Rare Early Edition by Cotton MatherCotton Mather. The Life and Death of the Renown'd Mr. John Eliot, Who Was the First Preacher of the Gospel to the Indians in America. London: John Dunton, 1691.
Second edition carefully corrected. Small octavo. 138 pages.
Custom full blue morocco with gilt ruled boards and stamped spine. All edges gilt with marbled endpapers. Pages closely trimmed. Bookplate of noted bibliophile Henry Huth on front pastedown. A near fine copy showing only minimal rubbing.
Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was the son of Puritan minister Increase Mather, an important figure in the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Young Cotton followed very much in his father's footsteps, graduating from Harvard at age fifteen and then assisting the elder Mather in pastoring the Old North Church. Cotton Mather was a highly influential and prolific writer, on subjects both sacred and secular.
He became quite a controversial figure for his close friendship with and influence over many of the judges who presided over the Salem witch trials in 1692. Although warning against their use of "spectral evidence" in deciding a case, Mather, a believer in witchcraft, later defended just that same practice. Though a Harvard graduate, Mather had a major role in the early history of Yale University. Founded as the Collegiate School of Connecticut in 1701, the institution was in need of a benefactor to build and expand. Mather contacted a wealthy trader named Elihu Yale on their behalf; Yale contributed goods worth £560 sterling when sold, and the resulting building, and later the university, was named after him.
A believer in modern science, Cotton Mather developed early methods of plant hybridization using corn and later defended (most unpopularly) the use of smallpox inoculations during the 1721 epidemic in Boston. That same year he published The Christian Philosopher, a seminal American work harmonizing Newtonian science and religion. Mather saw teaching as the main goal of his writing, and Benjamin Franklin once said that Mather's book Essays to do Good was the work that most guided his youth.
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