Early Imprints

Books, pamphlets, broadsides, and newspapers printed before 1821 have been removed from the general collection and are stored together as the early imprint collection. This grouping includes a large number of 17th-century Massachusetts imprints and many early foreign publications, including books donated by 18th- and 19th-century book collectors, as well as the 1796 Library, a reassembling of the Society's earliest holdings.

Highlights

The collection of early imprints contains a number of rare items, such as Gov. John Winthrop's A Declaration of Former Passages and Proceedings Betwixt the English and the Narrowgansetts (Cambridge, 1645), the first historical account published in English-speaking North America. Other highlights include a copy of Reverend John Eliot's "Indian Bible," Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God (Cambridge, 1663), the first Bible printed in any language in America, and a unique copy of The Selling of Joseph, by Samuel Sewall (Boston, 1700), the first American antislavery tract. The Society also holds a copy of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, by Phillis Wheatley (London, 1773), the first book of poetry written by an African American, together with manuscript copies by Wheatley of several of her poems.

How to Find Early Imprints

All early imprints held by the MHS are cataloged in ABIGAIL, including books, pamphlets, broadsides, and serials.

Microfilm of Early American Imprints

In addition to the thousands of early imprints in the MHS collection of books and pamphlets, the Society has microfiche copies of almost all works published in America through 1819. These items represent the 75,000 titles listed in Charles Evans's American Bibliography, Roger Bristol's Supplement to Evans' American Bibliography (1638-1800), and Ralph Shaw and Richard Shoemaker's American Bibliography (1801-1819). The microfiche editions contain the full text of nearly every work (except serials and some printed ephemera) listed in these bibliographies. Researchers can also read catalog descriptions for every item in the microfiche sets in ABIGAIL.

Upcoming Events

Online Event; Conversation

11 Places That Have Shaped Innovation in Boston, 1636-2021

12Apr 5:30PM 2021
This is an online program

Author of the recently-published book Innovation Economy and longtime Boston Globe columnist, Scott Kirsner, will take you on a photographic tour of 11 places ...

Seminar; Environmental History Seminar; Online Event

Kaleidoscope Metropolis: Autonomy and Integration in the Fractured City

13Apr 5:15PM 2021
This is an online event.

By the 1950s, just as technocratic consensus settled on the opinion that Boston’s metropolitan problems demanded municipal consolidation, meaningful regional ...

Online Event; Conversation; Racial Injustice Series

Confronting Racial Injustice: Boston School Desegregation through the Rearview Mirror

15Apr 6:00PM 2021
This is an online program

In 1972, a group of African American parents sued city and state officials over segregation within the Boston Public Schools. After a trial, a federal court determined ...

From our Blog

This Week @MHS

Join us for a program this week! Here is a look at what is going on: - Tuesday, 29 January, 5:15 PM: Better Teaching through Technology, 1945-1969, with Victoria Cain, Northeastern ...

Founder to Founder

Like so many good stories here at the Historical Society, it began with a reference question. Jeremy Belknap, hunting through his sources, asked Vice President John Adams for some help. Belknap, the ...

Read more from our blog

Have you seen?