Bradford’s Books (part three)
Although William Brewster may have had the largest private library in the Plymouth Colony, approaching 400 volumes, William Bradford’s inventory at his death was not inconsiderable (see Jeremy Bangs, Plymouth Colony’s Private Libraries [Leiden: Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, rev. ed. 2018], n. 87 [pp. 216-231]). The breadth of subjects is remarkable: in addition to theological works (Calvin’s homilies on Acts, Luther’s treatise on Galatians, Ainsworth’s annotations on the Pentateuch) there were books on “physick”, several polemical works against the Church of England and the Church of Rome, but also several patristic works. The books were in English, Latin, Dutch, and French (the French book, which is thought to have previously belonged to Myles Standish, is on “manners”). Recently, special attention has been paid to the Hebrew exercises Bradford included in the same manuscript as his journal Of Plimmoth Plantation. These eight pages are a rudimentary list of words, rather than a full scale elementary language course; a modern commentary has asked, “Why exactly Bradford selected the words he did (and not others) is hard to know. … Since perhaps as early as Cotton Mather’s Magnalia, there has been a tendency among scholars to characterize William Bradford’s familiarity with Hebrew as greater than it actually was” (Eric Reymond “William Bradford’s ‘Some Hebrew Words Englished’,” in Of Plimoth Plantation by William Bradford: The 400th Anniversary Edition [Boston: NEHGS, 2020], 552, 582, 588). While the lists are filled with errors, it certainly bespeaks an inquisitive and probing mind, seeking to search the Word of God in its original idiom.