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

The First Reconstruction: Black Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War

17May 5:30PM 2021
This is an online program

It may be difficult to imagine that a consequential black electoral politics evolved in the United States before the Civil War, for as of 1860, the overwhelming majority ...

Online Event; Conversation; Racial Injustice Series

Confronting Racial Injustice: The War on Drugs in Massachusetts: The Racial Impact of the School ...

19May 6:00PM 2021
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In the 1980s, Massachusetts embraced the War on Drugs, enacting harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. It took decades to confront the reality ...

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Of Thee I Sing: The Contested History of American Patriotism

26May 5:30PM 2021
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When we talk about patriotism in America, we tend to mean one form: the version captured in shared celebrations like the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. But ...

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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 ...

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