Monday, March 2, 2015

William Bradford’s manuscript volume “Of Plimoth plantation” now available online

Bradford manuscript special display case (bottom right)
in main Library, ca. 1908.

In 2014 the State Library completed a major project to conserve and digitize one of the Commonwealth’s greatest treasures, William Bradford’s manuscript titled Of Plimoth plantation. Bradford (1590-1657) was one of the original Mayflower passengers, arriving in what is now called Plymouth in 1620. Ten years later, he started to write an account of the Pilgrim’s history and travels, starting in England, moving to the Netherlands, crossing the Atlantic, and then their first thirty years in Massachusetts. He stopped writing his narrative in 1650, and ended the volume in 1659 with a descriptive list of the Mayflower passengers and their status at the time.

The volume’s history is long and complicated, but can be summarized in a few points: between 1650 and 1726 the manuscript remained in the hands of the Bradford family until the family loaned it to Thomas Prince, Rector of Old South Church in Boston.  Prince died before volume could be returned to the family. Legend has it that British soldiers removed the manuscript from Old South Church during the Revolutionary War. In 1855, Massachusetts historian William Barry discovered the volume in the Library of the Bishop of London in Fulham Palace, and then for the next forty years individuals and historical organizations in Massachusetts negotiated for its return. In 1897 the volume was returned to Massachusetts and placed in the custody of Governor Roger Wolcott; Governor Wolcott authorized the State Library to care for the volume. In 2012 the State Library won support to conserve and digitize the volume at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts, with funding through the LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) Preservation of Library and Archival Materials Grant, as administered through the MBLC (Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners).

Top corner of binding, showing loose page, before treatment. 

Top corner of binding, after treatment. Conservators removed the
loose page, treated it, and stored it in a custom-sized archival
portfolio that is stored with the volume.  

The results of the project: the manuscript is fully conserved and can be handled (carefully, when necessary).  The pages were cleaned and repaired; the binding is more supple and flexible; the pages and other materials added after the volume’s return from England in the 1890s have been removed, repaired, and stored separately.  The manuscript now has a custom-designed box. There are also two facsimile volumes available in the State Library for patron use, printed from the digital images captured at NEDCC after the conservators finished their work.

The restored manuscript, in its custom-fitted clamshell box.
The portfolio at the top holds the 1890's documents that were
removed during treatment at the Northeast Document
Conservation Center.  

The best part of this story: There is a new record in the Library’s online catalog containing a full description of the volume as well as links to an updated finding aid, and to the State Library’s digital repository, DSpace, where all of the pages are now available for public viewing.

Special Collections Department

Monday, February 23, 2015

Images of Governors of Massachusetts, 1629-1894


The State Library has recently digitized over fifty images of governors of Massachusetts between the years 1629 and 1894. The collection, known as Picture 1-55, includes an image of the Province House, the official residence of royal governors of the Province of Massachusetts, and one image each of the Old State House and the "New" State House (1798), where the State Library is located. These images are available on the Library’s Flickrpage.

Sincere thanks to Special Collections Department intern Kate Boutin, who scanned and described the images in this collection.

Special Collections Department

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Washington's Birthday

This proclamation issued by U.S. President John Adams, on January 6, 1800, is the first official observance of George Washington’s Birthday. Eight days later on January 14th the Governor of Massachusetts, Moses Gill, issued a similar proclamation but with many more details. By order of the Massachusetts General Court both proclamations were printed on one sheet and delivered across the Commonwealth.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Springfield Illustrated, 1882

The State Library has an extensive collection of books about cities and towns in Massachusetts, some of which contain beautiful historical photographs. One such book is Springfield Illustrated, which consists of a collection of 32 photographs taken by James Dwyer Gill and was published in 1882 of Springfield, Mass. The images have been digitized and can be viewed on the Library's Flickr page.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Massachusetts Public Statutes of 1882


With the holiday season behind us and the deep freeze of winter upon us, I can think of no better time to write about a subtly celebratory find here in the State Library's preservation lab.  In 1903, Wilson Publishing Co. released the Encyclopedia of State Laws: Governing the  Sale of Liquor in the Various States throughout the Union, Also Embracing a Complete Collection of Fancy Mixed Drinks and How to Mix Them, for $1.00. 


