The 237th anniversary of Paul Revere's famous midnight ride during the Revolutionary War falls on Wednesday. But long before Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made him famous, Revere was known as an engraver and a silversmith in Boston.
Brown University announced this week that it had found a rare engraved print by Revere, one of only five in existence. The print was tucked inside an old medical book that had been donated by physician Solomon Drowne, a member of Brown University's class of 1773.
"It was an engraving, not a terribly large one," Richard Noble, Brown University's rare books cataloguer tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, "and I looked down at the corner and there was a signature, "P. Revere Sculp." And I thought, 'You know, it's just crude enough to be his work.'"
Noble did some research online, and found a picture and description of the very same print on the American Antiquarian Society website, proving that this was a Revere original.
The print itself is rare, but what makes it truly unique is what it depicts, Noble says. The print shows Jesus in the Jordan River with John the Baptist, after being fully submerged in the water; the standard image often associated with Jesus' baptism has John the Baptist pouring water over Jesus' head.
The submersion of Christ is more in tune with the Baptist telling of the Baptism of Christ, Noble says.
"The text that's chosen for the caption, 'Buried with Him by baptism,' is very, very Baptist with a capital B text," Noble says.
Revere was a known Unitarian and though Noble is not a religious scholar, he says he believes Revere's print holds a hidden significance. His hope is "that somebody who knows something about that can come along and say, 'That's interesting and I've never seen anything quite like it before from this period, and I think that might be the case.'"
Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.