September 29

Typical of the doggerel written by printers who fancied themselves as poets, and commonly seen in trade periodicals and even in the public prints up to a few generations ago, is The Merits of Printing, A Song anonymously contributed to the New York Public Advertiser in its issue of September 29, 1808.

“When Learning and Science were both sunk in night,
And Genius and Freedom were banish’d outright.
The Invention of Printing soon bro’t all to light,
Then Carol the praises of Printing,

And sing in that noble art’s praise.
“Then all who profess this Heaven taught art,
And have Liberty, Virtue and Knowledge at heart,
Come join these verses, and now bear apart,
Then Carol, etc.

“Though every Composer a galley must have,
Yet Judge not from that a Composer’s a slave,
For printing hath often dug Tyranny’s grave,
Then Carol, etc.

“If Correction he needs, all mankind does the same;
When he Quadrates his matter, he is not to blame,
For to Justification he lays a strong claim,
Then Carol, etc.

“Tho’ he daily Imposes ’tis not to do wrong,
Like Nimrod he follows the Chase all day long,
And always to him a good Slice does belong,
Then Carol, etc.

“Tho’ friendly to peace, yet French Cannon he loves,
Expert in his Great and Long Primer he proves,
And with skill and address all his Furniture moves,
Then Carol, etc.

“Tho’ no Antiquarian, he deals much in Coins,
And freedom with loyalty close combines,
And to aid the Republic of Letters he joins.
Then Carol, etc.

“Extremes he avoids and a Medium invites,
Tho’ no blockhead he often in Fool’s Cap delights
And handles his Shooting stick tho’ he ne’er fights.
Then Carol, etc.

“But the art to complete, the stout pressmen must come,
And make use of their Balls, Frisket and Drum,
And to strike the impression the Platten pull home,
Then Carol, etc.

“But as the old proverb declares very clear,
We’re farthest from God when the church we are near,
So in all printing Chapels do Devils appear.
Then Carol, etc.

“On the press, Truth, Religion, and Learning depend,
Whilst that remains free, Slav’ry ne’er gains its end,
Then my Bodkin in him who is not Printing’s friend.
Then Carol the praises of printing
And sing in that noble art’s praise.”

One Comment

  1. Philip Prins says:


    I have this attributed to Benjamin Franklin, LLD in a scrapbook collection of similar clipped ephemera. It is printed in a decorative border on yellow rag paper. Much of the other material in the collection is 1840-1860, but this appears to be an earlier piece.

    Hope this is useful.

    Philip Prins

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