With the reports today (WBUR, Boston Globe) that the leadership of Boston's Old South Church is considering the sale of one of its two copies of the 1640 Bay Psalm Book, I thought it was worth taking a look at the eleven known copies. If one of the Old South/BPL copies is sold, it will be the first time since 1947 that a first edition has come to auction, and would be the first time a copy could potentially return to private hands.
A census and account of copies is given in Wilberforce Eames' introduction to The Bay Psalm Book: Being a facsimile Reprint of the First Edition, Printed by Stephen Daye At Cambridge, in New England in 1640. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1903. Another census appears in Nathaniel B Shurtleff and Bradford F. Swan, "Some Thoughts on the Bay Psalm Book of 1640: with a Census of Copies." Yale University Library Gazette 22:3 (January 1948), 51-76. Since they provide good historical background, Eames' comments on each copy are given below, and I have added updates (both from Shurtleff and Swan and other sources) as needed. Additions/corrections are welcome! [Update: Note that the Sotheby's catalog for the 26 November 2013 sale also contains a detailed census]
1. John Carter Brown Library - Of this copy Eames writes "Perfect, but with a small portion of the blank margin of the title-page and the lower blank margin of the leaf of errata cut out; in the original old calf binding, rebacked. Size of leaf, six inches and seven-eighths by four inches and one-half. It was first owned by Richard Mather, one of the translators, whose autograph signature is in several places on the fly leaves and covers. From the Mather family it passed to the Rev. Thomas Prince, the bookplate of whose 'New England Library' is pasted on the back of the title. By Prince it was bequeathed to the Old South Church, in his will dated October 2, 1758, 'and from that time till 1860, the book remained in the custody of the deacons and pastors of that church. In that year it was given by the church, through the proper agents, to the late Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff, M.D.' On Dr. Shurtleff's death his library was offered for sale at auction by Leonard & Co., Boston, November 30 to December 2, 1875, but the Psalm Book was withdrawn because the deacons of the Old South Church obtained an injunction to prevent its sale. After a hearing before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the injunction was dissolved and the book adjudged to belong to Dr. Shurtleff's estate. It was therefore advertised again, in a four-page circular, to be sold at auction, on October 12, 1876, by Joseph Leonard; and it was sold for $1025, to Mr. Sidney S. Rider of Providence, from whom it was bought by Mr. Caleb Fiske Harris. After the death of Mr. Harris, who was drowned in October, 1881, his collection was placed for sale in Mr. Rider's hands, and he sold the Psalm Books of 1640 and 1647 to the Brown Library, $1500 being given for them together with books worth considerable more. See Catalogue of the Library of Dr. N.B. Shurtleff (1875), no. 1356; Catalogue of Books relating to North and South America in the Library of the late John Carter Brown, part 2 (1882), pp. 201-202; Victor H. Paltsits in the Library Collector, December 1901, p. 70."
Shurtleff obtained his copy of the Bay Psalm Book via Old South deacon Loring Lothrop. On 30 December 1859 Shurtleff wrote to Lothrop: "My Dear Sir: I am very desirous of obtaining one of the duplicate copies of the old Bay Psalm Book belonging to the Old South Church Library, having a strong veneration for the old volume. I think I have books in my library, such as would be not only appropriate for the Library of the Old South Church but also valuable for reference and for the use of those who may rely upon the library for works suitable to be consulted. Among the books which I happen to think of are the original edition of Winthrop's New England and Belknap's New England Biography ... which I would gladly give in exchange [for] one of the duplicates ... " The books are inscribed "Given to the Prince Library of the 'Old South Society' of Boston, Mass., by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, M.D., in exchange for the 'Bay State Psalms.' Boston, Jan. 11, 1860."
In the 1950s, BPL librarian Zoltán Harastzi explored whether this copy might be returned, telling LIFE in 1954 that he had asked to examine the files from the 1875 court case. "After a considerable search, the clerk located the old file and handed it to me. It contained about a dozen documents, summonses, briefs, affidavits—and that amazing letter of Shurtleff's to Lothrop. I don't believe anyone else has looked at the file since it was put away 79 years ago. Of course I should have known how the case turned out even before I looked at it. The deacons were too late—the statute of limitations had run."
