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Thomas Prince Collection and Library of the Old South Church

Searching and Browsing

When using the online catalogs, the easiest way to find all of the books in the Prince Collection is to perform a title search for the full name of the collection: Thomas Prince Collection and Library of the Old South Church. Catalog records for every book in the collection will include this title.

The table below contains examples of various "advanced" searches that can be used in the BPL online catalogs. Advanced searches can be carried out in the BPL catalog and in the BPL research catalog.

The search strings listed below can be modified to suit different research needs. For example, if you want to search for books in the collection that once belonged to the colonial merchant and mint master John Hull (1624-1683), simply substitute his name and dates for one of the names in the "former owner" searches below. If you want to search for books in the BPL catalog formerly owned by Thomas Prince, regardless of whether or not they're part of the Prince Collection, simply modify the search string to exclude the title qualifier.

Sample searches

All books in the collection with records in the online catalog (including minimal records)

Only those books in the collection with full records in the online catalog

Books by name of a specific former owner (in this example: Thomas Prince)

  • Use search string: TITLE: Thomas Prince Collection and Library of the Old South Church and AUTHOR: Prince, Thomas, 1687-1758, former owner

Books by name of a specific former owner (in this example: Joseph Sewall)

  • Use search string: TITLE: Thomas Prince Collection and Library of the Old South Church and AUTHOR: Sewall, Joseph, 1688-1769, former owner

Books in the New England Library

Books in the South Church Library

Provenance evidence (marginalia)

Provenance evidence (inscriptions)

By printer

  • Use search string: TITLE: Thomas Prince Collection and Library of the Old South Church and AUTHOR: Green, Samuel, 1615-1702, printer

As of January, 2021, approximately 25% of the Prince Collection has been fully cataloged in an electronic format. Those books not yet in the online catalog can be found in the printed catalog of the collection.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: The search results lists above should not be considered final, particularly for the purposes of quantification. For instance, as of January, 2021, a search for books formerly owned by Jonathan Edwards (Edwards, Jonathan, 1703-1758, former owner) will return 9 results, even though no such books are in the collection. This is because fields are often concatenated in the search process. However, clicking on a heading within a record in the research catalog will bring you to an accurate list of holdings for that specific heading.

BPL provides access to two separate online catalogs. Below are several examples from the BPL research catalog showing typical catalog records for books in the Prince Collection, with diagrams explaining the various pieces of information in each record. Click on the title in the left column to read the record in our online catalog. Click the corresponding image to see the full-sized diagram.

Single copy of an edition

The whole booke of Psalmes faithfully translated into English metre. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Stephen Day, 1640. H.21.14                        

  • Title given in the record is as it appears in the book
    • Alternate titles and collection titles are given under "other title"
  • Note that the physical description of the copy is broken into three categories:
  • Copy note: describes the physical copy
  • Provenance: describes all evidence of former ownership or use
  • Binding: describes the bookbinding
  • Headings as clickable links allow for browsing other books with shared characteristics
An image of the full catalog record, with arrows pointing to various features

Multiple copies of a single edition

Edwards, Jonathan. Some thoughts about the revival of religion in New-England. Boston: Kneeland and Green, 1742. H.13.5 and H.13.6

  • Note that the physical description fields correspond to multiple copies:
  • Each field lists the call number of the copy it is describing
  • Notes for each copy are grouped together in order

An image of the full catalog record, with arrows pointing to various features

Copies bound together

Mather, Increase. Cases of conscience concerning evil spirits personating men. Boston: Benjamin Harris, 1693. H.23.4 and H.23.7

Two copies of a single edition, one of which is bound into a volume with a copy of another publication

  • Pay special attention to the "bound-with" note at the end of the record. This note will give:
  • title and publication info for the first item in the volume
  • number of additional items the volume contains
  • call number range of the items in the volume
  • To see records for all of the items in a given volume, do a keyword search for the call number range, exactly as it appears at the end of the bound-with note. In this case, that would be H.23.7-H.23.8.

The BPL issued a printed catalog of the Prince Collection in 1870. Among other things, Justin Winsor's introduction to the catalog is still the authoritative account of the collection's history, including the history of its formation and various custodians.


The catalog is broken into a three general sections:

Manuscripts are further organized by collection:

Books in the catalog are listed alphabetically by author's name. Where no author's name is known, books are listed by title.

The image above shows two typical entries from the catalog (view the full page here)

  • Both works are by Michael Wigglesworth, whose name appears above them
  • The entries contain abbreviated titles, publication info, and extent statements
  • For the second item, a brief note about the contents is given
  • The numbers on the right side are the class numbers. The full call number for each book can be found by adding an "H." before the number. The call numbers for these two books would be H.15.15 and H.14.32 respectively