'An Old Bible'
June 09, 2008
What immediately gets your attention when opening the VGW Library & Archives copy of The Genealogies Recorded in the Sacred Scriptures According to Every Family and Tribe... by John Speed [Rare BS 569 .A4 1625], is the number of well known, early New England family names recorded on the endpapers and family information recorded within. This rare 1625 edition was donated to our library by the Wadsworth Family in 1982 but the documentation indicates connections to earlier Wadsworth, and also Glenson, Salmon, Stansill, Stoddard, Tappan, Pierce, and Cowles families.
The earliest notes indicate John Glenson and Christopher and Thomas Wadsworth landed in Boston on September 16, 1632 on the ‘Lion’. Wadsworth and Glenson family births are recorded for 1629 and 1633. Thomas Stansill family birth records for 1722 and 1724 are included. It is noted that Lewis Tappan Stoddard, born in 1807 in Northampton, MA presented the Bible to his uncle, John Pierce (1773-1849) of Brookline, MA, on April 11, 1833, and that his son, John Tappan Pierce, of Genesco, IL, sold it to S.W. Cowles in July, 1882. An S.W. Cowles Bookplate lists his address at 891 Main St. Hartford, Conn. and handwritten are the dates 1882-1887. It is believed that the Bible passed again into the Wadsworth family from Cowles. An article entitled ‘An Old Bible’ which appeared in the Nov. 1, 1883 Hartford Courant, details much of the Bible’s provenance, and is affixed to the endpaper.
John Pierce’s bookplate appears as well. Pierce was minister of the First Parish Church in Brookline, Massachusetts from 1797 to 1849 and looms large in much of Brookline’s early history. According to the History of the Town of Brookline by John Gould Curtis, Pierce played an integral part in many of the civic and educational activities of the Town, and delivered some important speeches. He was called upon to speak at Brookline’s memorial service for George Washington on February 22, 1800 and delivered a discourse at the 1805 Centennial for the Town. Intensely interested in all things having to do with Brookline’s progress, it was once noted by another minister, "As I understand it, Dr. Pierce is Brookline, and Brookline is Dr. Pierce."
Pierce married Lucy Tappan of Northampton, MA in 1802. Her brothers, Arthur (1786-1865) and Lewis Tappan (1788-1873) were noted philanthropists and abolitionists and for a time Lewis lived in Brookline. In fact, John Pierce officiated at the marriage of Lewis Tappan and Susan Aspinwall in the parlor of the Aspinwall home in Brookline in 1813.
The Bible itself is of interest on several counts. It contains engraved genealogical charts of prominent families from scripture, interesting old engravings and a map of ancient Palestine and Egypt. According to Alister McGraph's In the Beginninng: the Story of the King James Bible and how it changed a Nation, a Language and a Culture [BS 186 .M33 2001], mapmaker and entrepreneur John Speed negotiated a special arrangement with King James I in 1610 to include these additional pages thus providing extra income for himself and the crown for each bible sold.
Dr. John Pierce's papers are held at the Massachusetts Historical Society. See Lewis Tappan's papers at the Library of Congress; additional Tappan family material may be found at Oberlin College. More on Lewis Tappan's anti-slavery activities may be found here and in:
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. Lewis Tappan and the evangelical war against slavery. Cleveland: Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1969.