Mysteries Solved! Using Harbottle Dorr’s Index to Find Missing Pamphlets

By Peter Steinberg, Collection Services

The newly-launched website presenting MHS’s collection of Harbottle Dorr, Jr.’s annotated newspapers includes transcriptions of the indexes he created for each of the four volumes he assembled. The task of transcribing these indexes proved inspirational and provoked inquiry. The Massachusetts Historical Society has held the first three volumes, covering the years 1765-1771, for many years. The first volume contained no extra material other than a brief two-page Appendix. However, in both Volumes Two and Three Dorr included contemporarily published pamphlets on topics related to the articles he annotated.

We do not know when this happened, but the volumes were disbound at some point for, among other reasons, preservation. As part of this process, the pamphlets originally collected by Dorr for Volumes Two and Three were removed and added to the Society’s general collection of printed materials. These two volumes came to the MHS in 1798 and have been in use for more than 210 years. This means there is a long period of time in which some of the documents Dorr collected may have been separated and moved around. In 2011, the MHS acquired the fourth volume of Dorr’s Annotated Newspapers via auction. Working at the MHS when this fourth volume arrived, and seeing how it looked in its original organization and binding, I became intrigued about the existence of those pamphlets that had been separated from the earlier volumes, and where they might be located within the building.

You may be wondering: What does the removal of the pamphlets have to do with the index? In transcribing the index, we grew to be familiar with the pagination of the volumes. The newspapers collected and page-numbered by hand by Dorr went only so high. For example, Volume Two’s last newspaper page number is 788 (The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, 25 December 1769). However, in the index for this volume there were entries for page numbers higher than page 788. This was an indication that there were supplemental items (i.e. pamphlets) that had been removed and the same was true for Volume Three.

I began to track those index terms where the page number is higher than page 788 (for Volume Two) and page 642 (for Volume Three) in order to try and gauge the subjects of the pamphlets. Then, using these extracted terms in conjunction the library’s ABIGAIL catalog, Google, and WorldCat, a global catalog of library collections, I was able to eventually track down six pamphlets and a broadside formerly included in these volumes. The tell-tale sign that these pamphlets belonged to the collection was the presence of Dorr’s distinctive numbering at the top-center of each page. Once found, these items were photographed in-house and are digitally reassembled with their original volumes via the Harbottle Dorr, Jr. Annotated Newspapers website. Each pamphlet found felt like a significant accomplishment. In finding the pamphlets and having access to them, it has led to a better understanding of how Dorr’s collection originally looked. Finding some encouraged me to look for the others, which were harder to locate.

As I worked on this this blog post, I continued searching for missing pamphlet’s and in the process, uncovered addition items. In browsing Dorr’s Index to Volume Two for indexed terms for which we had no pages, I found the entry “Statute De Tallagio non concedendo.” This term appears on Index page 13 and refers to page 814, which fell within a page range, 789-830, that was still absent from the collection. I searched ABIGAIL for “Tallagio,” as it is a word that would likely yield few if any hits, and was presented with three records: two printed editions of Henry Care’s English liberties, or The free-born subject’s inheritance. Containing Magna Charta, Charta de Foresta, the statute De Tallagio non Concedendo, the Habeas Corpus Act, and several other statutes (1721 and 1774) and one small manuscript: “Appendix of an unidentified manuscript, ca. 1790-1810.” I was familiar enough with Dorr’s Index to know that many of documents contained in Care’s book appear as terms (though largely Anglicized). Could it be that Dorr copied some of the text from Care’s book? The printed books had none of those tell-tale signs of being annotated by Harbottle Dorr. However, the small manuscript was indeed an original Dorr manuscript: the previously unknown “Appendix” to Volume Two! You might say I developed Appendix-itis as a result!

There are currently two page ranges within Volume Two for which we still do not have images: 939 to 946 and 1041-1098.  However, from an index entry and research, I have concluded that the first range (939-946) is the breathtakingly titled pamphlet: A Third extraordinary budget of epistles and memorials between Sir Francis Bernard of Nettleham, Baronet, some natives of Boston, New-England, and the present Ministry; against N. America, the true interest of the British Empire, and the rights of mankind by Sir Francis Bernard (1769). Likewise, index terms for the second range listed above (1041-1098) lead us to conclude that this span consisted of parts of three separate almanacs published in 1768 and 1769. See the Collection Outline for Volume Two for details. While we currently do not know where Dorr’s copies are, we at least know what they are… Also unaccounted for are seven pages (996-1003) from Volume Three, which deals with the Boston Massacre trial of and verdict for Edward Manwaring, John Monru, Hammond Green, and Thomas Greenwood. Research uncovered this to be an Appendix (pages 211-217) to The Trial of William Wemms, James Hartegan, William M’Cauley, Hugh White, Matthew Killroy, William Warren, John Carrol, and Hugh Montgomery… (1770). The first printing of this book included the Appendix, however, reprints did not (See end of note 1 here). We surmise that Dorr obtained a copy of the Appendix somehow, which explains why it is not a part of the copy he included in Volume Three. The MHS holds copies of these pamphlets and all the almanacs, as we created a page of Explanatory Notes  to help define what’s what.

As stated above, the first volume is the exception to the other three: there were no pamphlets. However, mysteries still abound about the first volume. Dorr’s original page numbering had the index appearing after a two-page Appendix which followed the last newspaper. But, between the Appendix (pages 790-791) and the Index (pages 794-801) there are two pages (792-793) that are missing. There are references in Dorr’s Index to the missing page 792 (see pages 796 and 799). In the latter, “Stamp Act Rise of it, vide a Letter from E Dyar 203 vide Huskes Letter in the Appendix 792,” Huske’s letter was printed originally on the front page of the 29 October 1764 issue of The Boston-Gazette and Country Journal. This is curious in and of itself as the letter was printed in a 1764 newspaper, which is the year prior to the start of Dorr’s first volume.

The recently-found pamphlets for volumes Two and Three, as well as the appendix to volume Two and a short title list of known missing items, are easily accessible via the Collection Outline page within the Dorr website: