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16th Century
17th Century
18th Century
19th Century


An exhibition of printed books and manuscripts from Glasgow University Library

18th Century

DOBBS, Arthur. The North-West Passage.
Manuscript, early 18th century. V.5.4

Arthur Dobbs, an Irishman and later Governor of North Carolina, was interested in expanding trade between the homeland and the colonies, and in continuing the search for the Northwest Passage. This is his manuscript account of previous voyages undertaken for that purpose which he presented to Frederick, Prince of Wales (father of George III) asking him to promote further exploration. An expedition sailed in 1741 under the command of Captain Christopher Middleton and the company managed to penetrate further north than any of its predecessors. Dobbs published his An account of the countries adjoining to Hudson's Bay, in the north-west part of America in 1744. Dobbs had accused Middleton of deliberately making false statements at the instance of the Hudson's Bay Company when he reported that the great opening seen between the 65th and 66th parallels of north latitude was only a large river and that the set of the tide in the bay was from the east not from the north on which Dobbs's hopes of the existence of a passage had largely been based. Apart from the controversial portions, however, the work contains much valuable and interesting information.

The manuscript has the bookplate of King George III.

The North-West Passage. Manuscript, early 18th century (fol. 1r).
MS Hunter 434 (V.5.4)

Title page of Cotton Mather's Things to be More Thought Upon. Boston, 1713. [Bi3-l.27]

MATHER, Cotton. Things to be more thought upon. A brief treatise on the injuries offered unto the glorious and only saviour of the world.
Boston: Thomas Fleet for Daniel Henchman, 1713.

In his diary (reprinted in the Massachusetts Historical Society Collections) Cotton Mather wrote (14th March, 1712/13): "Near nineteen year ago, I preached a lecture on the wrongs done to our Saviour, by persons who little imagine or consider what they do. A spirit who with a wondrous lustre, made his descent into my study, declaring himself to be a good angel of God, and expressing his desire to have Act. IX. 5. preach'd upon, was the occasion of my preaching it. I then sent a copy of it, unto London, to be published there; but it miscarried; and no noise was made of the occasion. A good man in my neighbourhood, lately asked me for the notes of that sermon, that he might repeat it unto a religious meeting of the neighbours. Hereupon, it came into my mind, that I would augment and enrich the composure, with two considerable paragraphs; the one, a conviction of the Jewish infidelity ... the other, a confutation of the Arian haeresies, which are horribly revived at this day … Having done this I proposed the publication of the composure ... I cannot but suspect that there will be some uncommon effect of this publication."

Four days later he wrote: "I purpose to make a present; not only unto our own colledge, but also unto the University of Glasgow of my treatise, wherein evangelical truth has a triumph over the Arian haeresies. Having a mighty desire, to fortify the students there, against those revived haeresies".
BIBLE. O.T. Psalms. Massachusetts. 1709. The Massachuset psalter: or psalms of David with the gospel according to John, in columns of Indian and English.
Boston [New England]: B. Green and J. Printer, 1709.

Next to Eliot's Indian Bible this psalter is the most important Monument of the Massachusetts language. It was prepared by Experience Mayhew (1673-1758), a minister on the island called Martha’s Vineyard. His version of the Psalms and St John's Gospel is based on Eliot's, but every verse underwent revision and scarcely one remains without some alteration. The spelling differs considerably from that of Eliot and others who had learned the language among the Indians of the mainland.

The fact that the work passed through the hands of J. Printer gives it added authority. J. Printer was an Indian known as 'James the printer', afterwards James Printer, who, as an apprentice to Samuel Green, had assisted in the printing of Eliot's translation of the Bible some fifty years earlier. In a letter to Robert Boyle, 1682-3, Eliot wrote: "We have but one man, viz. the Indian Printer, that is Able to compose the sheets and correct the press with understanding."

This copy, donated in 1713, is one of six volumes given to the University Library by Increase Mather, pastor of the North Church in Boston, New England, and President of Harvard. His son, Cotton, was awarded in absentia the degree of Doctor of Divinity in Glasgow University in 1710.

