Tag Archives: Reformation

Pilgrims and printing

More fuel-efficient, better mileage

I paid special attention to the Pilgrims and Plymouth colony for a reason. Even though I can’t be certain that William Brewster’s press ever made it to North America, it’s still true that the first North American printing operation (1638) was in Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, not far from Plymouth.

The Pilgrims saw their adventure as providential. They believed God landed them in Plymouth and not Jamestown, Virginia on purpose.

In Jamestown, there was an English colony already established. Things like a colonial government and culture (very different from the stern impassioned Pilgrim culture) were up and humming along nicely. In Plymouth, the Pilgrims had to start from scratch. They needed a system of government. The compact they made with each other (and God) aboard the Mayflower was how they governed themselves on land. Their congregation was a ‘covenant’ congregation—a covenant is a contract with God. They answered to God first, before a king or anybody else. If you’re accountable to God, you understand that your rights come from Him. As a contrast, King James said that his subjects’ rights came from King James himself (because of his divine right to rule). The Pilgrims didn’t like that idea so much.

Stern impassioned Pilgrims, or at least their feet, show up in verse 317 or 318 of America The Beautiful:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_the_Beautiful
Ray Charles nails it (though he doesn’t get to that particular verse):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRUjr8EVgBg

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William Brewster

And then…I don’t find evidence of the Pilgrims setting up their printing press in Plymouth. Not surprising, really, when you think about it. They’d landed by accident in a place where everything had to be built from scratch. No houses, no barricades or fort for protection, very little food. Setting up a printing operation wasn’t at the top of their to-do list.

Besides, when they packed the press, the Pilgrims expected to land in Virginia where there might’ve been a market for pamphlets and books—a large audience who spoke and read English.



I assume the press was William Brewster’s. In Holland he’d been an underground printer, printing pamphlets and books that were critical of the Church of England and King James I. This made Brewster an internationally wanted man, in hiding from King James’ men for a year before the Pilgrims set sail.



As far as that goes, all the Pilgrims/Puritans were underground. To be English and not worship with the Church of England was to question the divine right of kings (King James was the head of the C of E, just as Henry was). The Pilgrims worshiped privately at somebody’s house—usually in the country, so they wouldn’t be caught at it. They all faced the possibility of arrest and punishment. There was no religious freedom in the Pilgrims’ home country.


Anyhoo, it would be a few years before a press began running in North America.

https://www.prphbooks.com/blog/pilgrim
https://americanantiquarian.org/earlyamericannewsmedia/exhibits/show/news-in-colonial-america/colonial-print-culture
http://newenglandtravels.blogspot.com/2009/12/pilgrims-and-printing-press.html
https://plymrock.org/william-brewster-and-the-pilgrim-press/
https://americanminute.com/blogs/todays-american-minute/william-brewster-and-how-pilgrim-covenant-twisted-into-social-contract-then-socialism-american-minute-with-bill-federer
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/pilgrims-progress-135067108/

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Those lucky, lucky Pilgrims

I learned about this in Sixth Grade, I think—Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn by putting a dead fish in with the seed.

That the Pilgrims didn’t all die that first winter in the New World was nothing less than a miracle. They were down to their last jar of peanut butter when the remarkable Tisquantum, also known as Squanto, showed up at their camp. Tisquantum was a Pawtuxet Indian who lived with the nearby Wampanoag tribe. He just happened to speak fluent English from having been captured and enslaved, then escaped (twice!) from English explorers. He’d voyaged across the Atlantic and back.
Tisquantum brokered an alliance between the Wampanoags and English. The Wampanoags had been nearly wiped out by smallpox that summer* and were at the mercy of bigger war-making tribes in their neighborhood. The Pilgrims were at the mercy of everybody—but they had firearms and cannons. The 2 little groups threw in together. Tisquantum showed the Pilgrims how to survive in their new environment. Captain Standish provided military strength against the Wampanoags’ enemies. It was a productive working relationship—and by the end of a year’s time both groups had prospered. They celebrated together with a 3-day harvest-feast to thank God.
https://www.biography.com/political-figure/squanto
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/hedgerow/2020/11/squanto-a-story-of-providence-enabling-the-pilgrims-to-survive-video/
Has anyone seen this movie? Tell me if I should rent it—https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/squanto_a_warriors_tale

*Tisquantum’s own tribe was completely wiped out by the disease while he was in Europe. He was the last of the Pawtuxets.

