810, but the other radiocarbon date is later, probably around 1880. We're trying to determine whether these newspaper fragments reflect an accumulation over decades in the attic... but it sounds as though all of our newspaper fragments could have been produced in the mid to late 19th century! Thank you!