Dual title page of The Massachuset Psalter. Boston, 1709. [Bk9-l.2]

Title page and facing engraving from James Peachy's A Primer for the Use of the Mohawk Children. London, 1786. [Cm.2.42]

PEACHEY, James. A primer, for the use of the Mohawk children.
London: C. Buckton, 1786.

The Mohawks were the chief tribe of the "Six Nations", the Indian confederacy of Iroquois tribes. They were located principally along the Mohawk river valley in central New York, but their territory extended north to the St Lawrence and south to the Catskills.

This is the second edition of Peachey's Primer, first published in Montreal in 1781. It was intended to teach Indian children to read and write their own language, as well as helping them to learn English.

WHITEFIELD, George. Three letters.
Philadelphia: B. Franklin, 1740.

George Whitefield was an English evangelist, closely associated with John and Charles Healey in the early days of Methodism.  His sensational preaching excluded him from most Anglican pulpits, but his frequent trips to America proved very successful and he attracted huge crowds on his tours from Georgia to New England.

Although in print Whitefield's sermons repel by their sentimental bombast, by his histrionic improvisations before audiences he could throw his listeners, as David Garrick attested, into paroxysms by merely pronouncing "Mesopotamia". And even Benjamin Franklin, something of a sceptic, felt moved by Whitefield's oratory.  This book was printed by Franklin and is an excellent specimen of his press.

The first of George Whitefield's Three Letters. Philadelphia, 1740. [Mu39-g.28]

Title page of Lahontan's Nouveaux Voyages. La Haye, 1703. [K.8.9]

LAHONTAN, Louis Armand, Baron de.    Nouveaux voyages dans I'Amérique septentrionale. 2 vols.
La Haye: Chez les frères Honoré. 1703.

Lahontan was born in Gascony in 1666 and went out to Canada at the age of sixteen. He began his career as a private soldier, but afterwards commanded various forts in the interior and journeyed to the western extremity of the Lakes.  His Nouveaux voyages is one of the first extended accounts of the West, and accurate except for his "discovery" of a mythical Rivière Longue, which from its size must have been the Minnesota.

Lahontan made a close study of Indian life, but while the Jesuits and Recollects were minutely describing the American Indian, Lahontan philosophized about him, and his imaginary dialogue with the "noble savage", Adario, greatly influenced European ideas by helping to create the "natural man" tradition.  A measure of its importance is the fact that it went through fifty-two editions in five languages.  French critics have pointed out that Montesquieu and Rousseau drew their ideas of primitivism from such chronicles as Lahontan's and have suggested that the French Revolution took its origin from Lahontan's concept of the Hurons.

COLDEN, Cadwallader. The history of the five Indian nations of Canada.
London, 1750.

Colden was born at Dunse in Scotland, educated at Edinburgh University, where he took the degree of M.D. in 1705, and emigrated in 1710 to Philadelphia where he practised medicine. Eight years later he moved to New York to take up the post of surveyor general and in 1761 he became lieutenant general of the colony.

His History published in 1727, is the first general history of the Iroquois Indians.  It was written to thwart the efforts of the French to monopolize the fur trade by trying to win the support of the Indians.  The Iroquois Confederacy or "Five Nations" exerted an influence on American history out of all proportion to its numbers until well into the eighteenth century. In his preface Colden states: "The following account of the Five Indian Nations will show what dangerous neighbours the Indians have once been; what pains a neighbouring colony (whose interest is opposite to ours) has taken to withdraw their affections from us; and how much we ought to be on our guard. If we only consider the riches which our enemies receive from the Indian trade (though we were under no apprehensions from the Indians themselves) it would be highly imprudent in us to suffer such people to grow rich and powerful, while it is in our power to prevent it, with much less charge and trouble, than it is in theirs to accomplish their designs.  These considerations alone are sufficient to make the Indian affairs deserve the most serious thoughts of every governor in America."

