Life of Cotton Mather

Cotton MATHER   |   Samuel MATHER

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"A LIFE OF CEASELESS STRIVING IN THE SERVICE OF PURITANISM AND NEW ENGLAND": FIRST EDITION OF SAMUEL MATHER'S LIFE OF THE VERY REVEREND AND LEARNED COTTON MATHER, 1729

(MATHER, Cotton) MATHER, Samuel. The Life of the Very Reverend and Learned Cotton Mather, D.D. & F.R.S., Late Pastor of the North Church in Boston. Boston: Samuel Gerrish, 1729. BOUND WITH: PRINCE, Thomas. The Departure of Elijah Lamented. Boston: D. Henchman, 1728. pp. 26. BOUND WITH: GEE, Joshua. Israel's Mourning for Aaron's Death. Boston: S. Gerrish and N. Belknap, 1728. pp. 34. Octavo, contemporary full brown paneled calf rebacked, raised bands, red morocco spine label. $3200.

First edition of this important early biography of the Puritan Divine—"the last great member of a Puritan dynasty"—written by his son, here bound with first editions of two scarce 1728 eulogies on the death of Cotton Mather, by Thomas Prince and the man who would succeed Mather as pastor of the North Church, Joshua Gee.

Puritan preacher and author Cotton Mather "came into the political limelight during America's version of the Glorious Revolution, when Bostonians deposed their royal governor, Sir Edmund Andros (April 1689). During the witchcraft debacle (1692-93), Mather both warns the Salem judges against admitting 'spectral evidence' as grounds for indictment and advocates prayer and fasting to cure the afflicted, but he also writes New England's official defense of the court's procedures on which his modern reputation largely depends: The Wonders of the Invisible World (1693). As the Lord's remembrancer and keeper of the Puritan conscience, he writes the grandest of American jeremiads, his epic church history Magnalia Christi Americana (1702). Like his father [Increase Mather] a staunch defender of Puritan orthodoxy, Mather persuades Elihu Yale, a London merchant and practicing Anglican, to endow Yale University (1703) as the new nursery of Puritanism, when Harvard seemed to become too liberal in its teaching and too independent in its thinking… Whereas Increase Mather never quite made the transition into the Enlightenment, his son Cotton had come full circle; he represents the best of early Enlightenment thinking in Colonial America. His contributions to the literature of the New England Errand are as diverse as his publications are prolific and inexhaustible. In all, he published more than 400 works on all aspects of the contemporary debate: theological, historical, biographical, political, and scientific" (Reiner Smolinski). Samuel Mather, also a Puritan minister, was Cotton's son; Cotton himself wrote a biography of his father, Increase, who had in turn written a biography of his own father, Richard. "Any assessment of Cotton Mather must recognize his deep religious belief, his immense learning and scholarship, and his leadership in New England. He had a kind of genius. He also had a sense that he had been called to serve his God and New England. The last great member of a Puritan dynasty, he made mistakes, he sometimes failed to explain his purposes, but he left a legacy of a life of ceaseless striving in the service of Puritanism and New England" (ANB).

This copy bound with two eulogies published the previous year. The first is Thomas Prince's 26-page eulogy, The Departure of Elijah Lamented (1728). Prince, the pastor of Old South Church, was a close associate of Cotton Mather, and collected and preserved Mather's papers. He was the author of A Chronological History of New-England (1736). Also bound with Joshua Gee's 34-page eulogy, Israel's Mourning for Aaron's Death (1728). Gee, Mather's assistant, who would succeed Mather as pastor at the North Church, delivered this eloquent sermon five days after Mather's death. With half title and List of Subscribers, often lacking; two rear leaves of publisher's ads. Both eulogies complete with half titles. Evans 3188. Sabin 46799. Howes M409. For Prince: Evans 3094; Sabin 65588. For Gee: Evans 3031; Holmes, Cotton Mather 745. Bookplate of Frederick William French (1842-1900) of Boston, businessman and bibliophile, member of the Grolier, Caxton, and Odd Volumes Clubs.

A bit of toning to text, minor edge-wear to contemporary boards. A very good copy of this scarce early biography, desirable with the contemporary eulogies.

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