Friday, April 24, 2009

From Generation to Generation

"From Generation to Generation" is the title of the paper I wrote about the Stockbridge Bible that appeared in the Spring, 2007 issue of The Book Collector. I introduced that paper in my previous post and described John Sergeant's ordination in a much earlier post. While I may have mentioned that Stockbridge, Massachusetts was established as a town in 1739, I haven't said a lot about education there. All you need to know as background for the Stockbridge Bible is that there was a "day" school for both boys and girls, taught by Timothy Woodbridge, and also a boarding school for boys in which one donor (Isaac Hollis from Britain) supported. It was the hope of John Sergeant [Sr.] to start a boarding school for girls that brought Thomas Coram [pictured], a retired sea captain, into the picture.

The rest of this post is quoted from the paper that appeared in The Book Collector:

Coram sought a donation for the Stockbridge boarding schools from the Prince of Wales, first making contact with Francis Ayscough, D.D., Clerk of the Closet, essentially the personal chaplain or spiritual advisor of the Prince. One hearing of the mission town across the Atlantic, Rev. Ayscough was moved to give the Indian congregation a magnificent two-volume Bible, the same edition that the Prince would later use in his coronation.

Ayscough ordered the 1717 edition of the Bible to be bound. On the cover he had lettered "The gift of the Rev. D. Francis Ayscough to the Indian Congregation at the Housatonnic in New England. MDCCXLV" in gold embossed letters. (The Roman numerals give 1745 as the date.) Captain Coram also wrote an inscription in each volume:

This with another volume, containing the Holy Bible, is the pious gift of the Reverend Doct. Francis Ayscough, Clerk of the Closet to his Royal Highness Frederick, Prince of Wales, To the use of the Congregation of Indians at or near Housatonic, in a vast wilderness, part of New England; who are, at present, in the voluntary Care, and instructon, of the Learned and Religious Mr. John Sergeant, and is to remain to the use of the Successors of those Indians from Generation to Generation; as a testimony of the said Doctor's Great Regard for the Salvation of their souls - and is over and above other Benefits, which he most cheerfully obtained for the encouragement of the said Mr. Sergeant, and in favor of the said Indians,
At the request of their hearty frined and well-wisher,
Thomas Coram
London. 31st day of December, 1745.

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