Saturday, August 07, 2010

Early Suffolk County Libraries

I went on a mission this morning to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, to prowl through their probate records for a while. I had several files I wanted to check:

- Andrew LeMercier, minister of the Huguenot church in Boston (d. 1764). He apparently gave some of his books and manuscripts to Richard Cranch, and given the number of French sermons and theological texts in Cranch's library, I wanted to see if there was an inventory of books in LeMercier's estate (or a mention in his will of the materials going to Cranch). Alas, there was neither (it's possible that the books were divested before his death, as none are mentioned in the estate inventory).

- Samuel Adams, (d. 1803). I was hoping to round out the Massachusetts Signers of the Declaration of Independence by finding an inventory of Sam Adams' books (I've documented the other four: John Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and Elbridge Gerry), but his inventory, alas, includes simply "1 lot books", valued at $30 (the same as "2 cows" and "1 Bed bedstead & curtains"). Clearly quite a few books, then, but just what they were isn't clear. There are a few scattered books with Adams' signature around, but definitely not a critical mass of them. In his will, Adams also gives to his wife "such Books as she was the owner of previous to my intermarriage with her."

- Simon Bradstreet (d. 1697). Husband of the poet Anne Bradstreet, who lost his major library in a 1666 fire. I hoped perhaps his will or inventory would mention the additional library he built up after that time, but no dice.

Once I'd tracked these down I started a longer term project, which will be to go through the early probate records systematically and look for references to books or libraries in wills and inventories. Today I got through the first hundred pages of the first volume of Suffolk County's probate records (about the 1650s), and found no inventories but a few references. I've noted them here. Hopefully I'll be able to get back there once a week or so for a while, and continue to pluck out book references (this is sort of a practice run for the Bermuda project, since I'll be doing the same thing down there at the first opportunity).

1 comment:

jgodsey said...

this is some great research, keep it up. i wish i was with you.