Pamphlets, Pamphlets Everywhere!

By Jeremy Dibbell

Some excellent news from our Senior Cataloger, Mary Fabiszewski, who announces a major milestone in her current project, creating catalog records for our online catalog (ABIGAIL) of all the printed pamphlets in our collections. Mary writes:

“The cataloging department (me) is pleased to announce, that with the addition of Barret Wendell’s ‘Relations of Radcliffe College with Harvard’ (much less salacious than it sounds, I’m sure), the 1800s are finally at an end (as far as cataloging pamphlets are concerned).

I started this project back in January of 2008 with the year 1831. Since then 15,725 new records have been added to ABIGAIL, bringing the total number of pamphlets for that time period to 19,352. Along the way, of course, each pamphlet got a new envelope and was put in its proper place..”

Reference Librarian Elaine Grublin provides some data about what the presence of online records means for the use of these documents:

“Just to show how much Mary’s cataloging efforts have paid off, here are some quick call slip numbers.

In 2006, items with “box” call numbers were requested 195 times. That was 7.6% of the total number of printed items called for in that year.

In 2009, items with “box” call numbers were requested 620 times. That was 29.6% of the total number of printed items called for in that year.”

I know all our researchers who use these materials join us in congratulating Mary for her hard work, and look forward to continued progress in 2010. The twentieth century pamphlets are scheduled to be completed by July of this year.

Oh, and in case you’re interested in Mr. Wendell’s pamphlet, you can (now) find the ABIGAIL record for it here.

The Thomas Shepards and Their Books [Part 3]

By Jeremy Dibbell

Just a brief update on some of the latest discoveries in our research on the Thomas Shepard books (see Part 1 and Part 2 for earlier posts):

More than 100 extant copies of books (at ten different libraries) once belonging to the Shepards have now been identified, as Steve Ferguson notes in a post from Princeton, and each day we’ve discovered a few more. I’ve created an online version of the Shepard Library, which you can now browse here (just click on “Your Library” for the whole collection, or on each instution to see the books they now hold). Please note: as of 28 January this catalog is not yet complete – the largest portion of books, at Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, still need to be added. But we’re getting there!

One neat find from our collections here at MHS was a note (at left) in Thomas Shepard III’s copy of John Danforth’s An almanack or register of coelestial configurations &c. for the year of our Lord God 1679 (Cambridge: Samuel Green, 1679), which is among our holdings. Shepard kept notes in the interleaved almanac (mostly in shorthand), including one in which he describes receiving books from the estate of his friend and ministerial colleague Daniel Russell, who died of smallpox on 4 January 1678/9. In his will, Russell left Shepard a choice of books from his library, and Shepard reports choosing fourteen titles. Two of these, we were delighted to find, are now held at Princeton, and each contains an inscription by Shepard noting that it came from Russell’s library. You can see catalog records for the fourteen books here.



This Week @ MHS

By Jeremy Dibbell

We hope you’ll join us on Wednesday, 27 January at 6 p.m. for a talk by Christian J. Samito, author of Becoming American Under Fire: Irish Americans, African Americans, and the Politics of Citizenship during the Civil War. More info here. Reservations are required for this event: please email or call 617-646-0557. Refreshments will be served prior to the event, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

And on Thursday, 28 January, as part of the Boston Immigration and Urban History seminar series, Rosalyn Negron Goldbarg of UMASS Boston will discuss her paper “Situational Ethnicity for the 21st Century.” Deborah Pacini Hernandez of Tufts University will give the comment. Please read the Seminars @ MHS blog post for more information on attending seminars, including how to make reservations and receive the papers in advance.

Hannah Mather Crocker’s “Reminiscences”: Lunch Talk Recap

By Anna Cook

On Wednesday, 20 January, Eileen Hunt Botting from the University of Notre Dame spoke about her current project: a scholarly edition of Hannah Mather Crocker’s Reminiscences and Traditions of Boston, written between 1826-1829 shortly before Crocker’s death. Botting describes Reminiscences as “tripartite” in structure: two versions of Crocker’s history of Boston and an appendix of primary source material, including more than one hundred poems, often political in nature, authored by Crocker, some of which were published during her lifetime. The first, and longer, version of Crocker’s history is organized geographically and thematically, focusing on the people and places Crocker knew from a lifetime living in Boston. The second version is a shorter, edited version that Botting theorizes may have been drafted with publication in mind – possibly in the MHS Collections

Botting opened her talk with a brief biographical sketch of Crocker herself, a descendent from both the Mather and Hutchinson families of Boston. What little is known of Crocker suggests that she strongly identified with the Mather side of her family and was also deeply affected by her experience as a young woman coming of age in the midst of the American Revolution. As a daughter of the new Republic she saw herself as the “female heir” of the Mather tradition of ministry, writing persuasive poetry and in 1818 the first American-authored book-length tract on women’s rights, “Observations of the real rights of women, with their appropriate duties, agreeable to Scripture, reason and common sense.” Crocker was, Botting argues, the American equivalent of Mary Wollstonecraft, although her work was derided by later nineteenth-century feminist leaders as too conservative in her political demands. 

