Isaiah Thomas, The Baskerville of America

The History of Miss Kitty Pride: Together with The Virtue of a Rod; or The History of a Naughty Boy (Worcester, Massachusetts: Isaiah Thomas, Jun. sold wholesale and retail by him, 1799). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2013- in process

“The Baskerville of America,” this is what Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) called the Massachusetts printer Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831). “Thomas was the leading publisher of his day. His printing establishment in Worcester eventually employed 150 persons and included seven presses, a paper mill, and bindery . . . He is still famous for his more than a hundred children’s books of which he published tens of thousands of copies.”–Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography.


Princeton University Library holds over 100 volumes published and sold by Isaiah Thomas (1749–1831) and his son Isaiah Thomas Jr (1773-1819) from their shops in Worcester and Boston, Massachusetts. They also had branches in Walpole, Brookfield, Portsmouth, Windsor, Newburyport, Baltimore, and Albany.

Sinclair Hamilton (1884-1978) alone collected and donated 49 book published by Thomas with woodcuts and wood engravings. Happily, we have now added Miss Kitty and Virtue of a Rod to our holdings (bound in a piece of decorative wallpaper). Each story is illustrated with a surprising number of cut, for such a tiny (11 cm.) volume. Here are a few examples.

kitty6             kitty1


1 One of Isaiah Thomas’s original printing presses at the American Antiquarian Society.