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Thomas Prince Collection and Library of the Old South Church



Boston Public Library. Catalogue of the Collection of Books and Manuscripts Which Formerly Belonged to the Rev. Thomas Prince, and Was by Him Bequeathed to the Old South Church, and is Now Deposited in the Public Library of the City of Boston. Boston: Alfred A. Mudge 1870.

This catalog was prepared at the BPL between 1866 and 1869. The decimal shelf number system devised for the collection remains in use to this day, though each number is now prefixed with an "H." The preface, by Justin Winsor, contains an authoritative history of the custodianship of the collection through it's deposit in the BPL. This catalog reflects Winsor's attempt to separate the collection into "American" and "foreign" sections.

Other Catalogs

Boston Public Library Prince Collection shelflist: H.00.1-H.17.209 ; H.17.210-H.26.189 ; H.26.190-H.40A.23 ; H.41.1-H.67.39 ; H.68.1-H.79A.30

This is the card catalog shelf list of the collection. It contains abbreviated entries for every item in the collection, listed in alphabetical order by call number.

Prince, Thomas. New English Books Collected by Thomas Prince [manuscripts facsimile].

A 19th-century manuscript facsimile of Prince's own catalog of the New England Library copied from the original at the Massachusetts Historical Society Library. Includes a checklist of books deposited with Massachusetts Historical Society by Old South Church and Society. Manuscript desiderata list laid in, 10 pages. Copy of letter on first page from Moses Gill to Abiel Holmes depositing Prince's catalogue with Mass. Hist. Society. BPL call number MS f Am.1108. This is the authoritative source for the scope and contents of the New England Library during Prince's lifetime.

Whitman, G.H. Catalogue of the Library of Rev. Thomas Prince, Former Pastor of the Old South Church. Presented by Him to the Old South Church and Society. Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1847.

The so-called Whitman catalog, prepared for the Church in 1847. Useful in understanding the general scope of the collection at the time, but not particularly useful otherwise. Lacks both descriptive rigor and systematic organization. A copy of this catalog that was used as a checklist to track books during the collection move to the BPL is available for study.

Whitmore, William Henry. Catalogue of the American Portion of the Library of the Rev. Thomas Prince: With a Memoir and List of his Publications. Boston: J.K. Wiggin and W.P. Lunt, 1868.

An advanced issue of the "American Portion" of the full BPL catalog printed in 1870. Lacks call numbers and cross references.

Collection History and Overview

Amory, Hugh. A Boston Society Library: The Old South Church and Thomas Prince, Bibliography and the Book Trades: Studies in the Print Culture of Early New England, 146-162. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

Focuses on the collecting efforts of Prince, but this is one of the few articles to make careful distinctions between the book collecting of Prince and Sewall. A detailed, but concise overview of the Prince Collection and its history.

Ballard, Joseph. Account of the Poor Fund and Other Charities Held in Trust by the Old South Society. (Boston: Rand & Avery, 1868): 68

An account of the state of Old South's books in the middle of the 19th-century. Provides insight into how the collection was viewed by the Society.

Boston Public Library. "The Prince Library." Boston Public Library Bulletin 4, vol.4, no.2 (1922): 351-355.

A concise history of the collecting efforts of Thomas Prince, with some history of the Old South collections prior to their arrival at the BPL.

Hill, Hamilton Andrews. 1669-1882: an Historical Catalogue of the Old South Church (Third Church) in Boston. Boston: Privately printed, 1883.

Primarily consists of lists and short biographies of people involved with Old South.

Hill, Hamilton Andrews. History of the Old South Church (Third Church) in Boston, 1669-1884. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1890. Vol. 1 ; vol. 2

Kraus, Joe W. "Private Libraries in Colonial America." The Journal of Library History 9, no.1 (1974): 31-53.

An examination of the size and makeup of various colonial American libraries. Useful for contextualizing the intellectual and bibliographical landscape in which the Prince Collection was formed.

Massachusetts Historical Society. "Account of the Books and Manuscripts Lately Deposited by the Old South Church and Society in the Library of the Massachusetts Historical Society." Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society 2, vol.7 (1818): 179-185.

An account of the 1813 transfer of books and manuscripts from Old South to the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Published Primary Sources

Adams, John, to Elbridge Gerry, October 17, 1779, Adams Papers Digital Edition.

In this letter, Adams notes that, in 1774, he "Spent most of the Winter in rummaging the Books and Papers, in the Balcony of Dr. Sewals Meeting House, where the New England Library of Mr. Prince was kept..."

Belknap, Jeremy. Letter to Lieutenant Governor John Wentworth, March 15, 1774. Published in: Collections of the MHS

In this letter, Belknap describes the ruinous state of Thomas Prince's manuscripts, which he intends to visit.

Cotton, John, Jr. Edited by Sheila McIntyre and Len Travers. "The Correspondence of John Cotton Junior." Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts 79 (2009). 

Published collection of the letters of John Cotton, Jr., many of which are in the Cotton family papers.

Massachusetts Historical Society. "Hinckley Papers." Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society 4, vol.5 (1861): 1-308.

Published transcriptions of many of the manuscripts in the Hinckley Papers.

Massachusetts Historical Society. "Mather Papers." Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society 4, vol.8 (1868)

Published transcriptions of many of the manuscripts in the Mather Papers.

Prince, Thomas. Edited by Albert Matthew. "Diary of the Rev. Thomas Prince, 1737." Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts 19 (1916-1917).

Thomas Prince's diary, recorded in an interleaved copy of Ames' Almanack for the year 1737. The published version contains a useful key to many of Prince's handwritten abbreviations. This is particularly useful for interpreting the many diaristic inscriptions that Prince left in his books. In the online version, linked above, many of these abbreviations can be seen by following a link in the footnotes on page 337. The key to the abbreviations is somewhat easier to navigate in this scan of a printed copy. The original diary is in the Prince Family papers, 1724-1822, at the American Antiquarian Society.