James Magee (1707-1797) and the Belfast print trade, 1771-1781

  • Michael O'Connor

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis investigates the Belfast printer James Magee (1707-1797) and assesses his contribution towards the Belfast book trade in the eighteenth century. The first chapter discusses the peripheral nature of Belfast printing, outlining the details of Magee’s career (1735-1791) and examining his practices in terms of its provinciality. The second chapter focuses on material produced by Magee throughout the American War of Independence and argues that by his reprinting of original and riskier texts from the American colonies, as well as his first-time printings of local authors engaging in the Revolutionary debates, Belfast politics and print were moving out from the margins by means of Magee’s publications. The final section considers how the Volunteer sermons, published by Magee in 1779-1781, witnessed Belfast printing break out of its provincial parameters to challenge its peripheral status. Furthermore, these sermons, printed at the request of local congregations, were an expression of the emergent confidence of Belfast Presbyterianism that sought to occupy a more central space in the public sphere.

The thesis breaks new ground in providing the first appraisal of printer Magee - a figure who has been long neglected. It sheds important light on provincial printing as a whole and its relationship to the metropolis. Moreover, it also provides valuable knowledge concerning the Belfast print trade, contextualising its move from the margins onto the growing self-assurance of the Presbyterian community.

This study also provides supporting appendices and a comprehensive bibliography of Magee’s entire corpus of publications 1735-89.
Date of AwardJul 2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsArts & Humanities Research Council
SupervisorMoyra Haslett (Supervisor)


  • Belfast printing
  • publishing
  • history of the book
  • Presbyterianism
  • Dissenter
  • Ulster Volunteers
  • Revolutionary War
  • public sphere
  • Belfast
  • Ireland

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