Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

The Dartmouth Copy of John Eliot's Indian Bible (1639): Its Provenance



A book is the more valuable to me when I

know to whom it has belonged, and through

whet "scenes and changes" it has past.

-- Montesinos

You would have its history recorded in the

My leaf, as carefully as the pedigree of

a racehorse is preserved.

-- Sir Thomas More1

MONTESINOS ans Sir Thomas discussed one aspect of a book's life, namely its provenance, an appellation also usable for a rare manuscript, a work of art, and so on. Many a rare book in the Special Collections of the Dartmouth College Library has such a "pedigree" of successive owners recorded, but it is very rare that any "scenes and changes" are included. This is probably because of the fact that, while a "Pedigree" is often readily traced with the help of bibliographies and sales catalogues, other aspects of a provenance are more time-consuming to uncover; an example is provided by an acquisition of fifteen years ago.

In 1978 Dartmouth College became the fortunate possessor of a magnificent copy of a coveted treasure of Americana, the first edition of the so-called Eliot Indian Bible, a gift of Mrs. Mary I. Virgin in memory of her late husband Arthur Russell Virgin 1900. The Bible was officially presented by Roderick Stinehour, the then Chair of the Friends of the Dartmouth Library, as part of the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Fisher Ames Baker Memorial Library on 29 June 1978. Mr. Stinehour, in stressing the printing of the Bible as a "magnificent achievement," added "I think it's the most important book that the Library . . . may ever receive."2 For the occasion the Friends provided a keepsake describing a dozen of the Library's most precious volumes, one of which is this Bible.3 Brief mention had also been made in Walter W. Wright, "Two Gifts," Dartmouth College Library Bulletin I9 (NS) (November 1978): 11-22. The Bible was the centerpiece of the Graphic Arts Summer Workshop, "John Eliot & His Bible," held at Dartmouth College, 21-24 August I991.

Mamusse / Wunneet panatamwe / up-bibl mGod / naneeswe / NuLkone Testament /kah wonk/ Wnsku Testament. /Nequoshbinnumuk nashpe Wuttinneumoh CHRIST/nahasoowesit/ JOHN ELIOT. / Cambridge: Printeuoop nashpe Samuel Green kah MarmadukeJohnson. / 1663.

This is the title and imprint of the translation of the entire Bible into the language of the Massachusetts Indians by John Eliot (I604-I690)for use in his evangelical work.4 Born in Widmore, Hertfordshire and a Jesus College, Cambridge, graduate, Eliot had arrived in Boston in I63I. He soon became pastor of the parish of Roxbury, Massachusetts, a post he held for the rest of his life. He combined his missionary efforts among the Indians with a thorough study of their language, made exceedingly difficult in the absence of an Indian alphabet and a written language.5

Descriptions abound of the historical, cultural, typographical and bibliographical aspects of this " . . . most extraordinary volume of the Cambridge press, and indeed of the whole colonial period." 6 Eliot's was the first Bible printed in the New World; the New Testament7 was printed in 1661, with a separate title page, subsequently incorporated in an entire Bible after the printing of the Old Testament had been completed in 1663. Added to the Testaments were a version of Psalms in metrical verse and a page of catechism or Rules for Christian Living. A number of presentation copies were supplied with a title page in English and a dedication to King Charles II. The bulk of printed copies were put at the disposal of the Indians in the Massachusetts region. Only a small number of these Bibles for daily use have survived; the Dartmouth volume has not appeared in any census of extant copies, since general knowledge of its existence remained unknown until 1956.

It is the provenance of the Dartmouth copy that gives it a particular added interest. Only about seven years after publication, the volume was owned by Courtenay [Courtney in modern form] Pole, who entered his name and "1670" on the title page. The name belonged to a member of a Devonshire family, Sir Courtney (1618/9-1695) being a grandson of the historian and antiquary of Devonshire Sir William Pole,Knt. (1561-1635) of the manor of Colcombe in the village of Colyton, Devon.8 An earlier William Pole (1515-1587) had acquired (1560) the manor of Shute near Axminster. Sir Courtney, a staunch Royalist, was the first member of the family to make Shute his primary home, after the Colcombe seat had been destroyed by the Cromwellians in the Civil War of 1642. Most of the old Shute house was pulled down around 1787 and a new one built, now called Shute Barton and since 1988 the home of Christopher and Gillian PoleCarew.9

