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Douglass & Aikman's Almanack and Register for the Island of Jamaica:

calculated For the Year of our Lord 1782, From the Creation of the World, 5786, And of the Julian Period, 6495; being the Second after Bissextile or Leap-Year.

Kingston: Douglass & Aikman, 1781 Stock Code: 82190
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Jamaica, Judaica, and Scots "sojourners"

Extremely uncommon. Printed and published by David Douglass and William Aikman, Loyalist refugees from the Revolution in America - Douglass from Charleston, Aikman from Annapolis - this almanac includes, at the conclusion of the calendar proper, on the verso of the leaf bearing a Jamaican historical chronology - a "Kalendar of Months, Sabbaths, and Holy Days, the Hebrews or Jews observe & keep, for the Years 5541 and 5542 of the Creation", with the names of the holidays and the months printed in both English and Hebrew types. This page represents one of the very earliest specimens of Hebrew type in a publication produced in the Western Hemisphere intended for the use of Jews. Judah Monis's Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue of 1735 was a textbook for the instruction of biblical students at Harvard, while the first book published in North America, set with Hebrew type intended for a Jewish readership was probably the 1816 Philadelphia-published Order of Service containing "an Acrostic hymn in Hebrew" (Singerman 262), over thirty years after this almanac. In his study of DeCordova's Reason and Faith, (Kingston: Strupar and Preston for Subscribers 1788) Korn calls for serious investigation "of the relative significance of the Jewish communities in the West Indies during the eighteenth century in contrast to the settlements on the North American mainland" and describes how beginning with "the 1776 Jamaica almanac published by James Fannin in Montego Bay, the compilers of such guides included a Jewish calendar, pages which listed the Holy Days, holidays, the first days of the Hebrew months, and other such details", which he sees as a clear "indication of the importance of Jewish residents in the eyes of Christian Jamaicans" ("The Haham De Cordova of Jamaica" in American Jewish Archives, November, 1966, p. 141). However, the earliest examples printed "these Jewish data in English type", the first to utilize Hebrew type was Ann Woolhead's 1779 Almanac published in Kingston - no copy traced on current library searches, but a copy was apparently formerly in the library of the American Antiquarian Society - "thenceforth, all the printers of eighteenth-century almanacs which the writer has been able to examine in the West Indies Research Library utilized Hebrew type " (p142). That Douglass and Aikman - "Printers to the King's Most Excellent Majesty" - who are described by Cave as "extraordinarily good businessmen" ("Printing in Eighteenth-century Jamaica" in The Library, September 1978, p194), should adopt this practice is clear confirmation of Korn's inference relative to the perceived importance of the Jewish community in Jamaica at this time.
Almanacs are by their very nature ephemeral, a functional reference and notebook, pocket-carried for their year of currency and then most often discarded; and those produced locally for a small readership, in a climate unforgiving to books, the more so. Don Mitchell's on-line West Indian Bibliography describes all issues of Douglass & Aikman's almanacs as "rare"; BL has two copies, one for 1781 and an imperfect copy for 1783 "wanting many leaves"; OCLC locates copies of the present edition at Oxford and in the library of the Society of the Cincinnati; just two appearances of any edition - 1781 - traced at auction, neither of these in the original binding, the most recent of them making in excess of 50,000 in 2005. This copy is favoured with an extremely intriguing provenance, and includes some highly revealing memoranda recording the business and personal transactions of one of the influential group of Scots "sojourners" who were key in the development of the economy of the West Indian colonies. As early as 1777 a Scottish merchant told Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale College, that "in Jamaica the Scotch had got Two Thirds of of the land mortgaged or otherwise engaged to them or was owned in Scotland" (Dexter, The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, II, p227-8). The title page here bears the ownership inscription of James Duthie, Esq. and the interleaves and blanks have 46 pages of his notes concerning the employment and payment of "Negroes" in work on various estates; lists of purchases both personal and business; accounts due; and of cash loaned, collected, and "carried to Town" on the behalf third parties. From Sheridan's description of the West Indian plantation society of the time, it seems that Duthie's role would have been that of attorney; "The proprietors or island nobility were for the most part absent. Plantation attorneys, some with many estates under their care, formed the squirearchy of the island In the absence of the proprietor, the attorney had the oversight of the plantation. Among other things, he ordered the plantation supplies, purchased slaves, and superintended the shipment of sugar and rum. He carried out the instructions of his employer, hired and fired the overseers, inspected the plantation records, and reported on the general conduct and performance of the plantation. Besides his handsome commission, the attorney enjoyed various perquisites which made his position eagerly sought after" ("The Role of the Scots in the Economy of the West Indies" in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 292, 1977, p94-5).

