The present copy.

Amory [9]; Haraszti 4; Swan [5b]; Eames 5. Presumably No. 112 in the 1846 Catalogue of the Library of Rev. Thomas Prince and with Old South shelf-mark 10.4.11.


184 x 108 mm. 148 leaves (complete; portion torn from Ee1 costing portions of 27 lines and catchword recto). Bound in nineteenth-century black pebbled morocco, front cover gilt-lettered old south church | library.

i. Thomas Prince (acquisition note on title-page verso: “T. Prince. Milton [Massachusetts]. 9 & 10 1728”; New-England-Library bookplate, with later accomplishment possibly by Joseph Sewall).

ii. The Old South Church in Boston (bequest of Prince, 1758).

Amory [3]; Haraszti 3; Swan [5a]; Eames 4. No 132 in the 1846 Catalogue of the Library of Rev. Thomas Prince and with Old South shelf-mark 10.4.8. Psalms 1 and 3 are annotated by Prince with variant readings from the 1647 reprint edition. Errata uncorrected.

A2r from the Bay Psalm Book remaining at the Old South Church, showing Thomas Prince's annotations of variant readings from the 1647 reprint edition. Courtesy of the Old South Church in Boston

Q2r from the Bay Psalm Book remaining at the Old South Church, showing the unique reading in Psalm 69, verse 23 (see page 39). Courtesy of the Old South Church in Boston

W4r from the Harvard copy of the Bay Psalm Book, showing a contemporary emendation to Psalm 87, verse 6. Courtesy, Houghton Library, Harvard University (Vault STC 2738)


171 x 108 mm. 138 (of 148) leaves, lacking *1-4, **1-2, Ll1-4. Bound in late nineteenth-century black pebbled morocco.

i. John Leverett (signature, N1v), possibly the nineteenth governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, whose daughter Elizabeth married Elisha Cooke; if so, then by descent to the latter’s grandson:

ii. Middlecott Cooke, a member of the Harvard class of 1723.

iii. Harvard College (bookplate reading “Probably The Gift of Middlecott Cooke, Esq. of Boston, Oct. 1764”).The Harvard College library was largely destroyed by a fire in January 1764. The Bay Psalm Book likely came to Harvard as part of the subsequent book drive to rebuild the collection.

Amory [2]; Haraszti 10; Swan [9]; Eames 6. Sheet D inverted in reiteration and so printed. Errata uncorrected.

Sotheby’s is grateful to John Overholt, Curator of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection, Houghton Library, for his assistance with this description.

Fly-leaf from the John Carter Brown Library copy of the Bay Psalm Book, with the signature of Richard Mather. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University

The description of the Bay Psalm Book in the 1875 Leonard auction catalogue of the Shurtleff Library. The two following lots describe issues of the type facsimile of the book that Shurtleff commissioned. Image courtesy of the Grolier Club of New York


174 x 108 mm. 148 leaves (complete; lower portion of Ll4 lost but not affecting text). Bound in contemporary calf.

i. Richard Mather, one of the translators (signature, “Richard Mather His Booke,” on front and rear fly-leaves); likely by descent to:

ii. Samuel Mather; likely by descent to:

iii.Increase Mather; likely by descent to:

iv. Cotton Mather.

v. Thomas Prince (New-England-Library bookplate). Probably acquired about 1728, when Cotton Mather’s library was dispersed.

vi. The Old South Church in Boston (bequest of Prince, 1758).

vii. Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff (exchanged by the Old South Church for two books from Shurtleff's collection in January 1860). Sold by Shurtleff’s estate, 12 October 1876, in a single-lot sale by Boston auctioneer Joseph Leonard, to:

viii. Sidney S. Rider, Providence bookseller, for $1,025. Sold by Rider, for an undisclosed sum, to:

ix. C. Fiske Harris. After Fiske’s death, sold by Rider, in 1881, to:

x. John Carter Brown for $1,500 and several “valuable” books.

xi. The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University (transferred, 1901).

