Item #8167 Constitution of the Portsmouth Encyclopedia Society. Portsmouth Encyclopedia Society.

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Portsmouth Encyclopedia Society.

Constitution of the Portsmouth Encyclopedia Society.

[Portsmouth, New Hampshire, ca. 1805.]. Broadside, 9.75” x 7.25”, mounted on a detached marbled endpaper. CONDITION: Good, a few damp stains and chipping to mount, no losses to the text.

An exceedingly scarce broadside printing of the constitution for a private circulating library consisting solely of Dobson’s multi-volume Encyclopedia, operated by twenty-one men of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The text begins with a statement of purpose: 

Be it known to all men whom it may concern, by these presents, that for the laudable purpose of promoting useful knowledge among ourselves, and especially for the early instruction of our children and those under our care in a general knowledge of the sciences; We whose names are undersigned have formed ourselves into a social society by the name of the Portsmouth Encyclopedia Society, for the purpose of possessing ourselves of one complete set of Dobson’s Edition of the Encyclopedia, consisting of twenty-one volumes: and as a Society, do agree to be governed by the following rules and regulations.

The constitution’s twelve articles spell out the structure of the society which is governed by its officers, a President and a Secretary, who were elected annually. The roles and duties of the officers are detailed in relation to the activities of the society, whose membership was capped at twenty-one. Each individual was entitled to an equal share of Dobson’s Encyclopedia, and quarterly meetings were to be held for the purpose of exchanging the volumes and attending to all other necessary business. Articles VI and VII spell out precisely how distribution of the volumes would take place and how a committee of three members would be formed to examine the books and “assess fines, in an impartial manner, in all cases where blots, torn leaves, or other damages, more than necessary wear shall in their judgment render it proper.” The committee fined individuals for damages to the volumes, and a fine of one dollar was to be paid by those who failed to return their volume at the quarterly meeting. The society allowed for members to transfer their share via sale to another individual living in Portsmouth. Articles X and XI discuss voting rules, the case of a tie vote, and how the majority of the society’s members have the power to modify the society’s regulations to improve its functioning. The final article stipulates that a “fair copy of the whole” of these regulations is to be pasted into each of the twelve volumes of Encyclopedia, in order to “prevent all misunderstanding.”

Published by Thomas Dobson from 1789 to 1798, Dobson's Encyclopædia was the first encyclopedia issued in the newly independent United States of America. A reprint of the third edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (published 1788–97), Dobson’s was a slightly longer work in which a few articles were edited for a patriotic American audience. 

No copies of this broadside recorded in OCLC. 

Item #8167

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