“A More Extensive Diffusion
of Useful Knowledge”
CAREY, DOBSON, YOUNG, AND CAMPBELL
The year 1784—the year of Robert Bell's death, Robert Aitken's edition of Hugh Blair's Lectures, and the opening of Jackson and Dunn's large bookstore—was also the year in which Mathew Carey (1760–1839), Thomas Dobson (1750–1823), and William Young (1755–1829) arrived in Philadelphia. With the war over, the United States of America appeared to be a land of boundless prosperity for many Europeans, particularly in areas of the economy that had been cut off from European supply during the war, such as books. As Benjamin Rush explained to William Cullen in a letter of 16 September 1783, scarcely any books had been received from Britain during the war, and “we are eight years behind you in everything.”1 The possibilities for both importing and reprinting books had never been so promising. In addition to economic opportunity, the new nation's atmosphere of religious toleration and its potential for denominational growth were attractive to members of pious religious sects, such as Young (an antiburgher seceder in Scotland), and of oppressed religious minorities, such as Carey (a Roman Catholic in Ireland). In some cases, notably that of Carey, America's relatively open political atmosphere was equally important. All these factors helped to create the influx of Scottish and Irish bookmen who dominated the American book trade in the late eighteenth century. The phenomenon was especially evident in Philadelphia, the cultural and political capital of the new republic and a center of ethnic and religious diversity. Carey, Dobson, Young, and Robert Campbell (1769
1. Rush, Letters, 1:310.
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Publication information: Book title: The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and America. Contributors: Richard B. Sher - Author. Publisher: University of Chicago Press. Place of publication: Chicago. Publication year: 2006. Page number: 541.
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