The fatal riot of March 5, 1770, rebranded by Patriots as the Boston Massacre, was immediately seized on as a worthy subject for depiction in print. Paul Revere’s “Bloody Massacre” engraving, pirated from a drawing by artist Henry Pelham, was advertised the Boston press as early as March 26, while Pelham’s own version appeared a week thereafter. Both were rushed and rather crude in execution, Revere’s especially so. But they made for exciting viewing and effective propaganda, transforming a squad of ill-prepared, terrified redcoats into a line of grinning executioners and a mob of rioting Bostonians into innocent victims.
Within months variations of the image appeared repeatedly in both Boston and London. Offered here is one of rarer versions, attributed to Revere himself and illustrating the front wrap of Isaiah Thomas’ Massachusetts Calendar for 1772.
“A woodcut [sic] of the Boston Massacre, size 4 ¾ inches high by 3 7/8 inches wide to the border lines, was published in two forms in 1771-1772. Isaiah Thomas published The Massachusetts Calendar, or an Almanac for 1772, containing a woodcut of the Massacre, drawn closely after the Revere print, on the reverse of the first leaf, and below he cut an eight-line patriotic verse. It was unquestionably engraved by Thomas’s friend, Paul Revere, as it was characteristically his work, and of the Boston engravers he was the only one who excelled in engraving on wood.” (Brigham, p. 64)
The almanac contains, in addition to the usual tables and weather predictions, a short essay “Of Liberty and Government” by an unnamed author and “Thoughts on Government. By the Famous William Penn.” The recto of the front wrap bears an unattributed wood engraving of a geographer surrounded by the tools of his trade, using a backstaff to take a sighting on the North Star.
Though lacking the final four leaves, the presence of the “Massacre” cut renders this almanac a rare and desirable pre-Revolutionary printing.
The almanac: Drake #3213; ESTC w33497; Evans #12058. The cut: Brigham, Paul Revere’s Engravings, plate 17; Reilly, Dictionary of Colonial American Printer’s Ornaments and Illustrations, #1009; but not in Cresswell, The American Revolution in Drawings and Prints. General background from Brigham, Paul Revere’s Engravings, pp. 52-78.
Minor chipping, neat mend to one corner, and a few ink annotations to front wrapper. Overall toning and light dust-soiling.