Amory [7]; Haraszti 1; Swan [2]; Eames 1. No 579 (perfect copy) in the 1846 Catalogue of the Library of Rev. Thomas Prince and with Old South shelf-mark 10.4.9. Errata corrected, with some other contemporary emendations. Digitized on the World Digital Library (http://www.wdl.org/en/item/2834/zoom/).

B1v-B2r from the John Carter Brown Library copy of the Bay Psalm Book, showing a contemporary correction to the Psalm 9, verse 1. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University

The alienation of this copy from the Old South Church was clouded in controversy. On 30 December 1859, N. B. Shurtleff, a Boston physician, politician (he was elected mayor in 1867), and book collector, proposed an exchange of books to Loring Lathrop, one of the deacons of Old South: “I am very desirous of obtaining one of the duplicate copies of the Old Bay Psalm Book belonging to the Old South Library, having a strong veneration for the old volume. I think I have books in my library, such as would be not only appropriate for the library of the Old South Church, but also valuable for reference and for use of those who may rely upon the library for works suitable to be consulted. Among the books which I happen to think of are the original editions of Winthrop’s ‘New England’ and Belknap’s ‘New England Bibliography,’ appropriate, I think, for Prince’s ‘New England Library,’ and which I would gladly give in exchange for one of the duplicates.”

The exchange was made and seems to have been relatively unremarked upon until Shurtleff’s death in 1874. Then his library was consigned to Leonard & Co., with the Bay Psalm Book featured as lot 1356 in the catalogue of his estate, the sale of which was scheduled for 30 November–2 December 1875. However, the deacons of Old South brought a bill in equity against the executrix of the Shurtleff estate to recover this copy of The Whole Booke of Psalms because the librarian of the Prince Library, G. F. Bigelow, maintained that it was understood that the volume was to be returned to the Church after Shurtleff’s death. Shurtleff’s widow countered that her husband had obtained the book “by sale or barter” in an arrangement that was “fair and proper.” An injunction was issued that postponed the sale of the Bay Psalm Book, but the Church’s suit was eventually dismissed under the Statute of Limitations.

Leonard put the book on the block on 12 October 1876, noting on the cover of the special pamphlet-catalogue that “The ownership of [the Bay Psalm Book] has been adjudged to the estate of the late N. B. Shurtleff, M.D.” The sale, due in no small part to the litigation, attracted a large crowd and a great deal of press coverage. The Providence Journal reported that the auctioneer was the target of “jocose inquiries” as to whether there were any “‘large paper copies’ … or whether he would not ‘sing a psalm.’” The bidding opened at $100; was jumped to $500; then steadily increased by one-hundred-dollar increments to $1,000, when Rider carried the day with a final $25 advance. It is worth noting that the main sale of Shurtleff’s library the previous year had contained five further copies of the two works that he traded for the Bay Psalm Book, three of the Winthrop and two of the Belknap; they sold for a combined $7.37.

The JCB copy had the good fortune to be sent to Francis Bedford for rebinding when the binder was ill. Rather than leave the volume in Bedford's shop indefinitely, Brown was contented to leave his copy in its contemporary calf covers. Following the fashion of the day, Bedford had previously bound, at the behest of Henry Stevens, the copies now at Yale and the New York Public Library, both of which had been in early, if not original, bindings.

Sotheby’s is grateful to Ken Ward, Maury A. Bromsen Curator of Latin American Books, John Carter Brown Library, for his assistance with this description.

