The New-York Historical Society Library has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to catalog titles from 1600 to 1801 in the library’s rare book collection. As part of this project, we will be blogging monthly about noteworthy finds. We’re cataloging books in Latin, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, English; some cover astronomy, math, science, European history; others are histories and geographies of the American colonies. There are also collections of verse, including a 1650 first edition of poet Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse (London, 1650: printed for Stephen Bowtell).
Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672) was born in England to Thomas and Dorothy Dudley. Her father served as steward for the Earl of Lincoln, and Bradstreet read widely in the earl’s library; French poet Guillame de Salluste du Bartas was a favorite author and inspiration for Bradstreet’s own poetry. She married Simon Bradstreet around 1628 and the couple, along with Bradstreet’s parents, emigrated to the colonies in 1630. The Bradstreets had eight children and Bradstreet was a devoted Puritan mother and wife—as well as a clever, inventive poet at a time when women’s accomplishments were supposed to be purely in the domestic sphere.
On the title page of The Tenth Muse the author is called “a Gentlewoman of those parts,” but Bradstreet’s name appears in full on leaf A7: “Mistris Anne Bradstreet, Vertue’s true and lively Patterne, Wife of the Worshipfull Simon Bradstreet Esquire.”
It has usually been supposed that Bradstreet didn’t know that her brother-in-law, Reverend John Woodbridge, was taking the manuscript of The Tenth Muse to London for publication, but later scholarship by Bradstreet biographer Charlotte Gordon disproves this assumption. Gordon’s close reading of Bradstreet’s poems and her examination of Bradstreet and Woodbridge’s correspondence leads her to establish a timeline in which Bradstreet was not only aware of Woodbridge’s plans to take the manuscript to London, but was involved in the plan from the start.
This post is by rare book cataloger Miranda Schwartz.
Cataloging of the Rare Book Collection is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.