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The printing press saves the day

I should’ve drawn the press closer to the crack.

But, wait!—the Pilgrims had brought a printing press with them, one of those Gutenberg presses with the big screw used to put big-time pressure on a platen. They dragged the press out of the hold and used the press’ screw to push the beam back into position. They unscrewed the press (lefty-loosey) so it pushed out against the keel and the beam. The Mayflower stayed sea-worthy enough to make a landing off Plymouth Rock. Now when you look at those paintings of Pilgrims setting foot on land you see why they look like they’d just cheated Death.

Inspired by a Currier & Ives print

So the printing press came to America. Happy Thanksgiving!

https://colonialquills.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-screw-that-saved-america.html
https://www.icr.org/article/mechanical-multitasking-mayflower
https://www.fayalexander.com/2011/12/great-iron-screw-saved-mayflower/
Here’s a conversation between some engineers/sailors discussing what the actual problem with the Mayflower may have been. The most plausible scenario (to me) is that the main beam cracked, which compromised the standing rigging that held the mast in place (the mast doesn’t rest on the beam, it’s seated—stepped—into a socket down on the keelson at the bottom of the ship. The beam’s job is to keep the rigging taut. The beam is under hundreds of pounds of pressure). Once they got the beam lifted with a screw, they could put timbers under the beam to hold it there. https://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/antique-machinery-and-history/0t-saving-mayflower-1620-a-382121/
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/447826756689071831/
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/keelson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KITlyn-wkQ
https://modelshipworld.com/topic/19155-mast-steps/

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Thanks for sailing with Mayflower! Please fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the trip

Welp, everything went wrong. Three hundred miles out to sea Speedwell (which had leaked and been patched a couple of times already) sprang a leak so they turned back and everybody piled into the Mayflower. So they got a late start. The voyage would take over two months. They were blown off course, so they’d wind up in chilly no-wheres-ville New England rather than Virginia where the settlements were. The Pilgrims would arrive too late to plant crops so they stood a good chance of starving before spring. They’d completely miss New England’s leaf-peeping season. The Mayflower was old, cranky and her timbers weren’t sound. Then, during a wild storm, the beam that held the mainmast in place cracked! It looked like she’d sink with all hands.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayflower
http://mayflowerhistory.com/voyage

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Thanks for hanging in there

Once again, I’ve taken you on an elaborate side-trip. You must be wondering: why in the world is Manders spending so much time blathering about the Pilgrims? We came here looking for a history of reading and writing and our dear old Uncle John (who we assumed still had all his marbles) can’t seem to shut up about the Restoration and Henry the Eighth and Puritans and the Spanish Empire and Dutch politics. I am aware some of you—out of sheer frustration—have already hurled your half-eaten toaster-waffles at whatever device you use to receive these blog posts.



Don’t worry. There’s a good reason for taking you down this rabbit hole. Here it is: for all the reasons I’ve been telling you, the Pilgrims decided they needed to pack their stuff and beat it out of Leiden. They chartered a couple of leaky old tubs named Speedwell and Mayflower to take them to the New World—North America. There were English settlements already established. This would be their best bet for starting fresh in their quest to get back to religious basics.

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Wait, there’s more!

Red brick & cobblestones on the street where the Pilgrims lived.

Adding to the Pilgrims’ worries: Leiden’s corrupt city government was beginning to fall apart. A barricade was built around city hall and protected by soldiers. There was mob rule in the streets and the mob had become not-so-tolerant of religions from other countries (at least one Pilgrim was beaten senseless on his way home from church). To top it off, the Pilgrims were farmers trying to adapt to city life. The main way to earn a living in Leiden was to work in the cloth mills. You could make a decent buck while you’re young, but the old guys didn’t work as fast and so brought home less money. They couldn’t get ahead or get out of debt.

The Pilgrims started looking around for someplace else to set up shop.

