michael everton University of South Florida ``The Would-be-Author and the Real Bookseller'' Thomas Paine and Eighteenth-Century Printing Ethics Lecturing British colonials on the motives for revolution and registering the immediacy of insurgency, Thomas Paine's remarkable 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, focused on political change through the conventional lens of communal morality. ``Society is produced by our wants,'' Paine preaches, ``and government by out wickedness'' (Writings 1:69).1 The pamphlet's effect, however, was anything but conventional. Anonymously authored, expertly printed, advertised, and disseminated, Common Sense was one of the most successful publications in American history. And in the social landscape made possible by Enlightenment ethics--which posited the validity of a subjective epistemology and the supremacy of reason--it made revolution right and made printers all but giddy with profit. But its production was not without controversy. The circumstances surrounding the publication of Paine's blockbuster erupted into a public fracas in the early months of 1776. Paine contracted with printer Robert Bell to print his pamphlet but then, fearing he was being cheated out of profits, demanded that Bell cease printing the work after one edition. Bell refused. As a result, Paine published complaints about the printer's business practices in the Pennsylvania Evening
Early American Literature – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Feb 17, 2005
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