Some additional notes on this copy: the blank leaf preceding the title page includes various Richard Mather signatures and other ink notations, possibly in several hands, on the recto. The verso includes additional ownership inscriptions by Mather, as well as a shelfmark [presumably Prince's]: "10.4.9." Below this, in ink: "Oct. 10. 1848. Examind this book by the catch word of every leaf and believe it to be complete. S.T.A." STA was Samuel T. Armstrong, a deacon of Old South Church. On verso of title page is the bookplate of the New England Library, with printed text "This Book belongs to The New-England-Library, Begun to be collected by Thomas Prince, upon his entring Harvard-College, July 6. 1703 ; and was given by said Prince, to remain therein for ever."
On leaf B1v the first line of Psalm 9:1, "the" in the text is lined through and "thee" written in the left margin. On leaf C4v at the first line of Psalm 15:31 is a smudged correction in ink, the only readable text being "(3)". On leaf D2r at Psalm 19:13, "let thou kept back" in the text is lined through, corrected to "kept back out" in ink. On leaf D3v at Psalm 21:8, "The Lord" in the text is lined through, corrected to "Thy hand" in ink. On leaf E1r at Psalm 22:23, "prayse yee," in the text is lined through, corrected to "do yee" in ink. On leaf L3v at line four of Psalm 50:7, "I" in the text is lined through, corrected to "God" in ink. On leaf S2v at line three of Psalm 76:10, "earth" in the text is lined through, corrected to "wrath" in ink. On leaf Dd3v at line two of Psalm 113:5, "earth" in the text is lined through, corrected to "high" in ink. On leaf Kk2v at Psalm 143:6, "I even" in the text is lined through, corrected to "Moreover" in ink.
As noted, the lower half of the errata leaf is wanting. On the recto of the blank leaf following the errata leaf, of which a portion is also missing, is a notation in ink: "Aristotle sayd yt man was the [?], the [?] of [?] Image of Inconstancy the tryall of Envy & misery ; And all the rest of man flem & coeler". Various pen tests and other marks on the verso of the same leaf.
Chain of Provenance: Richard Mather - Mather family (likely Samuel, Increase, Cotton) - Thomas Prince - Old South Church - Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff - Sidney S. Rider - Caleb Fiske Harris - Sidney S. Rider - John Carter Brown - John Carter Brown Library.
This copy was recently featured in Slate, and a full scan is available here.
2. Yale University Library - Eames knew this as the Vanderbilt copy, and describes it this way: "Perfect. It is one of the five copies bequeathed by Thomas Prince in 1758 to the Old South Church, from whose collection is passed by exchange, between the years 1850 and 1860, to Edward A. Crowninshield ... . In the catalogue of Mr. Crowninshield's library, announced to be sold at auction by Leonard & Co., Boston, in November, 1859, the book is described as 'in the original old vellum binding.' The whole library, however, was withdrawn, and sold at private sale for $10,000 to Mr. Henry Stevens, who took it to London, where the Psalm Book was offered to the British Museum for £150. Its purchase not being approved, the book was withdrawn by Mr. Stevens, and after being rebound by F[rancis]. Bedford in 'dark brown crushed levant morocco,' was sold in 1868 to Mr. George Brinley of Hartford, for 150 guineas. At the Brinley sale in March, 1879, it was bought for the late Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt for $1200. The statements in the Memorial History of Boston, vol. I (1880) and in the Catalogue of the John Carter Brown Library, part 2 (1882), that this copy was destroyed in a warehouse fire in New York, not long after its purchase by Mr. Vanderbilt, are both incorrect. Mrs. Vanderbilt writes that the book now belongs to her, and that it has never been injured in any fire. See Catalogue of the Valuable Private Library of the late Edward A. Crowninshield (1859), no. 878; Brinley Catalogue, part I (1878, sold 1879), no. 847; Stevens, Recollections of Mr. James Lenox (1886), pp. 61-63."
Shurtleff and Swan report that the book probably was exchanged with Crowinshield prior to 1850. It remained in the Vanderbilt family until its sale at Parke-Bernet Galleries on 28 January 1947 for $151,000 to the Rosenbach Company. The copy was purchased for Yale University by a "group of alumni and friends," as announced in September 1947. They note that there have been minor repairs at the outer margins of signatures Kk and Ll. An account of the 1947 sale of this copy (and of the transfer of the other Old South copies) is included in the 22 November 1954 issue of LIFE, under the headline "A Very Proper Swindle".