The first detailed memorandum is verso of the front free endpaper and records; "Two of the Retreat Masons came to work with me Albion Estate 11th January 1782 the Rate of 30 per year. Gave the following NegrosOne Bitt about 7 pence in local currency - there is a conversion table of riyals and bits into local pounds and pounds sterling included in the almanac in part of their allowance" followed by a list of 19 names. The Retreat and Albion are two of the estates that Duthie appears to have had oversight of, later accounts lists include around 15 named estates or individuals, including the Beckford Roaring River Estate. The amounts represent considerable sums, in Duthie's accounts due notes for May 1782 over 214 is owing for Albion - "one of the largest sugar estates in the old parish of St. David" (Higman, Jamaica Surveyed, p139) - which would approximate to around 13,500 in current buying power, and William Ross Esqr., later Attorney-General of Jamaica, owed around 406 or 25,500. His personal expenditure is equally revealing, his purchases including foodstuffs - "Four capons, hamm, flour, half a Barrell of Pork" - household goods, "Cups & Sausirs, Salt Sellars, Tea Pot Sugar Dish & Milk Pot" - clothing and fabrics - "Two hats, bullion loop and cord, Hatt for Jack, Bonnet for child". The impact of the conflict in America can also be noted in Duthie's expenditure, in March he spends 2 15s 8d on a commission, and 2 on a "Regimental Coat", presumably for one of the militia regiments listed in this almanac. It was in that month that Martial Law was declared in Jamaica, when "Five thousand slaves were conscripted to work on the fortifications The colonists suspecting that the governors introduced martial law as a pretext to augment their personal authority when there was no real emergency" (O'Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided, p193); and in July Duthie notes progress on "Breast work at Oxford 26 feet long 9 feet high 4 feet thick". These notes are sparse, but nonetheless illuminate a community the history of which is still in construction; "Many aspects of the social and domestic life of Scottish planters, merchants, doctors, public officials and other residents in the pre-emancipation period emerge as by-products of historical studies, but a domestic history of Scots in the Caribbean has yet to be attempted by and large the experiences of those involved in the processes of relocation and settlement have been astonishingly neglected" (Williamson, "Mrs Carmichael: A Scotswoman in the West Indies, 1820-1826" in The International Journal of Scottish Literature, Autumn 2008). A brief analysis of the names of Duthie's associates - exx. Donald Malcolm, Angus Campbell, Dr. David Shaw, William Ross, John Grant, Peter McGill, Mr. McPherson - some of whom have left some trace of their activities in Jamaica, the preponderance is of names of Scottish origin, so he certainly seems to have been part of one of the "supportive networks of Scots, linked by kinship and business ties" noticed by Williams. In the way of the "sojourners" Duthie died, aged around 60, in 1817 back in Scotland, at his home Melville Place near Stirling, leaving some considerable bequests in his five-page will.

A wonderfully multi-faceted object; an extraordinary survival; a revealing relic of the mercantile culture of the Caribbean; and an incunabulum of Hebrew printing in the Western Hemisphere; and as such highly desirable.

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Octavo (149 x 91 mm). Original tan calf wallet binding, raised bands to the spine, gilt chain-link rules, date gilt in the second compartment, single chain-link panel to both boards and the flap, a pocket inside both boards. Housed in chemise in a black morocco-backed black cloth drop-back box, title gilt to smooth-polished black morocco label.


92 pages, plus 5 leaves unpaginated of currency conversion tables, the almanac proper entirely interleaved with blanks, and 34 blanks at the rear.


Somewhat worn and a touch stained, upper joint starting at the tail, short split at the tail of the fold of the flap, internal binding a little cracked after the final leaf of the text, spine correspondingly creased and just starting, light browning, but overall a very good copy in excellent unrestored contemporary condition.


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