Book was the first book printed in British North
America. The book is a metrical Psalter, first printed in 1640
in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Psalms in it are metrical
translations into English. The translations are not particularly
polished, and not one has remained in use, although some of the tunes
to which they were sung have survived (for instance, "Old 100th").
However, its production, just 20 years after the Pilgrims' arrival at
Plymouth, Massachusetts, represents a considerable achievement. It
went through several editions and remained in use for well over a
century.[not in citation given] One of eleven known surviving
copies of the first edition sold at auction in November 2013 for $14.2
million, a record for a printed book.
1.1 17th Century
1.2 18th Century
2 Title page
3 Extant copies
4 Auction records
5 See also
7 External links
The early residents of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony brought with them
several books of psalms: the
Ainsworth Psalter (1612), compiled by
Henry Ainsworth for use by
Puritan "separatists" in Holland; the
Ravenscroft Psalter (1621); and the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter
(1562), of which there were several editions. Evidently they were
dissatisfied with the translations from
Hebrew in these several
psalters and wished for some that were closer to the original. They
hired "thirty pious and learned Ministers", including Richard Mather,
Thomas Mayhew, and John Eliot, to undertake a new translation,
which they presented here. The tunes to be sung to the new
translations were the familiar ones from their existing psalters.
The first printing was the third product of the Stephen Day (sometimes
spelled Daye) press, and consisted of a 148 small quarto leaves,
including a 12-page preface, "The Psalmes in Metre", "An Admonition to
the Reader", and an extensive list of errata headed "Faults escaped in
printing". As with subsequent editions of the book, Day printed the
book for sale by the first bookseller in British America, Hezekiah
Usher, whose shop at that time was also located in Cambridge. An
estimated 1,700 copies of the first edition were printed.
The third edition (1651) was extensively revised by Henry Dunster and
Richard Lyon. The revision was entitled The Psalms, hymns and
spiritual songs of the Old and New Testament, faithfully translated
into English metre. This revision was the basis for all subsequent
editions, and was popularly known as the New England Psalter or New
England Version. The ninth edition (1698), the first to contain music,
included 13 tunes from John Playford's A Breefe Introduction to the
Skill of Musick (London, 1654).
The expansion of the neoclassical movement in England led to an
evolution in the singing of psalms. These changes found their way to
America and subsequently new psalm versions were written. In the early
part of the 18th century several updated psalms, notably those written
Tate and Brady
Tate and Brady and by Isaac Watts, were published. Shortly
thereafter several congregations in New England elected to replace the
Book with these new titles.
Cotton Mather undertook the revision of the original Bay
Book which he had studied since youth. Two subsequent revisions
were published in 1752, by John Barnard of Marblehead and in 1758 by
Thomas Prince. Prince was a clergyman at the
Old South Church
Old South Church in
Boston. He convinced the members of the congregation of the need to
produce a revised, more scholarly, edition of the Bay
Unfortunately, Prince’s version was not accepted outside of his
membership and in 1789, the
Old South Church
Old South Church reverted to the earlier
edition published by Isaac Watts.
The title page of the first edition of 1640 reads:
The Whole Booke of Psalmes
TRANSLATED into ENGLISH
Whereunto is prefixed a discourse
declaring not only the lawfullnes, but also
the necessity of the heavenly Ordinance
of singing Scripture Psalmes in
the Churches of God.
Eleven copies of the first edition of the Bay
Book are known
still to exist, of which only five copies are complete. Only one of
the eleven copies is currently held outside the United States. One
copy is owned by each of the following:
Library of Congress
Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University
This copy was owned by
Old South Church
Old South Church in Boston between 1750 and
1850, before passing through a number of hands, finally being bought
Cornelius Vanderbilt II
Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1879. It was eventually inherited by
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and owned by her until her death in 1942.
It was bought for Yale University in 1947 by a group of alumni and
Houghton Library, Harvard University
Thought to have been acquired in the effort to replace Harvard's
library, after its destruction by fire in 1764. It was previously
owned by Middlecott Cooke, a member of the Harvard class of 1723. It
carries the signature of John Leverett, suggesting it may have
belonged to John Leverett, the 19th governor of the
Colony. The copy is incomplete, missing 10 leaves.
John Carter Brown Library
John Carter Brown Library at Brown University
Originally the property of Richard Mather, one the original
translators, it passed into the ownership of
Thomas Prince (possibly
after the dispersal of the library of Cotton Mather, grandson of
Richard, in 1728. It was eventually acquired by
John Carter Brown
John Carter Brown in
American Antiquarian Society
This copy lacks its title page and pages 295-296, but is in its
original vellum binding. It was part of a lot of old books bought by
William Bentley in May 1804 for 36 cents. It later became part of
the library of Isiah Thomas, the founder of the society, and still
carries his bookplate. He later gave it to the society.
