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    An Original Leaf from the Book of Psalms in the
    1663 First Edition of the Eliot Indian Bible-
    The First Bible Printed in America

    [Bible in Massachuset]. The Holy Bible: Containing the Old Testament and the New. Translated into the Indian Language, 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 amongst the Indians in New-England. [Cambridge: Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson, 1663]. A single leaf from the 1663 first edition of the Eliot Indian Bible. Small quarto (6.9375 x 5.5 inches; 177 x 140 mm.). The present leaf is Bbbb1, containing on the recto, the text of Psalm 119, Verses 128-167, and on the verso, the text of Psalm 119, Verses 168-176, Psalms 120-123, and Psalm 124, Verses 1-3 and the first line of Verse 4. With a partial watermark visible in the gutter margin. Text in double columns of sixty-two lines, with marginal references in English. The headlines contain the name of the book ("Psalms") in English, and the subject headings in Massachuset. In Psalm 119, the Torah Psalm, the heading for each stanza of eight verses is the English name for the letter of the Hebrew alphabet: "PE" (Verses 129-136); "TSADDI" (Verses 137-144); "KOPH" (Verses 145-160); "RESH" (Verses 153-160); "SCHIN" (Verses 161-168); and "TAU" (Verses 169-176). The remaining Psalms have the psalm heading in English ("PSAL. CXX.," "PSAL. CXXI.," "PSAL CXXII.," "PSAL. CXXIII.," and "PSAL. CXXIV.") and the psalm title or superscription in Massachuset. (There are no summaries at the beginnings of the chapters, as in the second edition). The leaf is slightly browned, but apparently washed and very clean. There are a few tiny chips to the fore-edge, one with a tiny tear; a short (half-inch) curved tear to the lower margin; the gutter edge has been unevenly trimmed, with tiny stitching holes visible. An excellent example, in near fine condition.

    More Information:

    Seven varieties of the Indian Bible of 1663, differing in the number of certain preliminary leaves, are described by J. C. Pilling, in his Bibliography of the Algonquian Languages, and summarized by Evans (ranging in length from 595 printed leaves and two blank leaves to 600 printed leaves and four blank leaves). An "ideal copy" as described by ESTC contains 604 leaves or 1208 pages.


    "Psalm 119 is the longest psalm as well as the longest chapter in the Bible...It is the prayer of one who delights in and lives by the Torah, the sacred law...This psalm is one of about a dozen alphabetic acrostic poems in the Bible. Its 176 verses are divided into twenty-two stanzas, one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet; within each stanza, each of the eight verses begins (in Hebrew) with that letter" (Wikipedia). (The Hebrew alphabet made its first appearance in the Western Hemisphere in 1640 in the Bay Psalm Book, where each stanza of eight verses has the Hebrew letter and its name in English in the heading.)


    Ayer, Indian Linguistics, Massachusetts 1. Church 580. ESTC W7783 (describing an "ideal copy," with all preliminary leaves). Darlow & Moule 6737. Evans 72 and 73. Field 495. Pilling, Algonquian Languages, pages 139-152. Pilling, Proof-Sheets, 1175-1177. Printing and the Mind of Man 142. Sabin 22154 and 22155. Siebert Sale 490. See also Christopher de Hamel, The Book. A History of the Bible (London: 2001), pages 270-277; George Parker Winship, The Cambridge Press, 1638-1692 (Philadelphia: 1945), pages 208-244; and John Wright, Early Bibles of America (New York: 1892), pages 1-27.


    "The Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God must be the most important unreadable book in the world. It is commonly known as the Eliot Indian Bible" (Christopher de Hamel, page 270).


    "This was not only the first Bible to be printed in the New World but also the first complete Bible to be printed in a new language as a means of evangelization. As such it may be considered the forerunner of all the missionary translations...This translation into the Massachusetts [Natick] dialect of the Algonkin [Algonquian] family of languages, which was spoken by a large tribe, now extinct, who lived in Massachusetts in the seventeenth century, was the work of John Eliot (1604-90), the 'Apostle to the Indians'. A graduate of Jesus College, Cambridge, he landed at Boston in 1631 and in the following year was appointed 'teacher' of the church in Roxbury, near Boston, where he remained for the rest of his life. He took some part in the translation from the Hebrew of the first book printed in North America, the Bay Psalm Book of 1640. He then began to devote himself to missionary labours among the Massachusetts Indians, had mastered their language sufficiently by 1646 to be able to preach in it, and was instrumental in establishing in England the Corporation for the Promoting and Propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England. This corporation, generally known as the New England Company, was the first missionary society to be formed in England...In 1651 he tried his hand at translating some metrical psalms into the Massachusetts language and in 1654 a Catechism appeared. This was followed in the next year by trial issues of Genesis and Matthew...The complete New Testament was published in 1661 in an edition of one thousand five hundred copies of which one thousand were reserved to bind up with the copies of the Old Testament which was ready in 1663. The book was printed in the printing office established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by Samuel Green in 1638 where the Bay Psalm Book had been printed, and on a new press sent out by the Corporation in London. A new fount of type was also supplied, with one special sort and the additional proportions of the letters k and q required by the language. Finally an experienced young printer, Marmaduke Johnson was sent from London to assist in the printing" (Printing and the Mind of Man).


    "The words of the language were so extremely long that Cotton Mather thought they must have been stretching themselves out from the time of the confusion of tongues at Babel" (Wright, pages 14-15).


    The book is printed in phonetic English as the Algonquian language was unwritten.


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