Paraclete Potter: A Wiki-Bibliography
Potter's Poughkeepsie Journal in 1806
By Bruce McKinney
Recently I purchased, for $80, an impaired copy of "The Life of General George Washington, Late President of the United States of America, and Commander in Chief of their Armies during the Revolutionary War." It's complete with the cover detached. It is rare but not valuable except to the specialist collector for whom its not quite a black tulip but nevertheless appealing. Its printer was Paraclete Potter [1780-1858] of Poughkeepsie. In looking into both this book and Mr. Potter I was surprised that information is randomly available but not systematically presented. To remedy that and test the effectiveness and utility of on-the-fly bibliographies on small subjects, we have organized a wiki-bibliography of Mr. Potter's printings. It's intended to be freely accessible and open for additions and corrections as may be posted from time to time by anyone with information to share. Pages and links for this purpose are being built and will be provided on our now forming wiki-bibliography pages by October 15th. We anticipate this may become an enduring feature that can potentially support many small subjects. Contributors will be acknowledged unless anonymity is preferred. Dealers who organize a w-b or contribute to an existing one may invite inquiries to purchase material they reference if they are inclined to sell. Libraries may use the same link to encourage communication and support.
A link to the Wiki-Bibliography is provided here and at the conclusion of this 3 page article.
This initial effort includes 149 items, represents both high percentages of the books Potter published and probably a low percentage of his pamphlet production. He was also co-publisher and later sole publisher of the Poughkeepsie Journal [1802-1834] for which only a single listing is given. A permanent link on our home page for this and other [future] wiki-bibliographies will be continuously accessible.
Our thinking is that libraries, dealers and collectors may be interested to use this and other similarly structured bibliographies as a way to aggregate information on obscure subjects. For libraries it is the opportunity to share information and invite contributions. For collectors it is a way to share unique perspective. For dealers it is an opportunity to make a market in a subject and author. It seems promising.
Such bibliographies [perhaps up to 500 items] would also seem to hold promise to somethat resolve the vexing problem of mixing ephemera and other undocumented material within one or more collecting frameworks. Every rare book librarian, dealer and collector have thought at some time "if only I had known" when remarking on something unusual that slipped by. If related material can naturally gravitate into a single setting many parties will be able to see, support, contribute and possibly buy.
So this project, whose genesis is the Poughkeepsie printer, is not so much about Mr. Potter as it is what Mr. Potter's nascient wiki-bibliography may represent. In the Hudson Valley alone along there are many potential subjects: Rondout and Kingston, New Paltz, Ulster County, the Hudson River, and the Delaware & Hudson Canal. Each could require an expert whose life or work deeply involve the subject matter and who might lend a hand from time to time for clarification and education. Such bibliographies could easily overlap and single listings be appropriate entries in several compilations.
All this said, Paraclete Potter is not a household name. He’s not even included in the Dictionary of American Biography. He shows up randomly in the AED as a reference in the Brinley Sale more than a century ago and randomly in bibliographies and auctions ever since. He was an once a weekly newspaper publisher [The Poughkeepsie Journal] when the writing of news, the selling of subscriptions, the setting of type, the selling of ads, the delivery of papers and the collecting
Paraclete Potter: A Wiki-Bibliography
Potter's Washington: 1812
of debts were all part of the job description. Job printing, the reason he publishes books, pamphlets and ephemera, was the necessary co-conspirator to keep the company solvent. Mr. Potter seems to have more liked to publish books but it may simply be that he didn't always include his indicia on his production. In the 19th century this was a common omission. His work today is both rare and too unimportant to be valuable. He was mainly in the business of reprints and most people are interested in the original edition.
The Poughkeepsie Eagle of February 3, 1858 notes his passing:
"Death of Paraclete Potter - In the Milwaukie [sp] papers we find an account of the death or Paraclete Potter, Esq., formerly of this place, who dies on the 3rd inst.[ant], aged 78.
Mr. Potter was a native of this county, we believe, and one of its most prominent citizens for many years. Being by trade a printer, he commenced the business of printing and bookselling as early as 1806, at which time he also took charge of the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper, which he purchased of Nicholas Power, its founder. He continued in the same business until 1834, being all that time sole editor of the Journal, a period of twenty-right years. An active politican, he was until 1816 a zealous member of the federal party, then a supporter of Dewitt Clinton and subsequentially of General Jackson."
After he left his editorial labors he became very active in promoting the improvements which for a time marked the progress of Poughkeepsie. In 1841 he removed to Milwaukie, where he remained until death closed his career. With a character above the reach of reproach, he was a man of marked talent, and in general knowledge had few superiors in the country."
In 1873 Historical Magazine had this to say -
"A Poughkeepsie journal revives some historical reminiscences which are of general interest. When Holt's New York Journal was driven our of New York city, by the British, it was, for many years, published by Mr. Holt, in Poughkeepsie. His successor was Nicholas Power, and he, in turn, was followed by Paraclete Potter, brother of the late Bishop Alonzo Potter, of Pennsylvania, and of the late Horatio Potter, of New York. In connection with his newspaper business, Mr. Potter, in 1806, opened a bookstore in which book-publishing and selling were carried on for sixty-four years, till the store was burned down, last winter [1872-1873]. In this store, both Alonzo and Horatio Potter wwere once clerks. Mr. Paraclete Potter published school-books and a variety of miscellaneous works, among them Baron Steuben's Military Tactics. He was a Federalist in politics; and, for a time, his journal was the State-paper. The little reading-room, in the rear of the bookstore, was, for many years, the favorite assembling place of many men whose names are noted in our State history, such as James Kent, afterwards Chancellor, James Tallmadge, N. P. Tallmadge. Philo T. Ruggles, James Duane Livingston, Gulian C. Verplank, Peter R. Livingston, James K. Paulding, Edmond H. Pendleton, Chales H. Ruggles, and many more, who made the place a resort for social, literary, and political intercourse. Bishop Alonzo Potter used to declare that he received his first literary impulse from listening to the animated and interesting discussions in that old reading room. - Albany Argus. Pages 241-2."
He seemed destined to slip quietly into history. Google has somewhat reversed his fortunes and perhaps this project will contribute something toward a pale form of immortality.
Now take a look at Mr. Potter's productions. It's an interactive list that encourages anyone with information to offer it. If in time this experiment proves successful perhaps he will be remembered for his part.
- The Paraclete Potter Wiki-Bibliography
My thanks to Lynn Lucas, Local History Librarian at the Adriance Memorial Library in Poughkeepsie. From personal experience I can say she is responsive to requests for information. If you are interested in 19th century Poughkeepsie, Paraclete Potter or the myriad other subjects attendant to Poughkeepsie' history they are a fine resource.