Revolutionary War-era almanac, with map of the New York City campaign

Nathaniel Low, AN ASTRONOMICAL DIARY ; OR, ALMANACK, for the Year of CHRISTIAN AERA, 1777. Being the … first Year of AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, which began July fourth, 1776. Boston: J. Gill, in Queen-Street, and T. and J. Fleet, in Cornhill.
12mo, [24pp], sewn at spine. Small woodcut on title and woodcut map of New York City on recto of 2nd leaf. Minor toning and foxing, corners bumped, and some loss to upper margin of title, just touching border. Notations in ink throughout, generally relating to the keeping of accounts.

A scarce Revolutionary-era patriotic almanac issued in Boston in the Fall of 1776, with a map of New York City.

The patriotic content begins with the subtitle: “Being… the first Year of AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, which began July fourth, 1776”… that is, less than four months before the almanac’s publication was announced on October 31. This is followed on the second leaf by “A View of the Present Seat of WAR, at and near NEW-YORK”, a small woodcut map of the campaign in New York City.[1] The campaign was very much in progress at the time, though going badly for the Continental Army, and it would end disastrously on November 16 when the British captured Fort Washington on the northwest corner of Manhattan Island. Nonetheless the map focuses almost exclusively on the fortifications of the Continental Army, with the British fleet shown in places but never actually identified. Thus, viewers could have been excused coming away believing that General Washington was still in control of the situation.

The almanac also includes a dense, two-page “Address to the TORIES”, signed “The Author”, attacking them, among other things, for having “no just notions of what the wisest men have defined liberty”, for “the latent schemes and secret conspiracies which you are daily concerting and endeavouring to execute”, for “spreading false reports in the country with a view to prejudice the common cause”, and so on. In a similar spirit, the first nine of the monthly almanac entries are headed by patriotic verse, beginning in January thus:

“Let tyrants rage, and sycophants exclaim,
Let tories grumble, parasites defame,
And all the herd of trembling despots roar
And plot revenge :–dependence is no more.
‘Tis Independence that we will maintain,
And Britain’s tyrant shall no longer reign.”

In all, a most interesting example of a Revolutionary-era publisher repurposing a familiar format to support the patriotic cause.

For the almanac, ESTC #W9340; Evans, American Bibliography, #14829; Drake, Almanacs of the United States, #3264. For the map, see Wheat & Brun, Maps and Charts Published In America Before 1800, #386 and Nebenzahl, Printed Battle Plans Of The American Revolution, #96.

[1] The map is very similar to the map set in the title-page of Nathan Daboll’s Freebetters New-England Almanack for 1777 (Wheat & Brun, 385). Our version has nine ships depicted in the narrows between “STATEN I.” and “LONG I.”, while Daboll’s version has eight; and the text on our map appears to be letterpress, while that on Daboll’s seems to be woodcut.