Colden was a most intelligent observer, and is frank and positive in stating his conviction that the Indians had been degraded and demoralized by their intercourse with the settlers: "But what, alas!  Sir, have we Christians done to make them better?  We have indeed reason to be ashamed, that these infidels, by our conversation and neighbourhood, are become worse than they were before they knew us.  Instead of virtues we have only taught them vices, that they were intirely free from before that time. "

Title page of Colden's History of the Five Indian Nations. London, 1750. [K.6.6]

Title page of Mercer's Abridgement. Glasgow, 1759. [Mu16-e.3]

MERCER, John. An exact abridgement of  all the public acts of assembly of Virginia, in force and  use.
Glasgow : Printed by John Bruce and David Paterson, 1759.

Mercer’s Exact abridgement was first published in Williamsburg in 1737; this is the Glasgow reprint of  1759. Glasgow had intimate commercial relations with Virginia for many years.  A "Virginia Don" was the synonym for a Glasgow commercial aristocrat whose wealth was measured not by his acres but by his tobacco hogsheads.

Mercer has arranged his abridgement of the laws alphabetically under broad subject headings with a detailed index and a table of the acts, so that laws on related subjects are kept together. There are large sections on tobacco, slaves, and Indians.

HUNTER, William. A letter to Hunter, dated London March 18 1761, and signed By order of the class. MS Hunter H43

In his memorial to Lord Bute in 1763, Hunter states that "about two years ago" he found it necessary to give up his lectures, but that his pupils begged him so earnestly to continue that he consented to give one short course, but to "read it gratis, thinking thereby to put an end to all further solicitation." This letter is a formal note of appreciation of this action and it seems likely that it may have accompanied the silver cup, now in the possession of the University of Glasgow which Hunter mentions specifically in his will as being "presented to me by the students of anatomy".

In the lower right hand corner of the letter Hunter has written the name "John Morgan".  It seems reasonable to assume that he was the writer of the letter and possibly the inspirer of the gift. Morgan had come to England from America in 1760 and worked with Hunter for about a year.  He spent some time on the continent before returning to Philadelphia in 1765 with the ambition of founding a medical school on lines similar to those which he had seen in Europe.

Ms Hunter H43

Ms Hunter H44

HUNTER, William. A letter to Hunter from William Shippen junior, dated Philadelphia 5th Novr. 1765. MS Hunter H44

William Shippen junior (1736-1808), the son of a prominent Philadelphia physician, was apprenticed to his father for four years before coming to  London in 1758.  He attended St Thomas's Hospital for a few months and  then joined the Hunters.  He lived with William Hunter for a year at his house in Jermyn Street.

Shippen returned to Philadelphia in 1762.  In 1765 John Morgan, another pupil of Hunter's  returned home after some time spent travelling in France and Italy, with the ambition of founding a medical school in Philadelphia on lines similar to those he had seen in Europe.  He found in Shippen someone whose ideas for the teaching of medical subjects matched his own, and the two young men placed their plans before the authorities of Philadelphia College. The authorities were sympathetic and in May of that year Morgan was appointed the first Professor of the theory and practice of physick in the College. A few months later Shippen was selected to the Professorship of anatomy and surgery. 

In his letter he tells Hunter of the progress made so far in the new medical school,  the first in America: "... am now preparing for my fourth course of anatomy, Dr Morgan for his first course of materia medica, we have introduced the study of [word missing ] into our college and hope every day to see our plan extended and who knows but it may be even to a college of physic - such a hope would raise the jealousy of some teachers of medicine in Britain, but I know your benevolent heart too well to doubt of your being pleased to hear, that divine science was cultivated in this and every part of the world; I am sure too you will be particularly pleased to know that your own sons are engaged in the glorious attempt in America: may the genius of Hunter be ever with us to insure success!"

A SHORT narrative of the horrid massacre in Boston ... the fifth day of March, 1770.
Boston: Printed by order of the town; London: Re-printed for W. Bingley, 1770.

The Boston Massacre of 5th March, 1770 was the culmination of the violent passions which had been gathering force for a long time. The immediate cause was the boarding by a press-gang from the frigate Ross of a ship belonging to Hooper of Marblehead, and the riotous proceedings, which, in January, 1770, brought about the death of the boy Snider.