Reminiscences is the largest repository of Crocker’s extant writing and drew upon the Mather family library as well as Crocker’s personal connections to the Massachusetts Historical Society and the American Antiquarian Society. Crocker also draws upon oral remembrances shared among her circle of family and friends, providing valuable first-hand accounts of Boston during the Early Republic.   

Conversation among attendees at the presentation centered around Crocker’s methodology as a writer of history, particularly in the context of other female historians of her day (such as Hannah Adams and Mercy Otis Warren). There was also discussion about her religious ties (Botting describes her as a “an open-minded Congregationalist”) and speculation about the financial pressures that may have led her to begin writing and publishing after her husband’s death in the 1790s when she was left with about three hundred dollars to her name and seven surviving children (out of ten pregnancies!) to support. 

We look forward to the forthcoming Reminiscences and Traditions of Boston as a valuable addition to Boston and American women’s history, and hope it will be of use to future generations of scholars in a variety of fields.

The Thomas Shepards and Their Books [Part 2]

By Jeremy Dibbell

Picking up right where we left off yesterday, this post continues the saga of the Shepard library biblio-sleuthing expedition. As I wrote, I thought it might be worth checking to see whether we had any Shepard family books here at MHS, and if so whether they exhibited any of the marking patterns seen in the copies at Princeton. Our various catalogs resulted in the discovery of six books with Shepard provenance (and I suspect there may be a few more lurking in the stacks that I’ve yet to find). The titles we know so far are:

1. Thomas Goodwin, The returne of prayers: a treatise vvherein this case, how to discerne Gods answers to our prayers, is briefly resolved : with other observations upon Psal. 85.8 concerning Gods speaking peace, &c. (London: Printed for R. Dawlman, and L. Fawne at the signe of the Brazen serpent in Pauls Church-yard, 1636).

Notes: On front pastedown: MHS bookplate, noting Gift of “Miss Susan Minns, May 1, 1931”; inscribed below bookplate, “W. Beaman [?] 1905”; inscribed on title page [A2r]: “price 1s 4d”; inscribed on verso of title page [A2v]: “Thomas Prince Charlestown 1707 / [1?]s 4d silver.”; inscribed sideways on A3r, in ornate script: “Thomas Shepard me dedit 1652”; inscribed at top margin, A3r: line of shorthand, above which “Prince” (partially obliterated); inscribed on p. 396, sideways: “Thomas Shepard me tenet [?] and several shorthand marks at foot of page. Contains the “TS” stamp on the top edge.

2. William Gouge, A learned and very useful commentary on the whole epistle to the Hebrews : wherein every word and particle in the original is explained … : being the substance of thirty years Wednesdayes lectures at Black-fryers, London by that holy and learned divine Wiliam Gouge … : before which is prefixed a narrative of his life and death: whereunto is added two alphabeticall tables (London: Printed by A.M., T.W. and S.G. for Joshua Kirton, 1655). Second volume.

Notes: Inscribed on front flyleaf: “Tho: Shepards Booke / 1659: May. 19 / prot. 40s”; below same: “Warham Williams his Book 1738”; in pencil further down on page: “From J.B. Thayer / Feb. 1886”; inscribed on title page: “Warham Williams 1738 25/”. Contains a very clear “TS” mark on the top edge (pictured below).

3. Christopher Airay, Fasciculus praeceptorvm logicorum: In gratiam juventutis Academicae compositus & typis donatus (Oxoniae: Excudebat H.H. Impensis Jos. Godw., 1660).

Notes: Inscribed on front pastedown: “Presented to the Mass Hist’l Soc’y by Horatio G. Somerby”; inscribed on title page: “Thomas Shepardus [ejus?] liber prst[?] / 18 . 8’o 1674”; inscribed on verso of title page: “Edward Michesson [?] / His Book / 69”; inscribed on page *3, upside down at foot: “John green His Book / 1670”. Contains several glosses in text. Smudged/unclear “TS” mark on top edge.

4. John Cotton, Some treasure fetched out of rubbish: or, Three short but seasonable treatises (found in an heap of scattered papers) which providence hath reserved for their service who desire to be instructed, from the Word of God, concerning the imposition and use of significant ceremonies in the worship of God (London: [n.p.], 1660).