The Sotheby's census notes that this copy was acquired by Old South Church before 1750, and does not attribute ownership to Thomas Prince.
Yale Catalog Record.
Chain of Provenance: Old South Church - Edward A. Crowninshield - Henry Stevens - George Brinley - Cornelius Vanderbilt - Alice Gywnne Vanderbilt - Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney & her estate trust - Rosenbach Company - Yale University.
3. Boston Public Library Copy 1 - From the Catalogue of the Prince Library: "Has the book-plate of the 'New England Library' ... a small part of [leaf] Ee supplied in manuscript, and is otherwise complete." "Old South Church Library" stamped in gold on front board. "Thomas Prince Library In the Custody of the Boston Public Library" bookplate on front pastedown, with shelfmark H.21.14. Shelfmark written in blue pencil on verso of added front flyleaf. On recto of the blank leaf preceding the title page, a shelfmark [presumably Prince's] near the top in ink: "10.4.8" and below this "O.S. 132." In ink lower on the page is a citation from Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana: "'About the year 1639, the New English Reformers ... resolving upon a New Translation [of the Psalms], the chief Divines in the country took each of them a portion to be translated: among whom were Mr Weld & Mr Eliot of Roxbury & Mr Mather of Dorchester. ... The Psalms thus turn'd into Metre were printed at Cambridge in the year 1640.' Magnalia, III.100." On verso of title page, Prince's ownership inscription: "T. Prince. Milton. Apr. 9 & 10. 1728" [astronomical notations appear above the dates]. Below this is the bookplate of the New England Library, with printed text "This Book belongs to The New-England-Library, Begun to be collected by Thomas Prince, upon his entring Harvard-College, July 6. 1703 ; and was given by" with addition in manuscript "said Prince in his last will Oct. 2. 1758 to remain in said Library forever." See an image of Prince's inscription and bookplate from this leaf here.
On leaf **2r, in the preface, the following section of the text is underlined in ink: "it hath beene one part of our religious care and faithfull indeavour, to keepe close to the originall text." A marginal bracket in ink has been added to the text from the final, partial paragraph on leaf **2r through the end of the first full paragraph on leaf **3r. The phrase "a paraphrase" is underlined in ink on leaf **2v. On leaf A1r several notations to later changes are indicated in ink: the second line of Psalm 1:5, "rise to stand in the doome," in the text, is glossed "stand upright in ye Doom. 1647". Below the text, in ink: "All the Rest of this Psalm as in 1647. But the next edition ^after 1647^ greatly amended." On leaf A2r, at the end of Psalm 2 is added in ink "[all ye same in 1647.]" The second line of Psalm 3:6, "ten thousand" in the text, is glossed "ten thousands in 1647." On leaf A2v, at the end of Psalm 4, "all the same in 1647." Foliation notation on leaf Aa4v, in pencil at the top corner, "fo. 100." The missing portion of leaf Ee, noted in the Prince Catalogue as being supplied in manuscript, no longer has the manuscript portion present (a portion of the text from the lower half of the leaf is missing). On the verso of a later rear endleaf, in pencil: "Ee defective; otherwise perfect."
This is Shurtleff and Swan's BPL Copy A; they note that its condition "entitles this copy to a much higher ranking than is ordinarily given to the volume, which has all too often been passed over with the simple notation that it is 'slightly imperfect.' A full scan of this copy is available here.
Chain of Provenance: Thomas Prince - Old South Church - Boston Public Library.