Immediately after the Massacre the town of Boston issued a Short narrative, which showed the condition of the people at that time and closed with an appendix giving several depositions, among which was one by Jeremy Belknap, the historian.  A portion of the edition was at once sent to England, the rest being held until after the trial, when Additional observations were appended.

In commenting on this work, the Monthly Review (42:415) says: "We have nothing to observe, on the subject, except to express our surprize that, considering the odious occasion on which the troops were sent to Boston, tumults between them and the inhabitants did not sooner happen, and that greater mischief has not been done than the killing, and wounding only eleven of the town's people". Two issues of this work were printed at Boston in 1770; this is a copy of the London reprint of the same year.

Title page of A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston...London, 1770. [Bk2-g.12]

MS Gen. 1035/152

LAURIE, Walter S. Contemporary copy of a letter from Captain Walter S. Laurie, dated Camp on Charles Town Heights, 23 June 1775. MS Gen. 1035/152

This is a description of the Battle of Bunker Hill by Captain Laurie, one of the assault force of 2,400 British regulars under the command of General William Howe. The battle took place in the early months of the Revolution; the British sought to dislodge the Americans from the redoubt they had constructed on the height above Charleston Peninsula.  Twice Howe's troops were turned back by the first of Colonel William Prescott's men who "defended themselves with the most obstinate fury", but Prescott's supply of powder ran out and in their third assault the British seized the hill.  The victory was not a decisive one: the Americans retreated, but with bravery and military skill: "they fled precipitately from all quarters, and escaped by a narrow neck of land from which the troops were not able to cut them off. And here a glorious opportunity was lost of either taking or cutting to pieces the whole 5000 ... but for want of knowing the situation of the place - the depth of water - want of orders, or from some other unaccountable accident, this was neglected or overlooked, and the rebels got away with too little loss to themselves, and too much to us."

Laurie appends a list giving the characters of the Boston Patriots and tells of the death of Joseph Warren, after the Adamses the most influential leader of the radical faction: " I was employed as the officer commanding the detachment to bury the dead, a most disagreeable piece of duty ...    Doctor Warren, President of the Provincial Congress, and Captain General, in the absence of Hancock and Adams, and next to Adams, in abilities, I found among the slain, and stuffed the scoundrel with another rebel, into one hole, and there he, and his seditious Principles may remain."

DURBEN, Captain. An exact copy of a journal of the route and proceedings of 1100 rebels who marched ... under the command of Colonel Arnold in the fall of the year 1775 to attack Quebec.
Manuscript, 1776.

Having failed to win the Canadians over to their side by persuasion, the American colonies tried force of arms, but a two-pronged assault on Quebec by Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold was unsuccessful.  This journal, which has never been published, was kept by Captain Durben, a member of Arnold's column.  Arnold had set out from Cambridge, Massachusetts for Quebec with eleven hundred men.  He moved up the Kennebec into the Lytaine wilderness, crossed a snow covered mountain, and after surmounting the difficulties of an unknown terrain, arrived with his equipment and six hundred survivors on the east bank of the St Lawrence opposite Quebec.  He later crossed the river and in early December was joined by Montgomery.  The two commanders wished to delay an assault until January, but they were forced to consider that by the terms of enlistment the expeditionary contingent would be dissolved at the year's end.  They therefore launched a disastrous attack in a blinding snowstorm on the night of 31st December.  Montgomery was killed, Arnold wounded, and nearly half their men were casualties.  In the spring Arnold retreated.

This manuscript is from the library of William Hunter.  A note in his hand states: "This was given to me by Mr Robertson Surgeon of his Majesty's Ship Iuno who procured a genuine Copy of the Journal at Quebec.  He assured me that I might depend on its being faithfully transcribed; and I know that I can depend on anything he asserts." The original journal was stolen from the author while his ship was in Quebec and given to someone on shore who lent it to Robertson.