Questions seeking an answer are why and how Sir Courtney did obtain the copy of Eliot's Indian Bible now at Dartmouth. Evidence of the Pole family's early interest in America resides in the fact that Sir William, "the Antiquary," was one of the incorporators of the third charter (1612) of the Virginia Company of London. Some years later, a son and daughter of Sir William (uncle and and aunt to Sir Courtney) emigrated to America; William (1594-1674) in 1630, about a year before John Eliot, and his sister Elizabeth (I588-I654) soon thereafter. Elizabeth made an important contribution to the settlement of Taunton, Massachusetts, an event commemorated in the seal of that city.10 William settled in Dorchester, only a few miles from John Eliot's parish in Roxbury. He later lived for a number of years in Taunton, but returned to Dorchester where he was town clerk and schoolmaster from about 1659 until his death in 1674. There is ample evidence of close connections between the towns of Roxbury and Dorchester in general and between John Eliot and the citizens of Dorchester in particular. Eliot preached at times in the Dorchester church, he was given land by Dorchester for use in his missionary efforts, and he gave (1649) one half of a donation by a gentleman in London to the schoolmaster of Dorchester. It is therefore a fair enough conjecture that John Eliot and William Pole knew each other. In America the family name was also spelled Pool or Poole. It is equally likely that the Bible was sent, as a curiosity, by uncle William to his nephew Sir Courtney. A recent survey of the catalogues of the Pole papers, now stored in Antony, Cornwall, has failed to find letters or papers relating to the Bible, John Eliot, or William and Elizabeth Pole. 11

Early in its residence on a shelf in the library at Shute, the Bible may have been an enigma to those unfamiliar with its background, viz. the undated notation written on the verve of the second (blank) leaf, "It is supposed by some, that this bible is in the Manx language, or that of the Isle of Man." A comparison of the text of the Eliot Bible with one in Manx quickly shows the lack of any similarities. The remaining two notations are dated. The first written on January 18th 1818 reads "The Holy Bible translated into the Indian language for the Virginians [assuming, wrongly, that the Virginia Company had sponsored the translation] and ordered to be printed by the commissioners of the United Colonies in New England at the charge and with the consent of the corporation in England for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Indians of New England." in Manx quickly shows the lack of any similarities. The remaining two notations are dated. The first written on January 18th 1818 reads "The Holy Bible translated into the Indian language for the Virginians [assuming, wrongly, that the Virginia Company had sponsored the translation] and ordered to be printed by the commissioners of the United Colonies in New England at the charge and with the consent of the corporation in England for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Indians of New England. There are three copies of this Bible in the Bodleian Library, which were printed at Cambridge (in New England) in 1663, and one printed in 1685. The two editions are in quarto. This account was obtained by the Revd William Buckland, at Sir William Pole's particular desire." William Buckland (I784-I856),born in Tiverton, Devonshire, was a renowned geologist, who in 1845 became Dean of Westminster. 12 He researched the background of the Bible at the request of Sir William Templer Pole, 7th baronet (I782-I847), who lived at Shute at that time. A last notation, in a different hand, reads "Translated by Elliot this work is known by the name of Elliot Bible and very rare as I was informed by a Boston Gentlemen J G de la Pole. Pratt at [illegible] I860"; who de la Pole and Pratt were has not been ascertained.

After a sojourn of more than 285(!) years in the library at Shute, the Bible found itself listed as number 333 in the 1956 Sotheby & Co. (London) sale of May 8-9,put up for sale by Sir John Carew Pole, the then occupant of Shute. The volume was acquired by the rare book dealer John F. Fleming (IgIo-Ig87) for Louis H. Silver (I902-I963),the American bibliophile and collector of Wilmette, Illinois, who was "During the 1940's and 1950's. . . one of the major buyers of rare books in America...."13 Mr. Silver's leather book label is present in the Dartmouth copy.

There was much speculation after Silver's death in October 1963 about how the executors of his estate would dispose of the collection of rare books and manuscripts, about 800 items in all, at auction or by sale en bloc. Toward the end of the year the executors accepted an offer of $2,750,000 from the University of Texas at Austin, an arrangement managed by John F. Fleming. However, just before the contract was to be signed in May 1964, the executors canceled the agreement and sold the entire collection to the Newberry Library at Chicago, of which Louis Silver had been a trustee, causing an uproar in the world of bibliophiles and rare book dealers. 14

The Bible's stay in the Newberry Library was brief as it became part of the auction of Americana duplicates Newberry held at the Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York, 4-5 May 1966. An account of the sale of the Bible, accompanied by a photograph of its title page, in The New York Times, gives details of the event. "The price was the second highest ever paid for an American book. The highest was $151,000 given in 1947 for another book produced in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Bay Psalm Book.... The buyer was Warren Howell (1912-1984) a rare-bookseller of San Francisco [John Howell--Books]. There were several other bidders but only one remained when the price got to the $30,000 level. This was the Carnegie Book Shop of New York, whose representative topped each of the Howell bids by $1,000 until the price of $43,000 was reached.... A puzzling aspect of the sale is that the copy of the Eliot Bible retained by the Newberry Library is generally considered inferior to the copy sold last night."15

It is assumed that the Bible remained the exclusive property of John Howell--Books between 1966 and its arrival at Dartmouth in 1978. The firm dissolved after the death of Warren R. Howell in 1984; the records of the firm, now at Stanford University, carry the stipulation that sales and customer ledgers are closed to researchers until the year 2000. A final assumption, quite safe no doubt, is that the Bible will remain the Dartmouth copy for as long as Dartmouth College will exist.

