1794 ISAAC WATTS. Rare Survivor Connecticut Imprint of Watts' Apocalyptic "Wonderful Dream."

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A fascinating little piece of Americana describing in a vision or dream the ultimate end of Satan and the victory of the people of God over the tyranny of their spiritual foe. 

By the mid-18th century, Isaac Watts' Psalms and Hymns had been widely distributed in the United States. Like in Great Britain, he became the "standard" hymnist. As the American Revolutionary War drew near, his Psalms, many of which conflated Israel with the Crown of England, began a process of editorialization to make them more palatable for a governmentally unsettled people. That Americans would rather adapt his works than do without demonstrates how much a part of the fabric of social worship he had become.

Sometime around 1763, Thomas Greene, printer of Boston, appears to have received a purportedly unpublished manuscript of Watts', and it issued shortly thereafter as A Wonderful Dream. By Dr. Watts. This was followed by [at least] imprints at Albany [1789] by Charles R. and George Webster; at Windham, CT [1790] by John Byrne; at Middletown, CT [1792] by Amos Bow; and at Danbury, CT [1794] by Nathan Douglas for James Crawford. All bound imprints have but 12 pages, no formal title page; text only. It was a truly ephemeral production with imprints bookending the War for Independence. Several editions appear early in the 19th century as well and it was issued on a single broadside format at various points. 

Our work appears typographically identical to 1794 Danbury, CT edition, including the geometric line break under the title. See the copy reproduced in Readex's Early American Imprints. Series I. 

Watts, Isaac [?]. A Wonderful Dream. Danbury, CT. Printed by Nathan Douglas for James Crawford. 12pp.

The work itself is truly fugitive, though in what way is undetermined. It was initially issued as a "fugitive" work by Watts, i.e., in the traditional sense of being a work that had eluded publication during his lifetime. Modern scholars, however, debate its authenticity and suspect it to be fugitive in a more fraudulent sense, at least in terms of attribution. To our knowledge, the historical discussion has proven inconclusive. It does not, however, appear in the 18th and early 19th century editions of Watts' Works. Some early 19th century American editions of Watts' Divine and Moral Songs for Children do append it at the end. Some later imprints bear the evocative subtitle, with a surprizing and visionary account of the triumph over Satan, the subtle adversary of souls.

Interestingly, there exist other later imprints that attribute the work to the "Sleeping Preacher," Jemima Wilkinson [1752-1819]. This appears unlikely as well, since she dates her own conversion to 1775 or 1776 and the work appears in print as early as 1763, as noted above. 

Fair copy of a scarce work, trimmed with loss to the "A" at head of integrated text / title page; worn, tears, dog-eared, as shown. However, textually complete and exceptionally rare on the market. Well worth preservation and perhaps some conservation work.