Notes: Inscribed sideways on title page: “Thomas Shepards booke 1660 5s [?]”; additional notes on title page; scattered shorthand and plaintext glosses through p. 15. No “TS” mark on top edge (too thin).

5. John Cotton, Of the holinesse of church-members (London: Printed by F.N. for Hanna Allen, and are to be sold at the Crown in Popes-head Alley, 1650).

Notes: Title inscribed on front flyleaf in an early hand; below this, “Wm Jenks A’o 1814.”; inscribed on second front flyleaf, long paragraph in shorthand with short plaintext gloss; inscribed on title page: “Thomas Shepard’s Book”; further note on verso of title page; inscribed on last leaf (blank): “Thomas Shepard’s Book 1660”; below this, notes referring back to pp. 42, 90. No “TS” mark on top edge (too thin).

6. [Synopsis purioris theolgiæ: disputationibus quinquaginta duabus comprehensa, ac conscripta per Iohannem Polyandrum, Andream Rivetum, Antonium Walæum, Antonium Thysium (Lvgduni Batavorvm: Ex officina^ Elzeviriana, 1632).]

Notes: Missing title page. On front pastedown: MHS bookplate noting gift of “Horatio G. Somerby / Nov. 1 1843”; inscribed on first blank: “Thomae Shepardi liber / 21. 3’o 1677”; inscribed below: “Edwardi Parsoni / Liber ex dono superscripti quondam possesoris / 1677” Lightly next to this, “Pret 3s-6d.”; inscribed below this: “Sam’th Parson / 1714”; various pen tests (mostly ggggg) around page. Later notes (librarian’s) on verso of ffep given title information (suggesting this is the 1652 edition, with later penciled note suggesting 1625). Insribed on last full leaf: additional note about Somerby gift to MHS, 1843, and some partially torn away earlier notes on the verso. No “TS” mark on top edge.

Beyond these books at MHS, we’ve also been able to confirm a few other Shepard titles at other libraries, including six that ended up in the Mather collection now at the American Antiquarian Society (I think before we’re done we’ll discover that they have a few more Shepard books, too); one at the John Carter Brown Library; and one at the Morgan Library. Those at the AAS all have the “TS” mark on the top edge (look for a blog post from them on this topic too), and our former MHS colleague Kim Nusco who’s now at the JCB reports that their book was rebound and gilded, probably destroying any edge-mark that used to be there (there’s a glimmer of hope that a trace of the mark might remain).

These discoveries seem to indicate that at least some of the Shepard books probably left the family and did not travel the same path as the Princeton books did, although we’ve yet to determine exactly how they made their way down through the centuries. That remains to be explored, but the names gathered from our copies (i.e. Thomas Prince, Warham Williams, William Jenks, Edward Parson) offer some interesting leads and points of exploration, some of which will be explored in future posts. In the meantime, if you know of any additional Shepard books, please let us know!

The Thomas Shepards and Their Books [Part 1]

By Jeremy Dibbell

Biblio-sleuthing is one of my very favorite things to do, so it was fun to be able to spend some time last Thursday working on a really interesting project in collaboration with Stephen Ferguson, Curator of Rare Books at Princeton University; Diann Benti, Assistant Reference Librarian at the American Antiquarian Society; and staff at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).

The project got underway when, as Stephen Ferguson noted in a blog post, they found at Princeton more than twenty books from the library of the Thomas Shepards. That’s three generations of early (and famed) New England ministers, each named Thomas Shepard. Or as we’ve taken to calling them, TS1 (1605-1649); TS2 (1635-1677); and TS3 (1658-1685). Most of the Shepard books, Ferguson found, were each “branded” or stamped on the top edge with a “TS” monogram (quite an uncommon practice in early New England, as far as we’ve been able to discover so far). In a follow-up post, Ferguson notes some of the most interesting finds.

Steve called me to see if I could find out a little about the wills and probate inventories of the Shepards, to see if there might be a list of the libraries included there, so off I went to NEHGS and looked through their microfilm copies of the seventeenth-century Middlesex County probate records. Frustratingly, the Shepard probate documents are vague (as so many are) about the contents of the library. TS1’s will leaves to his son Thomas “all my Bookes, manuscripts & paper which last named, viz: bookes, manuscripts & papers, although be propriety of my sonne Thomas yet they shall bee for the use of my wife and my other children.” The inventory lists, as the final item “about two hundred and sixty printed bookes” valued at £100, reiterating that they are to go to TS2.

TS2’s 1677 will leaves to “my son Thomas my whole library, both printed books &  writings, which though the property of my son, shall be also, occasionally, for the use of my wife, & daughters, as they may need, and desire the perusal thereof.” The inventory lists “his Library”, again valued at £100.