From top: the binding; the front pastedown; and fly-leaf with authograph note by Isaiah Thomas, all from the American Antiquarian Society copy of the Bay Psalm Book. Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society


176 x 108 mm. 146 (of 148) leaves, lacking *1 and Ll4. Bound in contemporary vellum over wastepaper boards.

i. William Bentley (acquisition note in his “Book Accounts,” 15 May 1804, noting the purchase of “A Lot of old Books at Peabody’s at 36 cents. Ainsworth’s Psalms, first used in the Churches of New England, Sternhold & Hopkins, ed. of 1664; The first edition of the New England Psalms,” and other titles [Bentley Fo. Vol. 4, p. 94]).

ii. Isaiah Thomas (armorial bookplate; autograph note on a front fly-leaf).

iii. American Antiquarian Society (part of Thomas’s founding gift).

Amory [1]; Haraszti 7; Swan [7]; Eames 7. Errata corrected, save first and fourth.

Isaiah Thomas’s History of Printing in the United States (Worcester, 1810) includes a catalogue of books printed by Stephen Day, and it is clear from Thomas’s description of the Bay Psalm Book that this copy was then still owned by William Bentley: “1640. The Psalms in Metre, Faithfully translated for the Use, Edification, and Comfort of the Saints in publick and private, especially in New England. Crown 8vo. 300 pages. An entire copy except the title page, is now in the possession of the rev. mr. Bentley, of Salem; this copy I have carefully examined, and although the title page is wanting, and no imprint appears, I have no doubt but it is one of the impression of the first book printed in this country. … The book is bound in parchment.” What remains somewhat obscure (apart from the source of Thomas’s title) is how ownership of this Bay Psalm Book passed from Bentley to Thomas.

While researching his History of Printing, Thomas evidently asked to borrow the volume, because Bentley’s memoranda record, 12 April 1809, that he had lent his “Copy of New England Psalms 1st ed. to Isaiah Thomas Printer. Presumed to be the only copy of the first printed Book in New England. To be returned by him, after used for his work.” Bentley notes elsewhere that he paid 12 cents to have the book carried from Salem to Boston. Thomas acknowledged Bentley’s lending of the book in a letter of 19 April, preserved in the Thomas Papers at AAS: “I have received your old Psalm Book and assure you I am much gratified by your kind attention in sending it to Boston, agreeably to my request. … I would most readily give twenty dollars for the title page which is wanting that I might see the imprint. … I will take special care of the book, and return it whenever you please; but I think to give as a specimen of the work, a page of it in mine.”

Gg4r, Psalm 126, from the American Antiquarain Society copy of the Bay Psalm Book, Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society

William Bentley. Portrait by James Frothingham, copy after his own composition, oil on canvas, before 1826. Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society

Isaiah Thomas. Portrait by Ethan Allen Greenwood, oil on panel, June 1818. Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society

It seems likely that Thomas never returned the book to Bentley—and it seems just as clear that Bentley never asked to have it back. In 1812, Thomas listed the volume in the manuscript catalogue of his library, but since he and Bentley continued a collegial and cordial relationship, they evidently reached a private agreement that transferred the Bay Psalm Book, through the office of Thomas, to the Antiquarian Society. Bentley was elected a member of the Society in February 1813, and on 19 November 1814 he wrote to Thomas that his “American Antient Books will be at the service of the Society, so far as they can serve to complete the collection, & so shall my antiquities.” Further evidence that there was no animosity between the two men is found in Bentley’s will (he died in December 1819), in which he stipulated “I give all of my German books, New England printed books, manuscripts not of my own hand, and cabinet with all it contains to the American antiquarian society and all my paintings and engravings” (AAS Archives).

Despite Thomas Prince’s pioneering work on the Bay Psalm Book, the five copies at Old South Church continued to be hidden in plain sight. On 20 September 1820, Isaiah Thomas wrote a summation of his efforts to find another example of the “New England Version of the Psalms” on a front fly-leaf in the AAS copy: “After advertising for another Copy of this book, and making enquiry in many places in New england, &c I was not able to hear of another Copy. This Copy is therefore invaluable, and must be preserved with the greatest Care. It is in its original binding. I.T.” In 1809, while gathering material for his History of Printing, Thomas did indeed advertise for the Bay Psalm Book, running a notice seeking copies of the first, second, and third editions of the "New-England Version of the Psalms" in his own Massachusetts Spy, as well as in other newspapers, including the Farmers' Cabinet (Amherst, New Hampshire), the Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill, Massachusetts), the New-Jersey Telescope (Newark), and the Federal Republican (Baltimore).

