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Anyone who has been to our house learns quickly that we are bibliophiles but, being new to the Mayflower Society, I have a lot of catching up to do. So, when I had an opportunity to pick up an 1865 edition of Mourt’s Relation, I jumped on it. For those of you who don’t know what Mourt’s Relation is, imagine it as a diary of the first two years of the New Plymouth colony, mostly written by Mayflower passengers, William Bradford and Edward Winslow.
In his full history of New Plymouth colony, Bradford takes a broader view of time and events, but here we have descriptions in far more detail over a shorter period of time. I haven’t finished the account yet, having reached December 1620, but so far the explorers have disturbed native graves, ransacked caches of corn (with the promised to recompense), and attempted to find natives (without much luck). Sickness and death have come upon them. Francis Billington has caught the Mayflower on fire and Peregrine White has just been born. What I shouldn’t find surprising is just how inquisitive the colonists were about what they found as well as how they might earn money.
This particular printing was the first in a series of limited editions of the “Library of New-England History.” This particular book had notes by Henry Martyn Dexter and is faithfully reproduced with the same orthography, punctuation, and ornamental designs. What recommends it (and others in the series) is the extensive introduction and footnotes, which cross-reference other contemporary accounts. Also, what makes this most valuable are the maps – two huge foldout maps drawn just for this edition. The first shows the assumed explorations around Cape Cod. The second shows the settlement of New Plymouth with Duxbury to the north.
If you’ve not read Mourt’s Relation, I suggest you do. At the moment, I am reading without consulting the footnotes, which I’ll do the second time around. It is amazing that we have so much primary accounts available to us. We should take advantage of that.
Sumner Gary Hunnewell, Governor
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