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bortman collection of americana


A contemporary view of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770.

Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Mark Bortman, this collection holds some two thousand printed and manuscript pieces documenting the first two centuries of American life, with emphasis on the early history of New England, church history, military affairs, and the history of Canada and the West Indies.

Colonial documents include British account books which tabulate imports and exports from the colonies, 1698 to 1764; ships’ logs and maritime papers; a manuscript from the 1680s of “Meditations, Prayers and Pious Devotions” by David Dunster of Harvard College; an early manuscript volume of sermons, which includes one by Anne Hutchinson; a commonplace book of Richard Saltonstall, an original member of the Massachusetts and Virginia Companies; several addresses and petitions of colonial governors to English monarchs on commercial or military affairs, and among others, letters of John Eliot, the Mathers and John Cotton.

Manuscripts dealing with the War of Independence are equally rich. They include two British reports on the Stamp Act of 1765; a chaplain’s diary which provides an eyewitness account of the siege and evacuation of Boston in the spring of 1776; a resolution of the Massachusetts General Court calling up troops in the fall of 1777; and General Henry Clinton's report late in 1781 to his superiors on “The State of His Majesty’s Forces in North America.”

Other military manuscripts record the British government’s expenditures on arms between 1688 and 1697, and the supplies issued by the Admiralty to troops in North America between 1715 and 1750. The collection also has very strong holdings of municipal documents such as deeds, marriage certificates and grant papers.
The archives of several generations of two remarkable colonial families can be found in the Bortman Collection. The Mayhew Papers (1648–1774) include personal papers, literary manuscripts, commonplace books and the correspondence of Jonathan Mayhew (1720–1766) relating to the religious disputes of his day. The Foxcroft Papers (1690–1770) contain the correspondence, religious writings, autobiography and miscellaneous papers of the Reverend Thomas Foxcroft (1697–1769), minister of the First Church of Boston, and his immediate family, with many sermons, papers on the history of local churches, and correspondence with contemporary religious leaders—Cotton Mather, Samuel Sewall (a judge at the Salem witch trials) and Isaac Watts among others.

Portions of the libraries of the Foxcroft and Mayhew families are in the Bortman Collection, and these books convey the intellectual concerns of the day. Consisting primarily of sermons, theology and religious biographies published in Boston in the eighteenth century, many of the books contain the elaborate holograph notes of their original owners. Among other books in the collection are many earlier Boston imprints, including Cotton Mather’s Faith of the Fathers (Boston, 1699) and sermons printed in the 1680s. Early English accounts of the New World are also well represented: William Wood’s New England's Prospect (London, 1634) purports to be “a true lively and experimental description,” and John White’s The Planters Plea (London, 1630) is a defense of those who have established settlements in New England. Thomas Morton, who was banished from Massachusetts by the Puritan Fathers for not leading a sufficiently pious life at his plantation called “Merrymount,” lampooned his persecutors in New English Canaan (Amsterdam, 1637), for which he was imprisoned on his return to Massachusetts Bay. The collection also contains substantial holdings of the works of John Cotton, the Mathers and Jonathan Edwards.

The collection of books, pamphlets and broadsides dealing with the Revolutionary and Federalist periods is quite extensive, and includes orations and proclamations following most of the military encounters, contemporary newspaper accounts of the war, and numerous charters, bills and military papers, both British and American, relating to the conduct of the war. In addition, more than one hundred Massachusetts election sermons (1733–1883) and one hundred and fifty Fourth of July orations (1787–1871), which record the opinions and aspirations of local officials during the early years of democracy, are in the Bortman Collection.

The Abraham Lincoln Collection
The Bortman Collection of Americana
The Edward C. Stone Collection
The Boston Symphony Orchestra Archive
The Franz Liszt Collection
The Historical Manuscript Collection
The History of Nursing Archives
The Military History Collections
The Paris Conservatoire De Musique Archive
The Richards Collection
The Robert Frost Collection
The Theodore Roosevelt Collection
The Walt Whitman Collection