I’m sure all of you know that the Bay Book of Psalms has sold for nearly $14.2 million at auction.
“The Lord to mee a shepheard is, want therefore shall not I. Hee in the folds of tender-grasse, doth cause mee downe to lie.”
Those lines were in a volume published in Massachusetts in 1640 that amounted to the Puritans’ religious and cultural manifesto. It was the first book printed in the colonies, and the first book printed in English in the New World.The locksmith who ran the hand-operated press turned out roughly 1,700 copies.
…only 11 (are) known to exist.
“It’s what that book symbolizes,” Mr. (Michael) Inman said. “These 11 copies symbolize the introduction of printing into the British colonies, which was reflective of the importance placed on reading and education by the Puritans and the concept of freely available information, freedom of expression, freedom of the press. All that fed into the revolutionary impulse that gave rise to the United States.”
The copy being sold by Sotheby’s, which the auction house will display in New York on Monday, belongs to Old South Church in Boston, whose long history includes the baptism of Benjamin Franklin when he was a day old.
The church’s historian, Jeff D. Makholm, resigned from Old South’s leadership in January, several weeks after the congregation voted to sell the book, one of two copies of the Bay Psalm Book that it owns.
And, with the first book, came the first typos:
In its way, experts say, the Bay Psalm Book laid the groundwork for famous texts of the Revolution like Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” It followed the first Gutenberg Bibles by more than a century and a half, and it was plagued by spelling problems. The word “psalm,” which is supposed to appear in capital letters at the top of each page, is spelled that way on the left-hand pages, but on the right-hand pages and on the title page, there is an “e” on the end …
It was an ambitious labor of love, effort, and we’ll-fix-that-in-the-second-printing:
The Bay Psalm Book was printed on a press that had been sent over with 240 pounds of paper and one case of type. Like Mr. Inman, Mr. Redden said the workmanship was amateurish — it was, after all, the first book published in the colonies and only the third item to come off the press. “They were kind of learning on the job,” Mr. Redden said, and some of the pages were bound in the wrong order. At the bottom of one, someone wrote, “Turn back a leaf.”
This copy of “The Bay Book of Psalms” is owned by The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University and is one of 11 copies of the first edition known to exist and one of only four perfect copies. The book is in its original binding, with the title page signed by principal editor – Richard Mather (in which you can see on the top of the left page). Photo: John Carter Brown Library/World Digital Library
[image with text via History by Zim…]