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John Foster, 1648-1681
Map of New England detail
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 John Foster, the fourth child of Hopestill and Mary (Bates) Foster, was the earliest engraver in what is now the United States and was the first printer in Boston. He was not the sour Puritan of legend, for he played the fiddle and is believed to have painted the likenesses of some of his contemporaries, John Davenport and Richard Mather, among others. He excised a likeness of Mather on a wood block and printed an engraving of him. He was the author an almanac for which he made his own astronomical calculations.

John Foster graduated from Harvard College in 1667 and began to teach in Dorchester in October 1669. He began cutting in wood as early as 1671 and he set up a printing press in Boston in 1675. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 32.

John Foster made "A Map of New England" to illustrate William Hubbard's Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New England printed in Boston in 1677.


Black, Jeannette D. The Blathwayt Atlas. Providence: Brown University, 1975.

Green, Samuel Abbott. John Foster: the Earliest American Engraver and the First Boston Printer. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1909.

Wright, Louis B. The Cultural Life of the American Colonies. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002. Orig. pub. 1957.

Foster's Almanac
Foster Almanac Copernical system
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 Illustration of the “The Copernican System” from John Foster’s An Almanack of Coelestial Motions for the Year of the Christian Epocha, 1681. Foster’s diagram of the planets revolving around the sun is the first illustration of the Copernican system published in New England. The diagram was published in his almanac for 1675 and reprinted in 1681 (the one we see in today’s illus.) Foster, a Dorchester resident, had his almanac published by Samuel Green in 1675. A few months later, Foster established his own press, the first in Boston, and competed with Green by printing as well as writing his almanacs.

Source: New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century. Vol. 2. Exhibition catalog from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1982.

Related Images: showing 8 of 8 (more results)
Here are some images from the Atheneum archive related to this topic. Click on any of these images to open a slideshow of all 8 images.
Nathaniel Clap HouseMap of New England detailRichard MatherJohn Foster headstone
Foster Almanac Copernical systemNathaniel Clap HouseFoster Bull HouseJohn Foster headstone
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Created: August 15, 2003   Modified: February 7, 2011