TS3, who died in his mid-twenties, left no known will or inventory. His widow Mary (nee Anderson) later married Rev. Samuel Hayman. Hayman died in 1712; his will doesn’t mention a library, and there is no inventory. Mary died in 1717; her will also doesn’t mention a library. Thomas and Mary had one surviving child, a daughter Hannah (or Anne) who married Rev. Henry Smith of New York. Steve has some ideas about how the books now at Princeton made their way there, which I’m sure he’ll share in good time, and he’s also found some good evidence to prove a statement Cotton Mather made about TS3 in his Magnalia Christi Americana (Volume II, p. 124 of the 1820 edition): “… his piety was accompanied with proportionable industry, wherein he devoured books even to a degree of learned gluttony; insomuch, that if he might have changed his name, it must have been Bibliander. … he had hardly left a book of consequence … in his library (shall I now call it, or his laboratory) which he had not so perused as to leave with it an inserted paper, a brief idea of the whole book, with memorandums of more notable passages occurring in it, written in his own diligent and so enriching hand.”

When I got back to MHS from NEHGS, I decided to take a peek through our “manuscript catalog,” which sometimes lists annotations or signatures found in books. Jackpot! I quickly discovered a few Shepard titles in our collections here at MHS … and I look forward to sharing those with you tomorrow. Did those here also have the “TS” mark on the top edge? Where’d they come from? Stay tuned! And what other institutions have Shepard books today?

This Week @ MHS

By Jeremy Dibbell

Join us on Wednesday, 20 January at 12 noon for a brown-bag lunch talk with research fellow Eileen Botting. Eileen will discuss her current project, “Hannah Mather Crocker’s Reminscences and Traditions of Boston.” There’s a bit more about the project here, via J.L. Bell’s Boston 1775 blog. And if you happen to know of an image of Hannah Mather Crocker, please let Eileen know!

Holiday Closure Notice

By Jeremy Dibbell

The MHS, including the library, will be closed on Monday, 18 January in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

This Week @ MHS

By Jeremy Dibbell

Join us on Wednesday, 13 January at 12 noon for a brown-bag lunch with research fellow Rachel Shelden. Rachel will speak on her current project, “Washington Brotherhood: Friendship and Politics in the Civil War Era.”

New Collection Guide: Edward Atkinson Papers

By Peter Steinberg

A new guide to the Edward Atkinson papers, 1819-1920, is now available on the Massachusetts Historical Society website  ( Previously only minimally described, the newly processed collection and finding aid contribute to a fuller understanding of the breadth of Edward Atkinson’s business affairs.

Edward Atkinson was born on 10 February 1827 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He began working as a teenager and became a very well-known and respected authority in a number of business fields and social causes including cotton manufacturing, anti-slavery, fire prevention and insurance, and the science of nutrition, to name but a few.

The loose correspondence has been reorganized, and where applicable, separate series of correspondence have been created. We hope this will save researchers some time as they look for letters from many of Atkinson’s most frequent correspondents, including Wilbur Olin Atwater, Thomas F. Bayard, Jonathan Chace, John Murray Forbes, Franklin L. Ford, Charles Nordhoff, Charles Eliot Norton, John Ott, Ellen H. Richards, or David Ames Wells. 

Additionally, the 79 letterbooks have been re-indexed as part of the project; the new cumulative index can be found at the bottom of the collection guide. Outside of the above named separate series, there is no name index to the loose correspondence, but the index to the letterbooks can be used as a guide to narrow down a potential date or date range of Atkinson’s incoming mail. In the finding aid, each letterbook is also described separately with a list of selected subjects discussed and frequent recipients.

Indexing the letterbooks proved challenging as over the years, in at least two purges, letters were removed either by Atkinson or his descendants prior to the collection’s arrival at the Historical Society, and in creating the new index we found instances where letters were removed after the handwritten indexes were made. While the cumulative indexes do not include entries for the letters removed from the letterbook volumes, the original handwritten indexes remain available at the beginning of each letterbook. We took care to catch each instance, and often mourned the loss of letters which promised to be interesting or quirky, such as Atkinson’s letter to the Department of Lost Umbrellas.

Contributions to the creation of the finding aid were made by Kimberly Kennedy, Kyle Hudgins, Rebecca Hecht, Susan Martin, and Peter K. Steinberg. Support for this project was provided by the FM Global Foundation.

Please note that the Edward Atkinson papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least one business day in advance. Contact the Library at or (617) 536-1608 to request materials. Please discuss your request with the reading room staff before requesting cartons by barcode.