In the early I670's most copies of the first edition (estimated to have been 2000 in number) were in use, but many of these were lost or destroyed in King Philip's War of 1675. This led Eliot to begin a revision of the whole work for a second edition; the New Testament was printed in 1680, followed by the Old Testament in 1685. The Dartmouth College Library has two copies of the 1685 edition, listed and described under numbers 20 and 2I in Eames's Bibliographic Notes. 16 Neither copy is complete and both lack a provenance of interest as compared to that of the splendid 1663 edition.


Tracing of the provenance required help; I record my gratitude to: Lisa A. Compton, Director of the Old Colony Historical Society, Taunton, Massachusetts; Christopher G. Pole-Carew, Shute Barton, Devon; Richard Carew Pole Torpoint, Cornwall; Richard A. Linenthal, Bernard Quaritch Ltd., London;Claire Packard, Executive Secretary, Office of the Librarian; Mrs. M. M. Rowe, County Archivist, Devon Record Office; Christine North, County Archivist, Cornwall Record Office; Edward Connery Lathem, Dean of Libraries and librarian of the College, Emeritus; and Paul B. Sullivan.

Two Other Eliot Works in Special Collections

Mention should be made of two more items pertinent to John Eliot. In 1956 Perc S. Brown (1894-1963) presented The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy or The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ, Written Before the Interruption of the Government, by Mr. John Eliot, Teacher of the Church of Christ at Roxbury in New-England, And Now Published (after his consent given) by a Server of the Season. (London: Printed for Livewell Chapman, at the Crown in Popes-Head-Alley [October 1659]. Small 40, full russia, gilt tooled, gilt edges, by Seford; except for a skilfully repaired title-leaf, a perfect copy. Its extreme rarity is evident from Wing,17 who lists only eight extant copies, not including the Dartmouth one. The Dartmouth copy is listed in the catalog of the Brinley collection as No. 263818; the renowned Brinley Library of Americana was brought together by George Brinley (1817-1875).

Eliot had written the book, considered the first political treatise by a citizen of the country, before the death by execution of King Charles I in 1649. The Interregnum (1649-1660) gave hope to those predicting the approaching millennium, the so-called Fifth Monarchy, the everlasting republican form of government deduced entirely from Scripture, primarily, in Eliot's case, Exodus xviii. The Fifth Monarchy was to come after the collapse of the four preceding ones: Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and Greek-Roman. While written around 1649, the book was not rendered for publication until 1659 by an unidentified "Server of the Season." The publisher Livewell Chapman, ". . . Publisher to the Fifth Monarchy," also issued works of John Milton.19

Eliot wrote the work primarily for the Indians among whom he preached his evangelical message, but he saw no reason why it could not be extrapolated to England and the rest of the world. After the Restoration of 1660, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony condemned and suppressed the book as it indirectly assailed the Crown by suggesting a modIfied theocracy. The court's action forced Eliot to sign and publish a retraction on the 24th of March 1661,20

The second Eliot piece is an autograph document signed, one page quarto, dated 12 May 1659 (Ticknor MS 659312), a report by John Eliot of the case before the General Court of Massachusetts regarding Uncas, chief of the western (Mohegan) branch of the Pequot tribe. An annotated transcription of the document appears in Samuel G. Drake, Biography and History of the Indians of North American from Its First Discovery. 11th ed. (Boston: Benjamin B. Mussey & Co., 1851), I44-I45.


1. Robert Southey, Sir Thomas More: Or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 2 vols. 2d ed. (London: John Murray, 1831), 2:246.

2. "Draft Transcript, Speaking Program evening of June 29th, 1978 as part of the comemmoration ofthe 50th Anniversary of Fisher Ames Baker Memorial Library," p. 6. Roderick D. Stinehour 1950, founder of The Stinehour Press ofLullenburg, Vermont, has been Fellow in the Book Arts since 26 March 1990; and he directs Baker's Graphic Arts Workshop.

3.A Baker's Dozen of Baker's Treasures: a keepsake marking the fiftieth anniversary, in 1978, of the Fisher Ames Baker Memorial Library of Dartmouth,([n.p., n.d.] ).

4.Translated as: The whole / holy / his-Bible God / Old Testament / and also / New Testament. / This turned by the Servant of Christ / who is called / John Eliot. / Cambridge: / printed by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson. / 1663.

