Sunday, 31 August 2014

The McCulloch Manuscript

I recently finished reading The McCulloch Examinations of the Cambuslang Revival, edited by Keith Beebe. This is a two-volume critical edition of a manuscript originally transcribed by the parish minister of Cambuslang, William McCulloch, who interviewed 109 people that had reportedly experienced conversion during revivals in his parish during the summer of 1742.

While scholars are generally familiar with the Great Awakening in America, very few people know that significant revivals took place at roughly the same time in England, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Wales. In Scotland, the largest revival occurred at Cambuslang and the surrounding western region in 1742. Although the parish of Cambuslang consisted of only about 1,000 people, the revival there drew estimated crowds of 30,000 to 50,000 during its two communion services in July and August at a time when the nearby town of Glasgow had some 17,000 residents. McCulloch intended to publish his interviews, but for various reasons, never did. Instead, the two-volume manuscript remained with him until his death in 1771, when it was passed down through the family to his granddaughter Janet Coutts, who eventually donated it to the New College Library at Edinburgh in May 1844.

Beebe has done an important service for scholars interested in eighteenth-century transatlantic revivals, and Scottish evangelicalism in particular. Until now, scholars wanting to learn about the Cambuslang revival had to rely on secondary sources like Arthur Fawcett's often cited Cambuslang Revival, and published essays by T. C. Smout, Ned Landsman, and other historians. With the publication of The McCulloch Examinations of the Cambuslang Revival, scholars can now consult the heavily annotated conversion narratives of each person interviewed as well as the editorial additions and deletions made by McCulloch and four other ministers.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Summer Reading List

This past summer, I read a lot of literature related to Jonathan Edwards and the history of the book. But I also read some books in the broad category of American religious history that have no connection with my current research projects. Here are some of the highlights:

On the subject of Jonathan Edwards, I recently finished Philip Gura's Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical. I decided to take a break about halfway through Susan Stinson's new historical fiction account of the Great Awakening, A Spider in a Tree, and read Gura's biography. If you have read George's Marsden's Jonathan Edwards: A Life, you may not think that there is anything more to say about Edwards's life. At least that is what I thought, before beginning Gura's biography, but I quickly changed my mind. He tells the story of Edwards's life with such elegance and clarity that it feels like you are reading a good novel. And even though I know a lot about this period in history and Edwards, I marveled at Gura's insight on such publications as Religious Affections (1746). I did have a few quibbles, however, with aspects of the book. Gura, for instance, describes Sarah Edwards's ecstatic experience in 1742 as her "conversion" (pp. 106-7), which, of course, is not the accurate term since she experienced conversion much earlier as a child. There is also Gura's suggestion that Sarah Edwards might have been infatuated with the visiting preacher Samuel Buell while her husband was away preaching at the town of Leicester (p. 106). But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Jonathan Edwards: America's Evangelical and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read a breezy biography of Edwards.

In the history of the book category, I greatly benefited from Julia Miller's Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings. This is an amazing book for people interested in early book bindings. I can't tell you how much I learned about the surprisingly numerous bindings that have been used since the Gutenberg Press. I found myself rushing to look at the antiquarian books that I own, to study the specific bindings on these books with fresh eyes. A major benefit of Miller's monograph are the color photographs that she includes as well as the separate dvd that comes with the book, providing a vivid list and description of all the images described by her. 

Another helpful title on the material aspect of the book that I read is Philip Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography. Have you ever wondered how to tell the difference between a folio, quarto, octavo, or duodecimo size? Gaskell explains such topics as well as the nuts and bolts of how books are put together, and the overall history of book production during the past centuries.

Besides the books related to my current research projects, I also found time for some "fun" reading, including Nancy Koester's Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life. Stowe, of course, gained national attention for her novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, but there is much more to her life than her literary contribution to the abolitionist movement. Stowe grew up as a Beecher, the daughter of one of the most prominent ministers in New England (Lyman Beecher), and the sister of "the most famous man in America," Henry Ward Beecher and  education innovator, Catharine Beecher. Reading Koester's biography helped me understand the type of Christianity that Stowe adopted. Koester explains Stowe's move away from her father's Calvinism towards High Anglicanism, and, later in life, Spiritism, as she tries to make a connection with her deceased son.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Early Evangelicalism: A Reader as a Course Text

This semester I am teaching a new course that I am calling, "The History of Evangelicalism." This is a 400-level elective. Besides using the History of Evangelicalism series published by IVP, I am also incorporating my own Early Evangelicalism: A Reader and Barry Hankins's Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: A Documentary Reader.

I welcome hearing from other professors who are using Early Evangelicalism: A Reader for current courses that they are teaching. Most recently, I heard from a professor at Southern Baptist Seminary, who is requiring the book for a course in cooperation with the Andrew Fuller Conference on George Whitefield and the Great Awakening. This looks like an exciting conference with speakers such as Tommy Kidd, Bruce Hindmarsh, and David Bebbington


I'm back. After a long hiatus, I am ready to blog a bit during the 2014-2015 academic year. A lot has happened since my last post.

In the first part of my break, I enjoyed a summer fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts during the month of June. At the AAS, I worked on my current book-length project, "Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture" (more on that project in future posts). I lived in the scholars' residence next door to the library where I was able to learn a lot about book history from the other fellows who resided in the house and worked at the library during the same time. One of the fellows, for instance, convinced me of the importance of watermarks, and so I spent a good portion of my daily routine at the library looking for watermarks and then trying to trace these to specific papermakers in America and Europe. I was amazed at what I found. One of the watermarks that sticks out in my memory is of a unicorn, which I traced to a papermaker in Pennsylvania.

I wholeheartedly endorse the AAS as one of the best archives in the country. Not only are the staff members experts in the history of the book, but they are some of the nicest and most helpful people I have ever worked with. As I studied various editions of Jonathan Edwards's publication in the eighteenth century, I could pause periodically to ask a staff member about particular aspects of his works, including the type used, the quality of paper, and the bindings. I left Worcester feeling excited about my project and hungry to continue my research.

While I stayed in Worcester, I also made a trip to Harvard Divinity School where I met with the eminent historian David Hall, who was gracious enough to read one of my chapters on Edwards's Boston printer and publisher. I was very thankful for his suggestions and endorsement of my work. Besides touring the Boston area, I also made a trips to Albany, NY to look at Jonathan Edwards Jr's will, New Haven to research at the Beinecke Library and visit with Ken Minkema, and Stockbridge, MA, where I saw the Mission House and the site of Edwards's home. Overall, I had a wonderful time in Massachusetts during the month of June.

During the month of July, I traveled with my family to West Michigan for a family reunion. We had a week in between our next trip to Carolina Beach, North Carolina where we spent enjoyed the beach and time with  friends. Each year, this is my opportunity to go surfing, which ranks next to snow skiing as my favorite sport. I had the pleasure of witnessing my oldest son learn how to surf for the first time. By the end of the week, he could ride the waves like a pro.

I have some exciting news about my project on Jonathan Edwards and transatlantic print culture that I will share in the future, and I also will be providing some posts on the upcoming LeRoy Martin Lectures for the 2014-2015 academic year, which include Lin Fisher, Kate Bowler, and Jeremy Begbie. So, stay tuned.