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Thomas Prince Collection and Library of the Old South Church

Early American Books and Manuscripts at the BPL: Select Collections

John A. Lewis Collection of Early New England Imprints

John Allen Lewis of Boston (1819-1885), was a collector of early New England imprints with a particular interest in the first Boston presses. This collection is particularly strong with respect to the works of Increase and Cotton Mather and with respect to the output of John Foster, the first Boston printer. At almost 1,000 items, the Lewis Collection contains many of the BPL's most important early American imprints.


Pictured at right: an extremely rare copy of the first book printed in Boston: Increase Mather's The Wicked Man's Portion. Boston: John Foster, 1675.


John Adams Library

Deposited with the Boston Public Library in 1894, the John Adams Library includes over 3,000 volumes collected by the second president during his lifetime (1735-1826) as well as many volumes donated by members of his family. One of the greatest private collections of its day, the Adams Library remains one of the largest colonial American libraries still intact.

S.L.M. Barlow Collection

Books from the library of Samuel Latham Mitchill Barlow (1826-1889). Among other highlights, the Barlow Collection contains the True copy of the court book, the first Latin edition of the Columbus Letter, the first edition of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal navigations, Nicolas Bautista Monardes’ Joyfull newes out of the newfound world; Ann Bradstreet’s Tenth muse; Edward Winslow's A relation…of the English Plantation (also known as Mourt's relation), and rare works of the 15th through the 16th centuries in Dutch, French, and Spanish.

Pictured at right: Mourt's relation. London: 1622.

Chamberlain Collection of Autographs

A manuscript collection containing approximately 20,000 items, among which are thousands of colonial American manuscripts. Highlights include the original Boston Massacre indictments, a substantial collection of manuscripts related to the Salem Witchcraft trials, and a letter from Phillis Wheatley on the topic of her book of poems.

Pictured at left: A list of the Indian children put to service that came in with John of Packachooge, presented to the Honorable General Court for their confirmation & by the committee appointed for that affayre. August, 1676 (MS Ch.A.2.36)


General Americana (H-class)

The H-class section of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department contains the largest concentration of early American imprints at the BPL. This miscellaneous collection has been built by gifts and purchases. Highlights include early printings of the laws of Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, and Plymouth colonies; extensive runs of rare, 17th-century almanacs; and original printings of the Declaration of Independence.


Pictured at right: Thomas Morton's New English Canaan. Amsterdam: J.F. Stam, 1637 (H.98.72)