The Dartmouth copy measures 18.1 x 13.9 cm (7.125 x 5.875 inches), has 59g (of 596) un-numbered leaves (lacking final blank N4), collating [-]2, A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Zzz4,Aaaa-Zzzz4Aaaaa-LI1114,Mmmmm2 (OldTestament);A-L4,Aa-Xx4(New Testament); A-M4,N2 (All the Singing Songs of David); N3 (Rules for Christian Living). Thick 40,18th century full tree calf, leather labels, spine gilt with imprint Mamusse / wunneetupanatamwe / up-biblum God. Two shelf marks: 282 imprinted at re-binding, PZ/B2/27 in ink manuscript. 32 printers' flowers in a diamond shaped figure on the N.T. title; the page headings of chapters 2I and 24 of Luke are incorrectly printed Chap. I0 and Chap. 15. Signed on title 'Courtenay Pole 1670'. 19th century ms. notations on front paste-dow endpaper and second leaf. The Louis H. Silver copy with his leather book label. Preserved in a felt-lined tan buckram box with leather label.

5.See, for example, Ola Elizabeth Winslow.John Eliot 'Apostle to the Indians (Boston:Houghton Mifflin, 1968); p. 6 refers to Eliot's birthplace. See also Alden T. Vaughn, New England Frontier: Puritan and Indians, 1620-1675 (Boston: Little,Brown. [1965]).

6. Joseph Blumenthal, The Printed Book in America (Boston: David R. Godine. 1977), 3.

7. The title page of the New Testament reads: Wusku Wuttestamentum nul-Lordumun Jesus Christ Nuppoquohwussuaeneumun. Cambridge: Printed by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson. MDCLXI.. [New his-Testament our Lord Jesus Christ our-deliverer].

8. Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. 'Pole, Sir William.' In addition to information on the Pole family received by the writer through correspondence, information cam also be found in John L. Vivian's The Visitations of the County of Devon, Comprising tIhe Herald s Visitations of 1556, 1564, & 1620 (Essex: For the Author by H . S. Eland, 1895). Vivian's work is not in Dartmouth's library, which has the less complete work, Sir Henry Saint George's The Visitations of the County of Devon in the Year 1620 Ed. Frederic Colby (Publications of the Harleiam Sociery, 6) (London: 1872).

9. The bewildering confusion in the family's surname has been put in a reassuring context by Christopher G. Pole-Carew in a letter dated 7 January 1992. "Don't be put off by the family's habit of varying its surname from generation to generation: Pole, de la Pole, Templer Pole, Reeve de la Pole and eventually Pole-Carew and Carew Pole; it's all the same family.

10. Allan Forbes and Ralph M. Eastman, Town and City Seals of Massachusetts; Presenting the Official Seals of . . the Towns and Cities of Massachusetts Together with Brief Historical Sketches and LocalAnecdotes. 2 vols. (Boston: Printed for the State Street Trust Company,1950--1951), 2:136-138

11.Letter from Christine North, County Archivist, Cornwall, 21 April 1992.

12.Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. "Buckland, William."

13.Hans Peter Kraus, A Rare Book Saga: The Autobiography of H.P. Kraus (New York: G. P Putnams Sons, 1970), 2I5.

14.The entire episode is described in a series of reports in The Times Literary Supplement of 2I May and 10 December 1964 and 2 December 1965 and also in The New York Times of l5 May, I6 May, 19 May, and 7 August 1964.

15.The New York Times, 5 May 1966, 58. Article by Sanka Knox.

16. [Wilberforce Eames] Bibliographic Notes on Eliot's Indian Bible and on His Other Translations and Works in the Indian Language of Massachusetts. Extract from a "Bibliography of the Algonquian Languages." (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1890), 35.

17.Donald Goddard Wing, Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British Amenca, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641-1700.3 vols. 2d ed. (New York: Index Committee of the Modern Language Association of America, 1972-1988),1:555, No. 505.

18.. George Brinley, Catalogue of the American Library of the Late Mr. George Bnnley of Hartford, Conn. 5 vols. in 1. (Hartford, Conn.: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1878-l897),pt. 2, No. 2638.

19. Leona Rostenberg, Literary, Political, Scientific, Religious & Legal Publishing, Printing & Bookselling in England, 1551-1700: Twelve Studies. 2 vols. (Burt Franklin Bibliography and Reference Series, No. 56) (New York: B. Franklin, 1965). See Vol. 2:203-236 for Livewell Chapman and the Fifth Monarchy.

20. Massachusetts, Records ofthe Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. Ed. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff. 5 vols. in 6. (Boston: William White, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1853-1854),4, pt. 2:6.