Saturday, 11 January 2014

New Purchases

I love collecting antiquarian books from the period that I study. I have a modest collection of first editions by the Scottish clergymen John Erskine, Hugh Blair, William Robertson, and Thomas Sommerville; the American Calvinists Samuel Miller and Samuel Hopkins; and the Particular Baptist minister John Ryland. My wife and I agree that this is an expensive hobby, and so I limit my purchases to books that come from a special account that I have set up. Any bonus pay that I receive from my employer, monetary awards from outside entities, and Christmas and birthday money goes into this account.

I finally decided to spend some of my savings. Recently, I bought first editions of Jonathan Edwards's Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746) and Miscellaneous Observations on Important Theological Controversies (1793). The first was one of Edwards's most important books, and the only time that I know of when Samuel Kneeland acted as a publisher on behalf of Edwards. The latter book is one of the posthumous volumes that Erskine and Jonathan Edwards Jr. edited and had published by the Edinburgh bookseller Margaret Gray (for further information on Edwards's posthumous books published in Scotland, see chapter 8--"The Disseminator"--in my Enlightened Evangelicalism: The Life and Thought of John Erskine).

I also bought later editions of Edwards's Freedom of the Will (originally published in 1754) and A History of the Work of Redemption (first published posthumously in 1774). The editions that I bought are important to the history of publishing Edwards's works. The particular copy of Freedom of the Will that I paid for was published in 1790 by Charles Dilly (1739-1807), a London bookseller who specialized in religious publications. Charles partnered with his older brother Edward (1732-79), who had apprenticed with John Oswald (the London bookseller who first published A Faithful Narrative of the Surprizing Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton in 1737). The copy of A History of the Work of Redemption that I bought is a 1792 edition printed by Isaiah Thomas in Worcester, Massachusetts. This is an interesting edition because Thomas apparently pirated the book without the authorization of Jonathan Edwards Jr., who owned the copyright for this work, and threatened to sue Thomas for not offering any financial compensation.

In my current project on "Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture," I will be providing a narrative of how these specific editions came to print in the 18th century, including the people who were involved, the format of these works, and how they were marketed.



MSC said...

Are you sympathetic to the theology of Jonathan Edwards?

Exploring the Study of Religious History said...

I appreciate much of what Edwards says in his writings, but not all of it!