Tuesday, September 29, 2015

American Biography - 1st Licensed Female Colonial Printer - Dinah Nuthead of Maryland

In 1695, Dinah Nuthead inherited her husband's printing press in St. Mary's City, Maryland. St. Mary's was the capital of the state at that time, & her husband William acted as the government's printer. Less than a year later, Dinah moved the printing press to Annapolis; when the government relocated there, & she continued to run the printing business. She would become the first licensed female printer in the colonies.

Colonial governments showed little enthusiasm for printing presses & their owners in the 17th century. Printing in England was strictly controlled from the late 16th century; until the Licensing Act lapsed in 1695. The number of printers & the size of their shops was regulated. Authorities feared that printing might incite the populace.

Sir William Berkeley, royal governor of Virginia in 1671, wrote, 'I thank God there are no free schools nor printing and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them...God keep us from both.'

The instructions of King James II to Governor Edmund Andros of New England, gave him sweeping powers: "And forasmuch as great inconvenience may arise by the liberty of printing within our said territory under your government you are to provide by all necessary orders that no person keep any printing-press for printing, nor that any book, pamphlet or other matters whatsoever be printed without your especial leave and license first obtained."

John Buckner was the first man to use a printing press in Virginia. He employed William Nuthead to print the laws of the General Assembly under Governor Berkeley, beginning in June 8, 1680. On February 21, 1682-3, he was called before Berkeley's successor Lord Culpepper and the Council for not getting His Excellency's license. Thereupon he and his printer were ordered to give bond in £100 not to print anything thereafter until His Majesty's pleasure should be known. 

William Nuthead (1654-1695) moved to nearby Maryland & had a printing press up & running in St. Mary's City by 1686, when immigration records show him entering the province. After Massachusetts, Maryland was the 2nd colony to establish & sustain a printing press. Archaeologists have found pieces of the Nuthead's printing type on several sites in St. Mary's City. Nuthead's main business was in printing forms for the government.

After the Protestants gained power in Maryland in 1689, they hired Nuthead to print a political tract petitioning the English monarchs for legitimacy. A surviving copy in London, titled “The Declaration of the Reasons and Motives,” notes that it was “printed by William Nuthead at the City of St. Maries.”

At his death in 1695, his wife Dinah Nuthead continued operating the press; and when the capital moved to Annapolis later that same year, she moved with the government.

On May 5, 1696, more than a year after her husband's death, "Dinah Nuthead's Petition for License to Print was read & referred to the House that if they have nothing to Object her Paper might be Granted provided she give Security for the same."

Eight days later her petition was read to the delegates, & the House expressed its willingness that she should have leave to print if his Excellency pleased. Evidently the Governor offered no objection, for the next day 3 persons described as "Dinah Nuthead of Ann Arundell County Widow, Robert Carvile, and William Taylard of St. Maries County Gentn" gave bond to the Governor to the amount of 100 pounds for the good behavior of Dinah Nuthead in the operation of her press.

"Now the Condition of this Obligation is such that if the said Dinah Nuthead shall exercise and Imploy her printing press and letters to noe other use than for the printing of blank bills bonds writts warrants of Attorney Letters of Admrcon and other like blanks as above - sd nor Suffer any other person to make use thereof any otherwise than aforesd Unless by a particular Lycense from his Exncy the Governor first had and obtained And further shall save harmless and indempnifye his sd Exncy the Governor from any Damage that may hereafter Ensue by the said Dinah Nuthead misapplying or Suffering to be misapplyed the aforesd Printing press or letters otherwise than to the true intent & meaning before expressed, Then this Obligation to be Voyd or else to Remain in full force and Virtue."

This agreement for the protection of the Province against the evils of indiscriminate printing was signed by witnesses, by the 2 bondsmen, & by the Dinah Nuthead, who made her mark instead of signing her name to the document.

She had agreed "to print blanks, bills, bonds, writs, warrants of attorney, letters of administration and other necessary blanks useful for the public offices of this Province." And she had agreed to forfeit her license & her bond & go out of business; if she should print anything other than what the government specified. Since Dinah could not write, she probably would not act as compositor & set type with her own hands. She would supply the money & business acumen, leaving the mechanical aspects of operating a printing press to literate employes.

Sometime before December of 1700, Dinah Nuthead remarried widower Manus Deveron (1655-1700) of Anne Arundel County, who dying in that month left his estate to his own daughter Catherine, & to his children-in-law, that is his step-children, William & Susan Nuthead. His wife & executrix submitted her account to the county under the name of Dinah Devoran. In later years, Dinah married again to "Sebastian Oley of Annarund'l County a German born," as he was described in his act of naturalization of 1702.

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