4. Boston Public Library Copy 2 - From the Catalogue of the Prince Library: "[C]omplete, with the exception of a slight mutilation of the 'Finis' leaf, and the absence of the following leaf, which contains on the recto a list of 'Faults escaped in printing.'" These are Ll3 and Ll4. Contains the following inscription on the flyleaf: "This book was bound at the cost of Mr. Ed. Crowninshield and given in exchange for No. 259 in the catalog. Jan. 1850. STA." See entry 1 for another Armstrong note. No. 259 in the catalog of the Prince collection is the notation for the copy of the Bay Psalm Book Crowninshield received [entry 2]. This copy is Shurtleff and Swan's BPL Copy B, and they note that its "defects, especially the [missing leaf] are serious, but the copy is still worthy of a higher rating for condition than is commonly given it." The noted errata, with one exception, have been corrected in manuscript, and the first verse of Psalm 100 (Z4v) has a contemporary manuscript edit. The reiteration of sheet D is noted by the addition in manuscript of "miss 2 leaves" at the foot of D1r and D4r, and "Turn back a leafe" on D3r and D2r. This is item 112 in the 1847 Prince Library catalog, and bears the shelfmark 10.4.11 in ink on the title page.
This is the copy currently being considered for sale by the Old South Church.
Eames: "Both slightly imperfect, and both in modern binding. These are the two remaining copies of the five originally given by Thomas Prince to the Old South Church in Boston. In 1866 they were deposited with the rest of the collection in the Boston Public Library. For both BPL copies, see Catalogue of the American Portion of the Library of the Rev. Thomas Prince (1868), p. 16; and The Prince Library, A Catalogue of the Collection of Books and Manuscripts (1870), p. 7. Shurtleff and Swan add: "It has been said that the modern bindings were put on these two copies as part of the payment involved in the exchanges by which the other three copies passed to Messrs. Shurtleff, Crowninshield, and Livermore [entries 1, 2, and 10]. If this is the case, it is perhaps more to be deplored than that duplicates were allowed to leave the Prince collection."
Chain of Provenance: Stephen Northup - Old South Church (possibly via Joseph Sewall) - Boston Public Library.
5. Bodleian Library - Eames: "'The copy in the Bodleian is perfect. It formerly belonged to Bishop [Thomas] Tanner.'" — Cotton's Editions of the Bible (1852), p. 177. Bishop Tanner died December 14, 1735; and by his will, dated November 22, 1733, he bequeathed his manuscripts and books to the Bodleian. 'Unfortuantely, when Tanner was removing his books from Norwich to Oxford, in December, 1731, by some accident in their transit (which was made by river) they fell into the water, and were submerged for twenty hours. The effects of this soaking are only too evident upon many of them. The whole of the printed books were uniformly bound in dark green calf, apparently about fifty years ago; the binder's work was well done, but unhappily all the fly-leaves, many of which would doubtless have afforded something of interest, with regard to the books and their former possessors, were removed.' — Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library (1868), pp. 155-156. See the Caxton Celebration Catalogue (1877), p. 165; Stevens's Bibles in the Caxton Exhibition (1878), p. 117."
Bodleian Catalog Record.
Chain of Provenance: Thomas Tanner - Bodleian Library.
6. New York Public Library - "Slightly imperfect, the upper corner of leaf G being torn off, taking away portions of three lines on both sides; in modern binding. Size of leaf, seven inches and one-sixteenth by four inches and three-quarters. This copy turned up at the sale of the Fourth and concluding portion of the extensive and valuable collection of books, formed by the late Mr. William Pickering, of Piccadilly, bookseller, at Sotheby & Wilkinson's auction rooms, London, on Jan. 12, 1855, in a lot [with other early psalm books]. The lot was bought by Mr. Henry Stevens for £2 18s. On examining the book, Mr. Stevens, discovered that twelve leaves (sheets W, X, and Y) were lacking, having been left out by the original binder. These twelve leaves were finally obtained from Mr. Livermore's copy [see entry 11 below], and after being mended and re-margined, they were inserted in this copy; the book was rebound in red morocco by F[rancis] Bedford, and was then sold by Mr. Stevens to Mr. Lenox for £80. See Stevens, Recollections of Mr. James Lenox (1886), pp. 57-62, where, besides the error in stating the wrong number of leaves found lacking in this copy, an error is also made in referring to the wrong number in the Pickering sale catalogue... ."
NYPL Catalog Record.
Chain of Provenance: William Pickering - Henry Stevens - James Lenox - Lenox Library - New York Public Library.
