Early European Materials in Modern American Archives: The Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Early European Materials in Modern American Archives: The Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM (EST)
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Since its founding in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society has collected and communicated materials for the study of American history. Well-known today among its collections are the presidential papers of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Thomas Jefferson; the Wampanoag vocabularies Native speakers taught to John Cotton Jr. and his son Josiah; and items related to the Civil War-era Massachusetts 54th Regiment. The presence of pre-modern European manuscripts at the MHS might therefore seem a little odd. What does a book of hours have to do with Boston's early republic? Yet, since as early as 1796, when "several ancient manuscripts" entered the collections, the Society has held a slowly but steadily growing assemblage of medieval and Renaissance materials ranging from twelfth-century charters to a seemingly endless collection of indentures.

Using the example of the MHS collections, Agnieszka Rec will offer a medievalist's perspective on the opportunities afforded by the presence of early European manuscripts in American historical collections. After an introduction to the MHS's earliest materials, we will follow two threads: colonial paleography and nineteenth-century antiquarian interests.


Agnieszka Rec is the Associate Editor in Publications at the Massachusetts Historical Society, where she produces print and digital editions of manuscript sources. She received her PhD in Medieval History from Yale University and is currently compiling a census of medieval and Renaissance materials at the MHS.

Event hosted by

The Bibliographical Society of America
P.O. Box 1537, Lenox Hill Station
New York, NY, 10021
Erin Schreiner, Executive Director
bsa@bibsocamer.org

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