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 3/8 x 8 inches). Divided into seven parts, each with sectional title. Text in two columns. (30), 38 pp.; (2), 75 pp., (1); (2); 238 pp.; (2), pp. 125-222; 100 pp.; (2), 88 pp.; 118 pp. Double-page engraved map of New England and New York. 4 pages of publisher's advertisements at rear.
Late 19th-century brown morocco, paneled in gilt and blind with central gilt cartouche, spine with raised bands in 6 compartments, 2 reserved for gilt lettering, the others with repeat gilt fleurons, gilt-ruled dentelles, all edges gilt.
Provenance: The copy of Robert. W. Weir, with his name twice on the title, i.e. recto and verso; bookplate of R. Percy Alden.
First edition of the greatest history of New England: a landmark in New England religion and American literature.
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 its history of civil, religious, and military affairs, and its discussion of the Salem Witchcraft Trials, among other topics. 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 divine influence in the colonies; and 7) the 'War of the Lord' dealing with the devil, the Separatists, Familists, Antinomians, Quakers, clerical imposters and the Indians. Mather, a prolific writer, distilled many of his important early works into the Magnalia. 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 and religious history for its unsurpassed view of New England. The equally famous 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 northwest past Long Island to Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod, before heading north again past Boston to Casco Bay in present-day Maine. The information concerning the early roads is particularly valuable, and early versions of the spelling of the towns and rivers cast a fascinating light on the early topographic nomenclature of colonial America.
Alden & Landis 702/127; Church 806; Grolier American 6; Howes M-391; Sabin 46392; Streeter sale I:658.