7. Henry E. Huntington Library - This was, when Eames wrote, in the possession of Mr. E. Dwight Church of Brooklyn. "In the original old calf binding; lacking the first four and the last three leaves, which were supplied later in facsimile. Size of leaf, seven inches (nearly) by four inches and five-eighths. Accompanying the book is a manuscript note of which the following is an extract: 'It belonged to the Shuttleworth family, & is now handed down to my daughter Sophia S. Simpson, to be used at her own discretion, by her beloved mother. Sarah Shuttleworth, 1844.' About the year 1872 it was bought by the late T. O. H. P. Burnham, of the 'Antique Bookstore' in Boston, not knowing at the time exactly what it was. Years afterwards, on comparison by Mr. R. C. Lichtenstein with the 1640 edition in the Public Library, it was found to be a genuine copy of that edition. In August, 1892, it was sold to the late Bishop John F. Hurst, of Washington, D.C., and in February, 1903, shortly before his death, it was bought by Messrs. Dodd, Mead & Co., from whom it passed to the present owner."
Shurtleff and Swan note that the copy includes signatures of Rev. John Cotton, John Dothirk, and Ann Dowding. The copy was advertised for sale by Dodd, Mead & Co. for $4,000 in April, 1903, when it was purchased by Church. It was used to make the plates for the facsimile edition of 1903 for which Eames wrote the introduction. Henry E. Huntington purchased the book as part of a 2,000-volume portion of the Church collection in 1911, and it remains in the library which bears his name.
The Huntington Library gives John Dethicke (rather than Dothick) as one of the inscribers, and does not mention John Cotton.
Huntington Library Catalog Record.
Chain of Provenance: John Cotton? - John Dothirk or Dethicke? - Ann Dowding? - Shuttleworth family - Sophia S. Simpson - T. O. H. P. Burnham - John F. Hurst - Dodd, Mead & Co. - E. Dwight Church - Henry E. Huntington - Huntington Library.
8. Harvard University Library - Eames: "Imperfect, lacking the first six leaves and the last four leaves; re-bound in October, 1900. The book was given to Harvard College Library in October, 1764, by Middlecott Cooke, of Boston, a graduate of the Class of 1723. See Catalogue of the Library of Harvard University, vol. 2 (1830), p. 679; and information from William C. Lane, the librarian." With a manuscript correction on W4r, changing "this man" to "himselfe". Signature of John Leverett on N1v.
Shurtleff and Swan note that Cooke's gift was probably to replace an earlier Harvard copy, likely destroyed in the library fire of January, 1764.
The Houghton Library record notes that the missing leaves are supplied in type-facsimile, and that the book is bound in modern black morocco. Haraszti notes that the rebinding occurred in 1900.
Houghton Library Catalog Record.
Chain of Provenance: John Leverett - Middlecott Cooke - Harvard College.
9. American Antiquarian Society - Of this copy, Eames writes: "Imperfect, lacking the title-page and the leaf of errata at the end; in the 'original vellum binding.' 'The upper portion of next to last leaf is torn and a corner from the first page of the Preface.' It was given to the American Antiquarian Society by Isaiah Thomas, whose book-plate is in the volume. On one of the fly leaves Mr. Thomas has written the following note: 'After advertising for another copy of this book, and making enquiry in many places in New England, &c. I was not able to obtain or even to hear of another. This copy is therefore invaluable, and must be preserved with the greatest care. It is in the original binding. I. T. Sept. 28th, 1820." See Catalogue of Books in the Library of the American Antiquarian Society (1837), p. 43 of letter P; and information from Mr. Edmund M. Barton, the librarian."
This is the copy mentioned by Thomas in his 1810 History of Printing in America as being in the collection of Rev. William Bentley of Salem, acquired by Thomas after Benthley's death.
The Sotheby's census notes that this copy is indicated in Bentley's "Book Accounts" as being purchased 15 May 1804 at Peabody's among "A Lot of old Books" for 36 cents, and prints certain correspondence about the volume between Thomas and Bentley.
The AAS catalog notes that the missing leaves are supplied in facsimile.
AAS Catalog Record.
Chain of Provenance: William Bentley - Isaiah Thomas - American Antiquarian Society.
