By: Increase Mather

Collection ID



Printed Book




United States




Printed on Paper


5.9 × 3.7 × 0.6 in. (15 × 9.5 × 1.5 cm)

Exhibit Location

Not on View

From November 1680 through March 1681, the Great Comet of 1680 streaked across the night sky for all to see, eliciting widespread fascination and contributing to important scientific insights, including Isaac Newton’s development of the law of gravity. Increase Mather, a prominent Puritan minister and future president of Harvard College, preached several sermons about the comet and its religious implications. Like many in his day, Mather viewed comets as signs—often of impending judgment—from God. He soon released Kometographia, which dealt not only with the nature of comets but also presented a voluminous list of comets throughout history and the calamities that followed. This copy retains its original calf binding, though it lacks two sermons from Mather typically included as appendices.

Printed in 1683 by Samuel Green for Samuel Sewall, Boston, Massachusetts. Acquired by Anthony Underwood.[1] Acquired by 2020 by Ted Steinbock, private collector, Louisville, Kentucky;[2] Privately purchased in 2020 by Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.

Notes: [1] An inscription on the back of page 94 reads, “Anthony Underwood hiss bookk.” It has not been possible to identify Anthony Underwood. However, the initials “IV” are carved into the front and back covers. This may be another Underwood, such as James or Jonathan Underwood, or it may be the Roman numeral 4. [2] Several additional names and bookseller notes appear throughout the book, but it has not been possible to clearly identify any prior owners or sales. The inscription “I. [henman]?” appears inside the front cover (no pastedown), along with more recent penciled notes reading “1439” and “728.” Other penciled notes throughout include the ESTC citation number “W019542” (from Ted Steinbock), “M2 copy 2” (from Ted Steinbock), “VINMAN,” and “Swann 1365 lot 175 375[?].” This final note appears to be a reference to Swann Auction Galleries, but records for Swann auction 1365 are unavailable. Modern booksellers’ descriptions are pasted and/or penciled onto the front flyleaf, the back of the title page, and the inside of the back cover (no pastedown). A more detailed looseleaf collation is also contained in the book. None of these include the name of the bookseller or details of any sales.

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