Bible - Printed Book
Cambridge, Massachusetts (United States)
Printed on paper
7.7 × 6.1 × 2.4 in. (19.6 × 15.4 × 6.2 cm)
On view in The Impact of the Bible, Bible in America
The Indian Bible, published as Mamusse wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God, was the first Bible printed in North America. John Eliot (1604–1690), the book’s creator, was a Puritan minister who immigrated to Boston in 1631. He soon became an outspoken supporter of Christian missionary work among local Native American tribes. In the 1650s, he began translating parts of the Bible into Wôpanâak with significant help from Native linguists. This language, sometimes known as Massachusett, is a part of the Algonquian family of languages. He published the New Testament in 1661 and the entire Bible in 1663, bound together with metrical psalms and “Rules for Christian Living” designed for Natives. This copy was one of 20 original copies sent to Eliot’s benefactors in England.
Printed in 1661 and 1663 by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson; Gifted in 1663 to William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire, England; By descent to Edward Cavendish, 10th Duke of Devonshire, England; Purchased at auction in 1958 by Charles Sessler Inc., bookdealer, Philadelphia. Acquired by Florence Foerderer Tonner, private collector, Philadelphia; Gifted in 1971 to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Purchased at auction in 2013 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2015 to National Christian Foundation (later The Signatry) under the curatorial care of Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.
Notes:  This copy of the Eliot Bible was bound in the same dark blue morocco gilt as other presentation copies sent to benefactors in England, which were sold at auction at Christie’s New York on December 19, 1986. Its presence in the Chatsworth Library strongly suggests it was presented to William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire. Cavendish was an associate of Robert Boyle, who was president of the Corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, which sponsored the Bible’s publication.  The Chatsworth Library bookplate is present on the front pastedown. See also, Catalogue of the Library at Chatsworth, vol. 1 (London: Chiswick Press, 1879), 180; and James Constantine Pilling, Bibliography of the Algonquian Languages (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 144.  Christie, Manson, and Woods, Catalogue of Important Early Printed Books from the Chatsworth Collection (London), June 30, 1958, Lot 8.  Tonner’s bookplate is present on the front pastedown. The library was eventually part of a larger bequest to the Lutheran Church in America. See Estate of Tonner, 353 Pa. Super. 1 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1986). The “Tonner Collection” was eventually transferred to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1988, where it was housed over the next 25 years. The school sold the Eliot Bible, along with other items in the collection, in 2013 to raise funds for the Lutheran Church. See Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Report of Actions of the Church Council (April 9, 2014), 2.  Sotheby’s, Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana (New York), December 5, 2013, Lot 173.
James Constantine Pilling, Bibliography of the Algonquian Languages (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891).
To acquire permission to use this image, please visit our Rights and Reproduction page.