Sotheby’s is grateful to Ellen S. Dunlap, President, and Thomas G. Knoles, Marcus A. McCorison Librarian, American Antiquarian Society, for their assistance with this description.


174 x 104 mm. 148 leaves (complete; but with the fore-edges of gatherings K and L restored with a few characters supplied in). Bound in dark brown morocco, elaborately gilt, by Francis Bedford.

i. Acquired by the Old South Church prior to 1750.

ii. Edward A. Crowninshield (exchanged by the Old South Church, January 1850, in consideration of Crowninshield’s paying for the rebinding of the present copy; note by Samuel T. Armstrong, a deacon of Old South, on the front free endpaper of the present copy).

iii. Henry Stevens, bookseller (Crowninshield’s Bay Psalm Book was scheduled for sale—as lot 878, described as bound in “original old vellum"—with the rest of his library at Leonard & Co., 1 November 1859. However, the auction was preempted by the sale of the entire library, for $10,000, to Stevens.

iv. George Brinley (purchased from Stevens, 1866, for 150 guineas, after the latter’s failed effort to sell the book to the Peabody Institute and the British Museum).

v. Cornelius Vanderbilt (purchased at Brinley’s estate auction, part 1, G. A. Leavitt, 10 March 1879, lot 847, $1,200); by descent to:

vi. Mrs. Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt; by descent to:

vii. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney; by bequest to:

viii. The Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Trust.

ix. A. S. W. Rosenbach (purchased at the Whitney Trust’s single-lot auction of the book, Parke-Bernet, 28 January 1947, for $151,000).

x. Yale University (the gift of a group of alumni and friends; the acquisition was announced on 19 September 1947, and the donors were identified as George Arents, Edwin J. Beineike, Bollingen Foundation (established by Paul Mellon), Mark Bortman, Albert H. Child's, '61, Memorial Fund, William R. Coe, Ralph Esmerian, Belle da Costa Greene, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond E. Hartz, Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Roy A. Hunt, Mr. and Mrs. Donald F. Hyde, F. A. Kettaneh, William H. Koester, Russell C. Leffingwell, Mrs. George A. Martin (in honor of George A. Martin, Jr. '24), Mrs. G. Macculloch Miller, H. A. Oriel, Clara S. Peck, Louis M. Rabinowitz, A. S. W. Rosenbach, Lessing J. Rosenwald, Mortimer and Adele Schiff Foundation, Thomas W. Streeter, Henry C. Taylor, John Hay Whitney, and Christian A. Zabriskie).

*1r, title-page, from the Yale copy of the Bay Psalm Book. Courtesy, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Amory [6]; Haraszti 2; Swan [1]; Eames 2. No 259 in the 1846 Catalogue of the Library of Rev. Thomas Prince; Old South shelf-mark evidently lost when rebound. Errata uncorrected.

The transfer of the Old South-Crowinshield-Stevens-Brinley-Vanderbilt-Whitney copy of the Bay Psalm Book was not as simple as the above provenance sequence might indicate. It is doubtful that Dr. R. anticipated that he would become the most generous of the friends responsible for donating the volume to Yale. 

L14r, errata, from the Yale copy of the Bay Psalm Book. Courtesy, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

When the three trustees of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Trust announced their decision to sell The Whole Booke of Psalms “for the sole benefit of the North Country Community Hospital, Glen Cove, New York,” Rosenbach began working with Henry C. Taylor, chairman of the Yale Library Associates, to solicit pledges and contributions to buy the book for Yale with Rosenbach, of course, acting as the University’s agent. John Fleming, who was to do the actual bidding for Rosenbach, arrived at Parke-Bernet with firm pledges of $95,000—but also with the understanding that if more was needed, more would be forthcoming.

More was needed. From the opening bid of $30,000 up to $91,000—with one jump by Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney—Fleming traded incremental increases of $1,000 with David Randall of Scribner’s Rare Book Department. Randall was bidding for J. K. Lilly, whose eponymous library at the Indiana University he would soon join as director. With the bid to Fleming at $91,000, Whitney again jumped the bid to $95,000. That pattern—Fleming increasing the bid by $1,000 and Whitney jumping it by $4,000—held until Fleming bid $151,000. Whitney had no response, the hammer came down in favor of Fleming, and he carried the book—the most expensive ever sold at auction—back to Rosenbach’s “shop” at 15 East 51st Street.

The binding of the present copy of The Whole Booke of Psalmes, paid for by Edward Crowninshield, in exchange for which he was given the copy of the Bay Psalm Book now at Yale

That very evening, as detailed in Wolf and Fleming’s Rosenbach, the arrangement with Yale began to go sour. The University proclaimed itself shocked by the price and several potential donors withdrew their pledges. As Rosenbach scrambled to keep the deal together, he offered to send Yale a check for the difference between the auction price and what the University had secured, expecting that as further contributions that came in would be sent to him to repay what he clearly intended as a loan. And in the letter to Yale proposing this remedy, Rosenbach declared that “We are not asking any remuneration whatsoever.” And while he must have intended to say that he was not asking any agent’s or bidding fee, Yale read the letter to mean that Rosenbach was making up the difference between the hammer price and Yale’s collected contributions— an amount that finally settled at $49,500—as a gift, for which he was sent a formal letter of gratitude from the President and Fellows of the University.

Five years after the sale, Dr. R.’s brother and partner, Philip Rosenbach, was still hectoring Yale for the money. Philip had written to Edwin L. Weisel of Simpson, Thatcher, & Bartlett of his intention to publish the whole story (as he saw it) and distribute it to 50,000 Yale alumni and supporters. Weisel replied in a letter of 17 January 1952; “Don’t you think that you are unduly aggravating yourself about the matter. All of us have many disappointments in life in a business way and there is no sense to tearing one’s self up emotionally over such disappointments.” If that soft answer did not turn away Philip’s wrath, perhaps his quoting Morris Wolf, the Rosenbach Company’s lawyer, did: “I feel it would be both useless and undignified to try to pin any legal or moralobligation on Yale” (Rosenbach Company Archives, I:186:02, Rosenbach Museum and Library). The matter was dropped.

Sotheby’s is grateful to George Miles, Curator, Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Library, for his assistance with this description.

A4r of the New York Public Library copy of the Bay Psalm Book, showing the poor inking of the headline and first line. Courtesy, Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations

The catalogue of the Sotheby's sale of the stock of William Pickering, wherein Henry Stevens, GMB, discovered a Bay Psalm Book, Collection Roland Folter (Larchmont, New York)


179 x 118 mm. 148 leaves (complete; but 12 leaves, gatherings W, X, Y, supplied from the copy now at the Library of Congress and remargined to size). Bound in red morocco by Francis Bedford.  


 i. William Pickering (discovered among a “parcel” of books at a 12 January 1855 Sotheby’s auction of Pickering’s stock, evidently lot 432 or 531).

ii.  Henry Stevens (purchaser of the above lot, for 19 shillings). Sold by Stevens, after he perfected the volume with 12 leaves (W1–Y4) obtained from George Livermore’s already incomplete copy, to:

iii. James Lenox for £80, 1855.

iv.  New York Public Library (included with the rest of Lenox’s Library in the alliance with the Tilden and Astor Foundations that formed the New York Public Library, 1895).

Amory [4]; Haraszti 5; Swan [4]; Eames 8. Errata uncorrected.

Stevens’s Recollections of James Lenox provides a firsthand account of his serendipitous discovery of the book: “For nearly ten years Mr. Lenox entertained a longing desire to possess a perfect copy of ‘The Bay Psalm Book.’ … He gave me to understand that if an opportunity occurred for securing a copy for him I might go as far as one hundred guineas. Accordingly from about 1847 till his death, six years later, my good friend William Pickering and I put our heads and book hunting forces together to run down this rarity.

“The only copy we knew of on this side of the Atlantic was a spotless one in the Bodleian Library, which had lain unrecognized for ages, and even in the printe catalogue of 1843 its title was recorded without distinction among the common herd of Psalms in verse. … I had handled it several times with great reverence … but, as agreed with Mr. Pickering, without making any sign or imparting any information to our good and obliging friend Dr. [Bulkeley] Bandinel, Bodley’s Librarian. We thought that when we had secured a copy for ourselves, it would be time enough to acquaint the learned Doctor that he was entertaining unawares this angel of the New World.

“Under these circumstances, therefore, only an experienced collector can judge of my surprise and inward satisfaction, when on the 12th January 1855, at Sotheby’s, at one of the sales of Pickering’s stock, after untying parcel after parcel to see what I might chance to see, and keeping ahead of the auctioneer, Mr. Wilkinson, on resolving to prospect in one more parcel before he overtook me, my eye rested for an instant only on the long lost Benjamin, clean and unspotted, I instantly closed the parcel, (which was described in the Catalogue as Lot ‘531 Psalmes other Editions, 1630 to 1675, black letter, a parcel,’) and tightened the string. … I quietly bid in a perfectly neutral tone ‘sixpence,’ and so the bids went on increasing by sixpence until half-a-crown was reached. … Thenceforward a ‘spirited competition’ arose between Mr. [Joseph] Lilly and myself until the lot was knocked down to ‘Stevens’ for nineteen shillings! … I eagerly collated the volume, and at first found it right with all the usual signatures correct. … But on further collation I missed sundry of the Psalms, enough to fill four leaves, The puzzle was finally solved when it was discovered that the inexperienced printer had marked a sheet with the signature x after v, which is very unusual.

“This was a very distressing disappointment, but I held my tongue, and knowing that my old friend and correspondent George Livermore of Cambridge, N. E., possessed an imperfect copy, … I proposed an advantageous exchange, and obtained the four missing leaves. …Having thus completed my copy and had It bound by Francis Bedford in his best style, I sent it to Mr. Lenox for £80.”

While there are errors in this recollection—the lot with the “long lost Benjamin” was likely 432, the first item of which is “The Psalms of David, 1640,” and the volume was lacking twelve leaves rather than four—there is no reason to think, as Amory did, that “The whole romantic story is rather too good to be true.” Amory believed this copy of the Bay Psalm Book to have been a hitherto unrecognized sixth copy from the Old South Church Library, but his evidence is unconvincing. There is no reason to think that the Church, having been transparent in the dealings that sent copies of the book to the libraries of George Livermore, Edward Crowninshield, and Nathaniel Shurtleff, would surreptitiously release a copy to George Stevens. Further, Amory associates the Lenox copy with No. 112 in the 1846 Catalogue of the Library of Rev. Thomas Prince, although the present copy, still owned by Old South, has traditionally been identified as No. 112. His reason for this, Amory writes, is that “O.S.C. 112 … is imperfect.” But of course, when that catalogue was compiled, the present copy (lacking Ll4), as well as what would become the Lenox copy (lacking W1-Y4), was imperfect.  

Sotheby’s is grateful to Kyle R. Triplett, Librarian, Rare Book Division, New York Public Library, for his assistance with this description.

 Ee4r, the beginning of Psalm 119, from the Rosenbach copy of the Bay Psalm Book, Courtesy of the Rosenbach Museum & Library.

James Weatherup's letter to the Rosenbach Company, 1933 (Rosenbach Company Archives, Series 1, Box 179, Folder 7). Courtesy of the Rosenbach Museum & Library


183 x 106 mm. 140 (of 148) leaves (lacking *1–4, D1–4). Bound in contemporary calf.


i. James Lawrence, Glasgow (signature on H1r).
ii. Thomas Lawrence (signature on H2r).
iii. William Brown, Belfast (signature on Ll4v).
iv. James Weatherup, Belfast (correspondence, 1933, with the Rosenbach Company).
v. A. S. W. Rosenbach (purchased from Weatherup for £150, 1933).
vi. Rosenbach Museum & Library (part of the founding gift, 1954).

Amory [10]; Haraszti 9; Swan [6]; not in Eames. Errata uncorrected.

In June of 1933, a letter arrived addressed to the Rosenbach Company from Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was written by one James Weatherup and began “Dear Sirs, Bay Psalm Book.” The letter continued, “I have a copy of the above book particulars of which I have noted on the enclosed sheet. If you are interested I shall be glad to hear from you. In the meantime I shall hold it for your reply, and if you care to see the book, I shall be glad to forward it—per my daughter, who will be leaving this side for New York about 1st July—for inspection & offer.”

Weatherup's description was sufficient and accurate: "Old Brown morocco.—worn & cracked at hinges. Title-page—missing. Preface a few leaves missing ... Leaves unpaginated, and number in this copy 135, in addition to an errata leaf entitled 'Faults escaped in printing,' and the 4 leaves of preface making in all 140 leaves. Four leaves, signature D, are entirely missing and do not seem to ever have been in this copy. ..." Rosenbach cabled that Miss Weatherup should bring the book with her for inspection.

James Weatherup's original description of the Rosenbach copy of the Bay Psalm Book (Rosenbach Company Archives, Series 1, Box 179, Folder 7). Courtesy of the Rosenbach Museum & Library

Although he had tempered his expectations, Rosenbach found upon examination the volume was the 1640 Cambridge Whole Booke of Psalmes—the first copy to be discovered since Henry Stevens ferreted out a copy in an 1855 sale of the stock of William Pickering and the last one to have come to light. Since his policy was not to make offers on books, and since Miss Weatherup did not know what price her father expected, Rosenbach cabled to Weatherup: “Book received regret condition we do not make offers so kindly cable your price in pounds.” Weatherup replied, “150 pounds,” and the deal—one of the great book bargains of all time—was made. (In the late 1930s, Wilberforce estimated the value of the then-Van Sinderen copy, which lacks nineteen leaves, at $50,000.) In a follow-up letter, 17 July 1933, Weatherup commiserated with Dr. R. about the condition of the book and inquired if he might be “interested in Minor Shakespeariana,” a few titles of which he planned to submit for consideration by a later post.

The volume briefly made a splash in the news during the autumn of 1949 when it was part of a loan exhibition at UCLA. A student, supposedly as part of a fraternity initiation, snatched the Bay Psalm Book from its case and leapt with it from a second-floor window of the library. The book was recovered unharmed.

Sotheby's is grateful to Derick Derher, John C. Haas Director, and Kathy Haas, Associate Curator, the Rosenbach Museum & Library, for their assistance with this description.

The Bay Psalm Book in the Libbie auction catalogue of the Livermore Library. Images courtesy of the Grolier Club of New York


178 x 106 mm. 129 (of 148) leaves (lacking *1, O2–3, W1–Y4, Ll1–4). Bound in contemporary calf, with remnants of brass clasps.

i. Acquired by the Old South Church prior to 1750.

ii. George Livermore (exchanged by the Old South Church, in consideration of other books or services, possibly including rebinding.  This exchange was completed before 13 April 1849, when Henry Stevens reported to James Lenox that Livermore had “recently procured the Bay Psalm Book, 1640.”)

iii. Henry Stevens–James Lenox (12 leaves only, W1–Y4 sold by Livermore, 1855, to Stevens in order to complete the Lenox copy now in the New York Public Library, 1855).