Here are links to cover this week’s posts:
https://atdspain.com/en/news/how-was-netherlands-part-spanish-empire
https://www.britannica.com/place/Spanish-Netherlands
https://americanliteraturechallenge.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/why-did-the-puritans-leave-holland-were-their-reasons-justified-2/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism
https://netherlandsinsiders.com/discover-the-pilgrims-legacy-in-leiden-their-home-from-1609-1620/
https://www.saburchill.com/history/events/009.html
https://leidenamericanpilgrimmuseum.org/en/page/pilgrim-life-in-leiden-why-the-pilgrims-left
https://www.lakenhal.nl/en/story/leiden-cloth

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There were some downsides

After they moved to Leiden in the Netherlands, the Pilgrims discovered just one hitch—well, okay, a few hitches: Spain had the idea that a global Spanish Empire (paid for with buttloads of gold from the New World) would be a good thing. Spain was ardently Catholic and not tolerant of other people’s religions. There’d been a 12-year truce between Spain and Holland that was about to end while the Pilgrims were there. If you lived in Holland in the early 1600s and kept up on current events, you understood that things could go sideways pretty quickly. Not only that, the Pilgrim kids were becoming more Dutch than English. Dutch tolerance was not only for religion but for libertine lifestyles. If you’re a strict Calvinist you don’t want your kids lured away to wallow in the fleshpots of Leiden.*

A couple of Dutch wantons.

* The Pilgrims were serious about their faith and it must have been exhausting. I’m exhausted just from writing this: Sunday morning service began at eight o’clock with an hour of prayers, then a 3-hour sermon, then lunch (dessert was always red Jello with those little marshmallows in it), then another sermon, then discussion. They stood for most of it (too much risk of falling asleep if they sat, I suppose)—no kneeling; kneeling reminded them of Catholicism or the Church of England. They wore sober-looking clothes; men & women were kept separate during service; no church building; no organ—hymns were sung with no instruments. There’s a painting of a church service, The Pilgrim Fathers, in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. The artist August Allebé (1857-1878) mixed up the crowd to make an interesting composition, but generally the ladies and kids sit in front, the gents stand in the back. They look to be in a store-house with a dirt floor. https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/RP-P-1905-2755

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Puritans & Pilgrims

Some English people wanted to reform Henry’s Church of England. They wanted to get back to the Church’s roots. They wanted to get closer to what Saint Peter founded and Saint Paul mapped out. They wanted a more pure stripped-down no-frills version of worship, so those guys were called ‘Puritans.’


Other English people threw up their hands and said ‘It can’t be fixed. Gotta start from scratch.’ They wanted what the Puritans wanted but decided to start over in a different country. Those guys were called ‘Pilgrims’ and they moved to Holland (the Netherlands)—a country tolerant of other people’s religions.

There’s a hair salon in the village of Scrooby famous for their signature ‘do. http://www.finedictionary.com/Pilgrim.html

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The Church of England

I know—you’re sick of hearing about it. My mailman complains because he has to deliver enormous bags of angry letters and postcards from you guys. But I need to talk about the Reformation some more.



In England, King Henry VIII was butting heads with the Pope because the Pope refused to bless Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn. So with all this Reformation going on, Henry said ‘Dash it—why don’t I start up my own bally church?’* and created the Church of England. Of course he put himself in charge of it. Henry kicked the Catholic nuns & monks out of nunneries and monasteries and destroyed Latin bibles and holy relics.

“Here you are, lads. Hot off the press, what?”

This wasn’t any big improvement on the corrupt mediæval Church. Henry cleverly inserted himself in between the regular shmos and God, so power descended from heaven, to Henry, to you. It was still the same old top-down power that got distributed through earthly government. Henry VIII had the Bible translated into English.** The title page has a picture of Henry in the middle of the universe with G-d above filtering His might through him. This picture is telling you that Henry gets his authority to rule directly from G-d. It’s the divine right of kings.

* I asked P G Wodehouse to write Henry’s dialogue.
** From the Oops-I-Changed-My-Mind file: Henry’s Great Bible has big chunks of Tyndale’s translation in it. I mean, Woolsey has Tyndale burned at the stake for translating the Bible, then Henry’s team uses the translation Tyndale was executed for?

https://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item101943.html
http://textusreceptusbibles.com/Great
https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Divine_Right_of_Kings
Good article but it’s manner not manor:
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/henry-viii-the-reformation-and-the-first-authorized-bible/

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