The book contains Massachusetts public statues dating back to 1882, and while reading through the chapters, which include references to the sale of cider and obtaining special liquor licenses during the summer months, was interesting, my favorite part was the Appendix: Clear and Practical Directions for Mixing all kinds of Cocktails, Sours, Egg Nog, Sherry Cobblers, Coolers, Absinthe, Crustas, Fizzes, Flips, Juleps, Fixes, Punches, Lemonades, Pousse Cafes, Etc.  

With cocktail creations such as Medford Rum Smash, Hot Irish Punch, and Boston Egg Nogg, perusing the names and ingredients of this extensive list is impossible to resist. 


The text itself is a paperback with a sewn binding that needs to be reinforced. Loose pages will be reinforced with Japanese tissue and adhesive, and the cover will be reattached with Filmoplast cotton fabric book cloth.  That type of hard work calls for a Champagne Velvet!


Kelly J. Turner
Preservation Librarian

Monday, January 12, 2015

WWI 26th Yankee Division Photograph Digitization Project Is Now Complete!

Corp. George E. Bennett, Co. A.,
104th Infantry
In November of 2014, the State Library of Massachusetts completed the final stages of its World War I photograph digitization project.  The project, which began in 2007, oversaw the digitization of more than 11,000 images, with 8,500 26th Yankee Division and other soldiers represented throughout the collection.  These photographs are now all available online for the public to view and enjoy.  A large portion of this project also included the careful collection and multiple revisions of metadata that can be found with each digital image for enhanced searching and retrieval in the database.

The collection, also known as Photograph 359, was donated to the library in 1935 by the Boston Globe, which used soldiers’ photographs in the newspaper during the war.  Accompanying many of these photographs are “cut slips” produced by Globe staff members to record factual information for subsequent news articles; the slips include biographical and military information, as well as any notes on service recognition, wounds received, and casualties.  It’s also common to find on the cut slip the date when a story appeared in the Globe, which is helpful when researching a particular soldier.

Soldiers can be searched by their name, by military unit, and even by their hometown (when provided).  Users can also browse by soldiers’ last names.  The Division’s units most represented in the collection are the 101st, 102nd, and 104th infantries; the 101st and 102nd field artilleries; and the 101st and 301st United States engineers.

Here is a link to the library’s WWI Fickr set, which is a small example of what the collection contains: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mastatelibrary/sets/72157627349455982/ 

[Back of photo] "Left to right: Trainor of San Antonio, Leo Peterson of Minneapolis,
Murphy of Boston, Carlson of Boston; [Murphy and Carlson labeled] The Wild Beans." 
For further research, here are some helpful resources in the library’s collection:


Search the State Library’s online catalog for more publications.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New exhibition on Massachusetts As The Bay State


Massachusetts bears the nickname “The Bay State” proudly, as bays have played significant roles in the state’s history starting long before the Massachusetts Bay Company and the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s. The exhibition features maps, publications, and artifacts from the State Library to illustrate both actual bays in Massachusetts and uses of the term “Bay State” in commerce, art, and design.

Included are items from a collection of Bay State “souvenirs,” such as plates, mugs, magnets, and articles of clothing, books about the various bays in the state, and a wide selection of publications with the term “Bay State” in the title, selected from the State Library holdings.
The exhibition is now open and will remain on view outside the State LibraryRoom 341 of the State Housethrough May 29, 2015.

Special thanks to Special Collections Department interns Sarah Jennette and Victoria Zimmer, who helped with the selection, organization, description, and installation of the materials in the exhibition.