Being a Kentucky native, I decided to determine the commonwealth's early printing history. This was approached a few different ways. First, I searched for geographical patterns, i.e., which city had the most printing activity. Second, how was that activity split between official government and private manuscripts? Third, what were the citizens' main concerns in the time before 1800?
1) I seached through the following city names: Louisville, Frankfort, Lexington, Covington, Boonesboro, Paducah, Ashland. Only two of them were hits: Frankfort and Lexington. Louisville only turned up entries for Louisville, Georgia. Frankfort had a total of 28 records, Lexington 81. This suggests that the commonwealth's printing resources were relatively meak, and, when available, centered in the state's eastern areas. In fact, only two printing concerns appear throughout the entries. The Frankfort firm of Hunter & Beaumont makes a brief appearance in the late 1790s. Most every other entry is printed by John Bradford, with offices in Lexington and Frankort. The bulk of his work is for the government, although he does supplement it with the manuscripts of private authors, mainly the Elkhorn Association of Baptists.
Perhaps Hunter and Beaumont formed to snag a share of the lucrative government business. It would be interesting to track the awarding of government printing contracts after 1800, but, alas, that is unavailable through the ESTC.
2) Before 1800, the state government printed 64 official manuscripts. Private authors, 46. We know today that the U.S. government is the world's largest publisher, but when compared to the whole of private publishers, how does it rate? Would it have the same ratio as 64:46?
Here is a typical government publication:
Kentucky, Constitutional Convention, 1799. Journal of the Convention begun and held at the Capitol in the town of Frankfort on Monday the twenty second day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety nine. Published by order of the Convention. Frankfort [Ky.], From the press of Hunter & Beaumont, printers to the Commonwealth, .The following comes from a "concerned citizen," who favors a second Kentucky constitutional convention. Note, however, that even private authors are deeply concerned with affairs of state.
To the electors of Franklin County. Fellow citizens: This is an important day--you are about to determine the most important question ... that of voting for or against a convention.... [Frankfort, Ky., s.n, 1798]: A final plea in favor of a constitutional convention, issued on the day of the election. - Signed: May 1, 1798.In 1800, Bradford printed a handbook for the state's public servants. Might this suggest problems in officials' training or in their delegation of responsibilites? An interesting project would be to research public sentiment toward elected or appointed officials. Did this handbook grow out of a specific incident or pattern of abuses?
Bradford, John, 1747-1830. The general instructor: or The office, duty, and authority of justices of the peace, sheriffs, coroners and constables, in the state of Kentucky. With precedents suited to every case that can possibly arise in either of those offices, under the laws now in force, with references to the laws out of which they do arise. The whole alphabetically digested under the several titles; with an index for the ready finding any matter sought. By John Bradford. Lexington [Ky.], Printed by John Bradford on Main Street, 1800.
3) On Kentuckians' minds:
Anti-slavery, navigating the Mississippi, Indians.
Together with a description of the soil, timber and waters, where he travelled with the Indians, during his captivity. To which is added, a brief account of some very uncommon occurrences, which transpired after his return from captivity; as well as of the different campaigns carried on against the Indians to the westward of Fort Pitt, since the year 1755, to the present date. Written by himself.,/I> Lexington [Ky.], Printed by John Bradford, on Main Street, 1799.