New York Public Library
This copy was found when the stock of British bookseller William
Pickering was sold by
Sotheby's in 1855 in London after his death. It
was part of a parcel of old copies of Psalms that was bought for 19
shillings by Henry Stevens. It had twelve leaves missing, but Stevens
replaced them with leaves taken from the copy now in the Library of
Congress, then sold it to James Lenox. The book was part of the Lenox
Library until this became part of the
New York Public Library
New York Public Library in
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Formerly the property of Bishop Thomas Tanner, this complete copy was
part of the valuable book collection bequeathed to the Bodlean Library
in Oxford upon his death in 1735. This is the only copy outside
the United States.
An 1844 note laid into the book by one Sara Shuttleworth records it
was previously in the possession of the Shuttleworth family, and she
was passing it to her daughter. It was acquired by an antique book
store in Boston in 1872; they sold it 20 years later to Bishop John
Fletcher Hurst. It was bought by
E. Dwight Church in 1903. In 1911,
Henry E. Huntington
Henry E. Huntington acquired a large portion of Church's library,
including the Bay
Psalm Book. It was transferred to the Huntington
library as part of the establishment gift in 1919.
Rosenbach Museum & Library
The most recently discovered copy, this was sold in 1933 to the
Rosenbach Company for £150 by a James Weatherup of Belfast.
Signatures indicate it had been previously owned by several
Belfast and Glasgow. In 1949, it was briefly stolen
UCLA student as part of a fraternity initiation.
Old South Church
Old South Church in Boston
This book was bequeathed to
Old South Church
Old South Church in 1758 by Thomas
Prince. It is housed in the Rare
Book Collection at the Boston
Purchased November 2013; formerly a second copy owned by Old South
Church in Boston)
A copy of the first edition sold in 1947 for $151,000. A 1648
edition, described in American
Book Prices Current as the "Emerson
Copy", fetched $15,000 on May 3, 1983, at New England
Book Auctions in
South Deerfield, Massachusetts. On September 17, 2009, Swann
Galleries auctioned an early edition, c. 1669–1682, bound with an
Edinburgh Bible, for $57,600. On November 26, 2013, Sotheby's
auctioned a 1640 copy owned by Boston's Old South Church; it sold for
a hammer price of $14,165,000, setting a new record for a single
Sotheby's confirmed that it was purchased by
American financier and philanthropist
David Rubenstein "who planned to
loan it to libraries across the country".
Codex Leicester, which holds the record for the sale price of any
House of the First Print Shop in the Americas
^ Murray, Stuart A. P. (2009). The Library An Illustrated History. New
York: Skyhorse Publishing. p. 140. ISBN 9781602397064.
^ "The Bay
Psalm Book". World Digital Library. Library of Congress.
Retrieved 7 December 2017.
^ Graham, Fred Kimball (2004). "With One Heart and One Voice": A Core
Repertory of Hymn Tunes Published for Use in the Methodist Episcopal
Church in the United States, 1808-1878. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
p. 167. ISBN 9780810849839.
^ Orcutt, William Dana (January 1931). "The Magic of the Book: More
Reminiscences and Adventures of a Book-Man". 1 (1). Boston, MA: The
University of Chicago Press.
^ Wallace, Robert (November 22, 1954). "A very proper swindle". Life.
Time Inc: 208. ISSN 0024-3019.
^ a b c d e BBC News: Bay
Book is most expensive printed work at
$14.2m (accessed 27 November 2013)
^ a b "The Bay
Book sale". Sotheby's. Retrieved November 27,
^ a b The World's Most Expensive Book? Rare
Book Room, abebooks.com.
Retrieved November 14, 2013.
^ "Mather, Richard".
^ (2003) Bay
Psalm Book. In Encarta Encyclopedia 2004. Microsoft.
^ George Emery Littlefield;
Club of Odd Volumes
Club of Odd Volumes (1900). Early Boston
booksellers 1642-1711. The Club of Odd Volumes. pp. 27–.
Retrieved 15 January 2012.
^ a b BBC News: Bay
Psalm Book: Why the £18m price tag? (accessed 27
^ Graham (2004, 1)
^ Turner, M (1972). "Three Eighteenth-Century Revisions of the Bay
Psalm Book". The New England Quarterly. 2: 270.
Book of 1640: Where Are They Now?". PhiloBiblos. November
^ a b c d e f g h i j "Census of Copies of the Bay
Psalm Book, with
Provenance, Sale, and other Relevant Histories". Sotheby's.
^ "Catalog Record #314613". General Catalogue of the American
^ "America's First
Book Set to Be Sold Amid Holy Row". The Guardian.
December 5, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
^ "Some highlights from past auctions". New England
Retrieved November 27, 2013.
^ "Full details for lot 59". Swann Galleries. Archived from the
original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bay
Page images of the original 1640 edition at the World Digital Library
Book From the American Imprint Collection at the Library of
The preface to the book
Reprint of the First Edition
Historic Boston Church’s Decision to Sell Rare Psalmbook Divides