Winship’s Intended Audience in “Sailors’ Narratives of Voyages Along the New England Coast, 1524-1624”

From what I have gathered from Sailors’ Narratives of Voyages Along the New England Coast, 1524-1624, and its contents, I can conclude that Winship’s book sought to appeal to institutions such as libraries and colleges, scholars, and avid learners of history. Costing eight dollars per copy when it first came out, Winship’s book was likely only affordable for institutions such as colleges and libraries and scholars. Despite the high price of his book, Winship directly states that it was intended for general readers, as well. The fact that Winship only printed 440 editions of his book shows that it was not designed to be purchased in large quantities and that he possibly sought to give copies to organizations and individuals that would share the work amongst others. Today, most of Winship’s copies dwell in various libraries, such as Colby’s Special Collections. They can also be found on online sites such as Amazon and Google Books, indicating that the book has been actively reprinted for usage and analysis over the last century.

Page 4. States the number of copies printed (440) and initial prices of copies ($8.00)

The hefty price that Winship placed on his book may give us hints as to who Winship’s audience was. Initially priced at eight dollars per copy (roughly $230 today, according to Measuring Worth), Winship’s work would be unaffordable for most people of his time. Despite the price, Winship wanted his work to be “of interest and entertainment to the general reader” (3), indicating that he sought to appeal to his general audience in some fashion. Considering that Winship’s book contained several historical documents, one can speculate that he may have desired to sell this book to individuals interested in Colonial history and willing to invest a considerable amount of money into his work. While Winship likely sold most of his copies to institutions, such as colleges and libraries, he could have also given them copies in hopes that they would advertise and spread knowledge around the book’s contents. In this regard, one might conclude that, while copies of Sailors’ Narratives of Voyages Along the New England Coast, 1524-1624 were not cheap, Winship wanted them to be purchased and analyzed by institutions and individuals that could diligently dissect the work’s contents and possibly spread the book to other readers. Furthermore, the fact that this book contained several, likely rare historical documents of sailors’ travels in North America, readers may have been further motivated to purchase, study, and spread Winship’s work.

Page stating the number of total copies sold upon publication. Colby’s edition was print number 4

At the beginning of the book, Winship states that he initially produced 440 copies of his work, with “400 of which be[ing] for sale” (4) to the public. The fact that Winship left 40 of these copies on reserve for unknown individuals immediately caught my attention. I did some research on this and could not find any conclusive evidence on where Winship sent these copies. However, one can speculate that he gave them to reputable scholars and/or organizations interested in his materials. Although copies of Sailors’ Narratives were expensive, giving copies to reputable organizations such as libraries could help popularize Winship’s book to the general masses and possibly bring in additional profits from that exposure. While this meant that Winship had to gamble on spreading his expensive copies to various organizations and individuals, it possibly helped spread his work further and increase the book’s total amount of copies sold. As a whole, all of Winship’s copies likely catered to a broad (usually wealthy – due to the book prices) audience interested in Colonial American history and history in general. One may conclude that, while Winship did not seem to mass-produce his book, he sought to sell it to reputable authorities and learners that could appreciate, understand, and possibly spread knowledge on the contents that he gathered.

The locations of Winship’s copies may further help us speculate that he sought to give his work to academic institutions and historians. A quick search on Google tells us that copies of this book ended up in various libraries, such as the University of Connecticut Main Library, Bowdoin Main Library, and obviously Colby’s Special Collections. With the development of eBooks and accessible PDFs, other editions spread around the Internet for browsing and sale on sites such as Amazon, HathiTrust, and Google Books. The fact that various libraries and websites still retain this book show that Winship’s work may not have only been designed to be analyzed by scholars and institutions of his time, but also to be studied and acknowledged for generations to come. With these possibilities, we can guess that Winship sought to identify and sell his work as culturally relevant and helpful to learners of any time curious about Colonial American history.

In summary, various factors found in the book’s texts and through research may give us some valuable insight into who Winship’s audience was. The prices of his book upon publication were high and likely limited affordability to wealthy institutions and individuals. The limited number of copies sold may help us speculate that Winship could only give copies to libraries, colleges, and scholars. It is possible that Winship sought to cater to general readers through providing these copies to reputable institutions and individuals in hopes that they would disseminate the book’s contents to other readers. The fact that copies are still found in libraries and now on the Internet show that this book was indeed preserved for readers to purchase and analyze. Furthermore, the fact that copies are still being published helps us understand that this work did not only cater to audiences of Winship’s time but also to future generations of readers and analyzers.