MATHER, Cotton (1663-1728)
Magnalia Christi Americana: or, the Ecclesiastical History of New-England, from its first planting in the year 1620. unto the year of our lord, 1698. In seven books....
London: printed for Thomas Parkhurst, 1702. Folio. (12 1/4 x 7 7/8 inches). Divided into seven parts, each with sectional title. Text in two columns. , 38; , 75, ; , 238; , 125-222; 100; , 88, [2. blank]; 118, [4, publisher's ads]. Double-page engraved map of New England and New York. Without the separately-issued errata leaves, as usual. With both publisher's advertisement leaves (one misbound at the front).
Modern panelled calf, spine with raised bands in seven compartments, red morocco lettering pieces.
A first edition of the greatest history of New England: a landmark in colonial New England history,
The first edition of what Howes calls the "most famous 18th century American book" and one which Streeter describes as "the most famous American book of colonial times." Mather's opus is rightly considered an indispensable source for the history of New England in the 17th century, both for its biographies and its history of civil, religious, and military affairs. The seven books include 1) the history and settlement of New England; 2) the lives of its governors and magistrates; 3) biographies of "Sixty Famous Divines"; 4) a history and roll of Harvard College; 5) a history of the Congregational Church in New England; 6) a record of the remarkable providences revealing God's direct influence in particular events in the colonies; and 7) the "War of the Lord" dealing with the devil, the Separatists, Familists, Antinomians, Quakers, clerical imposters and the Indians.
Much of the book's value rests in its incomparable wealth of detail regarding daily life in early colonial New England. David Hall has referred to it as "a mirror of the 1690s," the decade in which most of it was written. Far from being a dull chronicle of events, the Magnalia is full of lively biographical pieces, vivid descriptions of the times, and many surprising sidelights. It has been mined by all modern scholars of social history for its unsurpassed view of New England at the end of the 17th century.
The map, known as the "Mather map" is actually titled "An Exact Mapp of New England and New York." The first eighteenth-century general map of New England, it depicts an area from Casco Bay, west to the Hudson then south to Manhattan and north west past Long Island to Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod, before heading north again past Boston to Casco Bay. The information concerning the early roads is particularly valuable, and the early versions of the spelling of the towns and rivers cast a fascinating light on the early topographic nomenclature of colonial America.
Church 806; Grolier American 6; Howes M-391; Sabin 46392; Streeter sale I:658; Alden & Landis 702/127.