iv.Alfred White (purchased at the sale of Livermore’s library, Charles F.  Libbie, 20 November 1894, lot 531, for $425. After Livermore’s death in 1865, many of his books were placed on deposit at Harvard, where they were held until the death of his widow, Elizabeth, when they were sent to auction. It is not clear if the Bay Psalm Book was among the books deposited at Harvard). By bequest to:

v. Annie White Van Sinderen and Adrian Van Sinderen.

vi. The Library of Congress (gift of Mrs. Van Sinderen, 1966).

Amory [5]; Haraszti 11; Swan [10]; Eames 3. No. 579 (imperfect copy) in the 1846Catalogue of the Library of Rev. Thomas Prince and with Old South shelf-mark10.4.10. Errata uncorrected.

The contemporary calf binding on the Huntington copy of the Bay Psalm Book. Courtesy, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Dodd, Mead catalogue 67 (April 1903), featuring the Shuttlesworth-Hurst copy of the Bay Psalm Book. Image courtesy of the Grolier Club of New York


117 x 115 mm. 141 (of 148) leaves (lacking *1–4, Ll2–4). Bound in contemporary calf.

i. The Shuttlesworth family (perhaps acquired in the eighteenth century).

ii. Sophia S. Simpson (a note laid into the book records that “It belonged to the Shuttlesworth family, & is now handed to my daughter Sophia S. Simpson, to be used at her discretion, by her beloved mother Sara Shuttlesworth. 1844.”)

iii. Burnham Antique Book Store, Boston (acquired about 1872, presumably purchased from Mrs. Simpson).

iv. Bishop John F. Hurst of Washington, D.C. (purchased from Burnham, 1892, for an undisclosed amount. A note by Hurst accompanying the volume states, “I purchased it on August 25, 1892, from the Burnham Antique Book Store. … It was purchased by the late Mr. Burnham about twenty years previous, probably from a lady.”)

v. Dodd, Mead (purchased from Hurst, 1903).

vi. Elihu Dwight Church (purchased from Dodd, Mead, 1903. Dodd, Mead had priced the book at $4,000).

vii. Henry E. Huntington (part of a large en bloc purchase of the Church Library, 1911).

viii. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (transferred with the rest of Huntington’s library as part of the establishment gift, 1919).

Amory [11]; Haraszti 8; Swan [8]; Eames 9. Errata uncorrected.

Sotheby’s is grateful to Stephen Tabor, Curator of Early Printed Books, The Huntington Library, for his assistance with this description.

1r, title-page, of the Bodleian copy of the Bay Psalm Book. The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (Arch. Ge.40)

13r, showing ink-clotted catchword, of the Bodleian copy of the Bay Psalm Book. The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (Arch. Ge.40)


184 x 125 mm. 148 leaves (complete). Bound in early nineteenth-century green polished calf.  

i. Thomas Tanner, Bishop of St. Asaph (acquired prior to 1735). By bequest to:

ii. The Bodleian Library.

Henry Cotton recorded this copy in his List of Editions of the Bible … in English (1821) simply as “1640. Psalms, in metre anonymous; no place, no name. 4to. Bodleian.” By the 1852 second edition of his bibliography, Cotton—possibly alerted by Henry Stevens—had recognized the book as printed in “Cambridge in New England, by Stephen Daye.” William D. Macray’s Annals of the Bodleian Library (1868) has caused no end of speculation about the condition of the Bodleian Bay Psalm Book by reporting that “when Tanner was removing his books from Norwich to Oxford, in December 1731, by some accident in their transit (which was made by river) they fell into the water, and were submerged for twenty hours.” There is, however, no evidence of accidental or intentional washing in this copy. Its unusually large size might be explained by its having been sent in sheets to England shortly after printing.

Amory [8]; Haraszti 8; Swan [3]; Eames 6. Errata uncorrected.