10. Library of Congress - Known to Eames as the Alfred T. White copy. "In the original old calf binding, with remnants of the brass clasps; lacking nineteen leaves, i.e. title, O2 and O3, and sheets W, X, Y, and Ll; and showing marks of usage. Size of leaf, six inches and fifteen-sixteenths by four inches and three-sixteenths. This also was one of the five copies bequeathed by Mr. Prince to the Old South Church in Boston, from the custody of which it was obtained about the year 1850, by Mr. George Livermore of Cambridge, whose signature is on the inside of the front cover. In 1855 Mr. Henry Stevens of London made a trade with Mr. Livermore by which he received from him twelve leaves out of this volume (sheets W, X, and Y) to supply an imperfection in the copy which he sold afterwards to Mr. Lenox [copy 6 above]. After Mr. Livermore's death in 1865, some of his books were deposited in the library of Harvard College, but they were subsequently withdrawn, and all were sold at auction by Charles F. Libbie & Co., Boston, November 20-23, 1894, when the Psalm Book was bought for its present owner for $425. See Catalogue of the Valuable Private Library of the Late George Livermore, Esq. (1894), no. 531. See also Stevens's Recollections of Mr. James Lenox (1886), pp. 61-62, where an error is made in stating that only four leaves were taken from this copy to perfect the Lenox copy. The same error is repeated in Mr. Littlefield's Early Boston Booksellers (1900), pp. 18-21... ."
Shurtleff and Swan note that this copy was erroneously reported by Sabin and by T. J. Holmes in The Minor Mathers to have been at the Huntington Library. By 1948 the book was in the possession of White's son-in-law, Adrian Van Sinderen. It was placed with the Library of Congress on 2 May, 1966 by Mrs. Adrian Van Sinderen, when it was the last copy remaining in private hands. At that time the front cover was detached, and the leaves were measured at 7 x 41/4, making it one of the taller copies. See The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 24:3 (July, 1967), pp. 204-205.
Additional notes on this copy: Livermore's inked ownership notation on the inner front board reads "George Livermore | Dana Hill | Cambridge." The title page is supplied in pen facsimile. Additional ownership note on title page, "Geo Livemore" (partially warn away). Ink markings, possibly an early ownership notation, on *2r along with a shelfmark [presumably Prince's]: "10.4.10." Lightly inked at the top of leaf F1v, obscuring part of the running title and the first line. Several circles and scribbles in ink at the right and bottom margins of leaves N1v and top and right margin of N2r. Several unreadable words[?] in ink at bottom margin of leaf R3r. Horizontal tear across the center of leaf Ff3. Diagonal tear on the outer edge of leaf Hh, affecting the text slightly on the verso. One side of sheet Ii very lightly inked. Several notations and a square in ink on inner rear board.
The Sotheby's census notes that this copy was acquired by Old South Church before 1750, and does not attribute ownership to Thomas Prince.
A full scan of this copy is available here.
Library of Congress Catalog Record.
Chain of Provenance: Old South Church - George Livermore - Alfred T. White - Mr. & Mrs. Adrian Van Sinderen - Library of Congress.
11. Rosenbach Library & Museum - This copy, the most recently-discovered, was not known to Eames. Shurtleff and Swan describe it as imperfect, citing a 1947 Parke-Bernet catalogue description: "Original calf binding. Lacks D1-11 [i.e. D-D2] but with original blanks." It was believed to have been discovered in northern Ireland sometime in the early part of the 20th century, and sold to Rosenbach. They note that this copy was exhibited on the Freedom Train in 1947.
In Legacies of Genius, Edwin Wolf 2nd notes that Rosenbach acquired his copy in 1933 from J. Weatherup, "a gentleman from Belfast," for £150. The Rosenbach Museum's A Selection from Our Shelves notes that this volume contains the early 18th-century signature of a William Brown, and that currently "the first four leaves and the four leaves comprising signature D are in facsimile."
The Sotheby's census notes the signatures of James and Thomas Lawrence on H1r and H2r respectively, and prints a June 1933 letter from Weatherup to the Rosenbach Company about this volume. This copy was that briefly absconded with by a UCLA undergraduate during an exhibition, but was recovered.
Chain of Provenance: James Lawrence - Thomas Lawrence - William Brown - James Weatherup - A. S. W. Rosenbach - Rosenbach Library & Museum.
[NB: this post has been updated, latest on 24 November 2013. In several entries references are made to specific leaves within the book: where Eames is quoted directly these have been left as given, with the leaf numbers in subscript.]