Tags: psalm | book | auction | Boston

First American Book to Be Auctioned

Thursday, 06 Dec 2012 11:35 AM

By Bill Hoffmann

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A rare copy of the first book ever printed in America — a collection of psalms produced in Cambridge, Mass., in 1640 — is up for sale.

Parishioners of the Old South Church, a Protestant congregation in Boston that was founded in 1669, voted this week to auction off the valuable tome.

Rare book experts say it could command a price of $10 million or more — money that will be used to pay for much-needed repairs to the church and for the funding of its outreach programs.

Along with the book, 19 pieces of Colonial silver the church owns will be sold off to the highest bidders.

The sale is not without controversy, with some members of the congregation fuming that the church is giving up one of the nation’s greatest treasures.

“I’m really severely disappointed …’’ Old South Church’s historian Jeff Makholm told the Boston Globe. “There’s a certain amount of fiscal irresponsibility that goes along with selling centuries old treasures for current programs, no matter how good you think they are.’’

But church member Eleanor Jenson, a proponent of the sale, told Boston’s WBUR Radio it was a choice of whether the church wanted “to sit on a pile of silver or go out into the community and do the work of the church."

When “The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre’’ was first printed, the United States were still known as the British North American Colonies.

It was written by leading Puritan ministers of the day and is a translation of the Book of Psalms from the original Hebrew.

Out of hundreds of copies produced, only eleven are known to survive today. The last time a copy was put up for sale was in 1947.





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