The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: Research Published

Just Published: Mather's "Biblia Americana"

We received a long-awaited and much-anticipated package in today's mail: a copy of the first volume of Cotton Mather's Biblia Americana, just published by Mohr Siebeck/Baker Academic. This volume (of ten) marks the first publication of this weighty and important work, edited by a team of extremely dedicated editors headed up by Reiner Smolinski, Professor of English at Georgia State University.

The manuscript of Mather's Biblia Americana, which comprises some 4,500 pages over six volumes, is in the collections of the MHS, so understandably we're thrilled to see this project bear its first fruits in this volume, which covers Mather's commentary on the book of Genesis. It and the future volumes will certainly be a great help to us here in the library as well as to the scholars around the world who will now have access to a well-edited, carefully-annotated version of the text.

Mather's work is, as Smolinski describes it in his erudite and thorough introduction to the volume, "the oldest comprehensive commentary on all the canonical books of the Bible to have been composed in British North America" (p. 3). It "represents one of the great untapped resources in American religious and intellectual history," Smolinski writes, as Mather's "scriptural interpretations reflect the growing influence of Enlightenment thought in America as well as the rise of the transatlantic evangelical awakening."

This is hardly your run-of-the-mill biblical commentary. Mather poses rhetorical questions about the verses he annotates, and uses a stunningly broad range of source texts to explore the topics at hand. As Smolinski notes, this often leads Mather far beyond "the more conventional concerns of biblical philology and academic theology," as he tackles questions of natural philosophy and particularly topics of specific interest to American readers (such as religious customs, cultural practices, and medicinal treatments). Having sifted through "literally hundreds of different tomes" (a list of which Smolinski provides), Mather intended his work to be a "clergyman's personal encyclopedia (in the absence of a college library), a one-stop shop where educated readers could interface with Pagan antiquity, Newtonian science, and Old-Time Religion" (p. 6).

Alas, and despite years of trying, Mather never found a publisher to take on the project, though certainly not for lack of effort on his part (a process recounted ably by Smolinski in his introduction).

A hearty congratulations to Reiner Smolinski and his team for their hard work on this volume (and on those to come)!

If you're interested in the editorial project, you can learn more at the project website.

comments: 1 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 2 September, 2010, 4:31 PM

Research Recently Published

A few of the recent publications by research fellows and/or friends of the MHS which involved use of our collections or publications:

- Adam Cooke, "'An Unpardonable Bit of Folly and Impertinence": Charles Francis Adams Jr., American Anti-Imperialists, and the Philippines." New England Quarterly 83, no. 2 (June 2010), 313-338.

- Margery M. Heffron, "'A Fine Romance': The Courtship Correspondence between Louisa Catherine Johnson and John Quincy Adams." New England Quarterly 83, no. 2 (June 2010), 200-218.

- Jane T. Merritt, “Beyond Boston:  Prerevolutionary Activism and the Other American Tea Parties,” in Steeped in History: The Art of Tea, ed. Beatrice Hohenegger (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA, 2009), 164-175.

- Francesca Morgan, "Lineage as Capital: Genealogy in Antebellum New England." New England Quarterly 83, no. 2 (June 2010), 250-282.

- L.A. Norton, Captains Contentious: The Dysfunctional Sons of the Brine, (University of South Carolina Press, 2009).

- Mark Valeri, Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America (Princeton University Press, 2010).

- Karyn Valerius, "'So Manifest a Signe from Heaven": Monstrosity and Heresy in the Antinomian Controversy." New England Quarterly 83, no. 2 (June 2010), 179-199.

- Kemble Widmer and Joyce King, "The Cabots of Salem & Beverly: A Fondness for the Bombé Form." Antiques & Fine Art (Spring 2010), 166-174.

- Walter W. Woodward, Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676 (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 20 May, 2010, 11:58 AM

Wood a Pulitzer Finalist

We'd like to congratulate MHS Fellow Gordon S. Wood, whose book Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford University Press, 2009) was named a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in History. The winner in that category this year was Liaquat Ahamed, for Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World. Joining Wood as a finalist was Greg Grandin, the author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 14 April, 2010, 12:33 PM

Holton Wins Bancroft for "Abigail Adams"

We're thrilled and excited here at MHS today to report that our friend Woody Holton has been awarded one of the three 2010 Bancroft Prizes for his book Abigail Adams. One of the most prestigious prizes for books of history, the Bancroft is awarded by the trustees of Columbia University "to the authors of books of exceptional merit in the fields of American history, biography, and diplomacy."

Congratulations, Woody, on this well-deserved honor!

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 18 March, 2010, 11:24 AM

Hessian Journals and Cultures of Print

Two recent publications by MHS researchers:

- An annotated translation of the journal of Hessian 2nd Lt. Friedrich von Keudell appears in the 2009 volume of The Hessians: Journal of the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association. Keudell's journal, which covers the period 14 November 1783 - 14 April 1784, contains notes on the departure of the Hessen-Cassel grenadier battalion von Lowenstein from American soil and the transatlantic passage back to Bremerhaven, Germany. The journal was translated by Henry J. Retzer and annotated by Lt. Col. Donald M. Londahl-Schmidt. Keudell's journal appears in the same volume as the Wilhelm Freyenhagen journal, which covers the period from 1776 through 1778. An annotated translation of Freyenhagen's journal will appear in a later edition of The Hessians.

- MHS short-term researcher fellow (1999-2000) Jonathan Beecher Field has published Errands into the Metropolis: New England Dissidents in Revolutionary London (Dartmouth University Press, 2009). The publisher's description notes: "Through chapters focusing on John Cotton, Roger Williams, Samuel Gorton, John Clarke, and the Quaker martyrs, Field traces an evolving discourse on the past, present, and future of colonial New England that revises the canon of colonial New England literature and the contours of New England history. In the broader field of early American studies, Field’s work demonstrates the benefits of an Atlantic perspective on the material cultures of print. In the context of religious freedom, Errands into the Metropolis shows Rhode Island’s famous culture of toleration emerging as a pragmatic response to the conditions of colonial life, rather than as an idealistic principle. Errands into the Metropolis offers new understanding of familiar texts and events from colonial New England, and reveals the significance of less familiar texts and events."

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 3 August, 2009, 10:40 AM

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