First page of copy of Captain Durben's Journal. 1776. [S.7.2]

Ms Gen. 1035/224

DOUGLAS, Sir Charles. Contemporary copies of letters written to Captain [later Admiral] Charles Douglas, one from Lieutenant John Schanck, dated At Crown Point, on board the Inflexible, 16th October 1776, the other from T. Butler, undated, but presumably 1777. MS Gen. 1035/224 and MS Gen. 1035/225

Both letters describe the battle with the rebel fleet which took place on Lake Champlain in October 1776, and especially the part played by the "Inflexible".

Schanck was given the responsibility of fitting out a flotilla to act against the rebel colonists on the Lakes. To St John's he brought the frame of a ship of three hundred tons, previously put together at Quebec, and in less than a month of its arrival had the vessel afloat on Lake Champlain where "owing to the effects of the heavy metal of the Inflexible, and moreover to her formidable appearance!' she largely contributed to the defeat of the American flotilla: "The Inflexible was originally put on the stocks at Quebec; her floors were all laid, and some timbers in; the whole, namely, the floors, keel, stem, and stern, were taken down, and carried up the St. Lawrence to Chamblais, and from thence to St. John's.  Her keel was laid, for the second time, on the morning of the 2d Sept. and by sunset not only the above mentioned parts were laid and fixed, but a considerable quantity of fresh timber was, in the course of the same day, cut out, and formed into futtocks, top-timbers beams, planks, &c.  On the 30th Sept., being twenty-eight days from the period when the keel was laid, the Inflexible was launched; and on the evening of the 1st Oct., actually sailed, completely manned, victualled, and equipped for service.  In ten days afterwards this vessel was engaged with the enemy; so that it might be said without the smallest exaggeration of Lieutenant Schanck's merits, that he built, rigged, and completed a ship, which fought and beat her enemy, in less than six weeks from the commencement of her construction." (Marshall's Royal naval biography).

Ms Gen. 1035/225

Ms Gen. 1035/153

SMITH, Adam. A letter from Alexander Wedderburn to Adam Smith dated 6th June, 1776.
MS Gen. 1035/153

Wedderburn refers to the "favourable accounts" lately received from America, in particular to the lifting of the siege of Quebec.  In April 1776, Captain (later Admiral) Charles Douglas, in command of the Isis man-of-war and two frigates, with incredible difficulty, and great pressure of sail, forced his ship for the space of near sixty leagues through large fields of thick ice" to land supplies at Quebec.  In the following year he was knighted for his services.

Only one month before the Declaration of Independence was adopted Wedderburn writes: "I have a strong persuasion that in spite of all our wretched conduct, the mere force of government. clumsily and unsteadily applied will beat down the more unsteady and unmanageable force of a democratical rebellion."

BURKE, Edmund. An impartial history of the war in America.
London: R. Faulder, 1780.

Lord North's long administration (1770-1782) was marked by the unsuccessful coercion of the American colonies.  Burke protested continually against government policy, but his protests were met with indifference.  The wise and liberal measures which he advocated would, had they been followed, have prevented the troubles which ensued.

Burke's History began as a series of articles on the war which appeared in volume 19 of the Annual Register, the production of which Burke had undertaken in 1758.  In the preface to the published work Burke states that he has tried to record impartially events which have caused so much strong feeling and given rise to so many conflicting opinions: "... if knowledge, impartiality, and a regard to truth, guide the historian's pen, and that his sole object is to give a clear and distinct narrative of facts, from the best and most authentic documents, without pretending dogmatically to decide, in a controversy, upon which the greatest men of the age, have differed in their sentiments, his subject becomes highly interesting. "

Dr William Smyth in his Lectures on modern history (Lecture 31), characterizes Burke's narrative as: "the most able, impartial, and authentic history of the dispute which can be found.  The account is understood to have been drawn up by Burke, and if so, (and there is no doubt of it), the arguments on each side are displayed with an impartiality that is quite admirable."

The work is usually sought on account of its portraits, which are sometimes lacking.

Title page of Burke's Impartial History of the War in America. London, 1780. [Bo2-e.19]