The Williamsburg Imprints Program

Virginia Imprints Before 1781:
A Descriptive Bibliography

Colonial American Imprints as Artifacts.

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Welcome! The Williamsburg Imprints Program (WIP) is a colonial American studies project based in Williamsburg, Virginia. The focus of this program is the material culture of printing as it was practiced in Virginia before 1781.

The influence of printing on 18th-century American culture, government, and the Revolution was enormous. While a considerable amount of research has been done in this area, much of it excellent, the study of colonial printing has been handicapped by the lack of specific data. Where did these printers get their type and paper? How many people worked in these shops? How did 18th-century American printers perform their work as compared to their European counterparts? The purpose of the WIP is to answer these types of questions through the bibliographical analysis of the books, newspapers, and ephemera which survive.

Just as a detective uses clues at the scene of a crime to reconstruct the crime itself, the WIP uses the evidence provided by the surviving imprints to reveal important facts about the tradesmen who manufactured them. Few archival records or archeological remains of 18th-century Williamsburg printers survive, but the imprints themselves provide a crucial link to information that otherwise might not be discovered.

The following pages offer an overview of the project, with sections on the special techniques used to examine 200-year-old printed items.


Overview of the Project

Special Features of the WIP

Printing Type Used in Williamsburg Printing

Type used in text Ornamental Type


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