Thursday, May 31, 2012

Answer: How much did it cost?

As you might have guessed by the large yellow bat-logo-looking illustration, there's a comic book connection here.  

The fastest way to solve this problem is to break it into parts, then work from piece to piece.  

The first part is to figure out who Barbara Gordon is and why she'd be visiting Wayne Manor (and, assuming you're not a comics fan, figuring out what Wayne Manor is in the first place).  

I started by looking up Barbara Gordon with the query [ Barbara Gordon ].   As you can see, the results are dominated by Batgirl from the Batman series.  Interesting, but if you don't recognize "Wayne Manor" as being the palatial home where Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) lives, then you'd be right to be suspicious.  

So let's try [Barbara Gordon Wayne Manor] and see if there's a connection.  And once again, the combination of search terms makes it clear there's a plausible connection between the two. 

It doesn't take too many clicks before you discover that Barbara Gordon, librarian in Gotham City (and daughter of police commissioner James Gordon) is somehow linked to Bruce Wayne (aka Batman).  

Now, what's the deal with the book? 

Like most people who solved this problem, I noted that Wikipedia page names the edition of the comic book in which Batgirl debuted, DC #359 "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl" (Jan 1967).  

I did a search for [Million Dollar debut of Batgirl] and found that more than one person had scanned the comic book.  I used: which just happens to have the important information contains a note from the editor indicating that in 1947 a copy sold for $151,000 at auction.

[ 1947 book $151000 auction ] search results show the title of this rather expensive book as the "Bay Psalm Book," and now we're nearly there.  The Wikipedia entry on the book gives us a second source identifying this as the book in question.  

A quick trip over to Google Books leads us to several facsimile copies of the "Bay Psalm Book."  

If you start reading the notes in the frontispiece, you'll find that the printer, Stephen Daye, and his printing press were brought to Massachusetts by the Rev. Joseph Glover, who, unfortunately, "fell sick of a feaver and dyed" just as the voyage to America began.  

Later, Glover's heirs sued Henry Dunster, president of Harvard, for some inheritance issues.  In that trial, printer Stephen Daye testified that the original cost of printing 1700 copies of the "Bay Psalm Book" was £33 pounds, and that 116 reams of paper were used in the initial printing.  (You might wonder how Harvard got into this.  Turns out that the printing press became the property of Mrs. Glover after he died in transit.  In a few years in America Mrs. Glover married Henry Dunster, president of Harvard College. Thus came the press under the control of Harvard college and the object of the lawsuit by Glover's heirs.)  

 The Bay Psalm book, was, incidentally, the first book published in the Americas.  There may have been an almanac printed just before the psalms, but it seems to have vanished in the mists of time.  

It's fascinating to read a well-known text as it was written out at the time.  Here, for example, is the 23rd Psalm.  I've transcribed the spelling exactly as it appears in the Bay Psalms.  

 The Lord to mee a shepheard is,
Want therefore shall not I,
Hee in the folds of tender-grasse,
   Doth cause me downe to lie:
To water clame me gently leads
   Restore my soule doth hee
He doth in paths of righteousness:
   For his names leade mee.
Yea though in valley of deaths shade
   I walk, none ill I’le feare:
Because thou art with mee, thy rod,
   And staffe my comfort are.
For mee a table thou hast spread,
   In presence of my foes:
Though dost annoynt my head with oyle,
   My cup it over-flowes.
Goodnes & mercy surely shall
   All my days follow mee:
And in the Lords house I shall dwell
   So long as days shall bee.

In the most common modern translations, the last two lines aren't written out as a couplet, as they are here.  (The common English version is: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall live in the house of the Lord forever."  Which, while traditional, has lost some of the rhyming charm of this 17th century translation.)  

Search Lessons:  Sometimes you've just got to go to the primary materials.  In this case, finding the scanned version of the comic book gave us just the clue we needed to figure out that it was the Bay Psalms book.  And then from there, going to look at the Google Books version of the book leads us directly to the original cost in an unexpected place.  

Comment:  I am bemused to note that several people found the cost of printing in a Facebook page dedicated to 18th Century bibles.  There, several folks found the following claim:  
"A printing press was brought over to Cambridge specially from Holland, and 1,700 copies of the new Psalter were printed at a total cost of £33 for the lot, and the books were sold at 20 Pence each." 
Which would be fine, except there's no reference for this claim, and as we saw, the printing press was brought to Cambridge from England.  (And besides, the Bay Psalm book is really a 17th century book... but maybe that's just a quibble.)  


  1. pre Goo image search - from 73 years ago: a small printed paper info bit that was "tear & paste" applied to a larger piece of paper and disseminated via a large, physical information/services/advertising network - the USPS...
    there should be a .50¢ (inflation) sticky image for the Sergey Specs - potentially as great an impact as the Daye/Glover/Dresden Press - imho.
    Daye Press
    Elizabeth Glover

  2. ... one more thing... regarding women, firsts and the colonies -