Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Images of the Rylands' Copies of Jonathan Edwards's Books

I have posted on this blog before about John Ryland, Jr. and his interest in Jonathan Edwards. He is arguably the biggest fan of Edwards that ever lived.

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John Collett Ryland
Ryland's father was the English Particular Baptist minister John Collett Ryland, who also appreciated Edwards's writings. The elder Ryland pastored a church at College Lane in Northampton, England, before moving his ministry to a church at Enfield (outside London) in 1786. He began reading Edwards as early as the 1740s, owning a 1742 edition of The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. In 1780, Collett Ryland worked with the English printer Thomas Dicey of Northampton to publish a second edition of Edwards's sermon, The Excellency of Christ, which first appeared within a collection of Edwards's sermons published in 1738  as Discourses on Various Important Subjects. In his preface for the 1780 edition, Collett Ryland wrote that Edwards was "the greatest divine that ever adorned the American world," purposely publishing the work at the cheap price of four pence or three shillings "to those who give them away." By publishing Edwards's sermon at an inexpensive price, Collett Ryland hoped to make the discourse affordable to as many "serious Christians" as possible.

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John Ryland, Jr.
Collett Ryland's son, John Ryland, Jr., loved Edwards's works even more. He was obsessed with anything having to do with Edwards. Once he established a correspondence with Jonathan Edwards, Jr., he constantly asked the son for one of the elder Edwards's writings, wanting to hold it in hands and gaze at it as a memorial piece, but also to transcribe and publish it locally in England. "Some of my friends would smile at my longing for a relique [sic] of President Edwards," Ryland wrote to Edwards, Jr., "but if it be a spice of popery I cannot help it" (Ryland, Jr. to Edwards, Jr., June 29, 1787, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, Gen MSS 151). He idolized Edwards so much, that after remarrying in 1789, he named his next son Jonathan Edwards Ryland when he was born in 1798.

Bristol Baptist College, England
At Bristol Baptist College in England, the library holds a cache of manuscripts by the English Particular Baptists Andrew Fuller, John Collett Ryland, and John Ryland. It also has two important books by Edwards that were owned by the Rylands. Below are images of the 1765 Edinburgh edition of The Life of David Brainerd and the 1765 Boston edition of The Life of Jonathan Edwards, owned by the Rylands.

The elder Ryland owned a copy of The Life of Edwards, which he lent to his son. Before returning it to his father, Ryland, Jr. wrote on the pastedown cover in 1773 that this book was about "the greatest, wisest, humblest, and holyest of uninspired men!" "If ever I lend it," he exclaimed, "I desire the utmost care may be taken of it."

On the inside cover of his copy of The Life of Brainerd, Ryland, Jr. wrote that he "prizes" this book "above almost all others."

I thank Mike Brealey, librarian at Bristol Baptist College in England, for granting me permission to post these images on my blog.

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