This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Collecting the Scattered and Forgotten: Printers, Collectors, and Early Archival Societies




Brown, Robin

Type of Degree





The formation of archives in America, according to most archival literature, began in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This view, however, fails to consider the pivotal roles played by individuals before archives formalized into a specific profession. Printers, as disseminators of the written word, had a significant role in the development of the American press and in the preservation of its materials. The nature of their profession acquainted them with the intimacies of creating printed matter and in many ways, equipped them to preserve it. Collectors, through their efforts to build their own cache of materials, helped rescue historical materials. Printers’ trade activities enabled them to encounter and acquire a large amount of books and printed materials, which in turn, inspired some of them to become collectors. The lives of Isaiah Thomas and Peter Force, both printers and private collectors, indicate how printers functioned as early archivists in the early nineteenth century. By considering a new identity for printers and collectors, this thesis also contemplates the identity of the archives in the nineteenth century.