November 20, 2013

En route to Sotheby’s, Bay Psalm Book traces nation’s seesaw religious history

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For the first time since 1947, and only the second time since the nineteenth century, a copy of the first book printed in America will be sold at auction. The Whole Booke of Psalmes—universally known as The Bay Psalm Book—was translated and printed in 1640 in the virtual wilderness of Massachusetts Bay Colony by the Congregationalist Puritans who left England in search of religious freedom. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s New York

For the first time since 1947, and only the second time since the nineteenth century, a copy of the first book printed in America will be sold at auction. The Whole Booke of Psalmes—universally known as The Bay Psalm Book—was translated and printed in 1640 in the virtual wilderness of Massachusetts Bay Colony by the Congregationalist Puritans who left England in search of religious freedom. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s New York

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(RNS) The Bay Psalm Book “is for American book collecting what the Guttenberg Bible has been for collecting, period,” said Bill Reese, a major dealer in printed Americana “…Except there are 46 copies of the Guttenberg.”

  • David Bahr

    I don’t appreciate the snarky attitude in the commentary of this author. I expect better from RNS.

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  • Paul Thomas

    I agree with the comment above about the “snarky tone.” Superficially, you might say that today’s evangelicals and the Puritans “exalted scripture”, but any attempt at analogy ends there. On every fundamental point of the engagement of the believer with the Word and with God they would not agree. On the importance of education and scholarship in interpreting Scripture they share no common ground. I’m not really familiar with this website but if it’s supposed to be focused on religion, you’d expect better understanding. It’s pretty clear what they think of these “mellowed” “mainline” Protestants. Maybe they haven’t mellowed so much as decided to focus on issues bigger than the favorite fear-mongering of the Evangelicals…less money spent on failed ballot measures banning gay marriage and more on feeding the poor might be a more fervent interpretation of Scripture.

  • Rev. Phil White

    I understand that the Green family is behind the open and fully functioning Museum of Biblical Art in Manhattan, very near Lincoln Center. Would not this Book of Psalms go there? There remains the question of religious artifacts becoming forbidden idols, but I suppose that is for another time. You do have to wonder though about the security such a book as this requires, even once it is on display. Consider all that they went through in the movie National Treasure!