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Harmonia Sacra

· Harmonia Sacra,Andover,Theological Seminary,Fine Book Research,Fine Book Collecting

I have mentioned many times in my musings, when I first pick up a book with an interest to buy, I check the condition of the book, the dust jacket, check to see if it is a first edition, and so on. In the case of the subject book of this musing, it missed the very first test – the cover of the book was hanging on by a thread, actually one of the binding ties. But I was intrigued, nevertheless. The book was published and printed in 1816. I tell people that “Old books are not valuable”. There are three determinants of value: condition, scarcity, and importance.

In this case, the condition was quite iffy, the front board was almost detached, but I thought that it was the original binding, and while there was light foxing throughout, the text and music chords of the psalm and hymn tunes was clear and very readable. I was pretty sure that the book was very scarce, especially since I had never heard of the publisher and printer that was located in Andover, Massachusetts, not a hot bed of printing. Therefore, the estimation of value came down to the determined importance of the book. That was my call to action when I got home with the book.

I was able to confirm that the book was very scarce, no other copies on the internet. I did discover that there was a copy of the book at Princeton University, and the photo showed the exact same boards with a leather spine/back strip, as my copy.

Then I researched the publisher/printer - Flagg and Gould, Andover. They were active in the first half of the nineteenth century, some of their works were histories focused on America, and many were theological, in nature. It was mentioned that they published a number of books for the Andover Theological Seminary. This is where it started to get quite interesting. Here is what my friends at Wikipedia had to say about this Seminary:

Andover Theological Seminary (1807–1965) was a Congregationalist seminary founded in 1807 and originally located in Andover, Massachusetts on the campus of Phillips Academy. From 1908 to 1931, it was located at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It then collocated with Newton Theological Institution (NTI) in Newton, Massachusetts. Then, in 1965, Andover Theological Seminary and NTI formally merged in 1965 to form Andover Newton Theological School in Andover, Massachusetts. In its original and merged forms, it is the first and thus the oldest theological seminary in the United States. The seminary continues as Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School, which was launched in 2017.

Andover Theological Seminary traces its roots to the late 18th century and the desire for a well-educated clergy among Congregationalists in the United States. That desire was expressed in the founding of Phillips Academy in 1778 for "the promotion of true Piety and Virtue".

In 1806, a growing split within the Congregational churches, known as the Unitarian Controversy, came to a full boil on the campus of Harvard College. The Hollis Chair of Divinity sat empty at Harvard for two years owing to tensions between liberal and more orthodox Calvinists. This theological battle soon divided many of the oldest churches in Massachusetts and began to impact church polity and the hiring of ministers. When the Harvard Board of Overseers appointed well-known liberal Henry Ware to the Hollis Chair in 1805, the Calvinists withdrew to organize and establish a new school in 1807, Andover Theological Seminary on the campus of Phillips Academy (est. 1778) in Andover, Massachusetts. This act, covered widely in the national press, was one of the significant events that contributed to the split in the denomination and to the eventual founding of the American Unitarian Association in 1825 (which joined the Universalists, founded in 1793, to become the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1961).

Andover was founded by the joint efforts of traditionalist, "Old Calvinists" and the adherents of the New Divinity (also known as New England theology) which was more revivalistic. Leonard Woods, Moses Stuart, and Edward Dorr Griffin were early faculty.

So, this seminary was important, and linked to religious upheaval in the United States. Phillips Academy is likely the most prestigious private school in the United States, and its alumni includes some of the Kennedy clan.

This gave some element of importance to the book, and I thought about an appropriate price. Then, I thought I should go and have a more detailed look at the bookplate that was inside the front cover. (When I post a book up on Abebooks, my chosen venue, I can post up to 5 photos, which I almost always do. I thought about the bookplate, but didn’t have room – it would have been number 6.) I studied the bookplate and decided to include its photo and I tripled the price! This book was ex-libris the Andover Theological Seminary. It was likely the first copy of the book printed. What a superb provenance! Here are my chosen 5 photos, followed by my description of the Abebook’s listing.

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Registration statement of title page verso, from the District of Massachusetts, July 2, 1816. Timothy Flagg and Abraham J. Gould were business partners under the name Flagg & Gould. Many publications were published for Andover Theological Seminary and the missionary movement. When the Harvard Board of Overseers appointed well-known liberal Henry Ware to the Hollis Chair in 1805, the Calvinists withdrew to organize and establish a new school in 1807, Andover Theological Seminary on the campus of Phillips Academy (est. 1778) in Andover, Massachusetts. This book has the bookplate of the Institutto Theollogica, (Andover Theological Seminary) Andover, founded 1807 with a note that it was – Released to MNtCA by MH-AH.

This book has the original binding of brown boards and a leather spine. The front cover is held on by a single cord, the back cover somewhat more attached and stable. The above noted bookplate is pasted inside the front cover. The first free endpaper is loose but present. The 243 pages of the book measure 9 1/2” by 11 1/2”. There is light foxing throughout, but the block of pages is strong, the paper very supple and tunes and words very clear. This book is extremely rare with a terrific provenance. There is a copy in the Princeton Theological Seminary Library. This large volume may require additional postage.

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Here is the photo that got displaced by the photo of the bookplate. It is interesting in its own right. Today, books published in the United States, has a copyright statement with a reference to the Library of Congress and its ISBN number.

Here is what is notable about this statement:

  • The book was registered in the District of Massachusetts not in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A federal jurisdiction nomenclature?
  • Not only did it mention the date of registration – July, A.D. 1816 – but also “in the fortieth year of the independence of the United States of America”. I wonder how long they continued to do that?
  • And the signature of W. S. Shaw, Clerk of the District of Massachusetts.

Researching complex books and learning new things is truly delightful.